Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Easy Recipe for Pesto Lemon Rice

Easy Pesto Lemon Rice

(Updated with better photos, February 2014)  This ultra-easy recipe for Lemon Pesto Rice is a great side dish any time you have a few tablespoons of leftover pesto in the fridge.  I made this on Saturday night when my niece Alyson, her fiance Nick, and their friend Rachel came for what we call a "cooking lesson." The truth is that all three of them are pretty good cooks, but it's been fun teaching them some techniques they might be hesitant to try on their own.  We completely devoured this rice, which I think is the perfect side dish for anything that goes with the flavors of basil and lemon, so if you want leftovers I'd recommend you double the recipe!

I used my favorite Uncle Ben's Converted Rice, which is one of the lowest-glycemic types of rice.  (If you're eating this for South Beach phase two, be sure not to buy the "instant" type; you want the converted rice that says "original" on the package.)  For the pesto I used some of my Basil Pesto with Lemon that I had in the freezer.  We ate with with Baked Pesto Chicken, another super-easy recipe that went well with the rice.

Heat olive oil, then add the rice and cook until rice is starting to get lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the salt and lemon juice.

Then add the chicken stock and let the mixture come to a boil.  Once it is barely boiling, lower heat to medium low, cover the pan and let the rice cook for 20 minutes without lifting lid.

 Just a reminder to keep the rice tightly covered while it simmers!

After 20 minutes, remove lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and stir in 2-3 T of basil pesto.  (I like a lot of pesto, but you can definitely use even less than 2 tablespoons if you want just a hint of basil flavor.)

Put the lid back on and let the rice stand for 5  more minutes.  That's it; you now have delicious Pesto Lemon Rice!

Easy Recipe for Pesto Lemon Rice
(Makes 4 servings but can easily be doubled, recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from Georgette's Really Lemony Greek Pilafi.)

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup Uncle Ben's Converted Rice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice (I use my frozen lemon juice)
2 1/4 cup chicken stock (I used a can of chicken broth with some added water)
2-3 T basil pesto (I used my Basil Pesto with Lemon from the freezer)

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid; then add the rice and saute until rice is light browned, about 2-3 minutes, stirring several times.  Add the salt and lemon juice and stir again (the lemon juice will bubble up in the pan.)

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  As soon as it is boiling, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let it cook without lifting the lid for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.  Stir in the pesto, put the lid back on and let the rice sit for 5 minutes.  Serve hot.

Leftover rice can be reheated in the microwave or frozen, but you probably won't have any leftovers unless you double the recipe!

South Beach Suggestions: 
Using low-glycemic Uncle Ben's Converted Rice makes this a great side dish for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet.  We loved this as a side with Baked Pesto Chicken, but I think it would also taste great with Grilled Zucchini and Sausage Kabobs, Parmesan Chicken, Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu, or Spice Rubbed and Roasted Fish Filets.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.
More Rice Dishes You Might Like:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Mujadarra (Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions) from Kalyn's Kitchen
Lake Powell Spicy Rice from Kalyn's Kitchen
Easy Black Beans and Rice from Simply Recipes
How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice from Pinch My Salt
Pinon Rice Bake with Artichokes and Goat Cheese from Gluten-Free Goddess
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

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  1. You can definitely never have too many rice dishes in your repertoire and this one is bursting with flavor!

  2. What a tasty side dish. My kids love pesto and the lemon sounds like it adds some nice bright flavor!

  3. No leftovers is a good sign! This looks great!

  4. Lately I've been adding lemon to everything, to get some bright flavor into this bleak winter. I hope I have some pesto hidden in my freezer; this would be a perfect side dish with the baked fish I'm making tonight.

  5. Thanks all for the nice thoughts about this simple recipe. Really did love this; so full of flavor for such a simple dish.

  6. Oh that sounds fantastic! I'm trying this with my next batch of pesto :)

  7. That sounds so simple, but great. You always think of things that never occur to me. Keep them coming Kalyn. I do so appreciate your recipes :)

  8. cuteellaisbold, it was definitely good!

    Jacqueline, thanks so much; what a sweet comment. And if you like pesto, you will love this rice!

  9. You have a beautiful blog and I love reading!

    I would like to present you with the “One Lovely Blog “Award. Please drop by my site to pick it up when ever you are free.

  10. This sounds absolutely delicious - I have to try it next time I make fish.

    I love the flavor of lemon on any fish but I can never seem to get quite enough flavor by cooking the fish with lemon. Maybe adding the lemon to the rice as well is the way to go!

  11. Montanna, thank you!

    Helen, I am a big lemon fan too. In recipes that call for lemon juice I nearly always find myself increasing the lemon.

  12. This looks delicious! I have a few packages of brown rice that cooks in about 10 minutes--so I guess that falls into the "instant" category. Would the steps be the same for this? I guess I'm concerned about frying the rice before adding the chicken stock--that it'll make the rice too tough. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  13. Emily, that type of "instant" rice won't work cooked the way I describe in this recipe I don't think. But if you want to get a similar effect, I would make the rice following package directions, and then stir in the pesto at the end. You could probably add a little lemon juice in the cooking water as well. (BTW, this type of rice is not suitable for the South Beach Diet. Not lecturing you, just adding that information so it doesn't mislead others who might see this comment.)

  14. I was a little skeptical about the combination of the lemon juice and the pesto but WOW! This was delicious!!! My family was so disappointed that there were no leftovers that I had to make it again the next night(and it was so simple to make so it was no big deal). I used brown rice and it did need to cook longer.
    Thanks for yet another wonderful recipe!

  15. Arica, so glad it was a hit for you, and thanks for confirming that it will work for brown rice if you cook it longer.

  16. Great recipe. Even my husband, a non-pesto lover, liked it. We threw some leftovers into a casserole tonight. I was wondering if you know why you saute the dry rice first. I've seen this in other recipes (and I did it obediently), and I'd like to know if it makes the rice more flavorful or locks something in? Could you just throw all ingredients in a pot and still come out with something tasty? Thanks.

  17. Jeanie, good question! I've always felt that slightly browning the rice gives it a bit of a more "nutty" flavor, but I googled it and found this post on Chowhound which gives a very good answer: (
    "Sauteeing the rice for pilaf causes the starches on the outer shell of the grain to 'gellate'--they take up ambient moisture, and form long chains between each other, giving a firm, independant structure to each grain. the liquid added to the pilaf provides a medium for shorter chains of starches to leave the grain, which allows the rice to bind to itself---so it's mouldable, etc. basically, sauteeing the rice beforehand allows you to have distinct rice kernals that adhere to each other for presentation, while giving you a bit of leeway--slightly overcooked rice will still seem perfect if sauteed in oil before adding water, because the outer parts of each grain are a little firmer because of the sauteeing."

    Interesting, huh?

  18. Thanks!!! Sorry, didn't mean to make you do my research for me--just thought you might know. I appreciate all the effort you put into responding.

  19. Jeanie, no problem. I thought it was quite interesting actually.


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