Orzo rice is blend of toasted orzo pasta and basmati rice simmered into a buttery pilaf. The mild, nutty flavor makes it a favorite, easy side dish for family dinners.
This buttery, nutty rice pilaf with orzo is like a homemade version of boxed Rice-A-Roni, in all the best ways!
Orzo rice is really simple to make, but just feels fancier than plain old rice or buttered pasta. I wouldn't hesitate to serve this at a dinner party, especially if you're serving it to a mix of kids and adults. Both will love it!
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
To make this recipe, you need just 5 ingredients (plus salt).
For more flavor and color, you can also add fresh herbs like parsley or dill.
White Rice: This Mediterranean recipe turns out best with white long grain rice. Basmati is a type of long grain rice that is often used in Mediterranean and Middle East cuisine.
At the grocery store, you'll see other types of long grain rice like Jasmine rice and "generic" white rice that is simply labeled as long grain. You can use these varieties of long grain rice in place of Basmati.
Orzo: Orzo is pasta that has a shape similar to rice. There are many variations of orzo rice throughout the Mediterranean region. In Turkey and some other regions, vermicelli pasta is often used in place of orzo when making orzo rice. If you're using vermicelli, be really careful when you toast the tiny, thin noodles in the saucepan. Vermicelli will brown even faster than orzo does.
Butter: I like using salted butter, which gives the pilaf a nutty, buttery flavor. I highly recommend using butter for flavor, however, you can use olive oil instead if you prefer. To give this pilaf a different flavor profile try using coconut oil.
Broth: Both chicken broth and vegetable broth are fine. If you don't have broth, you can use water for the cooking liquid but the pilaf will have less flavor. Adding extra salt after the rice has cooked will help though.
Turmeric: Just a pinch of turmeric is added to give the rice a yellow color. You can skip the turmeric if you want, but the dish won't look as good!
Fresh herbs: For color and flavor, garnish the dish with fresh parsley, dill or your favorite herb
What is Long Grain Rice?
Long grain rice is literally longer and thinner than short grain rice. Long grain rice is also less starchy than short grain rice and less likely to become sticky.
The rice is fluffier and less moist and the rice grains stay separate from one another, rather than clumping together. For this reason, long grain rice works best for pilafs.
Common varieties of long grain rice are Basmati, Jasmine and American long grain rice. To learn more about American grown rice varieties, you can read this article about rice types and forms on usarice.com
Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions
Step 3: Melt butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until the orzo turns a golden brown color.
Step 2: Add broth and bring to a gentle boil.
Step 3: Add basmati rice, turmeric and salt and bring the broth back to a boil. Stir well.
Step 4: Turn the heat down to low. Cover the pot and simmer very gently over low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff the cooked rice and orzo with a fork, add salt to taste.
For detailed instructions and ingredient amounts see the recipe card below.
Toast the orzo: To make orzo rice, the orzo is sautéed for a few minutes in the saucepan with butter or oil until it has a toasted into a brown color. The orzo is toasted to give it a nutty flavor and to also slightly harden the pasta, so when it cooks for 20 minutes with the rice it holds its shape doesn't get mushy.
Use Basmati rice: Basmati rice is best for pilafs because it's fluffier and the rice grains stay separate from one another, rather than clumping together.
Use a fork to fluff the rice: Use a fork instead of a spoon to gently fluff the cooked rice. This helps to keep the texture fluffy, instead of smashing the grains of rice together.
This pilaf is really versatile. You can serve it as a side dish with almost anything.
- Serve orzo rice with any type of chicken, especially Mediterranean Grilled Chicken or boiled chicken thighs.
- It pairs well with pork loin or pork chops.
- It's fantastic with a main dish like salmon or cod.
- It rounds out a filling vegetarian dinner when served with vegetarian shawarma sheet-pan vegetables.
Storage and Reheating
Orzo rice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days, although it tastes best if eaten within 3 days.
To reheat, sprinkle a tablespoon of water over the rice and partially cover the dish. Microwave until heated. The water helps add moisture back to the rice, which gets dry when refrigerated.
Most orzo is vegan, but check the ingredient list on the box to make sure. The ingredients for orzo are usually durum wheat flour and water.
This specific recipe is not vegan because it uses butter. To make this recipe vegan, use oil in place of butter and vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
No, orzo is a type of pasta made from durum wheat flour and is not gluten-free.
Orzo is pasta that is in the shape of rice.
The flavor is buttery and nutty. The texture is wonderful, soft and fluffy from the rice but also slightly chewy and tender from the toasted orzo.
More Rice and Orzo Recipes
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5 Ingredient Easy Orzo Rice
This is a blend of toasted orzo pasta and basmati rice simmered into a buttery pilaf topped with fresh herbs. Orzo rice has a mild, nutty flavor that makes it a favorite, easy side dish for family dinners.
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 25
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Side Dishes
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ cup orzo
- 2 ½ cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Fresh chopped herbs, for garnish (fresh parsley, dill, or your favorite herb)
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan that has a lid.
- Add the orzo and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until the orzo turns a golden brown color. Stir the orzo frequently, making sure it browns evenly and doesn’t burn. Take care not to burn the orzo, and turn the heat down if needed.
- Add the broth and bring the heat up to medium-high heat so the broth comes to a boil.
- Add the rice, turmeric and salt and bring the broth back to a boil. Stir the rice to make sure none of the grains are sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Turn the heat down to LOW. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Try to resist the urge to lift the lid, as you don’t want to release steam that is cooking the rice.
- After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Fluff the rice with a fork and add more salt to taste (use a fork, not a spoon because a spoon can smash the rice and make the texture mushy, not fluffy).
- Top with fresh herbs before serving (optional)
Make sure the heat is on low, not medium low, when the rice and orzo are simmering for 20 minutes. If the heat is medium low, it's likely the rice will stick to the bottom of the pot.
Olive oil or sunflower oil can be substituted for the butter but the dish won't have as much flavor.
The orzo is toasted to give it a nutty flavor and to also slightly harden the pasta, so when it cooks for 20 minutes with the rice it holds its shape doesn't get mushy.
Storage and Re-heating
Orzo rice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days, although it tastes best if eaten within 3 days. To reheat, sprinkle a tablespoon of water over the rice and microwave until heated. The water helps add moisture back to the rice, which gets dry when refrigerated.
Keywords: orzo rice, orzo, orzo rice pilaf,