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Simple Veggie Rice Pilaf (with How to Video!)

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! 

Simple Veggie Rice Pilaf - Even my kids LOVE this vegetable rice pilaf. (gluten free, vegan)
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!)


Easy, beautiful Veggie Rice Pilaf - Vegetable rice pilaf is such an easy, delicious side dish! (Gluten free, vegan)

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!

Simple Veggie Rice Pilaf - Even my kids LOVE this vegetable rice pilaf. (gluten free, vegan)

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.

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Simple Veggie Rice Pilaf - An easy side dish, this vegetable rice pilaf is easy enough for a weeknight, and nice enough for a holiday or big dinner! 

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Simple Veggie Rice Pilaf - Even my kids LOVE this vegetable rice pilaf. (gluten free, vegan)

Simple Veggie Rice Pilaf


  • Author: Emily
  • Yield: 8 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 cups Basmati rice (or other long-grain rice)
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (or butter/ghee)
  • 3 1/4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken, if not vegan)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 1-2 Tbsp fresh herbs (like dill, cilantro, parsley, or basil)

Instructions

Rinse the rice in a fine mesh sieve to wash away some of the starch.
Add your oil/butter to a saucepan and melt over medium heat.
Add zucchini, carrot, and rice and stir to coat.
Add broth and a pinch of salt and pepper to the saucepan and cover.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low for 15 minutes or until the water has all been absorbed and the rice is tender. Fluff rice with a fork and add additional salt and pepper, as desired, along with fresh herbs (if using).

Notes

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…

1. 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.

2. Stir in some frozen peas right before serving.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Nutrition

  • Calories: 184kcal
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Sodium: 401mg
  • Fat: 5g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 0
Simple Veggie Rice - An easy side dish to kick your meal up a notch in color & flavor. This is a perfect side dish, great with stir-fry, rice bowls & more!This veggie rice is a fabulous, simple side. Try it topped with stir-fry, next to chicken or fish, or as a base for dinner bowls!

39 Comments

  1. Just wondering if this recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve. Will it be too dry should I add any liquid when warming it up?

    1. Gen – It reheats pretty well for me. Usually, when I reheat rice, I add a little splash of liquid to it to help re-plump the grains if they’re looking dry. This tends to stay a bit more moist than plain rice for me, though!

  2. Silly question: in the video, it looks like you added cooked rice. Was it supposed to be uncooked rice? Thanks. 🙂

    1. Jack – It usually pops up first thing and stays with you as you scroll. (Sometimes people accidentally close the video window.) Refreshing the page usually helps! 🙂

  3. Lovely pilaf recipe. We’ve been using this, since I found it, to make delicious sides for all of our grilled dishes. It’s a perfect, healthy alternative to the usual suspects. And hella flavourful to boot.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  4. This was so easy and delicious! My family devoured it. I added in onion and garlic and completely spaced on adding an herb at the end (next time!). Will definitely be making this again!

    1. I’m so glad it was a winner for you and your family! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a star review–it’s so helpful!

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