This beautiful-hued Cilantro Rice is a delicious alternative to plain rice. It will receive wow reviews every time you serve it!
I can’t believe that I’ve never shared this wonderful Cilantro Rice on the blog. It’s a recipe I’ve been making for over fifteen years and it’s one that always receives “wow” reviews. On top of that, this rice is a gorgeous color, makes a beautiful presentation and pairs deliciously with so many entreés.
And the “wow” reviews just keep coming. I took some to our son and daughter-in-law’s house for dinner a few evenings ago. The kids were in bed, but all the adults loved it. I left the leftovers with them. The next day, I got a text from Lindsay. It read: “Hayes (their two-year-old son) loves the cilantro rice! He’s on his second helping.” Later she told me that he ended up eating three helpings and couldn’t get enough.
I discovered this Cilantro Rice recipe many years ago in Fine Cooking. I’ve adapted it a bit over the years, but haven’t veered too much from Fine Cooking’s version. The magazine recipe calls for long grain rice, but I’ve found that basmati rice is definitely a better choice. After testing the recipe with lots of different rice varieties, I always go back to basmati. With basmati, the grains stay separate and hold up well, even after being cooked and combined with the other ingredients.
What is basmati rice?
Basmati is a long grain rice that has a wonderful fragrance as it’s cooking. The word basmati is actually derived from a Hindu word that, literally translated, means fragrant. Cook up a pot of this Cilantro Rice and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about!
Rice, in general, is low in fat, but basmati rice has a much lower glycemic index than jasmine and the average medium grain rice. This makes it a better choice for people with diabetes.
Basmati rice can generally be found at the grocery store in the same section as other rice varieties. Most of the world’s basmati is grown in India and Pakistan, with India being the leading producer.
But I don’t like cilantro…
This may sound like a contradiction, but you don’t have to be a cilantro fan to enjoy this Cilantro Rice. There are two reasons:
- One, when cilantro is cooked, it takes on a uniquely different flavor. This Cilantro Rice recipe calls for equal amounts of both cilantro and spinach, but the finished product doesn’t actually taste like either one. Instead, it’s a fabulous conglomeration of all the ingredients. So if you’re one who thinks fresh cilantro tastes “soapy”, you might not even realize it’s in this rice.
- Secondly, you can substitute parsley for the cilantro with equally delicious results! Yep, just sub an equal amount of parsley or basil for the cilantro with wonderful results. You could even use all spinach. Then just call it Arroz Verde which, translated, simply means “green rice”
Lots of delicious adaptations
Although the recipe shared below is fabulous, there are some delicious adaptations you might want to try;
- Substitute coconut milk for all or part of the regular milk.
- Add 1/2 cup of shredded coconut with step 5 below.
- Use quinoa instead of rice. Adapt the cooking times and amount of total liquid according to the directions on your quinoa package.
- Add a cup of fresh corn right with step 5 below. It makes a pretty presentation and adds little bursts of sweetness with each bite.
Rinsing and/or soaking the rice is not necessary for this recipe and the directions are straightforward. Combine cilantro, spinach, chicken broth and milk in a blender and give it all a good whirl. Next, sauté basmati rice in a saucepan with butter and oil until golden.
Add onion and garlic and lastly, the emerald-hued cilantro/spinach mixture. Bring it to a boil, cover and let the rice slowly steam. Voila! The simple ingredients combine to create a gorgeous side dish, and your family/friends will think they’re dining in a fine restaurant!
Café Tips for making this Cilantro Rice
- If basmati rice is not available, look for a rice called Texmati. Texmati is grown in the U.S. and is similar to basmati.
- This Cilantro Rice is a wonderful side for any Mexican or Tex-Mex meal, but it pairs nicely with all kinds of other things too. I serve it with roasted chicken (new recipe coming up!) or these Restaurant Style Sauteed Chicken Breasts, salmon, shrimp, and pork tenderloin.
- Leftover Cilantro Rice reheats well in the microwave. It also makes a wonderful quesadilla with chicken, black beans and cheese.
- Once the rice mixture boils, cover it and reduce the heat to the lowest level. You want the rice to slowly steam. Don’t try to rush it.
- When you open the pot to stir the rice, mix it gently as the rice grains are somewhat fragile at this point. I like to use a fork and just mix it enough to coat all the grains with the cilantro/rice mixture.
- Don’t be afraid to use the cilantro stems in this recipe. Unlike parsley, cilantro stems have wonderful flavor and aren’t bitter.
- Don’t cut back on the oil and/or butter.
This beautiful-hued Cilantro Rice is a delicious alternative to plain rice and will receive "Wow" reviews every time you serve it!
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach tightly packed
- ½ cup cilantro tightly packed
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice
- ¼ cup onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
Place the spinach, cilantro, chicken broth, milk and salt in a blender container and blend for about 30 seconds, until well pureed.
In a medium saucepan heat olive oil and butter until butter is melted. Add the rice and sauté, stirring about every 30 seconds, until light golden, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the onion and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Add the spinach/cilantro mixture, stir well and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, turn heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes.
Stir the rice gently (to avoid crushing) with a fork. Cover and continue cooking on very low heat another 5 minutes.
Take the pan off heat and let rice steam in the covered pot for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
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