9 Things You Never Thought To Add To Rice

Over the years, we have developed an appreciation for this incredibly versatile food and its unique ability to meld seamlessly with other ingredients. It creates delicious harmony in easy ways while still managing to magically transform plain Jane dishes into extraordinary meals. Whether you like to cook basic white rice, nuttier brown with its plethora of nutrients, or pre-seasoned yellow rice, you'll be pleased to know there are countless ways to reinvent the commonplace grains, turning them into dishes you can adapt, love, and count on for satisfying sustenance.

You might be surprised to discover that rice has the potential to be downright glorious when paired with everyday ingredients you're likely to have in your pantry or fridge anyway. While the list of ingredients and recipes below is in no way comprehensive, we hope it provides you with a starting point and inspires you to take standard rice to the next level, elevating it in streamlined ways using just a handful of add-ins. Trust me. As lifelong eaters and makers of rice, we can attest to its culinary versatility and indispensable place in the repertoire of any good cook. Read on, experiment, and enjoy.

Stock or broth

Plain steamed rice can be a bore. Luckily, cooking rice in a flavorful stock or broth instead of water can take your dinner from bland to enticingly savory pretty quickly. Whether you simmer rice in vegetable, chicken, seafood, or beef broth, you'll be rewarded with a pot that boasts depth of flavor, tasting like it took way more effort to achieve. Don't have stock or broth on hand? Try using water with your favorite brand of bouillon cubes to achieve a similar effect. This is our go-to flavor-enhancing technique for cooking rice, and we have a feeling it may become yours as well.

One easy, streamlined, and simple to adapt recipe for rice calls for you to cook it in chicken broth along with butter for a rich dish that aims to please. Use whatever rice you have on hand, use margarine instead of butter — whatever you want! You can also make a straightforward rice pilaf using stock. Made with a handful of standard aromatics and stock of your choice, this dish is rustic enough for a weeknight din and sufficiently elegant to serve to dinner guests.

One especially economical way to make rice requires only water, rice, and bouillon. Despite the simplicity, this dish still manages to achieve deep flavors. You can whip this up any time you want and with little notice, which is pretty awesome.


Rice is tasty with veggies on top, but did you know you can cook it all together in one pot for a convenient medley that's even more alluring thanks to great, flavor-melding magic? Yep. If you're cooking the rice on the stove, try adding diced peppers, carrots, eggplant, or whatever your heart desires to the water along with the grains. Then just let them simmer together. You can do this in an electric rice cooker, too. Add more delicate, leafier produce like spinach or chard closer to the end of the rice's cooking time — and the same goes for frozen vegetables like peas, carrots, and store-bought mixes. We often add already cooked vegetables left over from a previous meal to the current batch of rice to use them up and create a whole new dinner.

Try incorporating multicolored bell peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini are cooked with rice for a one-pot dish that melds vibrant veggies with perfectly seasoned grains. Consider drawing on the beloved duo of carrots and peas join forces with scallions, soy sauce, and sesame to produce a mouth-watering dish of classic fried rice. And if you love bibimbap, skip the wait at your local Korean eatery and make rice that's served with a heap of veggies ranging from sprouts and zucchini to carrots and spinach.


Cooking is about smelling as much as it is about tasting. As such, we like to incorporate fresh or dried herbs into our rice during cooking so my kitchen can smell amazing to all who walk by. Herbs like rosemary, oregano, and thyme take your standard rice dish pretty far. They lend aroma and depth of flavor in a subtle way, which is always a good thing, right? Whichever herbs you choose to stir into your pot or rice, a simple bay leaf is always recommended when you want to infuse everything with that indefinable woodsy quality that complements just about anything.

Simple and aromatic, rice made with a medley of fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, and tarragon is combined with basmati rice for a pot of weeknight grains that's several notches above the rest. Garlic-infused rice can also get a flavor boost from fresh parsley, cilantro, mint, and marjoram. A squeeze of lime juice brightens up the whole dish. You may also want to try a mix of classic Italian herbs like thyme, oregano, and basil.


Slow-cooking risotto isn't the only kind of rice that can benefit from the addition of cheese. Try adding your favorite grated cheese to a regular pot of rice to imbue it with tons of umami flavor. Like cheesy pasta, cheesy rice is a universally appealing dish. Simple, flavorful, and oh so gooey, the finished dish is like a throwback to childhood every single time. Opt for grown-up cheeses like Gorgonzola or goat if you want. Choose a terrific sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack to feel like a kid again. Whatever cheeses you end up adding to your rice, you will not regret your decision.

For a cheesy baked rice, draw on cream, butter, and extra sharp white cheddar. Combined with rice, this makes a meal that tastes like the most comforting hug you've ever received. Ffor casual Southwestern flavors in your rice dish, use peppers, Monterey Jack cheese, and cayenne to craft a rice casserole with flavor notes akin to tacos, which is always the right direction to go in. And for an extra-healthy kick, why not throw in some veggies along with that cheese?

