Here's What Dirty Rice Actually Is

In a recent episode of the podcast "Always Hungry with Bobby Flay and Sophie Flay," the father-daughter duo come together to share their favorite rice recipes with listeners. The pair go through paella, risotto, fried rice, and even touch on dirty rice. While the name might seem off-putting to those unfamiliar with it, anyone who has tried the dish has found something to love in this flavorful side.

According to Simply Recipes, this rice gets its "dirty" look from the use of a few choice ingredients. Traditionally, dirty rice recipes call for minced chicken gizzards or livers. Once these organs get chopped up and fried, the brown bits lend a dirty look to the overall dish — in "Always Hungry," Flay compares it to olive juice in a dirty martini. The history of the dish goes back centuries; some claim dirty rice started off in Louisiana and came about as a way to feed a ton of people with very few ingredients. 

Over time, the recipe evolved to include a ton of different components. Some people have swapped in sausage for livers, substituted in red peppers for green peppers, added black beans or jalapeño peppers, and even substituted the kinds of rice. Many claim that you also need to use a Cajun spice blend to season the rice. This seasoning differs from Creole spice blends thanks to a heavier emphasis on peppers and spicy heat in general. While many have their signature take on this dish, Flay has a go-to version he shared with fans.

Flay's interpretation of dirty rice

Flay's dirty rice recipe can be found on Food & Wine. His version of the Cajun classic calls for chicken livers, onions, celery, bell peppers, garlic, serrano chiles, long grain rice, maple syrup, broth, thyme, and parsley. His recipe requires that chefs first cook the chicken, then add in the vegetables and rice, letting everything cook together in a pan. Flay's recipe looks pretty similar to another Southern recipe for the dish, though it lacks a premade Cajun seasoning blend. As Spicy Southern Kitchen's recipe shows, you can also cook dirty rice in bacon grease and even add ground beef to the mix.

If you feel inspired to take on a new recipe, you can't go wrong trying your hand at dirty rice. This recipe has stuck around in part thanks to its great flavor and if you ever needed a way to appreciate gizzards or livers, this take on rice might just do the trick. Next time you need to whip up a hearty side or a standalone dish, why not give dirty rice a shot?