9 Delicious Middle Eastern Rice Recipes To Try For Your Weeknight Family Dinners

Stuck in a dinner rut? We’ve all been there — that moment when you’ve made your favourite rice recipes one time too many and you feel the need to try something new. If you’re still wondering what to make with rice for tonight’s dinner yet don’t want to waste time with complicated recipes, have a look at my go-to Middle Eastern rice dishes and get the inspiration you need to switch up your weeknight dinner rotation.

Along with cracked wheat and quinoa, rice is among the most versatile staples in our kitchens. Whether cooked on the stove or in the oven, rice can be made into countless delicious dishes. 

From the simple yet comforting Lebanese vermicelli rice to the hearty broad bean rice pilaf and kid-friendly Arabian spicy nut rice, here are 9 easy-to-make Middle Eastern rice recipes that you’re guaranteed to fall in love with:

1. Arabian Spicy Nut Rice

You can’t go wrong with this impressive Arabian spicy nut rice. Made after my mother-in-law’s authentic recipe, this dish is a crowd-pleaser even among picky eaters. Add a pop of colour by sprinkling pomegranate seeds or fresh parsley over the rice before serving.

Watch the video guide below for step-by-step instructions on how to make this aromatic rice recipe. 

2. Lebanese Vermicelli Rice Pilaf

rice vermicelli served with natural yogurt

This 3-ingredient vermicelli rice pilaf is every mother’s dream — ridiculously simple to make and 100% kid-friendly. Serve it warm and top it with plain yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. This dish complements many Middle Eastern dishes, so you can also serve it alongside a stew for the rest of the family.

3. Chicken and Rice Fatteh (Fattet Jaj)

Chicken Fatteh (Crispy Bread, Rice & Chicken In A Tahini Yogurt Sauce)

An irresistible combination of crunchy fried bread, fluffy rice, shredded chicken, and savoury yogurt tahini sauce, this traditional Middle Eastern rice dish is the meat lover’s version of the original chickpea fatteh. If you’re short on time, get a store-bought BBQ chicken and tear it up into larger chunks. 

4. Chickpea and Eggplant Rice

This nutritious chickpea and eggplant rice makes an effortless vegan dinner bound to fill you up. The secret behind the amazing taste of this rice dish lies in the rich Middle Eastern 7-spice blend added to it.

5. Upside-Down Chicken and Rice Pilaf (Maqloubi)

maqloubi ready to eat

The star of dinner parties or family gatherings, maqloubi is a traditional Palestinian dish made of tasty layers of rice, chicken, and eggplants and topped with toasted pine nuts and slivered almonds. There’s nothing like that final flip when you get to see your stunning creation.

If you’re making this for the first time, check out these easy tips and tricks that will help you make the perfect maqloubi. 

6. Broad Bean Rice Pilaf

broad bean rice pilaf served in a bowl

Use up your leftover rice and follow this quick recipe for a healthy one-pan broad bean rice pilaf that’s rich in fibre, proteins, and Middle Eastern flavours. 

7. Spinach and Lamb Rice Pilaf

lamb cutlet with rice

What to do with lamb and rice? Throw in some fresh spinach and make this one-pot lamb rice pilaf packed with flavour in under 30 minutes. 

8. Red Cabbage Rice Pilaf with Orzo

orzo and red cabbage rice

A wholesome vegan midweek meal or a colourful side dish for your barbecue table? This red cabbage rice pilaf with orzo is a feast for the eyes and your stomach. This is a free downloadable recipe card.

9. Spinach and Rice Casserole

spinach stew

Loaded with simple, flavourful ingredients, this spinach and vermicelli rice casserole is a hearty and affordable dinner recipe you’ll make on repeat. 

How to cook the perfect fluffy rice 

tossing rice with spices

Always rinse the rice before cooking to eliminate the excess starch and keep it from getting sticky. Also, pay attention to the water to rice ratio — for white rice, you want to stick to 2 cups water to 1 cup rice to prevent your rice meals from becoming mushy. 

When I get the chance (or rather the extra time), I soak my rice prior to cooking. Soaking your rice for about 20 to 30 minutes speeds up the cooking process and makes your rice fluffier.

As for rice varieties, I prefer using the long-grain types since they’re extremely easy to make into a dish. So if you’re new to cooking, know that you can’t go wrong with a staple like basmati rice. I also use med grain or jasmine rice for some dishes, the latter has a lovely floral scent that goes beautifully with Middle Eastern spices.

Last but not least, keep in mind that rice keeps up in the fridge for up to 5 days, so you can go ahead and make extra and serve it later in the week or add it to various dishes.

Looking for a main dish to pair with your rice? Here are a few delicious recipes you can make that are perfect for a fuss-free weeknight dinner:

Let’s hang out in my kitchen — follow me on Instagram for casual cooking sessions with my mother-in-law and hilarious behind-the-scenes from our family gatherings.

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Creating magic and happy memories with food are my gift for you!
xx Rouba

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