Tomato Rice Pilaf

5 from 81 votes

This Tomato Rice is made with brown rice, fresh tomatoes and warm Mediterranean spices. It's the perfect side dish and I'll show you how to prepare it!

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This Tomato Rice is a staple Mediterranean recipe that I make for my kids all the time. We enjoy it as a side dish, and sometimes I even bulk it up with chicken or hashweh ground beef and make it as a main meal. This is similar to Spanish-style rice with tomato sauce as the process involves cooking onions, garlic, and spices with tomato paste and rice. But the flavor profile with the cinnamon and cumin leans toward the Mediterranean.

Large bowl of tomato rice with spoon inside and garnished with cilantrol
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Do you need an easy side dish that will impress your guests? Look no further than this simple tomato rice recipe. This dish is perfect for those who love Mediterranean flavors, and it’s made with simple ingredients that you probably have in your pantry. Brown rice, fresh Roma tomatoes, and warm spices like cumin and cinnamon are the star of this delicious tomato rice side dish, and I’ll show you how to make it step-by-step.

why you’ll love this tomato rice side dish

  • Adds a touch of acidity to your dinner plate. Tomato pairs wonderfully with rice, giving the starch a little zing. When served alongside savory meats like Lamb Kabobs, Beef Kafta, and even West African Beef Kabobs, this rice dish takes your meal to the next level.
  • Easy to make with just a few ingredients. This dish comes together quickly with just a few simple ingredients that you probably have in your pantry.
  • A great way to use up fresh tomatoes. If you have an abundance of fresh tomatoes, this is the perfect recipe to use them up with! Just cube your tomatoes, and you’re ready to go! You can also substitute canned diced tomatoes if you don’t have fresh on hand.
  • Can be made ahead of time. This dish can be made ahead of time and reheated when you’re ready to serve. Simply cool the rice completely, then store it in a covered container in the fridge.

Ingredients to make tomato rice

  • Long-grain brown rice: I like to use brown rice in this recipe because it has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. But I often make it with white rice since the cooking time is much shorter.
  • Fresh Roma tomatoes: I love the sweetness and acidity of fresh Roma tomatoes in this dish. You can substitute with any type of tomato that you have on hand.
  • Vegetable broth: Vegetable broth adds additional flavor to the rice. You can substitute with water, but the broth will give the dish more flavor.
  • Tomato paste: This will give the rice a rich tomato flavor. You don’t want to overdo it, or the dish will be too acidic.
  • Onion: The onion adds its own depth of caramelized flavor to this recipe.
  • Garlic: I like to use fresh garlic in this recipe, but you can substitute it with garlic powder if you prefer.
  • Olive oil: This will be used to saute the onion and garlic. You can substitute with any type of cooking oil that you have on hand.
  • Cinnamon, cumin & salt: A little cinnamon goes a long way in this recipe. It adds a touch of sweetness and depth of flavor. And cumin is a warming spice that gives the dish a Mediterranean flavor.
Ingredients to make the rice dish with tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, broth, spices and olive oil

How to make tomato rice

  1. Cook onions and garlic until fragrant in a pot with some olive oil.
  2. Add in the rice, tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon, chopped tomatoes, and salt.
  3. Cook until combined and fragrant.
  4. Add vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer.
4 image collage to show how to cook the rice in one pot, starting with the onions, then rice and tomato paste and broth

Tips for making this Mediterranean rice pilaf recipe

  1. Rinse the rice. You always want to rinse brown rice before cooking to remove any dirt or debris. Rinsing also helps remove some of the starch. If you need additional help with cooking your brown rice, just click the underlined text!
  2. Seed the tomatoes. This keeps the liquid in the recipe under control since the juice from tomatoes can vary from one to another. The best way to seed tomatoes is to cut them in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the inner seeds and liquid. Don’t toss this, as it can be used for soups and stews!
  3. Prep everything before you begin cooking. By having your rice rinsed and your onions and garlic chopped, you can focus on cooking without stopping during the process to finish little things. Once you start cooking, things move quickly!
  • Use white rice. Brown rice will take more time to cook and usually won’t be as fluffy as white rice. I use white rice in the majority of my recipes but love the more nutty flavor of brown in this rice pilaf. Grab my best tips for how to cook brown rice.
  • Add beef or chicken. I often bulk up this side dish by adding cubed chicken, steak, or ground beef. If you’re adding either, I recommend adding with the onions, and you may need to reduce the liquid by ¼ cup since those proteins will release some moisture when cooked.
  • No vegetable stock? Use chicken stock, or water instead. I like the added flavor that vegetable stock gives this recipe, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t have any on hand. You can use water or another type of broth in its place.
  • Use canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes on hand, you can substitute them with an equal amount of canned diced tomatoes. I recommend using the canned tomatoes with the juice for this recipe, but you should then reduce the liquid by ¼ cup.

what to serve with your rice with tomato sauce

how to store & reheat tomato rice

Let your tomato rice cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the fridge.

