Homemade Rice Pilaf (healthy rice-a-roni)

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This simple rice pilaf with brown rice and angel hair pasta is a healthy, homemade version of Rice-A-Roni that makes the perfect side dish.

This simple rice pilaf with brown rice and angel hair pasta is a healthy, homemade version of Rice-A-Roni that makes the perfect side dish.

Rice Pilaf (Healthy Rice-A-Roni)

I love rice pilaf and often make my own healthy, homemade Rice-A-Roni so I can control what goes into it. That’s what I love about this easy rice pilaf! It’s made with pantry staples and has far fewer ingredients than the boxed kind. Rice pilaf is an easy side dish that goes with most meals. Serve it alongside Basil-Parmesan Crusted Salmon, Chicken Milanese, Turkey Meatloaf or Roast Beef.

This simple rice pilaf with brown rice and angel hair pasta is a healthy, homemade version of Rice-A-Roni that makes the perfect side dish.

Pilaf is also very customizable. You can add in different seasonings to make Italian, Mexican, or Indian versions. You can make vegetable rice pilafs by throwing in your favorite veggies or add in your favorite protein to make this a one-dish meal. The options are endless!

What is the difference between rice and rice pilaf?

Rice pilaf is not only a dish but also a cooking technique. The main difference between rice and rice pilaf is that the rice in pilaf is first sautéed before adding liquid. Sautéing rice gives it a nuttier, toasted flavor and a coating that makes cooked rice less sticky.

How to Make a Healthier Rice-A-Roni

Simple tweaks make this homemade Rice-A-Roni a bit healthier than the boxed kind. Using whole grain pasta and brown rice provide more nutritional benefit than white rice and regular pasta. Canned chicken broth is a cleaner ingredient than the flavor packets that typically come in the box.

Although I typically don’t cook with parboiled rice, I don’t mind it at all when it comes to brown rice, especially since brown rice can take a while to cook in the skillet. I’ve tried all the brands sold in the supermarket and found the yield and amount of liquid are not the same. To ensure you are getting the same results, I suggest using Uncle Ben’s Instant Brown Rice that cooks in ten minutes. If you want to use regular brown rice, you may have to adjust the amount of liquid and time according to the package directions.

If you want to add some veggies, you can add some minced carrots, chopped broccoli, peas, or cauliflower rice to the mix once you add the broth. You can also add garlic, onion, chicken, etc. Have fun with it and let me know what variations you come up with!

Variations:

  • For a gluten-free rice pilaf, use gluten-free pasta.
  • To make it dairy-free, swap the butter for olive oil.
  • Add your favorite veggies! Add minced carrots, chopped broccoli, peas, or cauliflower rice to the mix once you pour in the broth.
  • Add some protein to make it a one-pot meal – for example, chicken, ham, shrimp, or sausage.

Vermicelli in a measuring cup.making pilaf

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This simple rice pilaf with brown rice and angel hair pasta is a healthy, homemade version of Rice-A-Roni that makes the perfect side dish.
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4.73 from 18 votes
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Homemade Rice Pilaf (Healthy Rice-a-Roni)

6
6
2
SP
87 Cals 3 Protein 13 Carbs 2.5 Fats
Prep Time: 2 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 22 mins
Yield: 4
COURSE: Side Dish
CUISINE: American
This simple rice pilaf with brown rice and angel hair pasta is a healthy, homemade version of Rice-A-Roni that makes the perfect side dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons butter, (use olive oil for dairy free)
  • 1/4 cup 3/4 ounce angel hair spaghetti broken into small pieces*, wheat, whole wheat or gluten-free
  • 1 cup uncooked 10 minute instant brown rice, such as Uncle Ben’s
  • 2 cups chicken broth, (or water and chicken bouillon)
  • optional, chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a deep skillet with a fitted lid over medium heat.
  • When the butter is melted, add the broken spaghetti and rice. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly toasted.
    toasting rice in a skillet
  • Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the rice is tender and the broth is absorbed.
    This simple rice pilaf with brown rice and angel hair pasta is a healthy, homemade version of Rice-A-Roni that makes the perfect side dish.
  • Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Notes

* use gluten-free pasta for gluten-free.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/2 cup, Calories: 87kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 2.5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 292.5mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 0.5g
Blue Smart Points: 6
Green Smart Points: 6
Purple Smart Points: 2
Keywords: easy, healthy rice a roni, homemade rice a roni, pantry rice dish, quick, rice pilaf

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42 comments

  1. This was so easy and so good! Served it along side salmon and steamed broccoli. My toddler loves it and so did I and my hubby!

  2. This was amazing. I used whole wheat angel hair and added garlic powder, thyme and basil.

  3. Just made this tonight to go with your Air Fryer Chicken Milanese – both were so good! Only addition I made was maybe a tsp of onion salt to the broth when cooking. Definitely a keeper, great job as always, Gina! 

