10 Must-Try Middle Eastern Rice Dishes for Dinner

Middle Eastern cuisine is known for its bold flavors and aromatic spices, and rice plays a central role in many traditional dishes. From comforting mujadara to flavorful kabuli pulao, there are countless Middle Eastern rice dishes that can elevate your dinner menu. Whether you’re a beginner in the kitchen or an experienced cook, these dishes offer a range of flavors and techniques to explore. In this article, we’ll introduce you to 10 must-try Middle Eastern rice dishes that are perfect for dinner.

Middle Eastern Rice Dishes for Dinner

Key Takeaways:

  • Middle Eastern cuisine offers a variety of flavorful rice dishes for dinner.
  • Basmati rice, jasmine rice, and long-grain rice are commonly used in Middle Eastern recipes.
  • Tips for making fluffy rice include using the right water-to-rice ratio and rinsing the rice beforehand.
  • Instant Pot Mujadara Lentils and Rice and Shirin Polo with Raisins are two easy Middle Eastern rice dishes to try.
  • For more adventurous cooks, Kabuli Pulao and Egyptian Koshari offer authentic flavors.

Which Type of Rice Is Eaten in the Middle East?

In the Middle East, different types of rice are commonly used in various dishes. Some of the popular rice types include basmati rice, jasmine rice, and long-grain rice. Each type of rice brings its own unique characteristics and flavors to Middle Eastern cuisine.

Basmati Rice

Basmati rice is a long-grain rice that is widely used in Middle Eastern dishes. It is known for its distinctive aroma and delicate, fluffy texture. Basmati rice is often used in pilafs and other dishes that require grains to remain separate and light.

Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice is another popular rice variety in the Middle East. It is known for its fragrant aroma and slightly sticky texture. Jasmine rice is versatile and can be used in a variety of Middle Eastern recipes, from savory dishes to sweet rice puddings.

Long-Grain Rice

Long-grain rice is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is characterized by its long, slender grains that remain separate and fluffy when cooked. This rice variety is suitable for a wide range of dishes, including stir-fries, biryanis, and risottos.

How to Make Rice Fluffy

Making fluffy rice is essential when preparing Middle Eastern rice dishes. The key to achieving a light and fluffy texture lies in using the right ratio of water to rice. Follow these tips and techniques to create perfectly fluffy rice that will enhance the taste and texture of your Middle Eastern dishes.

Choose the Right Rice

Choosing the right variety of rice is crucial for achieving fluffy results. Opt for long-grain rice, such as basmati or jasmine, as they have a lower starch content compared to shorter grains. This helps prevent the rice from becoming sticky and clumpy.

Rinse the Rice

Prior to cooking, rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This step removes excess starch from the rice grains, which can contribute to a sticky texture. Rinsing also helps prevent the rice from clumping together while cooking.

Use the Proper Water-to-Rice Ratio

To achieve fluffy rice, use a 1:2 ratio of rice to water. For every cup of rice, use two cups of water. This ensures that the rice grains cook evenly and absorb the right amount of moisture to separate easily.

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Bring to a Boil, Then Simmer

When cooking rice, start by bringing the water to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the rice to simmer for the recommended cooking time specified on the package. Avoid peeking or stirring the rice while it is cooking, as this can disrupt the steam and result in unevenly cooked grains.

Let It Rest

Once the rice has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and let it rest, covered, for about 5-10 minutes. This helps the steam redistribute within the rice, resulting in a fluffier texture.

Fluff with a Fork

After the resting period, use a fork to gently fluff the rice. This separates the grains and releases any excess steam, preventing the rice from becoming compact and sticky.

Fluffy Rice Image

Instant Pot Mujadara Lentils and Rice

Looking for a convenient and delicious Middle Eastern dish? Try the Instant Pot Mujadara Lentils and Rice recipe. With the help of the Instant Pot, you can easily prepare this flavorful blend of lentils and rice in no time. Say goodbye to the traditional method that requires multiple pans and a long cooking time.

The Belly Rules offers a simplified version of the classic mujadara, making it an easy and hassle-free option for a satisfying dinner. The Instant Pot ensures that the lentils and rice are perfectly cooked and packed with Middle Eastern flavors. You’ll love the aromatic spices and the combination of earthy lentils and fluffy rice in every bite.

To make this Instant Pot Mujadara Lentils and Rice, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Here’s how to prepare Instant Pot Mujadara Lentils and Rice:

  1. Turn on the Instant Pot and select the sauté function. Heat the olive oil and sauté the sliced onions until golden brown and caramelized.
  2. Add the spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper) and cook for an additional minute to toast the spices.
  3. Drain and rinse the lentils, then add them to the Instant Pot along with the basmati rice.
  4. Pour in the vegetable broth and add salt to taste.
  5. Give everything a good stir to mix the ingredients.
  6. Close the Instant Pot lid and set the pressure release valve to the sealing position.
  7. Select the manual or pressure cook function and set the timer for 10 minutes on high pressure.
  8. Once the cooking time is complete, allow the Instant Pot to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes. After that, quick release any remaining pressure.
  9. Remove the lid and fluff the mujadara with a fork.
  10. Serve the Instant Pot Mujadara Lentils and Rice garnished with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Enjoy this easy lentil and rice dish as a standalone meal or as a flavorful side to complement your favorite Middle Eastern dishes. The Instant Pot makes it effortless to create authentic flavors and textures, even on busy nights. Savor the rich blend of lentils, rice, and aromatic spices with every bite.

