This Lebanese Rice is a staple Middle Eastern (Arabic) side dish in my home that I make with only three ingredients: rice, vermicelli noodles and olive oil!
Growing up with 100% Lebanese parents, I’m lucky I learned how to make tons of authentic Lebanese recipes. And one of the main recipes that was the most common side dish to most of our food was this classic Lebanese Rice – what we call riz bi sha’riyeh. It’s simple to make, vegan and complements so many Middle Eastern and Arabic dishes.
What is Lebanese Rice
Lebanese rice is basically a rice pilaf that’s made up of three ingredients: long grain white rice, vermicelli noodles and butter or olive oil (or a combination of both). Typically, I only season it with salt. But sometimes, I also like to add a dash of cinnamon either before or after cooking. Then I garnish with fresh parsley, and toasted nuts like almonds and/or pine nuts.
This rice pilaf is commonly called Middle Eastern Rice or Arabic Rice. It’s a standard (and possibly the most popular) side dish in that region. We typically serve it with meat dishes like kafta and shawarma, but we also use it as a base to accompany many of our stews. That’s actually how we mostly eat it in my house. It’s fluffy, nutty and versatile – basically my ultimate carb weakness!
How do you make Lebanese Rice
The first step is to rinse and soak white long grain rice in a water for about 15-20 minutes. If you ask any Lebanese cook, they swear that this method is very crucial in the cooking process because 1) it eliminates any excess starch that can lead to clumpy rice, and 2) it ensures even cooking for the inside and outside of the grain of rice. I definitely agree with this method and its importance.
But I’m also limited on time making dinner usually. And since I make this rice so often, I have to admit that I sometimes skip this step. And when I do, I just allow more time for the rice to settle after cooking. The texture is very slightly more clumpy, but for my immediate family, we really don’t mind. So I’m just saying that don’t be discouraged by the long prep time of 20 minutes to soak the rice. You can skip that step and still have fluffy yummy rice!
While the rice is soaking, the second step is to fry the vermicelli pasta. If you can’t find vermicelli pasta, you can use cappellini (thinner than spaghetti) and just break it up into smaller pieces. While toasting the vermicelli, stir frequently and keep a close eye on it so that it turns a deep golden brown without burning. The longer you allow it to toast, the more nutty the flavor will be.
Then immediately add the rice on top, season with salt and maybe add some cinnamon.
The next step is to stir all the ingredients together, and then add hot water at a 2:1 ratio. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and allow the rice 15 minutes to cook at a low temperature.
Once the rice fully cooked, turn the heat off, but don’t uncover the pot. You’ll want to leave the rice undisturbed for 10-15 minutes to allow the steam to finish cooking the rice. Then you can uncover the pot and fluff with a fork.
Tips to make the best Lebanese rice:
- Soak the rice if you have time. You can use a fine mesh strainer to rinse the rice and rub the grains of rice between your fingers. Then transfer the rice to a large bowl and allow it to soak with water for at least 20 minutes. This helps eliminate excess starch from the rice and allows for even cooking for each grain of rice, which all means fluffy non-sticky rice! Wohooo!
- Use long grain rice (like basmati), and not short grain rice. The difference in the grain size will ensure that the rice doesn’t get clumpy. I would also recommend cooking the rice with the vermicelli for an extra minute before adding the water. You want to coat the rice with the olive oil, which adds to the toasted flavor and reduces any clump factor.
- Stir vermicelli frequently for even toasting. Not only are you looking for a deep golden brown color, but you also want to make sure that all the little noodles are evenly toasted. This helps to even out the flavor and gives it an overall nutty toasted taste. Just make sure to keep a close eye on it it so it doesn’t burn.
- Cover the pot with a clean dish towel after it’s done cooking. The towel helps to seal the lid and absorb the steam so that rice stays fluffy and unclumped.
What to serve with Lebanese rice?
This is a staple in my house and I make it literally every week! My kids would be happy eating it plain with just some plain yogurt. But generally I make it to pair with one of my Arabic stews, like my okra beef stew.
I also love serving it with these classic Lebanese recipes including: Beef Kafta, Shish Tawook, Beef Shawarma, Grilled Chicken Kabob. This is a great alternative to a regular rice dish with a Middle Eastern twist.
For more rice and grain dishes, check out:
If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feelgood Lebanese Rice recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 1/2 cup vermicelli pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- dash cinnamon optional
- parsley optional, for garnish
- Rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Then transfer it to a bowl, and soak with water for 20 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
- In a medium non-stick pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the vermicelli pasta and cook, stirring frequently until all the vermicelli is a deep golden brown color. Be careful not to to burn it.
- Transfer the rice over the cooked vermicelli, and stir to combine and coat the rice with the olive oil. Season with salt and a dash of cinnamon, if desired.
- Add 4 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil. The water will reduce in the process. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes.
- When the rice is fully cooked, remove from the heat and allow the rice to settle for 15 minutes. Then uncover and fluff with a fork.
- Serve warm with fresh parsley, and toasted nuts, if desired.