When reheating, add a little water or broth to help rehydrate the rice. I like to reheat my rice in the microwave, but you can also reheat it on the stovetop over low heat.

How long will tomato rice last in the fridge?

Properly stored, your rice will last in the fridge for up to four days.

Can I freeze tomato rice?

Yes! Just place your cooled rice in a freezer-safe bag or container, and it will last in the freezer for up to six months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge when you’re ready to eat before reheating.

Frequently asked questions

Why did my rice come out mushy?

There are a few things that can cause this. The most common reason is using too much liquid when cooking the rice and then overcooking to try and evaporate the excess. Be sure to use the proper ratio of rice to liquid, and don’t overcook! Make sure you’re using the correct ratio of rice to liquid. Another reason could be that you didn’t rinse the rice before cooking which removed some of the starch. This can lead to mushy rice as well.

Why is my rice still hard after cooking?

This can be caused by a few things as well. The most common reason is not using enough liquid when cooking the rice. Brown rice also takes longer to cook than white rice, so make sure you’re using the correct cook time. If you find your rice is still hard after cooking, add a little more liquid and continue to cook until tender.

Do I have to use tomato paste in this recipe?

Yes. The tomato paste is key in this recipe as it gives the rice that beautiful red color. It also adds a lot of flavor, so I wouldn’t recommend leaving it out.

Final cooked tomato rice in large pot garnished with fresh cilantro

Tomato rice is a delicious side dish with a Mediterranean flair. You can make this easy tomato rice recipe in about 45 minutes, and it’s perfect for serving alongside just about any meal that you’re cooking up! Whether you use brown or white rice, add your favorite meats like chicken or steak, or keep it vegetarian with just the rice, tomatoes, and some vegetable stock, this rice is sure to please even the pickiest eaters.

For more rice and grain dishes, check out:

If you try this feel good Tomato Rice recipe or any other recipe on Feel Good Foodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. We would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots, share it on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!

This Tomato Rice recipe was originally published on March 14, 2017. The recipe has been slightly modified, and the post now includes new step-by-step photos for how to make the rice pilaf recipe.

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Tomato Rice

This Tomato Rice is made with brown rice, fresh tomatoes and warm Mediterranean spices. It's the perfect side dish and I'll show you how to prepare it!
5 from 81 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Side Dish
Calories 234
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
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  • Place the rice in a mesh sieve and rinse with cold water while agitating the rice with your hands to release as much starch as possible, until the water runs clear. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, one minute more. Stir in rinsed rice, tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon, chopped tomatoes, and salt, and cook until well combined, about 2 more minutes.
  • Add vegetable stock and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
  • Remove from heat and allow the rice to steam covered for 5 more minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve.


Storage: Place any leftover tomato rice in an airtight container and place it in the fridge. This rice will last up to 4 days.  


Calories: 234kcal, Carbohydrates: 41g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 387mg, Potassium: 331mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 292IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 28mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Side Dish

5 from 81 votes (76 ratings without comment)

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  1. Paul Betancourt says:

    Fabulous recipe, a nice version and nails that nice pilaf flavor! I got a little wild added 2 tsp of coriander seed which I ground with a mortar & pestle , though otherwise it’s all your recipe. Love this and so many others, thanks for your great work & great cooking!

    1. Yumna says:

      Thanks so much!

  2. Rach says:

    What is the serving size? In grams if possible but cups is fine. X

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Hi Rachel, great question! Every cup of uncooked rice makes about 3 cups of cooked rice. So these 2 cups of uncooked rice will make about 6 cups of cooked rice. We assume about 3/4 cup of cooked rice per serving per person. You’ll have to let me know how you liked it!

  3. Jess says:

    Could chicken thighs be added to this while cooking? Thanks!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yes! I often bulk up this side dish by adding cubed chicken, steak, or ground beef. If you’re adding either, I recommend adding with the onions, and you may need to reduce the liquid by ¼ cup since those proteins will release some moisture when cooked.

  4. Amanda says:

    How long should I cook this in the instant pot?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      I have not tried that with this recipe yet. You might need to reduce the amount of liquid if going that route!

  5. Phyllis Barr says:

    Could you use cauliflower rice instead of brown rice?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      I have yet to try that in this recipe! If you do, you’ll probably have to reduce the amount of vegetable stock and cooking time.

  6. Linda Schumann says:

    So far so good. I’ll let you know how I do. Thank you!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yes please! This is an old recipe and I need to revisit it and take new shots soon!

  7. Lesya Milam says:

    Love it!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you!!

    2. Sangeeta says:

      This recipe was amazing!! My whole family loved it. I made it with white rice as I did not have any brown rice on hand. I just reduced the cooking time! I made the chicken shawarma recipe to go along with it!!

      1. Yumna Jawad says:

        Thank you so much! I’m so glad to hear it. Yum!

  8. Amy says:

    Do you cover the rice as it simmers?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yes, I’ll add that clarification to the instructions. Thank you!

  9. Helen says:

    I love how simple this is – making it now ?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Hi Helen – So glad to hear that!! Enjoy it 🙂