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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.
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.
How to make tomato rice
- Cook onions and garlic until fragrant in a pot with some olive oil.
- Add in the rice, tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon, chopped tomatoes, and salt.
- Cook until combined and fragrant.
- Add vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer.
Tips for making this Mediterranean rice pilaf recipe
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
popular substitutions & additions
- 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
- Cilantro Chicken and Veggie Skewers
- Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken
- Spinach Feta Stuffed Chicken
- Simple Air Fryer Chicken Breasts
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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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.
- 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.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.