5 Ways to Turn Instant Rice Into a Quick, Easy Dinner

Instant Pot Coconut Rice image

Instant Rice isn’t exactly glamorous, but it is a heavy lifter when it comes to getting dinner on the table quickly. My favorite instant rice varieties come par-cooked in a microwave-safe bag, so all you have to do is rip open the bag and stick it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. But there’s a big difference between a bag of rice and a satisfying meal, so here are a few ideas to help you turn that bag of rice into a delicious dinner.

Greek Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

A classic for a reason. Slice two bell peppers in half and cut out the core. Mix the warmed rice with whatever you have on hand—a little beans and shredded chicken for a Tex-Mex vibe, some herbs and white beans for something a little more Mediterranean—and fill your hollowed out peppers. I like to top mine with a hefty sprinkle of cheese—cheddar, feta, and goat cheese are all good options—and then bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the cheese is nice and melty.

Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries and Pecans

Wild Rice Salad

Wild rice can take upwards of an hour to cook, which is why it’s my go-to style of instant rice to keep on hand. It has a satisfying, chewy texture that stands up really well in salads, so that’s my favorite way to use it. Start with a simple dressing and a base green (I love kale or arugula) and then add whatever toppings you might have kicking around your fridge or pantry.

RECIPE: Chicken and Wild Rice Salad with Almonds

Basil Fried Rice

Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of my go-to dinners, mostly because it’s a one-pan option that comes together quickly. But it does rely on keeping leftover rice in the house, which sometimes isn’t happening when the craving strikes. In a pinch, instant rice can easily do the job. Simply cook the rice, then add it to a skillet with a little sesame oil, a handful of scallions and maybe an egg. Anything else is extra credit.

mr - Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole Image

Rice Casserole

If you’ve got a little bit of ground meat (or shredded chicken) and a few handfuls of vegetables (frozen will work fine, just defrost and drain them first), stir them together with your “prepared” rice, then transfer to a baking dish and top with a little cheddar cheese. Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes, until the top gets golden brown and a little crispy. (Pro tip: this is also delicious for breakfast with a quick fried egg!)

mr - Quick and Easy Red Beans and Rice Image

Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is a staple meal in many cultures—and for good reason. It’s affordable, nutritious, and easy to make. For something a little more special, cook half a chopped onion in a little olive oil until tender and translucent, then add half a teaspoon each of chili flake and cumin powder. Stir that around and then add a can of beans (undrained!) Let those beans simmer gently for about 5 minutes, then serve over rice (with salsa, cheese and guacamole, of course!)

RECIPE: Simple Rice and Beans

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