Nuts, seeds, and dried fruits

For extra doses of protein and fiber, try adding nuts, seeds, or dried fruits to your rice. These trail mix-adjacent extras are a great way to give your plain rice a texture boost. You'll love the unexpected bite you get in every forkful. Whether you stir in toasted pine nuts for some Mediterranean flair, add a handful of sesame seeds to play up the nutty flavors, or incorporate chopped dried fruits for a Persian-inspired take, your rice will be anything but ordinary. In addition to lending general intrigue to a pot of rice, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits accent the grains with pockets of sweet and salty flavor.

Traditional Persian jeweled rice uses fragrant basmati rice that is speckled with "jewels" of fried currants, apricots, and berries along with nutty almonds and pistachios. The result is a rice dish that's beautiful to behold and deliciously complex. Or perhaps you'd enjoy some classic Moroccan flavors by combining rice with a rich medley of nuts. Cashews, almonds, and pine nuts mingle with orange peels and currants to achieve nutty sweetness.

Walnuts and raisins aren't just for snacking on during a hike, either. They pair excellently with rice, especially earthy brown rice that is enhanced by toasted walnuts and dried fruit in a multilayered dish that's as hearty as it is nutritious.


Rule of thumb: eggs are good with everything, but they're extra fabulous with rice. That's an inalienable truth. Try adding lightly whisked eggs into your rice during cooking in a skillet or wok for instant fried rice. Add poached eggs for a runny yolk effect that leaves your fluffy grains soaked in liquid gold. Fried eggs? Why not. The reality is that you can add eggs to rice in any way you like and the dish will turn out to be delicious, comforting, and better than it was before you added the eggs. You can do no wrong.

Egg fried rice is simple, sure, but it never fails to make people happy. Fact. Turmeric-flavored eggs give this dish a certain je ne sais quoi. Meanwhile, bacon and egg can be a breakfast combo or it can be the perfect add-in for your next rice dish. Why not make it an all-day treat that incorporates bacon slices, eggs, and freshly cooked rice?

A few of the most basic ingredients can even come together to produce the best midnight snack ever. Potatoes, rice, and eggs join forces, and the end result is sublime.


Our love for the spiced-up pot of rice is boundless. Even the most novice cook has a few containers of spices tucked away in a drawer somewhere. Incorporating them into plain rice is a good way to experiment with aromas and flavors in order to see which ones suit you and which ones go well together. Play around with different combinations to achieve the effect you want. Warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and anise give rice flavorful accents reminiscent of Moroccan cuisine. Garam masala, cumin, and turmeric transform it into an aromatic Indian-inspired dish that smells like your favorite curry. Allspice with a dash of dried thyme gives off Caribbean vibes. The possibilities are endless.

Incorporate warm spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric into a pot of basmati rice. The result? An aromatic dish you'll want to recreate often. For a great way to use up leftover rice, grab just a few spices like garam masala, chili powder, and coriander. With those, you can turn last night's dinner into tonight's culinary masterpiece. And when you're craving south-of-the-border flavors, a dish of Mexican rice gets its oomph from a blend of ancho chili powder and fragrant cumin.


Rice is a base that soaks up anything perfectly. As such, adding a creamy, savory, deeply flavorful sauce is likely a wonderful idea. The sauciness moistens every grain and turns regular rice into a decadent dish fit for a king. Super hearty and absolutely satisfying, smothered rice is tasty and extremely versatile, too. Try adding gravy for a deep, meaty flavor. Pesto lends bright color, herbaceous aroma, and nuttiness to an otherwise plain food. Zesty romesco made with garlic, nuts, and pepper lends kicky Spanish flair. You can make a sauce for the rice or use one you have hanging out in the fridge.

For Cajun flavor, a Louisiana combo of rice and gravy is wildly popular and for good reason. Rich gravy and fluffy rice make quite the tasty pair. Enjoy with chicken or any protein you like.

Or perhaps you want to add pesto's savory magic to rice and transforms it. Hearty, chewy grains of brown rice are especially well complemented by nutty pesto and pine nuts in a dish that tastes mouthwateringly seamless and natural. For Italian-inspired flavors, a from-scratch romesco sauce made with almonds, tomato, peppers, and garlic combines with easy white rice for a resplendent dish.


Vinegar may seem like an unexpected addition to your steamed rice, but this acidic solution can help keep your short grains light and fluffy. Adding vinegar to rice indeed isn't an effort to change the flavor. Instead, it strips away some of the starch from the rice, which in turn prevents the individual grains from sticking together and becoming compacted and lumpy.

Vinegar may also help fit rice into different diets, too. White rice has a relatively high glycemic index, meaning it can cause higher spikes in blood sugar compared to other types of rice. This can be problematic for anyone with diabetes and other nutritional restrictions. But a 2005 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that adding an acid like vinegar or lemon juice to a starchy meal can help lower a food's glycemic index. The addition of vinegar helps diners feel satiated after a meal, too.

As for what sort of vinegar to add to your rice, whatever kind you have on hand will do the trick. So long as you don't add a large amount, the impact on taste is minimal or even absent.