How to Make Baked Rice, Your New Favorite Quick Dinner

Weeknight meals just got a lot easier and more delicious with these flavorful recipes.

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Baked rice

Rice was first cultivated more than 10,000 years ago, so to call it a “staple food” is a bit of an understatement. The ways to prepare and serve this simple, nourishing grain are many, and modern technology—in the form of rice cookers and pressure cookers—offer ways to make the dish not only ubiquitous, but easy.

I adore the warm, comforting smell of cooking rice, but I confess that I often struggle with cooking it properly on the stovetop. I prefer to make it there, to save myself from washing up a bulky piece of equipment—an ironic choice, given that cleaning the crusty bits from the bottom of a rice pot isn’t exactly a time-saver.

Recently, baked rice has become a revelation in my house. In the same 20-25 minutes it takes to steam white rice in a pot, I can bake a pan of fluffy, flavorful rice without any sputtering water, chattering lids, or burnt bottoms. I first encountered baked rice in articles and cookbooks by the Israeli-English Yotam Ottolenghi, and many of the flavors I’ve tried so far are Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. The possibilities are endless, however, once you understand the basics.

“The basics” are just that—basic. One cup of white rice to 2 cups of boiling water or broth, some salt, a bit of melted butter or olive oil, aluminum foil, a casserole dish, and a very hot oven (475 degrees). Mix the ingredients in the pan, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover the pan to discover perfectly cooked, fluffy rice. 

But that’s only the beginning! You can jazz up your rice with any number of flavorings. Here are three I’ve discovered so far:

Spanish Rice 
Paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onions, cumin, and tomato sauce conspire to make this recipe, a fabulous accompaniment to a weeknight taco dinner.

Mediterranean Mint Rice 
This recipe from Ottolenghi’s most recent cookbook, Simple, involves topping hot rice with a quick fresh salsa made of bracing mint and briny olives. Some browned ground beef or lamb makes this dish a quick, tasty weeknight meal.

Roasted Tomato Rice
Another recipe from Ottolenghi’s Simple, this dish can be prepped in the morning and popped into the oven in time for a quick dinner. Rich with tomatoes, shallots and garlic, it’s both flavorful and filling.

Have you tried baked rice? What are your favorite easy weeknight dinner hacks?

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