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 easy baked 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 how to cook brown rice for tips.)
  • 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'm not too good with rice, often screw it up. Followed the directions exactly (other than soaking the rice for a half hour) and this was delicious. (Cooked in a 5 qt dutch oven). Saw some reviews saying it didn't turn out, I made this out of curiosity... could Suzy have one bad recipe? Nope, it's delicious and I will definitely be making it regularly.

  2. If I wanted to use PRESERVED LEMON in this recipe what changes would you suggest? Should I leave out all the other lemon ingredients or just add the preserved instead of the zest?

    1. Hi, Judy. It's a bit hard to say, as we've never tried this recipe with preserved lemons. If you give it a go, though, please stop back an share your thoughts! We'd love to know if it was a success!

      1. Tonight I did fixed the Greek Lemon Rice substituting Preserved Lemon, and it turned out delicious! In step 3 while adding the broth, I substituted the pulp I'd removed from the preserved lemon rather than the lemon juice. Then when I removed the rice from the heat in step 4 I added the finely chopped preserved lemon rind (3 of the 4 quarters) and left it covered for the 10 minutes. My husband said "it's the best!".