This bright and zesty Greek lemon rice recipe will tantalize your taste buds. Loaded with sautéed onions, garlic, fresh herbs and lemon, this Greek rice pilaf is jam-packed with delicious Mediterranean flavours. Serve this Greek rice as a side dish with other Greek or Mediterranean dishes or serve it as a refreshing summer BBQ side dish.
Often we serve plain white rice as a side dish with a meal which can be a good choice when serving a curry or a main with lots of sauce. However, by just adding a few extra aromatics, this ‘boring’ white rice can be turned into a flavour bomb, perfect to serve with grilled meat or fish, like with these chicken skewers, stuffed peppers or this chicken saltimbocca. Not only is this Greek lemon rice rich in flavour, recipes like this South African yellow rice, Spanish rice with chorizo and spicy Mexican rice are fragrant side dishes that will fast become family favourites.
Which ingredients to use
- Rice: Use a long grain white rice for this Greek rice recipe. It can be either a standard long grain rice, Basmati or Jasmin rice. Brown rice is also an option, but the cooking time and amount of water required will be different.
- Garlic and onions: These are the perfect aromatics to give extra depth of flavour to this dish. Make sure to sauté the onions and garlic long enough before adding the other ingredients to obtain the best flavour.
- Broth: Cook the rice in either a vegetable or chicken broth, as to your personal preference. It is important to use cold broth or water when cooking the rice.
- Lemon: Lemon is what makes this Greek rice stand out. Use both the fresh lemon juice and the zest. Slice off some wedges or rings for garnish.
- Olive oil: Sauté the onions and garlic in a good quality olive oil for an authentic Mediterranean taste.
- Fresh herbs: Add a good amount of fresh parsley to finish off this dish before serving.
How to make lemon rice?
Note: All the exact quantities of the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
This Greek rice recipe is so easy and simple to make. It is almost like making standard white rice, but with just a few extra ingredients. Just follow these steps for the best result:
- Rinse the rice: This step should not be skipped when cooking rice. Rinsing the rice under cold running water does not only remove all the dirt and dust but also removes excess starch giving it a fluffier texture after cooking. And fluffy rice is what we’re after.
- Sauté the onions and garlic: Heat some olive oil in a medium pot or saucepan and sauté the chopped onions for 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic and rice, toss to coat and fry for another minute. Don’t add the garlic in the beginning with the onions as it can burn and become bitter. The rice will turn slightly transparent and will start smelling nutty and fragrant.
- Add the liquid: Pour in the broth, or you can use plain water and salt to substitute the broth if you prefer. Don’t forget to add the lemon juice either way as it is the star ingredient. Bring the liquid to a boil. Immediately once boiling, reduce the heat to a minimum and cover the pot with a lid, making sure the lid is sealed well. Leave to simmer for 12 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat and let the rice sit for another 10 minutes covered and undisturbed.
- Flavour with aromatics: Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Add the lemon zest, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Optionally, pour in more lemon juice to taste.
Tips to make the best lemon rice pilaf
- Wash the rice: Don’t skip washing the rice before cooking. Rinse the rice well in a mesh strainer under cold running water. You will notice that the water is blurry at the beginning, which comes from the debris and starch on the rice.
- Use fresh lemon juice: Don’t substitute the lemon juice with juice from concentrate. The rice is infused in lemon juice while cooking and the latter will not do the trick. And, you will need the zest of an actual lemon to finish off the dish for the best results.
- Amount of liquid: It is important to use the correct amount of liquid. For long grain white rice, count 1 cup of uncooked rice to 2 cups of liquid. Other types of rice usually have slightly different proportions.
- Use cold liquid: Always start cooking the rice for this recipe with cold water. If you pour in hot water or broth the rice will not cook long enough before all the water has evaporated and will end up undercooked. So no hot or warm water to begin with!
- Use more herbs: Parsley works like a bomb when added to this Greek rice with lemon. Also consider using herbs like fresh dill or oregano for extra flavour.
What to serve with lemon rice?
This Greek rice dish can be served with a whole range of main dishes. Consider pairing it with one of the following mains or light meals:
- Pan fried trout in garlic butter
- Grilled chicken wraps with mango
- Chicken with flat beans and bell pepper
- Mango chicken curry with coconut
- South African bobotie
- Spanish chorizo and chickpea stew
- Dogfish stew with fennel and tomatoes
- Grilled calamari rings with lemon
Greek lemon rice
- 1 cup (or 200 grams) long grain rice uncooked and washed
- 2 cups vegetable broth or salted water
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 lemon (juice and zest)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- fresh parsley chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and stir in the rice. Toss to coat and fry for a minute.
- Pour in the broth or salted water and the juice of 1 lemon and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Leave to cook for 12 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Do not stir while cooking.
- Remove from the heat and leave to rest undisturbed and covered for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir gently through the cooked rice with a fork. Add the lemon zest and optionally more lemon juice to taste.
- Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, flaky sea salt and fresh lemon slices. Serve immediately.
- Wash the rice: Make sure to rinse the rice properly in a mesh strainer under cold running water before cooking. It will remove any dirt and excess starch making the rice nice and fluffy after cooking.
- Use cold broth or water: Make sure to pour in cold broth when cooking the rice. If you start with already hot liquid the cooking time and amount of liquid mentioned in this recipe will not be accurate and your rice will end up undercooked.
- Let the rice rest: After cooking, leave the rice undisturbed for about 10 minutes and do not remove the lid. This is important for the texture of the rice as it will keep steaming and the moisture will be distributed evenly through the rice.
- Use fresh lemon juice: Don’t use lemon juice from concentrate instead of fresh lemon juice. The taste will be different and you will need the lemon zest to finish off the dish.