Cilantro lime brown rice has lots of flavor and is a great side dish for so many main dishes! See how to make ultra fluffy brown rice for this filling and healthy rice recipe.
Before I get into the details of this cilantro lime brown rice, I feel compelled to say that I'm not claiming it to be a copycat of something from a certain fast casual Mexican grill.
The only reason being that I haven't been there in years, so I've long forgotten what their rice tastes like.
But! It's hard to go wrong with cilantro and lime in southwestern style dishes, and a quick glance at said fast casual Mexican grill's website shows a simple lineup of ingredients that mostly match up with what we've got going on here. I'll take it!
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Treating rice like it's pasta produces a super fluffed up texture. There's no worry about it turning out too chewy.
- Brown rice features more fiber and nutrients than white rice and can help balance blood sugar levels (per Health), making it a health-minded side dish option.
- The flavors of cilantro and fresh lime pair so well together, with this recipe for a seasoned brown rice featuring both in a bold, balanced way.
- Rice: Whole grain brown rice is used for this recipe, with either medium or long grain size preferred. Short grain rice has more starches and turns stickier. The recipe timing here is written for plain old rice, not instant or otherwise partially-cooked varieties.
- Water: Twelve cups is not a misprint. Cooking brown rice by the "pasta method" requires draining the excess water at the end.
- Bay leaf: This has a knack for adding a subtle something to a recipe that is appreciated but never in focus, though can be omitted if you don't have it.
- Cilantro: About half to two-thirds of a bunch of cilantro amounts to the half-cup called for here, though you can always add less to start to see how bold you'd like it.
- Lime: Both the zest and juice from one large lime (or two smaller ones) is used here.
- Cumin: This ties these southwestern flavors together nicely.
- Garlic: Pressed or finely minced garlic cloves are recommended over jarred for the freshest flavor in a recipe where the garlic isn't cooked.
- Fill a large pot with water and set on the stove to boil. Once boiling, add the bay leaf and stir in the rice. Boil uncovered for 30 minutes, then drain the water and remove the bay leaf. While we usually cover rice when cooking, there's so much water here we don't need to worry about it evaporating.
- With the drained rice back in the pot, place the lid on it and let it sit (off the heat) for about 10 minutes. "Steaming" the rice in this way helps to produce a fluffy texture.
- Fluff the "steamed" rice with a fork and stir in the remaining ingredients until evenly distributed.
How to Make Brown Rice Fluffy
My go-to/very hands off/semi-lazy way to cook long grain brown rice is in the Instant Pot (method detailed in these creamy chicken and rice soup recipe notes). That way works perfectly for dishes where the rice will be submerged in liquid, as it turns out very chewy and doesn't mush up much over time.
Here though the rice stands alone, and light and fluffy is what we're after. I found this tutorial from Saveur that piqued my interest as it treats the rice like pasta, and it's become my standard brown rice method for rice-centered dishes like this one.
Once the rice is rinsed, it'll boil in a big pot of water for thirty minutes. Just like with pasta you'll drain the water once it's done, and then let the rice sit in the covered pot (off the heat) for ten or so minutes. This allows the rice to steam and become light and fluffy.
While it won't be quite as fluffy as freshly made rice, you can cook the rice ahead of time and heat up before mixing in the rest of the ingredients. Put rice in a microwave-safe dish and add a little splash of water. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. As it heats in spurts the plastic wrap will create a "steam" atmosphere and refresh the rice.
This rice is a nutritious addition to many southwestern recipes like tacos. This is my gold-standard homemade taco seasoning recipe, which is what I use every time in making juicy taco meat (with either ground beef or turkey). Also on the taco front: grilled carne asada tacos would be killer with a scoop of this rice. One of my favorite ways is to serve a seasoned salmon fillet (like baked chili lime salmon) over this rice, with a big scoop of pico de gallo over top.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- It's easier to zest a lime before slicing into it for juicing. That way you have something firm to hold onto.
- It goes without saying, but this probably isn't going to be a favorite for cilantro haters out there. One-half cup of chopped cilantro brings a bold flavor. If you're not a super cilantro lover, start at one-quarter or one-third cup and take a taste and see if you'd like to add more.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Cilantro Lime Brown Rice
- 1 cup whole grain brown rice uncooked
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic minced/pressed
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, more or less to taste
- ¼ cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
- 1 ½ teaspoons lime zest (from 1 lime)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Fill a large pot with 12 cups of water. Place the pot on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, rinse 1 cup of uncooked brown rice under cold water for at least 30 seconds. Once the water is boiling, add the bay leaf and carefully stir in the rinsed rice.
- Let the rice boil for 30 minutes uncovered, then drain the water. Remove the bay leaf. Add the rice back to the pot (keep the pot off the heat) and cover it tightly with a lid. Let the rice "steam" for 10 minutes, then fluff it with a fork.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot with the cooked rice and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to your liking and serve.
Hi. This recipe is fabulous. And so healthy. No changes required. It’s our new go to rice for beans and such. Thanks!
I'm so happy you like it, Jackie! 🙂