18 Ways to Turn Rice, the Ultimate Grain, Into a Healthy and Delicious Meal

gingery rainbow chard black rice bowl
Photo: Lennart Weibull

Is rice the ultimate healthy grain? It just might be. After all, it's a gluten-free pantry staple with wide appeal. Our collection of easy recipes for rice-centric mains and sides will satisfy your family and friends.

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risotto with herb pesto potato and green beans
Marcus Nilsson

If the world of pantry staples had a mascot, rice would be it. Not only is it shelf-stable and affordable, but it's also extremely versatile. It's no surprise, then, that rice is the base of myriad meals across the globe, from cozy rice porridges like congee across Asia to paella in Spain. There are also countless rice varieties to choose from, each with its own unique medley of flavors and textures.

Plus, rice is teeming with good-for-you nutrients, making it a key ingredient in healthy cooking. The exact nutritional profile varies by type, of course, but rice generally offers important nutrients like magnesium, niacin, and iron. Some varieties, like brown rice, are also notably high in fiber, which is essential for gut health and satiety. What's more, rice is a valuable source of carbohydrates, your body's primary source of fuel.

The taste of rice is also somewhat plain and mild. This is great news if you're in a rush to make weeknight dinner, as it will easily complement whatever ingredients you have in the refrigerator or pantry. Even nuttier varieties, like black rice or wild rice, can serve as a delicious canvas without overpowering a recipe. In fact, you can transform almost any dish into a complete meal by adding rice to the mix. Is there anything rice can't do?

Whether you're craving a comforting creamy risotto or an elegant seafood supper, this collection of healthy rice recipes will instantly upgrade your dinner routine.

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Wild Salmon Kedgeree

Wild-Salmon Kedgeree
Chris Simpson

Kedgeree is a mouthwatering Anglo-Indian dish featuring boiled rice, lean protein, and spices like parsley and curry powder. This particular version calls for basmati rice and takes just 20 minutes to prep.

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Brown Rice Breakfast Bowl

Chris Simpson

Elevate your breakfast game by making this hearty grain bowl. It's the perfect way to start your day while using up leftover rice. For an extra nutritional punch, enjoy it with fruits of your choice.

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Vegetable and Black-Bean Fried Rice

vegetable and black bean fried rice
Con Poulos

Rice and beans get a facelift with this 30-minute meal. It's teeming with good-for-you nutrients, like healthy fats (from avocados) and lean protein (from eggs).

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Sweet Corn-Brown Rice Risotto

sweet corn-brown rice risotto garnished with basil
Kate Sears

Equal parts creamy and rich, this risotto will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. It's also packed with gut-friendly fiber thanks to the sweet corn and brown rice.

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Seared Tuna Taco Bowls

purple power tuna bowl
Sidney Bensimon

A healthy dinner comes in the form of seared tuna steaks, crunchy cabbage slaw, and creamy cilantro dressing. Pair with a simple rice and bean combo, then dig in.

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Gingery Rainbow-Chard and Black-Rice Bowl

Gingery Rainbow-Chard and Black-Rice Bowl recipe
Lennart Weibull

Rainbow chard is cooked in ginger then served atop black rice with poached eggs. The result is a nutritious meal that's bursting with color and flavor.

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Sweet Rice Porridge

rice porridge
Armando Rafael

Rice may shine in savory foods, but its talents don't stop there. With this quick 15-minute recipe, you can transform last night's rice into a naturally sweetened porridge.

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Chicken-and-Mushroom Congee

Chicken-and-Mushroom Congee recipe
Lennart Weibull

Congee is a rice porridge that's enjoyed across Asia (where it goes by a variety of names). White rice is simmered with chicken, broth, and ginger for the ultimate comfort meal.

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Shrimp with Spicy Green Rice

spicy green rice and shrimp
Con Poulos

If you're craving a bit of heat, add this seafood rice dish to your rotation. It owes its flavor to whole, natural ingredients like ginger, chiles, and fresh cilantro and basil.

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Whole Grilled Eggplant with Rice Pilaf

whole grilled eggplant with rice pilaf
Christopher Testani

Take on Meatless Monday with this delectable eggplant dish. Whole eggplants are grilled to perfection, then paired with rice pilaf, pomegranate molasses, and lemony tahini.

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Baked Salmon Sushi

salmon sushi
Joanna Garcia

If you're not a fan of raw fish, try your hand at these baked salmon sushi rolls. Short-grain white rice and fresh vegetables (think: carrots and cucumbers) are wrapped in toasted nori, then served with a side of soy sauce.

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Crispy Rice Cake with Celery Salad and Avocado

Crispy Rice Cake with Celery Salad and Avocado
Armando Rafael

Transform leftover rice into a golden pancake with this 35-minute recipe. Top it off with fresh celery and radishes for a satisfyingly crunchy dish.

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Shiitake and Snap-Pea Risotto

sugar snap peas risotto

For an extra dose of vegetables, try this risotto with meaty shiitake mushrooms. Want to make it vegan? Simply swap the butter for a dairy-free version, like olive oil-based butter.

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Chili-Stuffed Peppers

chili stuffed peppers
Justin Walker

This easy weeknight dinner calls for beef chili, harissa tomato, and white rice—though you can certainly swap in another variety, like brown or wild rice. Make it meat-free by using a vegetarian bean chili instead.

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Golden Horchata

Golden Horchata
Con Poulos

Ready in just five minutes, this refreshing golden horchata unites brown rice and fresh turmeric. The result is a cold and spicy beverage that's packed with anti-inflammatory benefits.

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Emily Kate Roemer

Rich in anti-inflammatory spices and vitamin-packed vegetables, this vibrant basmati rice porridge will surely hit the spot. Its main ingredient is yellow mung dal, or lentil-like legumes that offer plenty of fiber and protein.

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Cilantro Rice Bowl with Poached Eggs and Greens

cilantro rice bowl with poached eggs and greens topped with radish slices
Chris Simpson

Follow this recipe to learn how to make pepper vinegar, a hot condiment that will make your taste buds sing. Serve it with cilantro rice, spicy greens, and poached eggs for zesty and nutritious meal.

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