Simple Veggie Rice Pilaf – An easy side dish to kick your meal up a notch in color and flavor, this vegetable rice pilaf is easy enough for a weeknight, and nice enough for a holiday or big dinner!
Post & photos updated, and video added Mar 2018. Originally posted Sep 2016.
We’re still very much in the stage of trying to get Milo and Sophie to try new foods and expose them to plenty of new flavors. Veggies are, for the most part, still a real struggle most nights.
I’ve been looking for lots of ways to get them on the table since, for many kids, it’s simply a matter of exposure and time before they are more open to and accepting of veggies. (Isn’t that true of adults too?)
This simple veggie rice has been a great one for us. Both kids really love rice, and this veggie-fied version has been a great addition to dinner time at our house. Even Milo, whose regular vegetable intake is basically baby carrots and whatever I can puree into a smoothie, ate bite after bite of this yummy rice pilaf. (KNOWING there were veggies in it!)
My mom made an awesome rice pilaf when I was growing up that had onion, celery, butter, and was topped with toasted almonds. I knew that my kids would push their plates away if they spotted either onion or celery, so I decided to try other veggies.
Lots of combinations work here–you can certainly add some onion or celery, a little bell pepper, etc.–but for this version, I went with shredded zucchini and carrots. Since they’re grated, they blend right in texture-wise with the rest of the rice, and are, in all honesty, mostly there for color. The orange from the carrots gave an almost cheesy color to the rice, which actually worked to my advantage. The zucchini didn’t add more color than a tiny bit of minced cilantro would, but you can always peel the zucchini ahead of time if you’re nervous.
The other big flavor booster here is the broth. Cooking the rice with broth is a sure-fire way to add an extra layer of flavor. It’s incredible what just adding a little broth can do, especially if it’s homemade. Finish things off with some fresh herbs if you like, and it’s done! This is a perfect side dish on its own, but it’s also a great bed for stir-fry, rice bowls, and more!
Notes on the recipe:
Let’s Talk Rice. I like to use Basmati rice most often. Lundberg is a brand that uses sustainable and responsible growing practices and tends to produce really high-quality rice.
A Little Bit of Color. The veggies you add will bleed a little color into the rice. Carrots lend an almost cheesy color to the rice (which we didn’t mind one bit). Bell peppers can occasionally bleed a little color as well, so just be aware if you go that route.
Family Size. This recipe makes a hefty family-sized batch of rice, which is plenty for us to have two nights’ worth or more. If you’re feeding a smaller crowd, feel free to halve the recipe. (It’s not too tricky!)
Mix it Up. There are SO many ways you can add to or adjust this veggie rice. For example…
- Try adding onion or celery in with the rice. Both onion and celery are BIG in flavor, so they’ll really add to and wake up the flavors going on. The zucchini and carrot are pretty mild, so if you’ve got super tasters on your hands, you may want to try a mild version first.
- Stir in some frozen peas right before serving.
- Mix in a flavor booster–a clove of garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, or a pinch of curry powder or ground turmeric will add another layer of flavor.
- Sprinkle on some herbs. I’m a big fan of fresh herbs, and love that I can play with the flavor of this rice a lot simply by swapping my herbs. Try a little fresh dill and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice, or a little fresh parsley or cilantro. Add a bell pepper to the veggie blend and try a sprinkle of fresh basil.
Like this recipe? You might also like…
- Meal Prep Squash Quinoa Salad
- Instant Pot Ginger Carrot & Squash Soup
- Simply Roasted Zucchini & Tomatoes