Vegetarian Rice Pilaf
5 from 21 votes
Simply buttery and delicious, this Vegetarian Rice Pilaf is the perfect side dish to pair with protein and vegetable dishes! It’s ready in 30 minutes, and it looks so poppin’ gorgeous at the dinner table.
If you’re looking to level up the usual veggie fried rice, this recipe is for you. This rice dish has subtle, but delicious flavors, making it the perfect side dish to vegetable dishes or roasts.
It is also lower in sodium compared to other rice dishes that are usually flavored with soy sauce. Plus, wild rice is gluten-free, low in calories, and high in fiber. Definitely a delicious and healthier way to consume your carbohydrates!
What Makes A Pilaf A Pilaf
Pilaf is actually more of a cooking method than a dish. In cooking pilaf, the distinct step is toasting the rice, also called cracking, and sauteing the vegetables first before adding any liquid.
Cracking forms a crust on each grain that prevents them from sticking to each other. That’s also how pilaf gets its distinct fluffy texture.
❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Whether it’s a special occasion or just a normal day, this vegetable rice pilaf surely deserves a spot on your menu!
- It’s super easy to make even for beginners.
- It’s cheap but it feeds a crowd, making it perfect for big gatherings.
- It looks oh so pretty on a plate! Those pops of colors from the rice and cranberries will surely bring a festive touch to your dinner table.
- You can customize it to whatever ingredients you have on hand.
- It comes together in 30 minutes, prep time and cook time combined.
Looking for more rice dishes? You might want to check out cilantro lime rice, a simpler rice dish made with fewer ingredients but also big in deliciousness!
There are no special or difficult to find ingredients needed to make this recipe. They’re all easy to find in your local grocery.
- Wild Rice Blend: There are different kinds available in the market, like long grain blend and quinoa medley. You can use any.
- Butter: It’s the fat we use to saute the vegetables. It adds a nice richness to the overall taste of the dish.
- Onion and Carrots: These aromatics add umami and a subtle sweet flavor.
- Cranberries: You can use fresh or dried cranberries to add sweetness and a beautiful pop of color to your rice pilaf.
- Pecans: For added crunch. I recommend toasting them first to really bring out the aroma of the pecans.
- Parsley: For a touch of fresh herby taste to the pilaf.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Wild Rice Blend: You can purchase pre-made ones or make your own blend like I did. I used a mix of wild rice, brown rice, and long-grain white rice. See exact quantities in the recipe card below.
- Butter: I really like the richness that butter adds to the dish. But if you’re out of butter, olive oil or any cooking oil will do.
- Cranberries: You can also use golden raisins.
- Pecans: You can substitute almonds, walnuts, or even a combination of nuts of your preference.
- Parsley: It adds a nice green color to the dish and also a fresh taste. But if you don’t have parsley, you can use cilantro or green onions. Do note that the flavor will slightly vary.
🌈 Variations / Options / Add-Ins
What’s great about making your own dishes is that you are the chef—you can customize them! Here are ways to give your rice pilaf your very own personal touch.
- Grains: Add other grains to the rice mixture like quinoa, pearl barley, and even corn.
- Veggies: If you want, you can experiment with other veggies like bell peppers, frozen peas, or leftovers that you have in the fridge for more nutrients and pops of color.
- Aromatics: Onion and carrots are good enough. But you can try putting in some minced garlic, celery, and/or bay leaf to elevate the flavor of your dish, or if the other aromatics are not available. You can also add minced shiitake mushrooms for more umami and added protein to your pilaf.
- Vegan: Simply remove the butter and replace it with vegan butter or olive oil.
- Liquid: Instead of using water, you can use vegetable broth as the flavoring liquid. Non-vegetarians can also use chicken stock.
- Buddha bowl: This rice pilaf also makes a great base for a Buddha bowl! Simply put some in a bowl and top it with fresh vegetables like alfalfa, red bell pepper, bean sprouts, or kale. Add protein like chickpeas (or one of these substitutes for chickpeas) or tofu, and your choice of sauce.
Check out this red beans and rice recipe. You can do something similar to your rice pilaf.
🥄 Equipment Needed / Helpful Tools
You will need only a handful of tools to make this recipe.
🔪 How to Make Vegetarian Rice Pilaf
The instructions for making this vegetarian pilaf rice recipe are so easy to follow, even for beginners.
Step 1: Toast rice
In a preheated skillet on medium high heat, toast the rice, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes until slightly brown and fragrant. You will need to stir the rice constantly to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn and that all the grains of rice will cook evenly.
Step 2: Add liquid
Place rice in a saucepan and add 3-4 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot and let it simmer for about 12 minutes.
Do note that 3-4 cups is just an estimate as the amount of liquid may vary depending on the type of rice used. Refer to the package instructions.
Step 3: Saute vegetables
Place butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and carrots and cook for 4-6 minutes until soft and the onions are golden. You do not want to overcook them as they might turn mushy.
Step 4: Combine everything together
Lastly, combine everything together—rice, vegetables, cranberries, pecans, and parsley. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy your vegetarian pilaf!
Use non-stick cookware to help make sure the ingredients won’t stick.
❓ Recipe FAQs
What is the best rice for pilaf?
The best rice for pilaf is long grain rice such as Jasmine or Basmati. These types of rice remain fluffy when cooked. Do not use short grain rice as these are starchy and are more likely to turn sticky when cooked.Is rice pilaf supposed to be soft?
The rice in rice pilaf is supposed to be soft, but individual grains should be able to hold their shape well.How do you make rice pilaf not mushy?
Rice pilaf turned mushy? You might have used too much water. To avoid this, be sure to check the package instructions on how to cook the rice and keep an eye on it while cooking. Don’t be tempted to add more water if the top looks dry.
On the other hand, you can still save the mushy pilaf by turning them into yummy rice balls!
These are my favorite dishes to serve with Vegetarian Rice Pilaf:
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Vegetarian Rice Pilaf
- ▢ 1 1/2 cups Wild Rice Blend rinsed
- ▢ 3-4 cups Water as needed
- ▢ 1/4 cup Butter
- ▢ 1 Small Onion minced
- ▢ 1 Carrot minced
- ▢ Salt and Pepper to taste
- ▢ 1/2 cup Fresh Cranberries minced (can use dried)
- ▢ 1/2 cup Pecans chopped
- ▢ 1/4 cup Parsley minced
- Preheat a skillet over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the rice and stir constantly for about 5 minutes until slightly brown and fragrant.
- Place the rice in a saucepan and add 3-4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cover as the rice cooks, about 12 minutes.
- As the rice is finishing cooking, place the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the minced onions and carrots and cook for 4-6 minutes until soft and onions are golden.
- Stir in the rice and season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the minced cranberries, pecans, and parsley.
- Serve and enjoy!
- You can purchase a pre-made wild rice blend or do as we did and use 1/4 cup wild rice, 1/4 cup brown rice and 1 cup long-grain white rice.