This simple rice pilaf with orzo is the ultimate quick and easy side dish! With lots of garlic, rosemary, and thyme, this buttery pilaf is cozy, flavorful, and anything but boring. Serve it for holidays, dinner parties, weeknight dinners, and more!

A white bowl of rice pilaf with orzo with a spoon on a beige counter next to glasses of white wine, thyme, and rosemary.

If you grew up anytime in the 80s, 90s or early 2000s, I’m willing to bet that you’ve had a box Rice-a-Roni in your lifetime. If the taste of chicken bouillon-y rice conjures happy memories for you, welcome to the party. I’m glad you’re here.

This orzo rice is essentially a box of Rice-a-Roni but 100x better cause we’re using a ton of butter, garlic, and fresh herbs. Plus about 1,000% less salt. It goes with just about any main meal and veggies like my hot honey Brussels sprouts or charred broccoli with pecorino and breadcrumbs.

Back in culinary school, I learned the secret to fluffy, flavorful pilaf and after years of making this recipe, I think I’ve finally gotten it down to a science. Like, I could eat a whole batch of it alone, cause honestly, what’s butter than buttery rice? Shall we make it? Let’s make it!

Details on this rice pilaf

As much as I love a super flavorful side dish, sometimes you just need something simple to go along with stews and sauce-heavy dishes, ya know? This garlic herb rice pilaf is just that but still has lots of buttery, garlicky, herby flavor to go with any meal you like. Here’s why you’ll love it!

  • The recipe is quick and so easy to make.
  • It only has a handful of ingredients.
  • The rice pilaf is great with any main meal!
  • It’s perfect for holidays, dinner parties, or weeknight meals.

The ingredients

White, grey, and wood bowls of rice, shallots, herbs, butter, veggie broth, and orzo on a beige counter.
  • Salted butter – I like some good-quality salted butter to add more depth to this recipe. If all you have is unsalted butter, that’s ok too! Just make sure to properly salt the rice at the end.
  • Shallot – this will add a bit of sweetness to the rice. If you don’t have shallots, you can use half of a sweet onion instead.
  • Orzo – this is a type of small, wheat pasta that’s shaped like rice. It’s not used in all pilaf recipes but adds a really nice texture!
  • White rice – I recommend long grain white rice for light, fluffy pilaf! Shorter grain rices tend to get clumpy from the extra starch.
  • Garlic – a bit of garlic adds some nice flavor to complement the butter and shallots in this dish.
  • Herbs – rosemary and thyme is my favorite combo! Use fresh herbs for the best flavor.
  • Veggie broth – broth is an essential ingredient to making pilaf. I like low-sodium veggie broth but low-sodium chicken broth would give you the ultimate nostalgic boxed rice pilaf flavor.
  • Salt & pepper – I recommend Morton’s Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

How to make this recipe

Three images of making rice pilaf; in photo 1, melted butter and shallots cook in a silver pot. In photo 2, a spoon mixes orzo and rice. In photo 3, a hand adds rosemary, thyme, and garlic to the pot.
  1. First, melt some of the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the shallot and cook until softened.
  2. Next, add the orzo and toast until it’s golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Then, add the rice and toast for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Make a well in the center and add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Sauté until fragrant.
Three images making rice; in photo 1, broth is poured into a pot of rice. In photo 2, the rice is boiling. In photo 3, the pot has a lid on top.
  1. Add the veggie broth to the rice, orzo, and herb mixture.
  2. Next, bring the rice to a boil and cover with a lid.
  3. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is evaporated.
Three images of making rice; in photo 1, a pot is filled with rice. In photo 2, the rice has butter, salt, and pepper on top. In photo 3, a wood spoon fluffs the rice.
  1. Once the liquid is evaporated, remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit, covered, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Then, add another pat of butter along with some salt and pepper.
  3. Gently mix everything together until the rice is fluffy. Enjoy!

Helpful tools

  • Knife & cutting board a chef’s knife will help you finely mince the shallots, garlic, and herbs.
  • Measuring cups – both liquid and dry measuring cups.
  • Medium saucepanpick something with a lid so you can cover the rice.
  • Wood spoon – to mix everything together!

Storing leftovers

To store leftover rice, place it in an airtight container. Refrigerate the rice pilaf for up to 3-4 days.

To reheat the rice, you can either microwave or steam it. If you want to microwave the rice, spoon it into a heat-proof bowl. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of water or broth for each cup of rice and stir. Then, microwave for 2-4 minutes, stirring halfway through, until hot. To steam the rice, place it in a saucepan. Add a pat of butter and 1-2 Tablespoons of broth or water for each cup of rice. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally, cooking until the liquid simmers off, and the rice is hot.

