Lemon Rice (Greek Rice Pilaf)

Lemon Rice infused with bright, fresh lemon and zippy dill and the option of butter and feta for an easy, tantalizing side you will want to serve with everything!

This Lemon Rice is the answer to the dreaded question “What should I make?” when it comes to sides.  It transforms rice into exotic, delectable, bright Greek Lemon Rice Pilaf with just a few ingredients!  It’s wonderfully easy and so good you will be eating straight from the pot.  I’ve included directions for stove top or rice cooker and fun ways to customize your Lemon Rice. Now just add your favorite protein, Greek pasta salad, hummus and tzatziki and you have a Mediterranean feast!

Showing how to make Lemon Rice in rice cooker by adding all ingredients to rice cooker

Lemon Rice Recipe

I love the Greek restaurant Luna Grill, including their Greek Lemon Rice, so I wanted to create my own Lemon Rice that pairs beautifully with everything Mediterranean including my Chicken Gyros, Greek Chicken, Beef Kabobs, Chicken Shawarma and Greek Chicken Souvlaki.  Enter this bright and wonderfully lemony, buttery Greek Rice!  It requires very little hands-on prep time, but adds a lot to the meal, so much so, I would just make it my meal.

This Greek Lemon Rice is infused with bright, fresh lemon, aromatic garlic and onions and zippy dill and the option of butter and feta.  You can customize the strength of the tangy lemon flavor by adding as much or as little fresh lemon juice after cooking so everyone can enjoy their own perfect Lemon Rice.

What Rice is Best For Lemon Rice?

For this Lemon Rice, you can use any long-grained white rice (or brown rice if you adjust the liquid accordingly), but basmati is my favorite.  Not only does basmati boasts a light nutty flavor but basmati grains are longer than traditional white rice and cook up lighter and fluffier.  The individual grains remain distinct when cooked instead of sticking together which means no more clumpy or mushy rice!

I also prefer Basmati Rice because it reheats beautiful because of the distinctive grains.  In fact, this rice actually tastes better the next day and remains just as fluffy!

side view of Greek Lemon Rice in a blue skillet

Lemon Rice Recipe Ingredients

This Greek Lemon Rice recipe is packed full of fresh, vibrant aromatic ingredients. You will need:

  • rice: use basmati rice for the best results.
  • lemon juice: fresh is always best and is necessary in this recipe because we will also be using the lemon zest.
  • chicken broth: please use low sodium broth so we can control the salt.
  • olive oil: use quality olive oil for the best flavor.
  • onion: ½ medium yellow onion will do the trick.  When a recipe doesn’t specify which type of onion, it assumes yellow onion.
  • garlic: 3 minced garlic cloves.  Use more or less depending on your garlic love.
  • seasonings:  dill, parsley, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt and pepper round out the flavor profile.
  • butter: use unsalted butter so we an control the salt.
  • feta: use more or less depending on how subtle or strong you would like the feta flavor – we like more.

DO I HAVE TO USE CHICKEN BROTH?

Cooking the Lemon Rice in chicken broth and lemon juice instead of water adds SO much flavor as the rice actually soaks up the broth and lemon juice as it cooks. You can also use a water/chicken bouillon substitute by replacing the chicken broth with 2 cups water and 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon or better than bouillon.

CAN I USE GARLIC POWDER?

You may substitute the fresh garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic powder.

CAN I USE ONION POWDER?

You may substitute the fresh onion with 1 teaspoon onion powder.

DO I HAVE TO ADD BUTTER?

Butter is an optional add-in to the Greek Lemon Rice after it is cooked but it elevates it to restaurant delicious. I would definitely add it if serving guests.

How to Make Lemon Rice

Lemon Rice is very simple to make. It is like making other rice recipes on the stove but some of the chicken broth is replaced with lemon juice. What really elevates the Lemon Rice is the addition of the seasonings: dill, parsley, oregano and the tangy feta to finish.

To make, you ‘ll start by sautéing the onions, then add the rice, garlic and lemon zest and sauté for another minute to slightly toast the rice. This helps it to retain its structure and not become mushy. Next, stir in chicken broth, water, lemon juice and all seasonings then simmer for 12-15 minutes, or just until water is evaporated and rice is tender.

