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Savory Rice Pilaf

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Savory, beautiful rice pilaf. Perfect for a holiday table or Sunday dinner. From www.onelovelylife.com

A few times a year, my mom used to make this recipe that was simply titled “yummy rice.” It had celery and toasted almonds and was cooked with chicken broth. It really was yummy, and I enjoyed it every time she made it.

When I went to college, I started experimenting more with recipes and started changing up the ingredients to my “yummy rice.” Sometimes, I’d toss in a few colors of diced bell peppers or some fresh herbs or maybe some mushrooms. Maybe I’d cook it with vegetable broth. It more or less always turns out well, and I really love it.

Savory Rice Pilaf - My family calls this "yummy rice" for good reason!

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holiday season and know that for many, the big meals can be difficult to sort out with a variety of food intolerances, allergies, and dietary preferences. At the same table, you might have someone who is paleo, someone allergic to strawberries, and a vegan. How do you fix a meal that works for everyone? Well, here are a few things we’ve found helpful:

  1. Be clear about what the dietary needs are. Maybe you’ll need to brush up on what’s gluten free (including spice mixes or sauces). Maybe you’ll need to read a few labels meticulously or text to ask if a certain brand is ok.
  2. Invite them to bring something. Since we have to be so religiously careful about what Sophie eats, I always feel more comfortable when I bring something. The few times we’ve “been glutened” were when someone else prepared our food and made a simple mistake, like not realizing that a certain spice blend had gluten or that commercial soy sauce is mostly made of wheat.
  3. Serve some components separately. If you’re preparing a salad, keep the ingredients separate, so that someone can skip the parmesan if they’re dairy free, or avoid the beans if they’re paleo.
  4. Try to prepare something filling. This can be tricky, I know, but there’s a running joke that vegans always have to eat a plain salad when they go out to eat because restaurants can be so bad at catering to an animal-free diet.
Savory Rice Pilaf - This makes a perfect allergy-friendly alternative to stuffing for Thanksgiving!

This dish is one of those that works for vegans, vegetarians, gluten free, and dairy free eaters. If you serve a meaty main dish, a filling rice pilaf, and a gorgeous, goody-filled green salad with a veggie and/or fruit side, most people could eat at least 2-3 of those items and feel satisfied. And, again, some Paleo eaters are ok to eat the occasional bit of white rice, but if they’re not, they could fill up on the main dish, salad, and veggies.

I’ve kept some of the basics of my mom’s recipe, with a few twists of my own to help it be more filling for a holiday table.  The crispy, creamy butternut squash can be roasted ahead of time to avoid clogging up the oven. The warmth from the rice will wilt the spinach and you can certainly toss in a pinch of fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, or even cilantro are all brilliant). Not a squash fan? You could sub mushrooms or some cooked diced zucchini. Choose vegetable broth if you’re cooking for a vegetarian or vegan, or use chicken broth if you’re not. Anything homemade will be especially delicious.

There’s no reason there shouldn’t be plenty of delicious choices on the table, no matter what the dietary needs.

What are your favorite allergy-friendly or meatless dishes for the holidays? 

This rice is nicknamed Yummy Rice because no matter what you put in it, it always turns out delicious!

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Savory, beautiful rice pilaf. Perfect for a holiday table or Sunday dinner. From www.onelovelylife.com

Savory Rice Pilaf

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  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Yield: about 8 servings as a side dish 1x


Feel free to skip the squash, substitute mushrooms, or leave them out. You can also add cooked sausage or diced zucchini or even bell peppers!


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 smal onion, diced
  • 2 cups rice, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (bonus points for homemade)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups diced, roasted squash (or other cooked veggies of choice)
  • 1 cup minced spinach (optional)
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds (or smoked almonds)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. add celery and onion and cook over medium heat until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Cook 1-2 minutes, to slightly toast the rice (it will probably not color). Pour in broth, along with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and let cook another 15 minutes or so, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Fluff rice with a fork and fold in cooked squash and spinach. Garnish with almonds just before serving.


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