Recipe variations

If you want to change up this orzo rice pilaf, you can add veggies, nuts, or other spices depending on what main dish you’re making! Here are a few ideas:

  • Mushrooms – when you sauté the shallots, add between 1/2-1 cup of finely diced mushrooms and cook until they’re softened and browned on the edges.
  • Peas – after the rice is finished cooking, stir in about 3/4 cup of steamed peas.
  • Almonds or pine nuts – once the pilaf is done, stir in about 1/2 cup of toasted, sliced almonds or pine nuts.
  • Herbs – add fresh parsley, chives, or green onions as a garnish!
A white bowl of easy rice pilaf with orzo on a beige counter next to herbs, a beige linen, and two glasses of white wine.

Serving ideas

This rice orzo recipe is delicious with just about any main dish you would serve rice with! These are some of my favorites:

Tips & tricks

  • Make sure to rinse the rice very well to remove any extra starch. This will make for rice that’s light and fluffy and not clumpy.
  • Brown the orzo and rice until it’s nice and golden. It will add that classic toasty flavor that you find in pilaf!
  • Cook the rice low and slow for the best texture. It should be at a very gentle simmer. Otherwise, the liquid will evaporate before the rice fully cooks.
  • Let the rice rest for at least 5 minutes so that any extra liquid evaporates.
  • Fluff the rice gently and quickly so that it doesn’t clump together.
  • Add salt depending on your main dish. If you are serving the pilaf with sauce, use less salt so that the rice can soak in the sauce. Or, if you’re serving it plain, add more salt for extra flavor!

Frequently asked questions

What is rice pilaf?

Rice pilaf, or pilau, is a dish that is thought to have originated in Persia and spread globally over time. It’s different than regular rice, because instead of just simmering rice with water, pilaf oftentimes has onions, garlic, seasonings, and broth. Sometimes, it’s also made with meat, nuts, vegetables, or dried fruits. It’s also important that the rice is rinsed very well so that it’s light and fluffy (never mushy!) and that the rice is toasted for extra flavor.

What type of rice is good for pilaf?

In this recipe, I would highly recommend using long grain white rice. Long grain rice has less starch, which will make for a fluffy pilaf! Avoid any short or medium grain rices which will make the rice sticky or clumpy.

Is orzo a type of rice or pasta?

Even though orzo looks like rice, it’s actually a type of wheat pasta! It’s not used in all pilaf recipes, but I like adding it for extra texture.

Can I make this recipe without orzo?

Sure! If you don’t have orzo, or you want to make the recipe gluten-free, just replace the orzo with more long-grain white rice.

Can I make this recipe vegan?

Definitely! To make vegan rice pilaf, just use your favorite vegan butter replacement instead of regular salted butter. Everything else in this recipe is already vegan!

A white bowl of garlic herb rice pilaf with orzo on a beige counter next to thyme, rosemary, glasses of white wine, and a beige linen.

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A white bowl with simple rice pilaf with orzo.
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Simple Rice Pilaf with Orzo

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
This rice pilaf with orzo is one of my favorite quick and easy side dishes! With garlic, rosemary, and thyme, this pilaf is simple but flavorful and cozy. Serve it with any of your favorite main dishes for holidays, dinner parties, weeknight dinners, and more!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 3 Tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallots (about 1 shallot)
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or low-sodium chicken broth)
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Equipment

  • 1 Medium saucepan

Instructions 

  • Pour the rice into a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly, until the water runs clear, to remove any extra starch from the rice. Let the rice drain while you work on the rest of the recipe.
  • Melt 2 Tablespoons of the salted butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until it's softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Next, add the orzo and toast until it's golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and toast until golden-brown, another 2-3 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
  • Make a well in the center of the orzo-rice mixture and add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour the vegetable broth into the orzo-rice mixture and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low until the broth reaches a gentle simmer. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 5 minutes to absorb any extra liquid.
  • Remove the lid from the pan, and add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter, salt, and pepper (to taste). Stir gently with the tines of a fork until the butter is melted completely and the rice is fluffy. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Notes

If you don’t have salted butter, regular butter will work. Just add more salt add the end.
I recommend using fresh herbs in this recipe for the best flavor, but dried herbs will work in a pinch.
Cook the orzo rice at a very gentle simmer so that the rice has time to absorb the liquid and get tender.
I like to add salt to this recipe depending on what main dish I’m serving with the rice. If I’m serving the rice with a stew or some kind of sauce, I add less salt to make up for the salt in the sauce. If I’m serving the rice on its own, I will add more salt, to taste.
Cuisine: American, Persian
Course: Side Dish
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 231kcal, Carbohydrates: 37.5g, Protein: 5.1g, Fat: 6.3g, Saturated Fat: 3.7g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 73mg, Potassium: 68mg, Fiber: 1.1g, Sugar: 0.8g, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 2mg
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xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – Wading in Waist-High Water by Fleet Foxes