When you’ve had enough of the Roast Potatoes and need a new and exciting side dish, Christmas Rice is just the right dish to make! Baked festive rice pilaf laced with leeks and sweet pears, studded with cranberries and toasted pecan nuts is the ultimate Christmas Rice side dish that will impress family and friends over the holiday season. All you need to do is mix everything together and bake for 35 minutes in the oven! Delicious!
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Why You Will Love This Festive Rice Pilaf
We have been experimenting with various Christmas rice recipes, primarily to go with our Christmas Chicken recipe. And this Festive Rice Pilaf is just perfect! Simple to make, with just the right balance of Christmas spices and fruit, this is an amazing rice side dish, whether made on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or after the Christmas holidays, when you have lots of fruit and dried fruit left over.
- Easy, one-pot recipe, that anyone can make.
- All the flavours of Christmas in one rice dish – the perfect recipe to get you in the holiday spirit!
- It’s a healthier alternative to Roast Potatoes.
- Cooks at a convenient 180 C temperature so you can place it in the oven with other Christmas foods and save on those utility bills.
- Do not save this recipe for the festive season only – it is great for a special occasion any time of year.
What Is Christmas Rice Pilaf?
Pilaf is just a fancy name for rice cooked in stock or broth with added spices, vegetables and other ingredients. The signature of a good pilaf is each of the rice grains being separate when cooked, as opposed to porridge-like (like arborio rice) or stuck together (like sticky rice).
Ingredients and Substitutes
You will need the following ingredients to make this delicious rice for Christmas time. Find our full recipe and quantities in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- basmati rice: or other long-grain white rice that is not too starchy.
- vegetable stock cube + 500ml of boiling water: you may use chicken stock, especially if you are going to serve this dish with poultry.
- butter: we used unsalted butter.
- leek: thinly sliced. You may use shallots instead if you wish.
- cinnamon stick: you may mix in ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon powder into the rice instead.
- ground nutmeg.
- dried cranberries: can be replaced with raisins or sultanas, or chopped dried apricots.
- pear: cored, peeled and cubed. We used Conference pears.
- pecan nuts: roughly chopped.
- a small bunch of fresh parsley: finely chopped. Fine leaf thyme works with the flavours in this recipe too!
What Else Can I Add To Christmas Rice?
Wonder what other veggies make a perfect addition to this rice? Try adding some:
- Green beans.
- Chopped onion.
- Bell Peppers: go for a variety of colours: a mixture of red peppers, green bell peppers and yellow ones will give it a festive look perfect for the holiday table.
These are all great options but note though, that if you add a bunch of different extras to your festive rice fish, you will need more stock to cook everything in.
What Rice is Best for Christmas Pilaf?
There are many different rice varieties, each with a different appearance, texture and cooking time. For the pilaf, I’d recommend using basmati rice. It has great texture when cooked, grains do not adhere to each other and can easily be fluffed up with a fork. Another one, that works just as well is Jasmine rice. But because of the rather strong aroma, not everyone likes it.
We do not advise using brown rice, as it doesn’t cook in time, and the pears start disintegrating after a long time in the oven.
To start, place your rice in a colander and run some cold water through it. By doing so, you will get rid of some of the starch coating the grains, meaning your rice will be nice and fluffy when cooked. Set aside, whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Wash and thinly slice a small leek. Then core and peel a pear. Chop into small pieces.
In an ovenproof dish, mix the washed rice, leeks, pear, dried cranberries and nutmeg. Add a cinnamon stick.
Dissolve a vegetable stock cube and 20g of butter in about 500 ml of water (or just slightly more than to cover the rice). Pour the stock over the rice, stir briefly, then cover with a large piece of foil. Tuck it right under so not much steam can escape while cooking. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
In the meantime, chop the pecans roughly and lightly toast them in a dry frying pan. Finely chop your parsley.
Before taking it to the table, add some freshly ground black pepper and fluff the cooked rice mixture up with a fork. Sprinkle the toasted pecans and parsley on top.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
What To Serve Christmas Pilaf With?
For an ultimate Christmas experience on a plate, serve this Christmas Rice recipe:
- Christmas Chicken
- Festive Gammon with Grapefruit Glaze and Cranberry & Grapefruit Sauce
- Vegetarian Roast with Cranberries and Pistachios
What is more, you can add some rotisserie chicken to the rice and serve it as a main dish on its own!
Storage & Reheating
Leave the rice to cool down to room temperature. Then spoon the leftovers into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
This rice dish can be reheated in a microwave. The time needed in the microwave will depend on how much leftovers you’re reheating as well as how powerful your microwave is. Start with 45 seconds, then stir and heat again in bursts of 20 seconds until piping hot.
Alternatively, spoon the rice into a large non-stick frying pan, add a splash of water and stir continuously on medium heat, until the rice is fully warmed through.
We do not recommend freezing this Christmas Rice.
Other Christmas Side Dishes
For other Christmas side dish ideas, have a look at:
- Balsamic-Glazed Red Cabbage Steaks | A Perfect Christmas Dinner Side
- Slow Cooker Red Cabbage
- Rosemary Scented Christmas Pommes Anna – An Alternative to Roast Potatoes
- Plum and Red Onion Chutney – for that Christmas Cheeseboard
Christmas Rice Side Dish (Festive Rice Pilaf)
- Overproof Dish
- 250 g basmati rice
- 1 vegetable stock cube + 500ml of boiling water
- 20 g unsalted butter
- 1 small leek thinly sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 50 g dried cranberries
- 1 pear cored, peeled and cubed
- 50 g pecan nuts roughly chopped
- a small bunch of parsley finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan.
- Place rice in a colander and run cold water through it to remove the starch coating.
- In an ovenproof dish, mix the rinsed rice, sliced leeks, pears, dried cranberries and nutmeg together. Add a cinnamon stick.
- Dissolve a stock cube and butter in 500ml of boiling water (enough to cover the rice plus 0.5cm on top). Stir everything briefly, then cover with a large sheet of foil. Tuck the foil right under so not much steam can escape.
- Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
- In the meantime, roughly chop the pecan nuts and lightly toast in a dry frying pan. Chop your parsley finely.
- Fluff the rice up with a fork, sprinkle with toasted pecans and parsley and serve!