Lemon Rice | Easy, Healthy Side Dish Recipe

Luscious Lemon Rice reporting for side dish duty! It’s creamy, healthy, and a glorious iteration of that serendipitous place where super simple meets ultra effective. Follow this recipe and punch up the pizzazz factor of your plate!

I’ve noticed a common denominator with many of my main dishes: I almost always recommend serving them with rice. (Starter reference: Egg Roll in a Bowl, Red Lentil Curry, Sheet Pan Chicken with Rainbow Vegetables, and every one of these healthy stir fry recipes.)

Did I give much thought to said rice, however?

NOPE. That was my miss.

Long ago, I committed to creating brown rice recipes over regular white rice recipes for the greater health benefits (fiber! protein! nutrients!), and now I prefer brown rice’s mildly nutty flavor too.

Beyond the whole-grain decision, however, I didn’t consider much else.

One bite of lemon rice, and I realized how egregiously I’d been ignoring the potential of rice recipes.

Not only is lemon rice good for your health, but it is absolutely scrumptious.

With a few minor, so-easy-it-barely-counts tweaks, you can make creamy, flavorful rice that will instantly elevate your at-home dinner experience.

This rice recipe is a subtle but impactful change that you’ll thank yourself for with every forkful.

A pan of Lemon Rice

How to Make Lemon Rice

Here’s the thing: making lemon rice is exactly like making brown rice…except better.

Rather than cooking brown rice with only water and a pinch of salt (you are salting your rice, aren’t you? that’s Step 1), today’s rice is strutting the whole-grain runway sporting fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and a total game-changer ingredient that makes the rice extra creamy.

The Ingredients

  • Brown Rice. Use any kind you like. Long-grain brown rice is what I usually have around, but you can use basmati rice or short-grain brown rice instead. Simply adjust the cook time to match (reference the back of the rice package).
  • Lemon Juice + Zest. Yes, you can put lemon in rice water; it’s the key to the flavor here! Make sure the juice is fresh, and you will be deliciously rewarded. No bottled lemon juice allowed—trust me, you will notice the difference.
  • Fresh Herbs. If you are feeling it and/or have some herbs in your refrigerator threatening extinction, chop them up and toss them in. You can use the herbs to change the flavor profile too. Looking for Greek lemon rice? Add thyme and parsley. Enjoy Indian rice recipes? Try cilantro and/or mint.
  • Kosher Salt. A critical ingredient to cooking any kind of rice. It won’t make the rice taste salty; rather, using kosher salt makes rice taste less bland and like its best version of itself.
  • Coconut Oil. Adding a tiny bit of fat to the rice gives it some unctuousness. You could also swap butter or omit it if you prefer.
  • Coconut Water. Two of my best friends (hi Kate and Conor!) introduced me to the concept of cooking rice with coconut water instead of regular water, and I am completely smitten with the results. Cooking rice with coconut water doesn’t impart a strong coconut taste, but it does create especially creamy lemon rice and adds a natural richness and sweetness. If you can’t find coconut water or don’t care to purchase it, you can make this rice with regular water or (for bonus flavor) chicken or vegetable broth.

You can find coconut water at almost any grocery store. Be sure to buy straight-up, regular, 100% coconut water (like this one or this one), not a coconut-flavored beverage (like this one).

A saucepan with an easy and delicious side dish

The Directions

  1. Rinse and drain the rice. Bring the rice, coconut water, salt, and coconut oil to a boil.
  2. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes (or however long your bag of rice suggests). If it starts to stick or become dry, add extra coconut water.
  3. Remove the rice from the heat, add the lemon zest and juice, then fluff with a fork. Let it rest for a few minutes, then stir in the herbs. DIG IN!

Lemon Rice Cooking Options

To cook lemon rice, you’ll want to essentially follow the directions on the back of your bag of rice for the approximate cook time. But, you’ll use the ingredients in this recipe instead.

Here are the different cooking options you can use to prepare your rice:

  • Stovetop. Follow the directions as written below.
  • Instant Pot. My favorite way to cook rice is in my Instant Pot. The perfect, not-too-dry, not-too-mushy, gratifyingly sticky rice it makes is reason enough to purchase one. Use 1 cup rice and 1 1/4 cups coconut water; cook on HIGH pressure for 22 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest after it finishes cooking. Rest the lid back on the Instant Pot and let it sit a few minutes for the juice to absorb and the flavors to marry.
  • Rice Cooker. Refer to your machine’s directions to make lemon rice in rice cooker. Add the lemon juice and zest at the end.

