May 9, 2020

Ultimate List of the Best Herbs and Spices for Rice

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Turn boring and bland rice to a yummy tasty full meal or an amazing flavourful side dish by adding these simple everyday herbs and spices for rice. 

spices for rice

Best Herbs and Spices for Rice To Make It Taste Great

Although the world’s most popular staple food, Rice is considered to be tasteless, boring, and eaten mostly as a side dish.

Some studies also claim that rice is an empty nutrient and only adds bulk to the body, so why make it tasty?

This could not be far from the truth.

Rice is eaten by billions around the world and a source of comfort for many. ( I am a lover of everything rice)

It has its own nutrients value such as fibre, vitamin B1, B6, magnesium amongst others. So let the fat or starch content not downplay the benefits of a bowl of warm soothing rice.

There are over 40,000 different varieties of rice and each has a unique flavour, so not all rice variety is bland.

Spruce up any type of rice and give it a shot of healthy seasoning by adding some of the best spices for rice.

 What Spices and Herbs To Add To Rice?

One of the biggest benefits of a plain tasting food source such as rice is that it makes a brilliant support act for all other flavours.

The neutral flavour of rice makes it so easy to combine with most spices and herbs. There are few spices that are best for adding that bit of punch.

The type of spices what go well with rice depends on the type of rice dish you wish to make.

Although you can mix and match the below list of spices and herbs for making your chosen rice dish, I have broken down the list according to some of the best spices for rice as per the cuisine.

Spices for Indian Rice Dishes

Indian rice dishes use a combination of the spices listed below or  even one to uplift the taste.

The trick to bringing out the maximum flavour in rice is to bloom or lightly saute the whole spice in a little oil until fragrant before adding rice and water.

Try using one or a combination of few of the listed spices to infuse those white grains with a subtle aroma.

Cumin seeds – The tiny seeds add a lovely nutty flavour to your rice. They are so small that you won’t feel them in your mouth when you eat the rice but still be able to taste them.

Cardamon – Both green and brown cardamon is extensively used to cook Indian rice dishes. I highly recommend adding two pods of cardamon for an instant flavour boost to your rice. You can use both the black and green cardamom varieties for rice.

Read the benefits and other uses of cardamom

Cinnamon – We know that cinnamon powder is used in rice pudding, but you can throw in a whole cinnamon stick to a pot of steaming water and let the rice soak the aroma.

Bay leaves – Do not undermine the effectiveness of this lone leave. They are packed with earthy flavours that silently seep into each grain of rice.

Turmeric – Not really an aromatic spice but it sure will make your rice look bright and beautiful. Add turmeric with any or few of the above spices and see the bowl disappear. This is the secret spice to make the very popular Yellow rice!!

Read the benefits and other uses of turmeric 

Spices for South Asian Rice Dishes

South Asians love their rice, be it the Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian or any South Asian country.

A good bowl of rice is the crux of a good meal.

The use of spices or herbs in South Asian rice dishes is comparatively less.

They mainly use broths to flavour the rice. But these below two spices are common in some dishes.

Five-spice powder – It is a Chinese spice blend where the primary aroma is of star anise, cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorns. You only need a little of this aromatic spice to add a depth of taste. Some people use it to make fried rice as well.

Curry powder – Surprised to see it under South Asian spices and not Indian? Well, it is because curry powder is used to make different types of dishes in South- East Asia including curry rice. It makes a great one-dish meal. Add in few veggies, proteins and 2 teaspoons of curry powder to make a one-pot complete meal.

Spices for Middle Eastern Cuisine

OOh, the smell of a flavourful pilaf. It is impossible to ignore.

The use of spices for making Middle Eastern type of rice dishes is similar to Indian spices, cumin, and cinnamon being the most popular.

Middle Eastern cuisine balance the use of herbs and spices which is what makes it a very aromatic cuisine.

Star Anise – A strong aromatic spice which can be likened to a mix of cinnamon and liquorice. You only need one or two of this spice to add instead flavour to a whole pot of rice.

