Lemon Rice Pilaf

Lemon Rice Pilaf is so fluffy, flavorful, and delicious. This easy recipe simmers white rice with onions, broth, and lots of lemon for a perfect foundation under juicy chicken kabobs, gyros, or shrimp skewers.

An angled shot of lemon rice and pilaf on a white plate.

Whether you’re serving A basic rotisserie chicken, a piece grilled salmon, or a platter of roasted vegetables, Lemon Rice Pilaf brightens up the plate.

With a pilaf, the uncooked grains are toasted in the pan before any liquid is added; this extra step keeps the grains from clumping together in the pot. Then everything is simmered in rich broth, herbs, and spices–in this case lots of lemon juice and zest–to make it delicious with anything else you have going on in the kitchen. You’ll love it.

Recipe ingredients:

Labeled lemon rice pilaf ingredients in bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Rice: Any long grain rice works. I love using a fragrant white rice, like basmati or jasmine. Stay away from short grain rice, which can get too glutinous and stick together. If you’d rather make a brown rice pilaf, just adjust your cooking time according to the cooking instructions for the variety of rice you’re using. Brown rice takes considerably longer to cook.
  • Lemon juice and zest: The key to the lovely brightness in this dish. Zest your lemon first, then juice it.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. In a skillet, sauté the onions in olive oil or clarified butter.
    An overhead shot of onions cooking in a silver skillet.
  2. When the onions turn soft and translucent, add the rice and give everything a good stir. Keep stirring until the rice grains get slightly browned. Then stir in the lemon zest and garlic.
    An overhead shot of onions and white rice cooking in a silver skillet.
  3. Next, add the broth, lemon juice, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil.
    An overhead shot of lemon juice being poured onto white rice and onion in a silver skillet.
  4. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook until the liquid absorbs and the rice is tender. Take out the bay leaf and give your beautiful pilaf a fluff with a fork before serving.
    An angled shot of lemon rice in a silver skillet.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • A tight-fitting lid: Make sure your skillet has a lid that fits well, to trap in the steam and let the rice cook properly. Too loose, and you’ll lose the moisture before the rice is done.
  • Rice cooker: Put your electric rice cooker to work. Start the rice on the stove by cooking the onions and toasting the rice in a skillet, up through step 2 in the recipe card. Then transfer the rice to your rice cooker, add the lemon zest and juice, bay leaf and broth and set to COOK. When finished, allow the rice to sit in the cooker for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Cooked rice freezes like a dream! Cool, divide into portions, and add to freezer-safe containers. Label, date, and freeze for up to 2 months.
  • White wine: If you have some white wine, if you want, add a little glug of it into the rice in place of some of the broth.
  • Nuts: Pine nuts, lemon rice with pistachios, or roasted, silvered almonds are natural fits.
  • Scallions or roasted garlic: A little extra garlic is always popular with the garlic lovers, and chopped scallions or chives add a nice depth of flavor, too.

An overhead shot of lemon rice pilaf on a white plate.

Serve lemon rice with:

Lemon rice pilaf on a white plate.

Lemon Rice Pilaf

Lemon Rice Pilaf is so fluffy, flavorful, and delicious. This easy recipe simmers white rice with onions, broth, and lots of lemon for a perfect foundation under juicy chicken kabobs, gyros, or shrimp skewers.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Greek
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 256kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or clarified butter
  • 1 cup onion minced (about 1/2 medium)
  • 1 cup white rice long-grain, jasmine, or basmati (see note 1)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (see note 2)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, heat clarified butter or olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  • Stir in rice and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.  
  • Stir in garlic and lemon zest until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add lemon juice, broth, bay leaf, and salt, and bring to boil. 
  • Cover, reduce heat, and cook until rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 17 minutes. Remove bay leaf and fluff with a fork.

Video

Notes

  1. Rice: Any long grain rice works. I love using a fragrant white rice, like basmati or jasmine. Stay away from short grain rice, which can get too glutinous and stick together. If you'd rather make a brown rice pilaf, just adjust your cooking time according to the cooking instructions for the variety of rice you're using. Brown rice takes considerably longer to cook.
  2. Lemon juice and zest: The key to the lovely brightness in this dish. Zest your lemon first, then juice it.
  3. A tight-fitting lid: Make sure your skillet has a lid that fits well, to trap in the steam and let the rice cook properly. Too loose, and you'll lose the moisture before the rice is done.
  4. Rice cooker: Put your electric rice cooker to work. Start the rice on the stove by cooking the onions and toasting the rice in a skillet, up through step 2 in the recipe card. Then transfer the rice to your rice cooker, add the lemon zest and juice, bay leaf and broth and set to COOK. When finished, allow the rice to sit in the cooker for 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Leftovers: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  6. Freezer: Cooked rice freezes like a dream! Cool, divide into portions, and add to freezer-safe containers. Label, date, and freeze for up to 2 months. 
  7. White wine: If you have some white wine, if you want, add a little glug of it into the rice in place of some of the broth. 
  8. Nuts: Pine nuts, lemon rice with pistachios, or roasted, silvered almonds are natural fits.
  9. Scallions or roasted garlic: A little extra garlic is always popular with the garlic lovers, and chopped scallions or chives add a nice depth of flavor, too. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 256kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 510mg | Potassium: 159mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg
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  1. Craig J Schulz

    This is a very fine recipe, easy to follow and end result is delicious ! I had to add about 3/4 water half way threw the final stage, possibly had too much heat, was not on the lowest setting. Will try again! I should have thought of sauvignon blanc addition in place of extra water, that must be good.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Hi Craig! I’m glad you loved it, definitely try again with a little bit of white wine! :) Thank you! – Meggan

  2. Pat

    Do you have to rinse or soak rice before cooking?

    1. Meggan

      Hi Pat, you do not have to rinse or soak the rice. Thank you! – Meggan

  3. Jerianne

    This is a great recipe! Very easy, very flexible. I added dried apricots, fresh rosemary, and toasted pine nuts with a little Sauvignon Blanc to complement a citrus glazed pork tenderloin–it was amazing! I had to add more liquid during cooking, but it turned out perfectly. Will definitely make it again!5 stars

  4. Sue

    Really, really appreciate your breaking down these basic recipes for the cooking novice in a lovely, kind, easy to understand and non-condescending manner. You rock!!

  5. Hattie

    I just love this rice. I’ve made it 4 or 5 times and its always just so good. Such good flavor and so easy to make!5 stars

  6. Adrienne Trivella

    Can the lemon rice pilaf be made a day or two ahead of time?

    1. meggan

      Hi Adrienne, yes, definitely! You could reheat it over low-heat on a stove top or covered in the microwave. If it seems dry, add a few drops or a teaspoon of water and cover it before cooking. You should be good to go. Thanks! -Meggan

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