Bring back memories of your favorite box of rice pilaf. It is fluffy, flavorful, and has none of the chemicals and unnecessary amounts of sodium that you find in a box mix.

When I was in college and was still learning to cook, I almost always made boxed foods because they were really easy to cook. (I pretty much lived on Knorr alfredo pasta packages and butter noodles.) I also loved Near East Pilafs and Couscous – I felt so fancy eating “rice pilaf.”

When I got a bit older and got better at cooking, I became a little more health-conscious. I realized that instant foods probably did not need to have a place in my diet.

A white bowl with rice pilaf and a silver spoon and red plain napkin.
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This rice pilaf smells just like a Near East pilaf as it is cooking, it brings back so many memories for me.

Then the taste – this tastes JUST like a box of rice pilaf! (Maybe even a little better 😉 )

Why Make Rice Pilaf from Scratch?

First of all, everything is better from scratch. Rice pilaf is made just as easily as regular rice. The only thing that takes more time than boxed pilaf is the time required to dice some garlic and measure out spices. (This can even be done while your water is boiling, so it takes no more time than boiling water and tearing open a box.) You also probably already have all the ingredients to make it!

🥘 Ingredients Needed

• butter
• chicken or vegetable broth
• water
• rice
• orzo
• dried, minced onion
• turmeric
• fresh garlic
• kosher salt
• black pepper


Begin by melting 1 tablespoon of butter.

Squares of butter melting in a small, white and gray pot.

Once melted, add 1 cup of chicken broth or vegetable broth and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil.

Spices and two measuring spoons on a gray wooden background.

Next, add your rice, orzo, and spices stir until well combined.

Rice pilaf simmering in a white and gray pot.

Bring back to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.

How Long Do You Cook it For?

Cover and cook for 16 – 18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure that the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pot. If it seems to be cooking too fast and absorbing too much liquid, add half a cup of water and reduce heat.

Rice pilaf simmering in a white and gray pot.

When your 16-18 minutes is up, your rice should be soft, fluffy, and perfectly cooked.

Garnish with parsley and season with extra salt and pepper if desired.

Serve immediately as a side dish. We recently enjoyed it with sauteed sweet bell peppers and crispy chicken thighs.

A white plate with a crispy chicken thigh, sautéed bell peppers, and rice pilaf.

📖 Options

Rice pilaf has so many variations:
• garlic and herb
• chicken flavor – seasoned with poultry seasoning
• extra garlic
• with added vegetables – add diced red bell peppers, broccoli, sauteed onions, or peas

A white bowl with rice pilaf and a pink napkin.

Have You Tried This Recipe?
Please rate it and leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think!

A white bowl with rice pilaf and a silver spoon and red plain napkin.

Better Than a Box Rice Pilaf

5 from 1 vote
Bring back memories of your favorite box of rice pilaf. It is fluffy, flavorful, and has none of the chemicals or unnecessary amounts of sodium that you find in a box.
Author: Kari
Servings: 6
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 18 minutes
Total: 20 minutes


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth Bone broth or vegetable broth work well also
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white or long grain rice
  • 1/3 cup orzo Raw or cooked leftover is fine



  • Add butter, broth, and water to a small saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil and then stir in rice, orzo, and all spices.
  • Return to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  • Simmer COVERED for 18 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the liquid starts to cook off too fast, add a little more water and reduce heat.
  • Fluff with a fork to serve.


There are so many variations that you can make – extra garlic, diced vegetables, peas, garlic and herb, or even a little parmesean cheese. Experiment away!

Special Equipment Needeed

  • Medium saucepan with a lid


Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 165kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 4gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 358mgPotassium: 85mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 59IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 15mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is approximate and is automatically calculated, so should only be used as a guide.

Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: 30minutemeal, copycat, rice
Did you make this recipe?Mention @southernbytes or tag #southernbytes!

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Hi, I'm Kari!

I am a newlywed, food blogger, health coach, and mama to a hot mess of a border collie. I love to put a new spin on old family recipes and I try to make as many meals as possible with an Instant Pot.

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  1. I also ate a lot of boxed foods in college! And this reminds me of one I loved too. 🙂 I will be trying this!

  2. Kari, I didn’t see information about the quantities of spices, etc., and would be curious to know, I’ll check back in case you plan to edit your post. Thanks – it looks tasty!

    1. Thanks for pointing that out for me! I didn’t even realize it had not saved the recipe 🙂 It is all there now!