Oregano – Herbs in rice adds some gusto to the dish. The freshness and taste of dried or fresh herbs make any plain rice dish taste amazing.

Saffron – The most expensive spice of the world not only makes a dish look vibrant but the aroma is next to none. Its aromatic, bright and makes any rice dish a real royal treat to eat. Few small saffron strands goes a long way. For added colour, dissolve few strands in 2 tbsp of milk and add to your rice dish.


Spices for Western Rice Dishes

Adding spices and herbs to rice is not limited to just a few cuisines.

They are popular all over the world to infuse zing to the otherwise bland rice.

Smoked/Sweet Paprika – Spanish and Mediterranean rice dishes swear by the use of paprika in their dishes. Rice is no exception. You can use either the smoked or the sweet variety for adding taste and a slight hint of colour to your rice dish. I recommend combining paprika with any of the listed herbs for rice to make an incredibly yummy rice side or main dish.

Add this homemade Mediterranean spice blend to your rice dish or any flavourful dish in minutes.

Thyme – Similar to oregano, thyme is a bold herb that can be added to rice. Take your rice to a level up and add some garlic and lemon juice with dried or fresh thyme for a truly indulgent treat. Great with a piece of baked seasoned fish or veges.

Basil – We all know the essence of basil leaves in pasta dishes.  You can similarly perk your rice by adding a large handful of fresh basil leaves to cooked rice, add a bit of flavoured oil, salt and you are ready to serve pleasure and good looks in a bowl!

Tarragon – Not far behind is tarragon. Similar in use as basil this herb has a distinctive flavour and aroma that will envelop your kitchen and your senses. Fresh tarragon takes the lead but the dried variety does not disappoint either.

Cooking Tips On How To Flavour Rice With Spices and Herbs

Now that you have a list of best herbs and spices for rice, it may help to know when and how to add them.

These simple cooking tips to cook rice with spices will help in jazzing up your plain rice and make your meals great.

  1. It is a good idea to temper whole spices such as cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamon, etc in oil, butter or ghee for few seconds before adding rice and water to boil.
  2. If you do not wish to bloom the spice with throw in whole spices or dried herbs after the water comes to a boil and cover and cook.
  3. Fresh herbs should be added at the end to cooked rice and mixed well. You can cover the hot rice after mixing herbs for the flavours to penetrate.
  4. Adding the right amount of water to cook rice will ensure that you get a bowl of fluffy non-sticky rice. The normal rice to water measure is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water.
  5. Add a little salt to your rice with the chosen spices and herbs for maximum flavour.
  6.  Another great way to perk up rice is to cook it in broth. A mix of broth, herbs and or spices truly adds oodles of taste.
  7. If cooking rice in a rice cooker, you simply need to add the spices and herbs to the water and cook rice as normal.

How to Spruce Up Brown Rice

Spices and herbs are not only used for plain white rice but to zest up brown rice as well.

The main difference between brown rice and white rice is that one has the husk on while the other is polished without the husk.

Spice for brown rice
Difference Between Brown Rice and White Rice

If you are looking for spices for brown rice, you can easily choose any of the spices or herbs listed above.

They add as much flavour to brown rice.

Since brown rice is chewier than white rice, you will need to cook it longer and maybe add a little more of the chosen herb or spice for brown rice.

Easy Rice Dishes With Spices and Herbs

20 Minutes Spinach and Mushroom Rice 

Wild Rice Rissotto with Broccolli and Parmesan Cheese 

To conclude

I strongly recommend adding spices and herbs to white rice or brown rice to see the difference in taste and flavour yourself.

Although not a must, but the above list of healthy seasoning for rice serves a few purposes:

One, adding spices to rice is one of the easiest ways to pep up any rice dish and second, as every spice and herb have added health benefits you are elevating the purpose of the dish.

Sprucing up rice does not require you to follow a particular recipe.

It is an easy task of throwing your chosen spices or herbs adding the right amount of water or broth and consume the flavour bomb.

So enjoy Spicing UPP that bowl of white (or brown)!!

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