Luscious Lemon Rice reporting for side dish duty! It’s creamy, healthy, and a glorious iteration of that serendipitous place where super simple meets ultra effective. Follow this recipe and punch up the pizzazz factor of your plate!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a common denominator with many of my main dishes: I recommend serving them with rice. (Starter reference: Egg Roll in a Bowl, Red Lentil Curry, Sheet Pan Chicken with Rainbow Vegetables, and every one of these healthy stir fry recipes).
Did I give much thought to said rice, however? NOPE.
Long ago, I committed to choosing brown rice over regular white rice for the greater health benefits (fiber! protein! nutrients!), and now I prefer its mildly nutty flavor. Beyond the whole-grain decision, however, I didn’t consider much else.
One bite of Lemon Rice, and I realized how egregiously I’d been ignoring rice’s potential. Not only is Lemon Rice healthy, but it is absolutely scrumptious.
With a few minor, so-easy-it-barely-counts tweaks, you can make a creamy, flavorful Lemon Rice that will instantly elevate your at-home dinner experience. It’s a subtle but impactful change that you’ll thank yourself for with every forkful.
How to Make Lemon Rice
Here’s the thing: making Lemon Rice is exactly like making brown rice…except better.
Rather than cooking brown rice with only water and a pinch of salt (you are salting your rice, aren’t you?), today’s Lemon Rice is strutting the whole-grain runway sporting fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and a total game-changer ingredient that makes the rice extra creamy.
- Brown Rice. Use any kind you like. Long-grain brown rice is what I usually have around, but if you want to make Lemon Rice with basmati rice or short-grain brown rice instead, that works nicely too. Simply adjust the cook time to match.
- Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest. Make sure the juice is fresh and you will be deliciously rewarded. No bottled lemon juice allowed—trust me, you will notice the difference.
- Fresh Herbs. If you are feeling it and/or have some herbs in your refrigerator threatening extinction, chop them up and toss them in. You can use the herbs to change the flavor profile of the Lemon Rice too. Looking for Lemon Rice, Greek edition? Add thyme and parsley. An Indian spin? Try cilantro and/or mint.
- KOSHER SALT. A critical ingredient to cooking any kind of rice. It won’t make the rice taste salty; rather, using kosher salt makes rice taste like its best version of itself.
And the game-changing Lemon Rice ingredient….
- Coconut Water.
Two of my best friends (hi Kate and Conor!) introduced me to the concept of cooking rice with coconut water instead of regular water, and I am completely smitten with the results.
Cooking rice with coconut water doesn’t impart a strong coconut taste. It makes the Lemon Rice especially creamy and adds a natural richness and sweetness. It’s indisputably yummy and will enhance any recipe with which you serve it.
If you can’t find coconut water or don’t care to purchase it, you can make this Lemon Rice with regular water or (for bonus flavor) chicken or vegetable broth.
Cooking Options for Lemon Rice
To cook Lemon Rice, you’ll want to essentially follow the directions on the back of your bag of rice for the approximate cook time, but using the ingredients I’ve listed in the lemon rice recipe below (coconut water, lemon zest, etc.) instead.
- My favorite way to cook rice is in my Instant Pot. The perfect, not-too-dry, not-too-mushy, gratifyingly sticky rice it makes is enough to make the purchase worth it.
- I know not everyone owns an Instant Pot, so I’ve included stovetop directions as the primary way to cook Lemon Rice in the recipe; Instant Pot users, see the recipe notes.
- Those looking to make Lemon Rice in a rice cooker, refer to your machine’s specific instructions.
As far as how to cook Lemon Rice in the crock pot or make baked Lemon Rice—neither of these methods did the trick for me. The crock pot rice was too mushy, and the baked lemon rice felt unnecessarily complicated.
When I’m making rice, it’s to go along with something else, and that “something else” demands the majority of my attention.
What I love about this Lemon Rice recipe is that despite being dead simple (and thus allowing me to divert my attention elsewhere), it still manages to taste elevated, intentional, and like something that demands much more effort than it actually requires.
Put another way: Lemon Rice is cooking at its best.
Recipes That Go Well with Lemon Rice
Speaking of that “something else” you’ll be making along with the Lemon Rice…
- Fish and Seafood: Spicy Baked Salmon, Garlic Salmon, Soy Ginger Salmon, Baked Salmon in Foil, Grilled Shrimp Seasoning
- Greek Food: Turn this recipe into a Greek Lemon Rice by topping it with lots of fresh parsley, then serve it with Greek Chicken or Slow Cooker Yogurt Chicken Shawarma.
- Creamy Soups: Add a spoonful to Instant Pot Carrot Soup, Pumpkin Curry Soup, or Asparagus Soup. (If you are looking for a true lemon rice soup, try my Crock Pot Chicken and Rice Soup with lemon.)
- Meatballs: Whole30 Meatballs, Baked Chicken Meatballs, Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs, Lentil Meatballs.
- Italian Chicken or Sausage Recipes: Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers, Sheet Pan Italian Chicken
- Curries: Thai Chicken Curry, Instant Pot Lentil Curry, Chickpea Curry.
- Indian Dishes: Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala, Instant Pot Butter Chicken.
- Stir Fries: Sheet Pan Shrimp and Broccoli, Asian Lettuce Wraps.
AND SO MANY MORE.
What dish will you serve with Lemon Rice? I’d love to hear what you think once you try it!
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 3/4 cups coconut water - plus a few additional tablespoons as needed (or swap unsalted vegetable or chicken broth or stock, though I highly recommend trying the coconut water version at least once!)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt - plus additional to taste
- Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon - about 1/4 cup juice
- 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley - or any herbs you love
- Rinse and drain the rice. Combine the rice, coconut water, salt, and coconut oil in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Check a few times, especially towards the end as the rice cooks. If at any point it looks like it is become dry or sticking, splash in additional coconut water as needed.
- Remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and then fluff with a fork to combine. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Enjoy warm.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the refrigerator.
- Feel free to change this recipe up with any herbs you love or have on hand, or simply omit them. I like parsley, dill, or thyme with Greek recipes and fish or shrimp. Cilantro and/or mint is delicious for Thai or Indian recipes.
- To cook Lemon Rice in the Instant Pot: Use 1 cup rice and 1 1/4 cups coconut water; cook on HIGH pressure for 22 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest after it finishes cooking. Rest the lid back on the Instant Pot and let it sit a few minutes for the juice to absorb and the flavors to marry.
- To cook in Lemon Rice in a rice cooker: Refer to your machine’s directions. Add the lemon juice and zest at the end.
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