You'll love this bright, flavor-packed Greek lemon rice made with onions, garlic, fresh lemon juice and herbs! This is an easy side dish and pairs beautifully with lots of Mediterranean favorites including Souvlaki, Shrimp, and Greek baked cod and many more! Be sure to check out my tips for foolproof results, and grab all the suggestions for what other dishes to serve along! Rice cooker instructions included.

Greek lemon rice pilaf with parsley and dill

If you think rice is just a dreaded, boring side dish, this Greek lemon rice will prove you wrong. Dare I say, once you give it a try, it might just become your favorite side of all time!

This lemon rice pilaf is a fairly popular side dish, you may have sampled a version of it at your local Greek restaurant.

You can serve it with many Mediterranean dishes like:

Greek Lamb (Definitely); Chicken Souvlaki; Beef Kabobs; all sorts of fish dishes like Salmon; and vegetarian dishes like Briam Roasted Vegetables. Heck, I'd turn this awesome lemon rice into a rice bowl; throw in these Keftedes or shrimp skewers and a little Greek Salad. Mmmm doesn't that sound wonderful!

You get the point, if you're into eating Mediterranean, this lemon rice recipe will come in handy.

Some Greek lemon rice ingredients. Rice, orzo, fresh lemon, chopped onions and fresh parsley

How to Make Greek Lemon Rice Pilaf

A few familiar flavor makers get the credit for how bright and tantalizing this rice is. They are: onions, garlic, fresh lemon juice, and herbs (I used fresh parsley and a dash of dill weed.)

But this lemon rice is very simple to make. It starts with a little bit of rich extra virgin olive oil in which our onions, garlic are sauteed. From there, we add a little orzo, rice, and our liquid (lots of fresh lemon juice and broth). As the rice cooks in the lemon juice, it absorbs all the tang and brightness. And at the end, we hit it up with the herbs and a little lemon zest to seal the deal.

That's all there is to it!

Orzo and rice are sauteed with onions, garlic and olive oil to start the Greek rice recipe

Two Important Tips for this Greek Rice

To ensure best results for texture and taste, I apply the same tips I've learned when making Lebanese rice and Hashweh rice. Here they are:

1.The recipe starts with a very important step most other recipes ignore: wash the rice well and soak it in plenty of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not skip this step, this is important to help get rid of excess starch which causes rice to be sticky (this rice is not meant to be sticky.) Soaking it also shortens the cooking time, making sure the interior of the grain actually cooks before the exterior looses its shape and becomes mush.

2.Once rice is finished, leave it covered and undisturbed in the pot for about 10 minutes before adding the finishing touches (the herbs etc.) Again, this helps maintain the texture and integrity of the rice.

Greek lemon rice in pot cooking pot, garnished with fresh parsley, dill and lemon slices

Can I make this in my Rice Cooker?

I know many are fans of the convenient rice cooker. I totally get that, but this recipe is much better when you make it stovetop. That said, yes, you can use a rice cooker, if you need to, with some adjustments:

Still rinse the rice very well and soak it even for a bit  to get rid of starch (not a requirement for rice cookers, but helpful.) Add the orzo, rice, and liquid to the rice cooker (adjust liquid amount according to your rice cooker.) Instead of chopped onions and fresh garlic, you will use about ¾ teaspoon onion powder and ½ teaspoon garlic powder (do not expect the same taste.) Set rice cooker to appropriate setting. Once rice is finished, stir in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil before adding the parsley, dill and lemon zest.

Greek lemon rice served on a blue plate with a fork. A lemon slice for garnish

Recipe Variations:

  • You can use brown rice, if you need to. It does not yield the same taste and requires some adjustments (see recipe notes.)
  • For the gluten free option, simply omit the orzo and let liquid boil a while longer to reduce properly
  • Some people add carrots or peas in this rice pilaf (similar to this idea here), but I prefer to keep simple, unadulterated so to speak

 

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Greek lemon rice in pot cooking pot, garnished with fresh parsley, dill and lemon slices

Greek Lemon Rice Recipe


Description

Best Greek lemon rice recipe! Loads of flavor from onions, garlic, lemon juice and fresh herbs. Be sure to check out the notes for tips and ideas for what to serve it with.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups long grain rice (uncooked)
  • Early Harvest Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (just over 1 cup chopped onions)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup orzo pasta
  • 2 lemons, juice of (PLUS zest of 1 lemon)
  • 2 cups low sodium broth (chicken or vegetable broth will work)
  • Pinch salt
  • Large handful chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dill weed (dry dill)