As far as how to cook lemon rice in the crock pot or make baked lemon rice—neither of these methods did the trick for me. The crock pot rice was too mushy, and the baked rice felt unnecessarily complicated.

A plate of Lemon Rice

How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze

  • To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm rice in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Stir frequently, and add splashes of coconut water or regular water as needed if the rice becomes dry. You can also reheat in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. If you want something to do with lots of rice (leftovers are always a good thing), you can freeze it. Freeze rice in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Recipes That Go Well with Lemon Rice

What I love about this vegetarian rice recipe is that despite being dead simple (and thus allowing me to divert my attention elsewhere), it still manages to taste elevated, intentional, and like something that demands much more effort than it actually requires, especially when paired with a delicious main dish.

Here are a few of my favorite suggestions:

  • Fish and Seafood. Spicy Baked Salmon, Garlic Salmon, Soy Ginger Salmon, Baked Salmon in Foil, and Grilled Shrimp Seasoning are all scrumptious with rice recipes like this one.
  • Greek Food. Turn this recipe into a Greek lemon rice by topping it with lots of fresh parsley, then serve it with Greek Chicken or Slow Cooker Yogurt Chicken Shawarma.
  • Creamy Soups. Add a spoonful to Instant Pot Carrot Soup, Pumpkin Curry Soup, or Asparagus Soup. (If you are looking for a true lemon rice soup, try my Crock Pot Chicken and Rice Soup with lemon.)
  • Meatballs. Pick from my Whole30 Meatballs, Baked Chicken Meatballs, Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs, or Lentil Meatballs.
  • Italian Chicken or Sausage Recipes. Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers or Sheet Pan Italian Chicken would be delicious.
  • Curries. Thai Chicken Curry, Instant Pot Lentil Curry, and Chickpea Curry would all go well with rice recipes like this one.
  • Indian Dishes. Try it paired with Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala or Instant Pot Butter Chicken.
  • Stir Fries. Swap fried rice recipes for this lemon rice instead. Sheet Pan Shrimp and Broccoli or Asian Lettuce Wraps would be tasty choices.

Or enjoy this lemon rice with onion or other veggies for a simple, light lunch or side. I think adding some caramelized onions would take this lemon rice side dish to the next level.

One of the best rice recipes with lemon

More Easy Rice Recipes for Dinner

Recommended Tools to Make Rice Recipes

  • Citrus Juicer. You can add lemon juice to rice to flavor it, and this tool makes it easy.
  • Instant Pot. My favorite tool for making rice recipes.
  • Medium Saucepan. If you’re making your lemon rice on the stove, this pan is perfect.

What dish will you serve with lemon rice? I’d love to hear what you think once you try it!

Lemon Rice

This creamy Lemon Rice is bright, healthy, and super easy to make! The perfect side dish with fish, chicken, Greek food, Indian food, and more!

Servings: 6 servings, about 3 cups

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 3/4 cups coconut waterplus a few additional tablespoons as needed (or swap unsalted vegetable or chicken broth or stock, though I highly recommend trying the coconut water version at least once!)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher saltplus additional to taste
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemonabout 1/4 cup juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsleyor any herbs you love*
  • Rinse and drain the rice. Combine the rice, coconut water, salt, and coconut oil in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

  • Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Check a few times, especially towards the end as the rice cooks. If at any point it looks like it is becoming dry or sticking, splash in additional coconut water as needed.

  • Remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and then fluff with a fork to combine. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Enjoy warm.

  • *Feel free to change this recipe up with any herbs you love or have on hand, or simply omit them. I like parsley, dill, or thyme with Greek recipes and fish or shrimp. Cilantro and/or mint is delicious for Thai or Indian recipes.
  • TO STORE: Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the refrigerator.
  • TO MAKE IN THE INSTANT POT: Use 1 cup rice and 1 1/4 cups coconut water; cook on HIGH pressure for 22 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest after it finishes cooking. Rest the lid back on the Instant Pot and let it sit a few minutes for the juice to absorb and the flavors to marry.
  • TO MAKE IN A RICE COOKER: Refer to your machine’s directions. Add the lemon juice and zest at the end.

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