Let the rice rest for 10 minutes to fluff up and then add additional lemon juice if desired. Finally stir in 1-2 tablespoons butter (or even more if you’re feeling fun and flirty) followed by feta then dig in!

Tips and Tricks to Make Lemon Rice

  • Rinse and drain rice thoroughly. Place rice in a fine mesh sieve and thoroughly rinse rice under running water until the water runs clear.  This is essential to remove the extra starch that will make the rice stickier.
  • Use basmati rice for best results. Other types of rice will likely stick together and can easily get mushy (see above section). Basmati rice also reheats much better.
  • Lazy day powder substitute.  You can use 1 teaspoon garlic powder and ½ teaspoon onion powder instead of fresh onions and garlic if you don’t feel like chopping or are out of fresh ingredients.
Showing how to prepare Lemon Rice by sauteing rice with garlic and lemon zest.
  • If liquid evaporates before rice is done, then add just a little liquid, keeping in mind that the rice will continue to steam for 10 minutes once it’s removed from heat, so it doesn’t need to be 100% cooked once liquid is gone.
Showing how to prepare Lemon Rice by adding chicken broth, water and lemon juice to a pot with fresh dill and parsley
  • Add lemon to taste. We not only sauté the rice in lemon zest but cook it in chicken broth, water and lemon juice so it sucks up some of the lemony goodness.  Still, I suggest tasting the cooked rice and adding additional lemon juice for a fresh, bright lemon pop. I also like adding more lemon juice after the Lemon Rice is cooked because each person can customize their own rice if they prefer.
  • Butter is optional but sooooooo good. If you ever wonder why Greek Lemon Rice is so much better at restaurants it’s because they load on the butter.  I’ve suggested 2 tablespoons butter in the recipe but if you are feeling wild and/or having company over to impress, then feel free to add more.
Showing how to prepare Lemon Rice by stirring in butter into cooked rice in a blue pot
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Rice soaks up salt so if you feel like your rice is missing something- it is probably salt.  I add additional freshly cracked salt and pepper to my rice be sure you taste your rice first before seasoning!
Showing how to prepare Lemon Rice by adding feta to cooked lemon rice in a blue skillet

NO CHOPPING LEMON RICE ALTERNATIVE

I am often lazy when it comes to sides, so if you want to eliminate all chopping and make this Lemon Lime Rice strictly “dump and run” you can use the following substitutions:

  • Substitute the chopped onion with 1 teaspoon onion powder.
  • Substitute minced garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Substitute the fresh dill and parsley with 1 teaspoon each dried.

Can I Make Greek Lemon Rice in My Rice Cooker?

Absolutely!  I love my rice cooker so much and is how I usually cook my rice because it is dump and run hands off perfection. It also allows you to easily use brown rice too!  The ingredients for Greek Lemon Riced cooked in your rice cooker are going to be the same except we are going to substitute garlic cloves with garlic powder and onion with onion powder.

How to Make Lemon Rice in Rice Cooker

  1. Add rice (long grain white or brown), chicken broth (amount according to your rice cooker), 1 teaspoon garlic powder and ½ teaspoon onion powder and all of the remaining ingredients to your rice cooker except for butter and feta.
  2. Set rice cooker to white or brown rice cook setting according to which rice you are using. Once rice is cooked, stir in butter to melt followed by feta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste and add 1-2 tablespoons additional lemon if desired (I add one tablespoon).
Top view of Greek Lemon Rice in a blue skillet

How To Customize Lemon Rice

This Lemon Rice is incredibly versatile.  It can be served as a tempting side or it makes a fabulous base to add your protein and veggies for a delectable meal-in-one.

ADD PROTEIN

Transform Greek Rice into a meal-in-one by adding any of these cooked proteins:

ADD VEGGIES

You can add your favorite veggies for two sides-in one!.  You’ll want to sauté longer cooking vegetables like carrots and broccoli with the onions, shorter cooking vegetables like zucchini and bell peppers with the garlic and of course add spinach at the very end of cooking.

  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • bell peppers
  • mushrooms
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • Frozen vegetable medley:  Like the frozen peas, you can use a frozen, corn/carrot/pea medley and stir them into your rice after it has cooked but before you recover and let the pot sit 10 minutes.