Instructions

  1. Wash rice well and then soak it for about 15 to 20 minutes in plenty of cold water (enough to cover the rice by 1 inch). You should be able to easily break a grain of rice by simply placing it between your thumb and index finger. Drain well.
  2. Heat about 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large sauce pan with a lid (like this one) until oil is shimmering but not smoking.  Add onions and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and orzo pasta. Toss around for a bit until the orzo has gained some color then stir in the rice. Toss to coat.
  3. Now add lemon juice and broth. Bring liquid to a rolling boil (it should reduce a little), then turn heat to low. Cover and let cook for about 20 minutes or until rice is done (liquid should be fully absorbed and rice should be tender but not sticky.)
  4. Remove rice from heat. For best results, leave it covered and do not disturb rice for about 10 minutes or so.
  5. Uncover and stir in parsley, dill weed and lemon zest. If you like, add a few slices of lemon on top for garnish. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Cook's tip #1: Do not skip washing and soaking the rice well, this is important to help get rid of excess starch which causes rice to be sticky (this rice is not meant to be sticky). Soaking the rice here also shortens the cooking time, making sure the interior of the grain actually cooks before the exterior looses its shape.
  • Cook's Tip # 2: Once rice is finished, leave it covered and undisturbed in the pot for about 10 minutes before adding the herbs etc. Again, this helps maintain the texture and integrity of the rice.
  • What Dishes Go Well with this Greek Rice? Chicken Souvlaki, Beef Kabobs, Greek Baked Cod; All sorts of Salmon; Briam Roasted Vegetables. Heck, I'd throw it in a bowl with these Keftedes or shrimp skewers and a little Greek Salad.  The possibilities are endless!
  • Gluten Free & Vegan Option: All you need to do to make this rice gluten free is to eliminate the orzo. For vegan, opt for a vegetable broth that is completely vegan instead of chicken broth.
  • Brown Rice Option: It is not my preference, but you can use brown rice in this recipe. Remember that brown rice will require more soaking time and more liquid to cook. Consult the brown rice package to adjust this recipe.
  • Rice Cooker Instructions: This rice is best cooked stovetop, but you can try a rice cooker. Still rinse the rice very well and soak it even for a little bit to get rid of starch (not a requirement for rice cookers, but helpful.) Add the orzo, rice, and liquid to the rice cooker (adjust liquid amount according to your rice cooker.) Instead of chopped onions and fresh garlic, you will use about ¾ teaspoon onion powder and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Set rice cooker to appropriate setting. Once rice is finished, stir in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil before adding the parsley, dill and lemon zest.
  • Visit The Mediterranean Dish store to check out Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil and our Early Harvest Greek Extra virgin olive oil (both single estate oils from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives.) You will also find a big selection of all-natural and organic spices! Visit TMD Store
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Greek

Keywords: Lemon Rice, Greek Rice, Greek Lemon Rice, Rice Pilaf

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. I made this using my rice cooker with the following adaptations: Use converted rice. No rinsing required. Use rice cooker 'cup' to measure rice and orzo. 2 'cups' converted rice. 1/2 'cup' orzo. Saute onions and garlic as recipe describes. Pull onions/garlic out of pan leaving flavored oil behind. Saute orzo and rice for a few minutes until it begins to brown. Put rice and orzo into rice cooker. Add lemon juice as noted. Add chicken stock until liquid is up to the line for 2 1/2 cups. Now you have the proper portions of rice and liquid. Add onions and garlic previously set aside. Close lid and start rice cooker. Rice will be perfect and fluffy. Taste is fantastic I added folded in fresh Italian parsley and dill once rice is cooked.

  2. Important note: rice is 1:2 and the lemon juice counts! So I make this for 2 generous servings with delicious leftovers, as follows:

    1/2 c rice 1/4 c Orzo
    Juice 1/2 lemon, see how much there is and add water/stock to make 1 1/2 cups total

    Otherwise follow the recipe as written

  3. I used basmati rice in this recipe. Directions for basmati are 1:1, so I knew there wouldn’t be enough liquid. Needed up using 4C of vegetable broth instead of 2.. Other than that, it was pretty good! Thanks!

