33 Cheap Ways to Spice Up Your Rice

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Whether you use white, brown or yellow rice and whether you cook it in a rice cooker, on the stove or in the microwave, rice is one of the easiest, most frugal things you can cook. There are many reasons why we love rice. It’s pantry friendly and lasts for a long time, it’s easy to make meals out of leftover cooked rice and, best of all, it’s cheap! But eating it plain is not going to satisfy many people for very long.

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The key to spicing up cheap kitchen staples is knowing what cheap ingredients you can add in to make a delicious dish. So just like we did with mac & cheese and pasta dishes, I’ve compiled some great add ins and recipes for rice when you’re at a loss for what to do with it. Please share your own ideas in the comments section below the article!

Easy Stir-Ins

Before we talk about actual recipes that involve rice, let’s just start with simple stir-ins that can be added easily to cooked rice to make it unique and tasty. Here are just a few of my best ideas, but the list certainly doesn’t end here!

  • Butter and parmesan cheese
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Peas
  • Creamy gravy
  • Cinnamon and brown sugar
  • Sauteed garlic, mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc.
  • Broccoli flowerets and cheese
  • Toasted peanuts or cashews
  • Black beans
  • Cilantro
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Tomato chunks
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Soy sauce
  • Pesto sauce
  • Fresh spinach

Cheap Side Dish Ideas:

Taking the add-ins one step further, here are 5 great, simple ideas from TipNut that involve a few stir-ins. For each recipe, just combine ingredients listed, bring to a boil, then add a cup of whatever raw rice you’d like to use. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (about 12 minutes for white and 40 for brown):

  • Coconut Rice: 1 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 cup of coconut milk, 2 tbs chopped and shredded coconut, 2 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of allspice.
  • Curried Rice: 2 cups of chicken broth, 1 tsp curry powder, and 3 tbsp of dried currants.
  • Ginger-Soy Rice: 2 cups of water, 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp grated fresh ginger and 2 whole cloves.
  • Lemon Rice: 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 strips lemon zest and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Saffron Rice: 2 cups of vegetable broth and a pinch of saffron.

Classic Rice Dishes on the Cheap:

  • Black Beans and Rice: here’s a great way to get your family the protein they need without using meat. This yummy recipe involves very inexpensive ingredients and serves 6. Use lime wedges and cilantro for garnishes for an extra special touch. If you’re looking for more rice and beans ideas, head here.
  • Easy Rice Pudding: this is a basic recipe that you can add on to in many ways. However, for the basic version, you’ll just need sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, raisins and powdered cinnamon.
  • Simple Rice Pilaf: make your own pilaf as a flavorful side dish with the help of butter, onion, chicken broth and parsley flakes.
  • Crock Pot Jambalaya: this jambalaya recipe calls for a lot of different meats, but you can pick and choose which you want to make the dish cheaper. This classic Creole dish will create a filling delicious meal for the whole family after it cooks in the crock pot for 5 or so hours.
  • Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers: I tried one of these for the first time (I know, bizarre) just a few months ago (courtesy of my friend’s mom, who is quite the cook!) and was blown away by how amazing a simple pepper could taste. In this recipe, use ground beef, taco seasoning, an egg, canned diced tomatoes, jar salsa and shredded cheddar cheese (and of course some rice) to cook inside of large bell peppers. Pull these out of the oven after about 45 minutes and you’ve got a little piece of heaven.
  • Cheesy Broccoli and Rice with Chicken: looking for an easy casserole dish that involves rice? Look no further than cheesy broccoli and rice with chicken. Apart from the obvious, you’ll just need cream of mushroom soup, milk, salt and pepper to create this filling dish.

A Little Ethnic Flair:

  • Nina’s Mexican Rice: here’s a healthy recipe that doesn’t involve many ingredients at all. Apart from the rice, you’ll need onion, salt, garlic, tomato sauce, chicken or veggie broth and any kind of frozen mixed veggies.
  • Greek Lemon Rice Soup: in this version of the classic Greek soup, silken tofu replaces the eggs, but you can certainly substitute in eggs if you prefer. Otherwise, you’ll need chicken broth, turmeric, lemon juice, fresh dill, freshly ground pepper and EVOO.
  • Vegetable Fried Rice: this recipe, apart from being delicious, is a great way to use up some leftovers. Customize this Chinese favorite by adding in whatever veggies you like or have on hand. Apart from the veggies and rice, you’ll just need soy sauce, a dry white or rice wine, peanut oil and garlic.
  • Risotto With Gorgonzola: gorgonzola is the perfect cheese for an Italian favorite. Never made a risotto before? Head here to read up before you get started.
  • Indian Style Rice: use a long grain rice and a variety of spices to create a delicious rice like you’d have in an Indian restaurant.
  • Simple Curried Rice: this might be the easiest and cheapest way to get curried rice on the table. It cooks in 10 minutes and involves minimal ingredients.

Got a great, cheap rice recipe that you’re dying to share? Please don’t hesitate! Tell us about it in the comments section below. Thanks for being a Tip Hero!

Photo credit: cookbookman17

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