ADD NUTS OR SEEDS

I love Lemon Rice with sliced almonds but most nuts or seeds will be delicious:

  • Slivered or sliced almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Sesame seeds

ADD CURRANTS OR POMEGRANATE ARILS

I love sweet pops in my savory sides such as:

  • Raisins
  • Craisins
  • Chopped dried apricots
  • Pomegranate seeds

Make it creamy

You can also add additional butter to your Greek Lemon Rice as I’ve discussed above – so good or stir in a dollop of tzatziki or Greek yogurt.

Swap flavors

You can also change up the flavor profile of this Lemon Rice from Greek Lemon Rice to Indian Lemon Rice with the omission of dill and parsley and the addition of coriander, curry and/or turmeric – the possibilities are endless!

Greek Gyro with lemon rice and Greek salad on a blue plate

What to Serve with Lemon Rice?

Lemon Rice Pilaf is not only customizable but the ideal side as-is to any Mediterranean dish (Greek, Spanish, Italian). Here are just a few main dishes that it pairs beautifully with:

Now it’s time for this Lemon Rice because it’s so good you’ll want to serve it with everything – or with nothing because its cravilicious all by itself.

CAN I PREP GREEK RICE AHEAD?

Yes!  While this Greek Lemon Rice recipe doesn’t require much prep, you can still prep everything in advance so it can come together in minutes.

  • Chop aromatics.  Chop your onions, garlic and herbs and cilantro and store in separate airtight containers in the fridge.
  • Juice lemons. Juice and zest lemons and store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Measure seasonings.   Measure out all of the seasoning and store in a separate airtight container.
  • Rinse rice. Thoroughly rinse rice and leave it in the strainer to dry.

HOW TO STORE & REHEAT LEMON RICE RECIPE

This Lemon Rice recipe stores beautifully! 

  • Refrigerate:  Let Greek Lemon Rice cool to room temperature then transfer to a tightly covered airtight container or to several small containers for meal prep. Store in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
  • Microwave: For small portions, microwave rice in a microwave safe container with a couple teaspoons water for 60-90 seconds or until warmed through.
  • Stove:  For larger portions, transfer Greek Rice to a nonstick skillet along with a dash of water or chicken broth.  Heat over medium heat, stirring often until warmed through.

HOW TO FREEZE LEMON RICE RECIPE

This easy Lemon Rice recipe can also be frozen:

  • Let the rice cool completely before transferring to a freezer bag (recommended) or freezer-safe airtight container.  If using a bag, squeeze out as much excess air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Let rice defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave or stove as directed above.

LOOKING FOR MORE SIDE DISH RECIPES?

Looking for more Greek Recipes?

These easy Baked or Grilled Greek Beef Kabobs are so crazy juicy and exploding with flavor in every mouthwatering bite!  And the creamy, refreshing Whipped Feta Whipped Feta Tzatziki Dip is out of this world!  

Want to try this Lemon Rice Recipe?

Pin it to your SIDES, GREEK or RICE Board to SAVE for later!

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Showing how to make Lemon Rice in rice cooker by adding all ingredients to rice cooker

Lemon Rice

Lemon Rice (stove top or rice cooker) infused with bright, fresh lemon and zippy dill and the option of butter and feta!  This recipe transforms regular rice into exotic, tantalizing Greek Lemon Rice Pilaf with just a few ingredients!  It’s wonderfully easy and so good you will be eating straight from the pot.  I’ve included directions for stove top or rice cooker and fun ways to customize your Lemon Rice!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice well rinsed and drained*
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 TBS EACH fresh dill, parsley OR 1 teaspoon EACH dried
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, dried oregano, ground cumin

ADD LATER (optional)

  • 1-2 tablespoons butter or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • lemon juice to taste

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan (with a lid) over medium high heat. Sauté onions until soft, approximately 5 minutes.
  • Add rice, garlic and lemon zest and sauté for one additional minute.
  • Stir in chicken broth, water, lemon juice and all seasonings. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to LOW, cover, and cook 12-15 minutes, or just until water is evaporated and rice is tender, stirring once at 8 minutes and replacing lid. If your liquid is evaporated but your rice is still quite undercooked (keeping in mind it will steam for 10 minutes once removed from heat), then add a little additional liquid and continue to cook.
  • Once water is evaporated, remove from heat, stir, cover and let sit 10 minutes.
  • Taste and add 1-2 tablespoons additional lemon if desired (I add one tablespoon). Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • Optional: stir in 1-2 tablespoons butter or more to taste. You can stir feta into entire rice pot or add it to individual servings.