  4. This is so delicious and so easy to make! We gilded the lily a bit by adding some toasted pine nuts with the parsley and lemon zest. I am so impressed by your rice recipes-they turn out perfect every time. Thank you!

  5. The flavors are really great but there is not enough liquid to cook the rice. I followed the directions exactly and about 10 minutes into cooking there was almost no liquid left and all the rice on top was still hard. I had to add more water and cook the full 20 minutes. I inevitably ended up with really great tasting very sticky overcooked rice. I will make this again but I'll add more liquid right away so as not to mess up the cook time.

  6. Flavor and method were great! I use long grain white rice, rinsed and soaked for 20 minutes and following steps followed as well. After the cooking and resting time, my rice was still undercooked; I added about 2/3 cup water and turned back to low. After 7-8 more minutes cooking plus 2-3 mins rest, it was edible—but next time I’ll use 3 cups broth instead of 2. Extended family loved it even slightly undercooked!

  7. Hi Suzy,
    Since lemons can vary greatly in the amount of juice they produce, about how much lemon juice should be added to the rice? One commentor said she used about 1 cup. Another recipe I saw used 1/3 cup. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Katy. I would start with about 4 tablespoons here, as, on average 1 lemon = 2 tablespoons of juice. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

  8. Delish! Served with Chicken Souvlaki last weekend and it was the perfect side. Was afraid it might be too lemony, but it was just the right amount. May add just a tad more chicken broth next time and a little dill at the end. Everyone went back for seconds!

  9. Delicious rice recipe! Not sticky at all and so flavorful! Everyone loved it! Thank you!!

    1. Great recipe. Delicious & easy! It's an amazing side with lamb chops, mint sauce & tzatiki. This will be my 3rd time making it!!

  10. As I was reading the recipe prior to making it, I noted it seemed the amount of liquid called for was quite low. Followed the instructions exactly, and ended up using nearly double the liquid as specified. Made it on the stove top, not a rice cooker. The dish was indeed tasty and not difficult to prepare, but I'll amend it to account for the additional liquid needed. I've noted some have asked about altitude, this was prepared at about 300m, so definitely not high altitude.

  11. Bought the extra long basmati as you specify and made recipe exactly as written. Rinsed and soaked and came out perfectly. Light fluffy individual grains. Served for Easter dinner with your Mediterranean baked fish with Tomatoes and capers. Everyone loved it. The plates looked colourful and healthy - I felt great serving it. Thank you!

    1. I wish I had used basmati rice instead of long grain white rice. I followed the directions to the letter, and it came out a big sticky ball of rice. Taste is great, but I really cant serve it because it's like glue.

  12. Absolutely incredible!! My family loved it a lot! Rice is our most commonly used starch source for dinner, so I love to find different ways of cooking it. I didn't put the orzo in and I used basmati rice instead. I also tweaked the cooking method to suit this type of rice. But man, this recipie sure is a keeper! I will definitely be making it again.

      1. Hello! Yes, I do here. The key is to soak the rice before cooking until you are able to easily break a grain.

  13. I followed the recipe exactly and had no issues with the water/rice ratio. My 2 lemons were room temperature and produced one cup of juice. I also simmered it on 1, the lowest possible. The rice turned out delicious. It reminds me of stuffed grape leaves. Will be making this again.

  14. Used long grain rice, and orzo and followed the recipe.
    No where enough liquid and has been on the stove for an hour and pasta is not cooked:(

  15. The comments are mixed as they relate to the ratio of liquid to rice. Some say the recipe worked out perfectly, others say they had to add more liquid. Can Altitude have an impact on these results? What altitude was the recipe tested at?

  16. Very good, but I think the rice/water ratio is off. Had to add way more liquid. Rice/water is usually 1:2 ratio. Anyone else have this issue?

    1. I had the same issue. Even after rinsing the rice thoroughly and soaking it for 20 minutes. I almost doubled the amount of broth and lemon juice. My family still liked the dish very much.

    2. I've made this twice now and both times the rice was till slightly hard...I think next time I'll add at least another cup of water...flavor is great though.

    3. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe to the letter and ended up with undercooked rice. I made it again last night, and I kept the same broth/rice ratio, just cooked it longer. I kept it on heat for about 35 minutes instead of 18-20, let it sit (covered) off of heat for another 5-10 minutes, and it turned out great.