Rice does not need to be boring or bland. This post shares ideas on how to flavour rice with herbs and spices for rice to make many different cultural rice dishes , both as a side and main.
Although the world’s most popular staple food, Rice is considered to be tasteless, bland, 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.
This post will show you what spices to add to rice to give it an instant flavour and health boost by adding some of the best spices for rice.
What To Season Rice With
If you have ever wondered if ‘rice and spice go together? ‘ then the answer is an absolute YES!!
One of the best thing about a plain tasting food source such as rice is that it is a blank canvas to add other flavours.
Adding seasoning to rice is one of best tricks to spruce up rice and make tasty seasoned rice in just few sprinkles.
The neutral taste makes flavouring rice so easy and can be combine with most spices and herbs. There are some selected herbs and spices that are best for adding flavour to rice.
So, what can you add to rice to make it taste better
The type of spices to add to rice while cooking depends on the type of rice dish you wish to make.
There are different ways to cook rice and depending on each way there is also difference in when do you add spice for rice.
Some make rice in rice cooker, I use microwave to make rice, but most cook rice on stove tops.
Whichever way you choose to cook rice, 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 and tips on how to make white rice taste better.
Spices for Indian Rice Dishes
Indian rice dishes use a combination of the spices listed below or maybe just one spice to uplift the taste.
The trick to bring out the maximum flavour in rice is to bloom or lightly saute the whole spices in a little oil until fragrant before adding rice and water.
Try using one or a combination of spices to cook rice with from the listed spices for rice and 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.
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.
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.
4. 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. Bay leaves are one of the most popular spices for rice used in many cuisines.
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 watch the bowl of vibrant yellow rice disappear. This is the secret spice to make the very popular turmeric rice!!
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.
Seasoning rice with spices or herbs in South Asian rice dishes is comparatively less.
They mainly use broths as the main flavouring for rice. But the below two spices are common in some dishes.
1. 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. It is one of the most popular South Asian seasoning for rice.
2. 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, you will find many good rice seasonings options here.
Middle Eastern cuisine balance the use of herbs and spices which is what makes it a very aromatic cuisine.
1. 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.
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.
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 add flavor to 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 to rice with a slight hint of reddish colour. 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 add instant flavour to rice in minutes.
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.
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!
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. Taragon, basil, oregano, and thyme are some of the best herbs to put in rice. Fresh leaves takes the lead but the dried variety does not disappoint either.
Cooking Tips On How To Flavour Rice With The Best Seasoning For Rice
Now that you have a list of best herbs and spices to add to rice, it may help to know ways to flavor rice with seasonings.
These simple cooking tips to cook rice with spices will help make rice taste better.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add a little salt to your rice with the chosen spices and herbs for maximum flavour.
- 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.
- 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 to flavour white rice but you can add flavour to 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.
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
Hopefully this gives you some tips on how to spice up rice . There are so many different flavors to add to rice that do not need much prep work.
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 make tasty rice 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 selecting and throwing in some good spices for rice listed above, adding the right amount of water or broth for a tasty rice dish.
So enjoy Spicing UPP that bowl of white (or brown) rice!!