Notes

*I love Basmati rice for it's fluffy, fine texture and anti-sticky/mushy qualities, but you can substitute with plain long grain white rice.  You can also use brown rice and adjust the amount of water/broth and cook according to brown rice directions.
 

Rice Cooker Directions

Add rice (long grain white or brown), chicken broth, water and lemon juice (adjust water amount according to your rice cooker), 1 teaspoon garlic powder (instead of garlic cloves) and ½ teaspoon onion powder (instead of onion) and all of the remaining ingredients to your rice cooker except for butter and feta.
Set rice cooker to white or brown rice cook setting according to which rice you are using. Once rice is cooked, stir in butter to melt followed by feta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste and add 1-2 tablespoons additional lemon if desired (I add one tablespoon).

TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Use basmati rice for best results. Other types of rice will likely stick together and can easily get mushy (see above section). Basmati rice also reheats much better.
  • Rinse and drain rice thoroughly:  rice contains a lot of starch which will cause the rice to stick together and can even make it mushy once cooked. To eliminate the mushy problem, it is crucial to remove the extra starch from the rice by rinsing it with cool water in a fine mesh sieve until the water runs clear – don’t shortcut this process!
  • If liquid evaporates before rice is done: then add just a little liquid, keeping in mind that the rice will continue to steam for 10 minutes once it’s removed from heat, so it doesn’t need to be 100% cooked once liquid is gone.
  • If rice is still wet: don’t worry, it will continue to absorb the 10 minutes while it is steaming.  When you remove the lid after 10 minutes, you can let the rice sit an additional 5-10 minutes to dry out.
  • Let it steam:  don’t shortcut the 10-minute steaming process as it gives the rice time to finish cooking and firm up which in turn, makes it fluffier.
  • Use a fork to fluff the rice: instead of a spoon or a spatula because the tines help separate the rice grains whereas a spoon can mash or break the grains.
  • Add lemon to taste.  I suggest tasting the cooked rice and adding additional lemon juice for a fresh, bright lemon pop. I also like adding more lemon juice after the Lemon Rice is cooked because each person can customize their own rice if they prefer.
  • Salt and pepper to taste: if your rice tastes like it's missing something - it is probably salt.  Season with freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste.

HOW TO STORE & REHEAT

This Lemon Rice recipe stores beautifully!
  • Refrigerate:  Let Greek Lemon Rice cool to room temperature then transfer to a tightly covered airtight container or to several small containers for meal prep. Store in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
  • Microwave: For small portions, microwave rice in a microwave safe container with a couple teaspoons water for 60-90 seconds or until warmed through.
  • Stove:  For larger portions, transfer Greek Rice to a nonstick skillet along with a dash of water or chicken broth.  Heat over medium heat, stirring often until warmed through.

HOW TO FREEZE 

This easy Lemon Rice recipe can also be frozen:
  • Let the rice cool completely before transferring to a freezer bag (recommended) or freezer-safe airtight container.  If using a bag, squeeze out as much excess air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Let rice defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave or stove as directed above.
 

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30 Comments

  1. Samantha says

    I love Luna Grill too! Can’t wait to make this- I’ll always wondering what to serve with things! Thanks so for including rice cooker directions- it’s the only way I’ll cook rice now.

    • Jen says

      I hear ya about the rice cooker – I use mine ALL the time! I hope you love this Lemon Rice as much as us!

  2. Aimee says

    Yum! This lemon rice looks delicious and would be such a nice pairing with anything really. Sides often get forgotten in my kitchen, so I’m always looking for new ideas.

    • Jen says

      Thanks Aimee! I’m so happy to help with the sides dilemma! I think this will become a new regular 🙂

  3. Katie says

    I made this rice last night as a side dish to my baked salmon with dijon taragon sauce and it was absolutely WONDERFUL! The rice is delicious and it paired perfectly with the salmon. Will definitely be making again and again! Thanks so much!

