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This easy Rice Pilaf is a savory, flavorful side dish that goes with almost any meal. It’s a step up from plain rice and makes everybody think you went to a lot of extra effort, when it’s hardly any more work than Rice-a-Roni.
This homemade rice pilaf with orzo pasta is a delicious warm side dish that feels fancy and makes any dinner feel a little more upscale, even though it’s incredibly easy to make. Plus, homemade tastes WAY better than the kind from a box, too!
Seriously, why pay money for a small box of flavored rice with dried out veggies, when you can mix your favorite seasonings, fresh vegetables, and rice at home and create an amazing taste experience. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
I know a lot of people feel this way too, based on the insane popularity of my homemade hamburger helper recipe. I think most of us have realized that everything just tastes better from scratch!
This rice pilaf recipe is also a great way to use up the veggies in the crisper that might be a little neglected or that you may have forgotten about. It’s a very versatile recipe that can be customized based on what you have on hand and I’ll share tips on how to do that below.
What is rice pilaf?
Rice pilaf is a rice and pasta dish that often uses broth or stock as the cooking liquid rather than water and adds in seasonings and vegetables for a savory side that complements many protein-centric main dish options.
How to make rice pilaf on the stovetop
- Heat spices, butter, and broth: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine your chicken broth, butter, salt, garlic powder, and pepper until warm. Once the liquid begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and keep it warm.
- Toast pasta: Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat and add in your olive oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add in orzo or vermicelli pasta and stir to coat well. Cook the pasta for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
- Toast rice: Add in the white rice and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the rice is a bright white.
- Saute veggies: Add in celery and onions and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes. Stirring occasionally until the veggies are slightly softened. Then pour in the warm broth mixture into the skillet with the pasta and rice, stirring to combine.
- Add liquid and simmer: Bring everything to a simmer and then cover and cook for 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.
- Garnish & serve: Sprinkle the rice pilaf with the chopped parsley and then fluff with a fork. Serve warm and enjoy.
How to make rice pilaf in the instant pot
- Toast pasta & rice: To make this rice pilaf recipe in the instant pot, set it to SAUTE mode. Add in the olive oil and then the pasta and cook until it is lightly browned before adding the rice and cooking until the rice is bright white (just like if you were to cook it on the stovetop).
- Saute veggies: Add in the celery and onions and cook until just softened.
- Add liquids & seasonings: Add in the broth, butter, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
- Secure lid and select mode and time: Place the lid on and secure it. Switch the valve to seal and select MANUAL mode and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes and do a natural release (the release will take about 10-15 minutes to complete).
- Garnish and serve: When the pressure has released, remove the lid and add the parsley. Stir and serve.
Rice pilaf variations
One of the best things about this easy rice pilaf is that you can change it up to make it unique every time. Some additional (and optional) add-ins include:
- Chopped carrots
- Finely chopped bell peppers
- Chopped mushrooms
- A handful or two of frozen peas
- Sliced almonds
- Golden raisins
Note that vegetables like carrots, peppers, mushrooms, or peas need to be added during the celery and onion step so they can soften a bit first. Almonds or raisins can be added later with the broth (which will help plump raisins), or even stirred in at the end once the rice pilaf has cooked.
What to Serve with Rice Pilaf
- Garam Masala Salmon
- Grilled Whole Fish
- Whole Roasted Mexican Chicken with Vegetables
- Applewood Smoked Turkey
- Mom’s Chicken Cordon Bleu
More Classic Side Dishes
- Homemade Mexican Rice (aka Spanish Rice)
- Cafe Rio Black Beans & Cilantro Lime Rice
- Creamy Roasted Garlic & Mushroom Risotto
- Easy Homemade German Spaetzle
- The BEST Homemade Mashed Potatoes
- Brazilian White Rice
- Greek Lemon Rice
- 2 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup orzo or broken up angel hair pasta
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Combine the chicken broth, butter, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a medium sauce pan over medium heat to warm. Once the liquid begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
- Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the pasta and stir well to coat. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the rice and continue to cook another 4-5 minutes until the rice is bright white.
- Add the celery and onions and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften slightly, then pour the warm broth mixture into the skillet with the pasta and rice and stir to combine. Bring everything to a simmer, then cover and cook for 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed
- Sprinkle the rice pilaf with the chopped parsley, then fluff with a fork. Serve warm.
NOTE: You can also add a handful or two of peas, sliced almonds, golden raisins, diced carrots, chopped mushrooms, or diced peppers to your pilaf, if desired. The veggies should be added at the same time as the celery and onion, but almonds or raisins can be stirred in later.
INSTANT POT RICE PILAF: To make this recipe in the Instant Pot, set it to SAUTE mode. Add the olive oil, then the pasta and cook until lightly browned before adding the rice and cooking until the rice is bright white, just like when making on the stove top. Add the celery and onions and cook just until softened, then add the broth, butter, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
Place and secure the lid on the Instant Pot with the valve switched to seal. Select MANUAL mode and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes, then do a natural pressure release (it will take 10-15 minutes to release). When the pressure has released, remove the lid and add the parsley, then stir and serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 228 Total Fat: 13g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 7g Cholesterol: 20mg Sodium: 461mg Carbohydrates: 23g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 1g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 5g