Mediterranean Yellow Rice

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Mediterranean Yellow Rice is a popular side dish that’s incredibly versatile. Infused with aromatic spices like turmeric and cinnamon, this rice pairs perfectly with a variety of proteins. It’s easy to make and adds a beautiful pop of color to any meal.


Mediterranean yellow rice cooked to perfection and served on a white platter with garnish


 

Those who have been with me for quite some time know I don’t do bland rice. Every rice dish I make should be super flavorful and this Mediterranean yellow rice is no exception. If you’re looking for some other tasty rice dishes, check out Greek lemon rice, spanakorizo, Persian tomato rice and dill rice recipe. Similar to my saffron rice, this dish boasts the golden color that would brighten up the dinner table.

Recipe Highlights: Mediterranean Yellow Rice

Cultural Influence: Classic Mediterranean side dish

Primary Cooking Technique: Sautéing and simmering

Suitable for: Vegetarian, gluten-free

Dominant Flavor Profile: Aromatic and savory with warm, earthy notes

Skill Level Required: Beginner-friendly


Mediterranean yellow rice cooked to perfection and served on a white platter with garnish

What is a Classic Mediterranean Rice Dish?

What makes a rice dish “Mediterranean” is its use of fragrant spices, fresh herbs, and high-quality ingredients. Typically, Mediterranean rice dishes are seasoned with spices like turmeric, which gives the rice its vibrant yellow color and earthy flavor, and cinnamon, which adds a warm, aromatic touch.

Mediterranean rice is often cooked with olive oil, a staple of the region’s cuisine. Olive oil adds a rich, fruity flavor and enhances the dish’s overall taste. Also, they tend to include sautéed onions and garlic contributes to the savory depth. Moreover, they use basmati or jasmine rice to ensure a light, fluffy texture.

Culturally, rice dishes hold a significant place in Mediterranean meals. They are versatile and can be served alongside a variety of main dishes, from grilled meats and seafood to vegetable stews.

Furthermore, its versatility, combined with the rich flavors and vibrant colors, makes Mediterranean rice dishes a favorite at family gatherings and festive occasions. The tradition of sharing a delicious rice dish is a reflection of the Mediterranean’s emphasis on communal dining. In fact, it often symbolizes the celebration of fresh, wholesome ingredients enjoyed with those we love.


Mediterranean yellow rice ingredients including basmati rice, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, onion, and salt

Ingredients

  • Basmati Rice: This long-grain rice is preferred for its light, fluffy texture and ability to absorb flavors well. Jasmine rice can also be used, but adjust the cooking time and water accordingly.
  • Olive Oil: Adds richness and a hint of fruitiness to the dish. Olive oil is a staple in Mediterranean cooking.
  • Onion: Chopped onions sautéed until golden bring a sweet and savory base to the rice.
  • Garlic: Grated garlic provides a strong, aromatic depth that enhances the overall flavor.
  • Turmeric: This spice gives the rice its vibrant yellow color and adds an earthy, slightly bitter taste.
  • Cinnamon Stick: Infuses the rice with a warm, spicy flavor that pairs well with the turmeric.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: Essential seasonings to enhance and balance the flavors in the dish.
  • Water or Stock: Using chicken or vegetable stock instead of water can add extra flavor to the rice.
  • Optional: For additional fragrance, cardamom pods can be added along with the cinnamon stick.

Ingredient Spotlight: Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice is a long-grain variety known for its aromatic fragrance and delicate flavor. Originating from the Indian subcontinent, basmati rice is a staple in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes.

Its name, derived from the Sanskrit word “vasmati,” means “fragrant,” which perfectly describes the unique scent that fills the kitchen when it’s cooking.

Why Basmati Rice? Basmati rice stands out due to its light and fluffy texture, which makes it an ideal choice for pilafs and other rice-based dishes. The grains remain separate when cooked, providing a pleasant mouthfeel that complements the savory and spiced elements of Mediterranean cuisine.

To achieve perfect basmati rice, rinse it thoroughly to remove excess starch, which can cause the rice to become sticky.

For a richer flavor, consider using stock instead of water, and let the rice rest covered for 10-15 minutes after cooking to allow the steam to finish the cooking process, resulting in fluffier rice.

Did you know? Basmati rice has been aged for several months to enhance its flavor and cooking characteristics. The aging process reduces the moisture content of the rice, making it less sticky and allowing it to absorb flavors better during cooking.


Mediterranean yellow rice cooked to perfection and served on a white platter with garnish

How to Make Mediterranean Yellow Rice

Step 1

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Then add the onion and sauté until golden.

Then add the minced garlic and sauté for about a minute before adding rice and sauteing as well. Add your spices.

Step 2

Next, add the cinnamon stick and water or stock and bring to a simmer.

Step 3

Let it cook uncovered until the water is almost completely evaporated. Now cover the rice and cook on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until rice is cooked through.

cover and simmer on low for 25 mintes

Final Step

Let the rice sit after turning off heat for about 10 to 15 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Plate and top with chopped parsley if desired.


Serving Suggestions

Mediterranean yellow rice is such a flexible side dish. I love pairing it with proteins, vegetables, stews, salads, dips, and even serving it on its own with a good drink. Even with a simple side of yogurt, this rice goes a long way.

You can make bowls with chicken shawarma, beef shawarma or lamb shawarma. It goes well with grilled dishes such as kofta kebab or chicken shish kebab and comfort dishes like Turkish ground beef.