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Shirin Polo with Raisins or Persian Sweet Rice

Experience the unique flavors of Persian cuisine with this Shirin Polo recipe from Family Spice. Shirin Polo, also known as Persian Sweet Rice, is a fragrant and flavorful rice dish that is often served with raisins. The combination of sweet and savory elements creates a delightful flavor profile. Despite its complex taste, this recipe is easy to make and will impress your family and guests with its vibrant colors and variety of flavors.

Persian sweet rice recipe

If you’re looking to add a touch of sophistication to your dinner table, Shirin Polo is the perfect choice. The dish features long-grain rice infused with aromatic spices, saffron, and a hint of sweetness from dried fruit. The raisins add a burst of flavor and contrast to the savory rice, creating a harmonious balance that is a hallmark of Persian cuisine.

Not only is Shirin Polo delicious, but it also makes for an impressive presentation. The vibrant colors of the rice and the golden raisins create a visually stunning dish that will be the center of attention at any gathering. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or simply want to elevate your weeknight meals, this Persian sweet rice recipe is sure to leave a lasting impression.


  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Wash the rice thoroughly and soak it in water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until golden brown and caramelized.
  3. Remove half of the caramelized onions from the pot and set aside for garnish.
  4. Add the ground cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, and turmeric to the pot with the remaining onions. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add the drained rice to the pot and stir to coat it evenly with the spices.
  6. Pour in the water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and fluffy.
  7. While the rice is cooking, place the raisins in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them soak for 10 minutes, then drain.
  8. Once the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  9. Fluff the rice with a fork and gently stir in the saffron water and drained raisins.
  10. Transfer the Shirin Polo to a serving platter and garnish with the caramelized onions.
  11. Serve hot and enjoy!

Kabuli Pulao

Kabuli Pulao is a popular Middle Eastern rice dish that originated in Afghanistan. This flavorful pulao can be served as a side dish or an all-in-one main dish. The recipe from Rhubarbarians uses a combination of stovetop and oven cooking to achieve the perfect balance of flavors. With its aromatic spices and tender chicken, Kabuli Pulao is a must-try dish for anyone seeking authentic Middle Eastern cuisine.

The Kabuli Pulao recipe combines fragrant basmati rice with succulent pieces of chicken and a blend of spices. The dish is cooked slowly to allow the flavors to meld together, resulting in a rich and aromatic dish. Each bite of the Kabuli Pulao is filled with the warmth of cumin, coriander, and cardamom, complemented by the tender chicken.

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Traditionally, Kabuli Pulao is garnished with caramelized carrots and raisins, adding a touch of sweetness and visual appeal to the dish. The combination of sweet and savory flavors creates a delightful contrast that tantalizes the taste buds.

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or simply want to try something new, Kabuli Pulao is a fantastic choice. It showcases the vibrant flavors and cultural richness of Middle Eastern cuisine, adding a touch of exoticism to your dining experience. So, grab your apron and get ready to savor the flavors of Afghanistan with this delicious Kabuli Pulao recipe!

Easy Lebanese Rice with Vermicelli

Looking for a quick and easy Middle Eastern rice dish? Try this Easy Lebanese Rice with Vermicelli recipe from Unicorns in the Kitchen. With only three ingredients and a total cooking time of 40 minutes, this dish is perfect for busy weeknights. The combination of rice and vermicelli noodles creates a delicious and fluffy side dish that pairs well with any main course. Impress your family and friends with this classic Middle Eastern rice recipe.


  • 1 cup of long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup of vermicelli noodles
  • 2 cups of water


  1. In a large saucepan, heat some olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the vermicelli noodles and cook until golden brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  3. Add the rice and stir to combine with the noodles.
  4. Pour in the water and season with salt.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan.
  6. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Remove from heat and let it sit for a few minutes before fluffing the rice with a fork.
  8. Serve hot and enjoy!

This easy Lebanese rice with vermicelli is a versatile side dish that can be served alongside grilled meats, roasted vegetables, or stews. Its simplicity and rich flavor profile make it a popular choice for Middle Eastern cuisine enthusiasts.

Egyptian Koshari

Egyptian Koshari is a beloved Middle Eastern rice dish that has gained popularity both in Egypt and beyond. Considered a national street food, this vegetarian delight combines the goodness of rice, lentils, and chickpeas, creating a wholesome and flavorful meal.

The key to Koshari’s appeal lies in its mixture of textures. The tender rice, the hearty lentils, and the creamy chickpeas come together harmoniously, creating a dish that is both satisfying and delicious. But it doesn’t stop there. Koshari is topped with a mouthwatering spicy sauce that adds an extra kick of flavor, making each bite a delight to the taste buds.

While Koshari requires a few components and cookware, the effort is well worth it. The end result is a dish that captures the essence of Egyptian street food and offers an authentic taste of the region’s cuisine. So why not give it a try? Dive into the world of Egyptian flavors and experience the magic of Koshari with this authentic recipe.

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