Cilantro Lime Rice

Ann Fulton

By Ann Fulton

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A few key additions transform basic rice into an extra special side dish that enhances a wide variety of cuisines. Not a fan of cilantro? Not to worry. You may omit it and the resulting lime rice will still be a winner!

A few key additions transform basic rice into an extra special side dish that enhances a wide variety of cuisines. Not a fan of cilantro? Not to worry. You may omit it and the resulting lime-infused rice will still be a winner!

 

 

Perhaps no food better embodies feelings of sustenance and comfort than rice. 

While it may not technically be the most popular food in the world (it ranks third behind corn and wheat), rice is considered the single most important source of calories for humans. 

Rice is economical, stores over long periods of time, and grows well in wet climates where other crops tend to fail. 

Rice’s relatively neutral flavor profile also means that it’s endlessly versatile and serves as a blank canvas upon which other flavors may be layered. 

Of all the ways I “dress up” basic rice, the following easy recipe is the one I return to most often.

The small extra effort required to make cilantro lime rice yields a big flavor payoff, and it seems to go with everything.

If you’re serving Mexican, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Caribbean, Mediterranean, or North African inspired cuisine-or even a simple piece of broiled salmon or a grilled steak-chances are good this dish will add a little something special. 

Cilantro, of course, is known for being one of those foods that people either love or intensely dislike. Happily, if you fall in the latter camp and are still reading, I have good news.

A truly exciting feature of this side dish is that it still tastes great without the cilantro! I first discovered this when I wanted to make the recipe and found myself lacking the namesake herb. 

A short list of flavor enhancers transform the basic grain even when the herb, which some consider too pungent, is omitted. Lime juice, of course, plays an important role and is balanced by a small amount of butter or olive oil (sort of like an acid and a fat work together in salad dressings).

The real key, however, to developing the signature flavor in this dish is the lime zest, as it provides more of the pure lime flavor without the tartness supplied by the juice.

I debated a number of silly names, like “Cilantro (or not) Lime Rice”, but alas, kept it simple. The important part is that you have choices!

Whether you dislike cilantro or simply don’t have any on hand, a flavorful, versatile side dish is moments away.

A few key additions transform basic rice into an extra special side dish that enhances a wide variety of cuisines. Not a fan of cilantro? Not to worry. You may omit it and the resulting lime rice will still be a winner!

Ways to enjoy cilantro lime rice…

As mentioned, the taste of this rice will pair beautifully with Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisines as well as those of the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and North Africa. Simply grilled, baked, and sautéed proteins will benefit from these flavors as well. Here are some specific recipes with which I have paired the rice:

*All of the above recipes are also gluten-free or gluten-free adaptable with a simple choice of, for example, corn or GF tortillas or GF soy sauce/tamari.

 

A few key additions transform basic rice into an extra special side dish that enhances a wide variety of cuisines. Not a fan of cilantro? Not to worry. You may omit it and the resulting lime rice will still be a winner!

Because a perfectly cooked pot of rice seems elusive to many, I’ve included a short list of helpful hints, below, that will ensure success. If your rice is consistently gummy or the bottom of your pot scorches, chances are good there’s an easy fix.

For further guidelines and troubleshooting, I created what is essentially a Rice 101: How to Perfectly Cook Rice, which you may also find helpful.

 

How to cook perfect rice:

  • Measure the rice and water accurately and use a timer. This may seem like an obvious statement, but precision is the ultimate key to success. It’s easy to over-scoop the rice or glance at the time and think you’ll remember when to check the pot. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, make sure the rice stays just below the edge of the measuring cup.
  • Use a pot with a tight-fitting lid. This will ensure that all the moisture needed to hydrate the rice stays in the pot.
  • Make sure your pot is big enough. Rice expands as it cooks, and it will cook better if it has sufficient space. A 2-quart saucepan is what I typically use but you can go up to a 3-quart pot for this recipe (no bigger as the water will evaporate too quickly). 
  • “Starve the grain.” The usual ratio we see for cooking rice is 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. I find a ratio of 1 cup rice to 1½ cups water (or 1¾ cups water for each cup of brown rice, as well as a longer cooking time of 35 minutes) leads to a better result.
  • Bring the water and rice to a boil over medium-high heat rather than adding the rice to already boiling water. For best results, aim to avoid a full-blown, rolling boil.
  • Once the water comes to a boil and you cover the pot, turn the heat to low. For the most even absorption, the water should be at a very gentle simmer.
  • Avoid removing the lid while the rice is cooking. If you don’t have a clear lid, you may peek during the last minute or two.
  • When the rice is done, remove the pot from the heat, keeping the lid on, and set your timer for 10 minutes. During this rest, the remaining moisture will evenly distribute itself through the rice and essentially make the exterior of the grains drier. Fluffing the rice before this time has elapsed will result in a stickier, clumpier rice.

