Why buy expensive packaged rice mixes when you can make your own seasoned herb rice pilaf at home for less money? This lemon rice pilaf is easy to make and uses minimal ingredients!
I’ve been playing around with rice pilaf. On a recent stroll down the rice aisle, I noticed how VERY MANY packaged rice mixes there are. Seriously? Many of these mixes are sold in the range of $2 to $3 a box for about 4 servings. Maybe.
But you can make it yourself for much less!
Recently, I decided to see how low I could go in making a simplified version that cost very little but still made a flavorful side dish. I reduced the oil and add-ins, but still pulled off a great dish with practically nothing. Sort of.
This recipe does call for a batch of Jamie’s Spice Mix. (That’s where the lemon and herb come in.) If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, you should be able to fudge a bit and omit something. (I regularly omit the celery seed.) You can also use another favorite seasoning blend if you like. I’ve used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute with a bit of salt added. It’s very close to Jamie’s Spice Mix, so it’s a nice substitute if you’re missing something.
It’s still real food. It’s still delicious. And yet, it will help you bridge the gap between feast and famine. Leftovers are great reheated or stirred into soup. You can also halve the recipe if you don’t have eight hungry mouths to feed.
This recipe is also featured in an upcoming meal plan I’ll be sharing over on Life as MOM. As part of an effort to save families both time and money, the Life as MOM meal planners (aka my sister and I) are putting together weekly meal plans that cost less than $70 for the week (7 meals) AND which build on each other. I’m really excited about this new meal planning feature on Life as MOM. Stay tuned.
What’s the difference between rice and rice pilaf?
The difference between rice and rice pilaf is that rice is the base for pilaf. But pilaf refers more to how the rice is prepared.
Pilaf is rice first sautéed in butter or oil and then cooked in stock or broth, usually with seasonings. Rice, on the other hand, like my recipe for baking rice in the oven is typically boiled, steamed, or otherwise cooked, simply with water.
What’s the best rice for rice pilaf?
The best rice for rice pilaf is a long grain rice. We love using basmati rice, but jasmine rice would also work.
Short grain rice can get very clumpy and I don’t recommend it. You could also use brown rice, like in this Simple Brown Rice Pilaf Recipe.
Making herb rice pilaf yourself.
I’ve been making Simple Rice Pilaf for years. Adapting it toward the rice and ‘roni style involved upping the seasonings and throwing in some orzo.
That was easy.
Ingredients for herb rice pilaf
- rice – We used basmati, but a long grain white rice would also work.
- Jamie’s spice mix – or other favorite seasoning blend
- water – But you could also use vegetable or chicken broth (or stock)
How to make this herb lemon rice pilaf
What goes with rice pilaf?
Rice pilaf is a great side dish. It can be served along chicken (maybe marinated in the best dijon chicken marinade ever!) or a great steak, like my Mediterranean steak recipe to make for a complete meal.
How I make this recipe inexpensively:
Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe more economical:
- Buy in bulk. I know that Costco is the best place to buy ingredients in bulk, like rice or chicken stock, when there isn’t a great sale elsewhere. I keep track of prices so that I know who has the best deal where. If you don’t think you’ll eat through a ten pound bag of rice too quickly, split the purchase with a friend or store the extra in the freezer to extend its shelf life. Yes shopping at Costco can save you money, if done right. Likewise, I often buy spices in bulk as that’s the best unit price.
- Make my own stock. We used water, which of course was free, but you you could also try making your own Homemade chicken stock is so easy to make and practically free if you’re already roasting a chicken or buying rotisserie chickens. Extract all the flavor from the bones before you toss them.
Tools I use to make this recipe easy:
Having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.
Lemon and Herb Rice Pilaf
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 onion for 1/3 cup chopped
- 2 cup basmati rice or long-grain white rice
- 2 tsp Jamie's Spice Mix or other favorite spice blend
- 4 cup water
- In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and rice.
- Saute until rice the becomes opaque and the onion starts to go clear.
- Stir in the spices.
- Add the water and bring to a slight boil. Cover and reduce the heat. Cook for 20 minutes, covered, until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, adjust seasonings, and serve.