    • Jen says

      YAY! You are so welcome Katie, I’m thrilled you loved it so much and your salmon sounds exquisite too! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  4. Mel says

    This rice is delicious!! I’ll be serving it with Korean style beef short ribs

    • Jen says

      mmmm! your meal sounds fantastic! I’m so happy you are loving this Lemon Rice, thank you!

  5. Amy says

    Wow. I was looking for the comment section so I could tell you how A-MAZING this lemon rice recipe turned out for me (so, so, so good…new staple in our house and for guests, for sure)! But then I stumbled across your love story. God is good, my friend, and He sure knew what He was doing when He brought you two together. Praying for many happy, healthy years for you to come!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Amy for taking the time to comment, I am thrilled you love this Lemon Rice so much! Thank you especially for taking the time to read our Love Story! I am grateful every day for my sweetie and for a loving Father in Heaven who brought us together. Praying for all the best for you and yours! xo

  6. Kay Spencer says

    This rice is absolutely delicious. I didn’t have a lemon, so I couldn’t add that lemon zest. But it didn’t matter…still delicious. Thanks so much!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it!

  7. Christina says

    I made this to go with Greek Lemon Skewers, tzatziki sauce, and Greek salad. This was very flavorful and complimented the meal perfectly.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Christina! Your entire meal sounds delicious, I’m so pleased this was the perfect addition!

  8. Heather Cook says

    This was really good. I really liked it and had rave reviews at a potluck I brought it to. I added 1/2 tsp. Turmeric for color. Thanks for your detailed, delicious recipe!!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Heather, thanks for taking the time to comment! I’m so pleased it was such a hit!

  9. Thomas Cushing says

    Jen. Could you recommend the rice cooker you are using? I’ve never owned one. I’m 70 and just found out by way of DNA my birth dad was Greek

    • Jen says

      Hi Thomas, that is awesome that you found out your birth dad was Greek! I have a an Aroma Rice Cooker that I got at Costco and I love but I think most of them are pretty good.

  10. Anna M Dybowski says

    Best recipe ever! Always delicious! Me and my Family just love it!

    • Jen says

      Awesome, I love hearing that, thanks Anna!

  11. Olivia says

    I make this recipe all the time! My boyfriend requests it constantly. So good and fuss free… even if I miss a step or forget an ingredient I find this recipe very forgiving. Thanks for sharing, it’s a family favourite that goes with everything!

    • Jen says

      Yessss! Thank you so much for your awesome comment Olivia! I love hearing this Lemon Rice is a repeat favorite! You have great taste 😉

  12. Tiff’s Twisted Kitchen says

    This was soooo Flavorful and Light! Did use what I had available, rinsed Jasmine rice ( since you can forget finding rice in the stores right now). Cooked for 15 minutes, added 2 Tbs of butter, and topped with Feta. Served this with a Garlic Asiago Pork tenderloin, that was smoked on a Traeger. I could eat this rice as a meal. Thank You for great recipes!

    • Jen says

      Your whole meal sounds fabulous! I’m so pleased you loved the Lemon Rice so much, thank you!

  13. Stephanie says

    This lemon rice was incredible, served it alongside you grilled Chicken Shawarma (which was amazing!). I made it exactly as written, adding the butter at the end. I would have added feta but didn’t have any on hand. The family loved it and the kids went in for second helpings. This is a perfect side dish for so many of your recipes, can’t wait to make it again.

    • Jen says

      Yessss! Your whole meal sounds divine and I’m so pleased the Lemon Rice was a hit with the kids as well! Thanks Stephanie!

  14. Sarah Grimm says

    I’ve made this before and loved it!! Have some vegetarian friends coming over though, do you think the chicken broth could be subbed for vegetable broth?

    • Jen says

      Hi Sarah, I’m so happy it’s a favorite! Yes, you can absolutely sub the chicken broth for veg broth – it won’t taste exactly the same but still tasty.

  15. Áine says

    This was a really great recipe! The butter makes the flavors pop. Was great for my “no lemon” people too; the hint was enough for a brightness, not it’s not overly lemony. Delicious!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Aine, I’m so happy it was a winner with everyone!