  4. Could this be cooked in the instapot? Not sure how to approach instant rice though.

  5. Should blue count be 4 points and not 6?

  6. I don’t know what I did here after looking at the reviews.  I have never made a Skinnytaste recipe I wasn’t obsessed with.  I added dried minced onion, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and It still had no flavor.  I ended up dumping in Parmesan cheese to give a little flavor.  Maybe because I used chicken stock without added salt? I will definitely try this out again as a base and customize it a bit more.  

  7. Really good recipe! I made some tweaks to make it a meal on its own. I added chicken pieces (preseasoned for tacos from HEB), sauteed onions, and broccoli. I found it needed a little more chicken flavor than just the chicken stock, so added additional 1 tsp Better than Bouillon. I also added salt, pepper, and a pinch of smoked paprika. Mixed everything together when rice was nearly done, then sprinkled with a little cheddar and broiled until it was melted and browned on top. Delish! Whole family enjoyed it!

  8. Made this tonite as a side for some grilled chicken. Delish! Hubby even told me this was WAY better than the box stuff! I have to agree it was terrific. After dinner we talked about what we can add/do to put a little spin on it . Can’t wait to make this again next week. Thanks Gina for all your hard work keeping us healthy!

  9. How many servings does this make?

  10. I made this tonight. Picky husband had seconds. Picky special needs daughter who never eats rice ate it up! I used what I had: vegan butter, instant brown rice, and whole wheat thin spaghetti. Came out great! Thank you so much! We love your cookbooks and website !

  11. Made this and used plant butter to make a little healthier. Have always enjoyed rice a roni and this is delicious. Served with sauteed shrimp and fresh carrots. A delicious Sunday night dinner

  12. I made as a side with grilled pesto chicken—so good!  At the end of cooking, I added frozen peas and roasted, sliced almonds.

  13. I made this as a side to grilled vegetables & grilled halloumi with a chimichurri style sauce; the rice was surprisingly flavorful, easy, and mirrored the old-school flavors of boxed rice pilaf. I did have to cook mine about 4 minutes longer, while adding 2-3 more tbsp of veggie broth at that time. This will be a new side staple!

    • If I wanted to double this recipe, should I just double everything. I know sometimes doubling rice recipes can get weird, thanks

  14. My Grandmother always made rice-a-roni with sausage. My daughter loves it. I made this tonight (with sausage and diced water chestnuts) and it was hit! I felt better serving her this dish rather than the boxed rice-a-roni alternative! We will definitely make this again!

  15. Sounds Perfect! Any thoughts on how to make Spanish Rice?

  16. My mother used to make something like this but with a stick of butter. I’ve been craving it lately. Thank you for this updated healthier version.

  17. 1/4 cup PLUS 3/4 oz angel hair?

  18. I make rice pilaf at least once a week! I use a half cup of instant brown rice a half cup of orzo, and the rest is pretty much the same. We put zucchini, yellow squash, onions, mushrooms and eggplant in for a meal in itself. 
    Add peas, carrots and egg to the rice for an Asian flair. 
    Use it “plain” for a bed with kabobs. 
    So versatile and delicious! 

  19. This is the only way my mother made rice! She orzo instead of the angel hair pasta and ghee instead of butter. Absolutely  delicious!

  20. I figured out a recipe like this a few months back. I use the small angel hair pasta pieces found in the Hispanic food section.

  21. How long should you cook this if you use regular rice instead of instant?

  22. Can you replace butter with spray Pam? 

  23. Can you use regular rice and allow it to cook covered longer or do you have to use 10 minute rice? 

  24. Thank you so much for this recipe. I’m a WW member & have switched to Purple. We’re now a whole wheat household. Will definitely be giving this a try.! Thanks again.

  25. Thank you for posting the recipe! Can’t wait to make it. 

  26. This was so good!  I was a little concerned as I have never tried pilaf with brown rice but I loved it.  I could not get Uncle Ben’s rice (quarantine) and was worried about the timing using regular  basmati brown rice.  I ended up sautéing it in my instant pot and then cooking it as I normally cook brown rice.  I’ll have to work on the time and liquid as it wasn’t quite done.  Thanks for another awesome recipe Gina.  So glad to have your healthy recipes during this trying time.  

  27. Made this evening and was happy to use up some Minute brown rice in my pantry. Simmered for middle time of 11min and turned out well. Just added a small pinch of kosher salt at the end before serving. It was soft as expected and a nice easy side dish. I served with garlic chicken and turmeric roasted cauliflower (from light on calories big on flavor book). I just wish there were instructions to how to add the additional flavors to make Mexican or Italian etc. 

  28. Hi – if you don’t have instant rice how much longer should this cook?