Easy Rice Recipes That Make The Best Side Dishes

Looking for easy rice recipes that make the best side dishes? Rice is a staple food in many cuisines and for good reason: the ability to add just about any ingredient, including vegetables, meats, spices, and sauces, without compromising its taste means you can pair rice with just about anything. As if that wasn't enough, rice is inexpensive, requires very little labor, and cooks in less than one hour (if not much quicker). 

While rice may most often be considered a mere side dish, that doesn't mean it isn't worthy of entrée-level attention. In fact, we have a few rice dishes that can steal the show on any plate they're served on. Our only concern is that these rice side dishes might overshadow whatever you plan on serving for dinner, but our guess is that's a problem you're happy to have. From fried rice to risotto to a Chipotle replica, these are easy rice recipes that make the best side dishes. 

Copycat Chipotle Rice

Most people don't order burritos for the rice, but the right filling complements the texture and flavor of the meat, providing the perfect bite. That said, the wrong rice could overpower the spiciness of the meat and create an off-putting chewiness.

To make the perfect burrito (or burrito bowl) rice, it's best to go to the experts; that's what we did with out copycat Chipotle rice recipe. The key to the recipe is using the correct type of rice, as Chipotle uses white, long-grain rice. You can swap in a different type, but according to the Whole Grains Council, long-grain rice provides the fluffiest texture when cooked because the grains stay separated and don't stick together.

Between prep and cooking time, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes. Once the rice is done, add salt, cilantro, lime juice, and lemon juice, and serve as a burrito filling or any other way your taste buds desire.

Fried Rice

While rice is usually relegated to side dish status, this recipe for fried rice can take center stage as a full-on meal. It's also the perfect dinner to throw together when you're short on time and only have what's in your refrigerator to rely on. That's right, you can make a delicious, satisfying, rice-based meal out of a single chicken breast, rice, whatever vegetables you have laying around, and a handful of condiments.

To make things even better, our fried rice recipe can feed four, uses only one pan, and can be done in 30 minutes. The chicken and vegetables can cook together and take just a few minutes. Once they're set, add the rice and sauce — a combination of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar — and serve hot.

Cilantro Lime Rice

This cilantro lime rice recipe couldn't be easier to make. Even better, you likely already have all the ingredients you need right in your kitchen: long grain rice, cilantro, lime, salt, garlic, and water. Don't be misled by the short ingredient list — this recipe packs a wallop of flavor.

To put the dish together, simply add the rice, water, garlic, and salt to a saucepan, bring to a boil, then cover and set the stovetop to low. Let it simmer for 20 minutes, add cilantro and lime juice, and fluff. Just like that, you have a perfect side dish.

Chef and recipe developer Nathaniel Lee recommends pairing the cilantro lime rice with grilled meat or as a filling for burritos. Whatever you choose, it's sure to please!

Mexican Rice

Not only does our Mexican rice recipe require a total of six ingredients (including water), some of them can be swapped out depending on what you have available, including the type of rice and tomato. It's all part of what makes this dish so great; it's incredibly flavorful but equally versatile.

There's practically zero prep time required to put the Mexican rice together. Simply begin to cook the rice, then add diced tomatoes, water, garlic powder, and tomato bouillon, and let it simmer for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, let it sit for another 10 minutes, and pair it with your eggs, tamales, burritos, etc. The choice is yours.

Rice Pilaf

Rice pilaf can certainly hold its own as the base for an entrée. But for our rice pilaf recipe, we're thinking of it as a side dish, which is perfect considering it goes well with any kind of protein, from roast beef to tofu.

The recipe couldn't be easier to make; it has a whopping four steps. To start, allow the rice to cook for 15 minutes. In a separate skillet cook the vegetables (frozen veggies work great). Add spices to the vegetables then combine with the rice, and that's it. We weren't kidding — it's really that easy.

Vegan Risotto

Making risotto without butter and cheese may sound sacrilege to some, but our 5-ingredient vegan risotto recipe replicates the flavor without any of the dairy. "The level of creaminess is really the same," says chef and recipe developer Maren Epstein. "I was so impressed that you can achieve the same results without traditional ingredients! It's perfect for those avoiding dairy and meat, either for health or ethical reasons." 

To make the dish even more enticing, this recipe is significantly more manageable and less time consuming than those for traditional risotto. And while most of the ingredients are likely already in your pantry, it's important that you use the correct type of rice, not whatever you have on hand. Arborio rice, a type of Italian short-grain rice, has a high starch content that gives risotto its creamy texture. Once you have the right ingredients, prep takes just five minutes, and after a half-hour of cooking, you're ready to dig in.