Loving the convenience of the boxed stuff but not the additives? The good news is you no longer need to compromise on health for taste. Enter: the rice-a-roni copycat recipe. This homemade rice a roni recipe that captures the beloved flavor of the boxed version but elevates it to a healthier standard without all the sodium and mystery ingredients. This recipe uses orzo pasta and rice to rekindle the nostalgic taste many of us grew up with. It is the perfect side dish to complement almost any main course like this delicious BBQ cilantro lime chicken breast or this air fryer salmon recipe.
This rice a roni copycat recipe will soon become a staple in your meal prep. Use your favorite seasonings to make it exactly how you like! Don’t miss the gluten free option below!
What Is Rice-A-Roni?
Hailing as the San Francisco treat, rice a roni has become a staple in many households. It’s a delightful blend of rice pilaf mixed with vermicelli pasta, typically boasting a savory chicken flavor. This hybrid of rice and pasta is seasoned to perfection, offering a perfect accompaniment to a variety of dishes. One of the childhood favorites for many, it encapsulates comfort in a bowl. The brand has expanded its flavor range over the years, but the classic chicken variant remains a standout. Easily found in local grocery stores, this product has garnered widespread adoration for its unique taste and ease of preparation. The intricate blend of flavors and textures is what sets rice a roni apart, making it a cherished mealtime selection for decades.
Why I Love This Copycat Recipe
- Healthy-ish: Skip the artificial ingredients and make this homemade copycat version from scratch. Add as much or little salt and butter as you like!
- Pantry Ingredients: I usually have all the ingredients on hand. No need to run to the store!
- Gluten Free Option: With a simple substitution this can easily be made gluten free. See more details below.
Choosing The Right Rice-a-Roni Copycat Ingredients
Part of the reason you’re making this copycat recipe is so you can use more wholesome ingredients. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s easy to change it up, make substitutions and still have a tasty end result and a great rice dish. Full recipe amounts and ingredients are in the recipe card below.
- Rice: I prefer basmati rice for this recipe. I recommend using your favorite white rice. Avoid rices that take longer to cook, like brown rice or wild rice, if you want to follow the recipe times exactly.
- Broth: Choose a high-quality, low-sodium broth, be it vegetable stock, chicken stock, or beef stock, devoid of artificial additives. I prefer to use chicken broth but any would work and create different flavors. You could also use boullion cubes or powder to mix with water and create a broth.
- Butter: Use unsalted butter for the most control over how much salt is in this dish. There is no standard between brands of butter for how much salt is in salted butter.
- Rice a roni spices: Use your favorite blends of herbs and spices or follow the recipe exactly. Garlic powder, onion powder and salt are a must to make this tasty. I do love to top with some fresh parsley but that’s totally optional.
- Pasta: While traditional Rice-a-Roni uses vermicelli, orzo is an excellent alternative. This rice-shaped pasta blends seamlessly with the rice grains, offering a unique texture and appearance. I prefer orzo but you can certainly also break up spaghetti noodles or any other thin pasta like angel hair pasta as a substitute.
Dairy Free Substitutions
Make this easy side dish dairy free by substituting olive oil or avocado oil for the butter in the recipe. This will give you a vegan rice dish if you use a vegetable stock instead of chicken stock/broth.
Gluten Free Substitutions
Use a rice that is gluten free. Substitute the pasta for a gluten free version. You will have a difficult time finding gluten free orzo or vermicelli so I recommend breaking up thin spaghetti into small pieces for this homemade version. You will also need to make sure that your chicken broth is gluten free. Many brands of powdered chicken bouillon and boxed chicken broth (or beef broth or vegetable broth) are not labeled as gluten free. Make sure you get one that is.
How To Serve This Tasty Side Dish
Homemade Rice-a-Roni isn’t just a rice side dish from your childhood. Its versatility proves it’s here to stay. The great way to relish it goes beyond the conventional, opening doors to a multitude of culinary adventures. Elevate your meals by considering these creative serving suggestions:
- Flavorful Protein Combo: Merge it with grilled chicken or pan-seared tofu. It’s a great side dish that complements the flavors, making every bite a delightful symphony. Try my BBQ cilantro lime chicken recipe for something too good to pass up. Or serve along with some perfectly cooked oven baked baby back ribs.
- Vegetable Medley: Integrate roasted or steamed vegetables by mixing them in after the rice is cooked. The mix introduces different textures and augments the nutritive value of your meal.
- Casserole Creation: Blend the cooked Rice-a-Roni copycat with cheese, then bake. This fusion results in a creamy, hearty casserole perfect for potlucks or family dinners. Then pair with these yummy copycat Lion House rolls.
- Stuffed Bell Peppers: Fill hollowed-out bell peppers with the mix, bake, and voilà! A standalone dish that’s visually enticing and palate-pleasing.
Each of these suggestions highlights different ways to enhance both main dishes and side dishes. The homemade touch introduces authenticity, ensuring every meal stands out.
Homemade Rice-A-Roni Instructions
Full instructions and equipment required can be found in the recipe card below where you can opt to print or change the number of servings. Please note that if you increase the number of servings you will need to have a a very large skillet!
This recipe is a great starting point. After you’ve made it a few times you might want to switch up the spices to make it to your liking. You can add a lot of different combinations of spices to make this homemade rice pilaf with orzo (or vermicelli) suit any main dish.
Step One: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt your butter. Add the pasta and saute, stirring constantly, until the pasta is lightly browned.
Step Two: Add the rice and spices to your pan. Stir until they are coated with butter.
Step Three: Add your chicken broth (or beef broth or vegetable broth). Stir to combine.
Step Four: Heat the mixture until it reaches a boil. After that, place a lid on the saucepan, reduce the heat to its lowest setting (simmer), and let it cook for roughly 15 minutes or until the liquid is soaked up. If the rice is still firm after absorbing the fluid, introduce a bit more warm chicken broth or water.
Step Five: Once fully cooked, remove from the heat and let the rice sit for 10 minutes with the lid on. After that, fluff it with a fork. Serve while warm. This rice-a-roni copycat recipe makes a great side dish with ribs, barbecue chicken, chicken in wine sauce or salmon.
It’s just as easy to make rice-a-roni from scratch as it is to make it from a box. These instructions are quick and delicious.
Boxed foods of any type are usually full of preservatives and often contain MSG. Making this homemade rice-a-roni from scratch at home you are able to control how much sodium and other spices you include. There are no MSG or preservatives added.
Homemade Rice-A-Roni Copycat Recipe
- large skillet with lid
- ½ cup Orzo or use a thin pasta like vermicelli
- ¾ cup white rice
- 3 cups chicken broth use vegetable broth for a vegetarian dish
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1-2 teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt add more to taste
- In a medium saucepan, saute pasta in butter until lightly browned.
- Stir in rice and spices until it is all coated in butter.
- Add the broth, stir.
- Bring skillet to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer lightly until broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes. If liquid is absorbed and rice is not cooked through, add a little more hot water or broth and cover until the liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from heat. Fluff the rice with a fork. Serve.