Do I need to rinse rice before cooking?

  • I’ve gone back and forth on this one over the years, and I have settled on “no.” While rinsing does remove excess starch, which in theory can make the rice stickier, the following method produces rice that rivals batches that I’ve made with rinsed rice.
  • The exception would be if you purchased rice from a bulk bin. In this case, rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer and drain very well. This will rinse off any dust or debris. Then, when measuring the water, use 2 tablespoons less to account for the moisture that remains on the rice. 
A few key additions transform basic rice into an extra special side dish that enhances a wide variety of cuisines. Not a fan of cilantro? Not to worry. You may omit it and the resulting lime rice will still be a winner!

Freshly grated zest enhances the lime flavor while keeping the tartness from the juice balanced.

A few key additions transform basic rice into an extra special side dish that enhances a wide variety of cuisines. Not a fan of cilantro? Not to worry. You may omit it and the resulting lime rice will still be a winner!

It looks so simple, but the flavor is there!

Interested in more rice tips & troubleshooting, like how to “refresh” leftover rice that has become a little dry? Additional details can be found in this post for Perfectly Cooked Rice.

Cilantro Lime Rice
Yield: 6 servings
Thanks to a few key additions, basic rice becomes an upgrade that pairs well with a variety of cuisines. Not a fan of cilantro? Not to worry. You may omit it and the resulting lime rice is still a winner!

One of the keys to rice success is using a ratio of 1 cup rice to 1½ cups water. The rice will be fully cooked to the al dente stage. However, if you prefer softer rice, add an additional 3 tablespoons of water.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups (270g) long grain white rice (basmati is a nice option*)
  • 2 teaspoons + 1 tablespoon butter (softened or cut into small pieces) or olive oil, divided use
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2¼ cups (18 ounces) water**
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest of 1 lime + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro*** 
Instructions
  1. Heat the 2 teaspoons butter or oil in a large (2- to 3-quart) saucepan or pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  2. Add the rice, water, and salt, and increase the heat to medium high.
  3. When the water is bubbling gently but evenly and the surface is a bit foamy, stir once to loosen the rice, and then turn the heat to low and cover with the lid.
  4. Cook on low for 13 minutes without stirring or removing the lid, after which time the water should all be absorbed (tilt the pot to check) and the rice should be tender.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat, and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
  6. As soon as the 10 minutes have passed, remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and stir in the lime juice, zest, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter (I like butter here), and cilantro. Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding an extra sprinkle of salt or lime juice if desired. Serve warm.
Notes

*For white basmati rice, follow the same directions and cook the rice for 12 minutes.
**If not a cilantro fan, you may omit for delicious lime-infused rice.

Variations:
If desired stir in 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies, drained, along with the lime juice, etc.
Sauté 2 thinly sliced scallions along with the garlic.
Or omit garlic entirely and start by bringing the water and rice to a boil. When skipping the garlic and/or scallions, I stir in all the butter at the end. (Note that softening or cubing the butter makes it easier to quickly and evenly incorporate into the rice.)
To make coconut lime rice, replace half the water with canned coconut milk.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

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Comments

  1. AvatarRenee

    Perfect timing, thank you! We were just at Qdoba Friday and had their signature chicken burrito quesadilla bowl. It was sooo so good! We don’t live anywhere near a Qdoba so I looked to see what was in there with a plan to make it again at home, but wasn’t sure how to mimic the cilantro lime rice; now I know! I plan to use brown rice though, and cook it in my instant pot for 23 minutes, using the pot-in-pot method for easy perfection and extra nourishment.
    Funny anecdote: I used to be a cilantro hater – until the day I offered my left-over half bunch to a neighbor. She thanked me, saying , “I LOVE cilantro.” So I went back inside and tried another taste – which was actually very good, with a fresh airy flavor. And I’ve loved cilantro ever since. Haven’t yet figured out what changed ny mind, but am glad.

    Reply
    1. AnnAnn Post author

      That’s a great story, Renee. Thanks for mentioning and I hope your homemade cilantro lime rice beats what you enjoyed while out!

      Reply