Mediterranean yellow rice cooked to perfection and served on a white platter with garnish

Recipe Notes

1. Rinse for Perfection: Always rinse your basmati rice thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear. This step removes excess starch, preventing the rice from becoming sticky and ensuring fluffy, separate grains.

2. Use Stock for Extra Flavor: Substitute water with vegetable or chicken stock to add a depth of flavor to your rice. The stock infuses the rice with a savory richness that enhances the overall taste of the dish.

3. The Cinnamon Stick Trick: Adding a cinnamon stick to the cooking pot imparts a subtle warmth and complexity to the rice. You can also add a few cardamom pods for an extra layer of aromatic flavor.

4. Let It Rest: After cooking, turn off the heat and let the rice sit, covered, for 10-15 minutes. This resting period allows the steam to finish cooking the rice, ensuring a perfectly fluffy texture.

5. Fluff with a Fork: Use a fork to gently fluff the rice before serving. This helps to separate the grains and prevents them from clumping together.


Variations and Substitutes

Different Rice Varieties

  • Jasmine Rice: If you don’t have basmati rice, you can use jasmine rice. Keep in mind that jasmine rice has a shorter grain and a slightly different texture. Adjust the cooking time and water ratio as jasmine rice tends to cook faster.
  • Brown Rice: For a healthier option, use brown basmati rice. It has a nuttier flavor and more fiber. Increase the cooking time to about 40-45 minutes and add extra water or stock as brown rice requires more liquid to cook.

Alternate Spices

  • Cumin and Coriander: Substitute turmeric with ground cumin and coriander for a different flavor profile. These spices add a warm, earthy taste to the rice.

Adding Vegetables

  • Peas and Carrots: Mix in cooked peas and diced carrots for a colorful and nutritious addition.
  • Bell Peppers: Sauté chopped bell peppers with the onions for extra sweetness and crunch.

Nuts and Dried Fruits

  • Almonds and Raisins: Stir in toasted sliced almonds and raisins for a sweet and crunchy variation. This adds a delightful contrast of textures and flavors.

Mediterranean yellow rice cooked to perfection and served on a white platter with garnish

How to Store Mediterranean Yellow Rice

  • Refrigerate: Allow the rice to cool completely to prevent it from getting soggy. Then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat in a pan over medium heat. Add a splash of water or broth to prevent sticking and cover with a lid. Stir occasionally until heated through.
  • Freeze: Portion out the cooled rice if desired and transfer to freezer-safe bags. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, Place the rice in a pan with a splash of water or broth, cover, and heat on low, stirring occasionally until heated through.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use instead of a cinnamon stick?

If you don’t have a cinnamon stick, you can use 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. However, add it during the final stages of cooking to avoid overpowering the dish.

How do I prevent the rice from becoming mushy?

To avoid mushy rice, rinse the basmati rice thoroughly to remove excess starch, follow the water-to-rice ratio precisely, and let the rice sit covered for 10-15 minutes after cooking before fluffing it with a fork.

Can I add vegetables to this rice?

Absolutely! Adding vegetables like peas, carrots, or bell peppers can enhance the flavor and nutritional value of the dish. Sauté the vegetables with the onions and garlic before adding the rice.

What should I do if my rice is too dry?

If the rice is too dry, add a little bit of warm water or broth and stir it in gently while reheating. Cover the pan with a lid to let the steam moisten the rice.

How can I make the rice more flavorful?

Using chicken or vegetable stock instead of water, adding a bay leaf, or mixing in a bit of fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro after cooking can enhance the flavor of the rice.


Other Flavorful Rice Recipes


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Mediterranean yellow rice cooked to perfection and served on a white platter with garnish
5 from 5 votes

Best Mediterranean Yellow Rice

Bursting with color and flavor, this dish is the best pairing with your favorite Mediterranean protein recipes like shawarma or kabobs.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 8
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Ingredients 

  • 2 cups Basmati rice  
  • 3 cups Water (or stock)
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Black pepper

Instructions 

  • Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until golden.
  • Add in the garlic and cook for about a minute.
  • Add the rice and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Then add the turmeric, salt, pepper. Give it a good stir. Then add the cinnamon stick and water. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the water is almost completely evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  • Cover and cook the rice for another 15 minutes over medium low heat until the rice is tender and fluffy.
  • Turn the heat off and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Fluff using a fork and serve.

Video

Notes

Rinse for Perfection: Always rinse your basmati rice thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear. This step removes excess starch, preventing the rice from becoming sticky and ensuring fluffy, separate grains.
Let It Rest: After cooking, turn off the heat and let the rice sit, covered, for 10-15 minutes. This resting period allows the steam to finish cooking the rice, ensuring a perfectly fluffy texture.
Fluff with a Fork: Use a fork to gently fluff the rice before serving. This helps to separate the grains and prevents them from clumping together.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 208kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 294mg | Potassium: 82mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Shadi HasanzadeNemati

I'm here to show you how to make delicious Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food at home. My easy to follow recipes will bring exciting new flavors to your table!

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This Mediterranean Yellow Rice recipe is wonderful! It’s easy to make and packed with delicious flavors. A perfect side dish for any meal. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    The vibrant color and aromatic spices made it a feast for both the eyes and the palate. It paired perfectly with grilled vegetables and chicken, transporting me straight to the Mediterranean coast with every bite!

  3. 5 stars
    Enjoyed this with dinner tonight and it was a savory success! Turned out light, fluffy and delicious; easily, a new favorite recipe!