Vegan Lebanese rice with vermicelli and pine nuts. A great side dish next to many Mediterranean favorites.
Since I serve Lebanese rice with nearly everything, it’s only fitting to add a Lebanese rice recipe here. This is a simple vegan rice pilaf made of three ingredients: vermicelli pasta, rice and olive oil. Add a bit of toasted pine nuts, and you have the best side of rice!
Throughout the Mediterranean, you will find rice dishes like, Paella; Mujadra (lentils and rice); or Hashweh (Beef and rice), that are certainly more of a meal. But this Lebanese rice with vermicelli is the every-day rice of the Middle East, and it’s by far the most served side dish in that part of the world.
WHAT IS IN THIS LEBANESE RICE Basic Lebanese rice typically consists of broken vermicelli pasta, rice (medium or long grain rice works), and extra virgin olive oil or butter (or a combination of both). I use only extra virgin olive oil here. There is but a pinch of salt to season this rice.
And to jazz things up, I like topping the rice with toasted pine nuts adds a nice nutty flavor and texture.
2 cups long grain or medium grain rice
1 cup broken vermicelli pasta
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, optional to finish
Rinse the rice well (a few times) then place it in a medium bowl and cover with water. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Test to see if you can easily break a grain of rice by simply placing it between your thumb and index finger. Drain well.
In a medium non-stick cooking pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the vermicelli and continuously stir to toast it evenly. Vermicelli should turn a nice golden brown, but watch carefully not to over-brown or burn it (If it burns, you must throw the vermicelli away and start over).
Add the rice and continue to stir so that the rice will be well-coated with the olive oil. Season with salt.
Now add 3 1/2 cups of water and bring it to a boil until the water significantly reduces (see the photo below).Turn the heat to low and cover.
Cook for 15-20 minutes on low. Once fully cooked, turn the heat off and leave the rice undisturbed in it’s cooking pot for 10-15 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.
Transfer to a serving platter and top with the toasted pine nuts. Enjoy!
You must rinse the rice to get rid of excess starch which causes rice to be sticky (Lebanese rice is not meant to be sticky). Then soak the rice for 2o minutes or until you can break one grain of rice by pressing it between your index finger and your thumb. This way, you shorten the cooking time making sure the interior of the grain actually cooks before the exterior looses its shape. Remember that the rice to use here should not be partially cooked rice.
To give the Lebanese rice flavor right from the start, toast the vermicelli in olive oil until golden brown (as you’ll see in the step-by-step below), then add the rice and toast so that each rice grain is coated with the olive oil.
Once the rice is fully cooked, let it rest for 10-15 minutes or so, then fluff it with a fork. This again helps keep it from becoming sticky or gluey.
Pro Tips: 1. You must rinse the rice to get rid of excess starch which causes rice to be sticky (Lebanese rice is not meant to be sticky). Then soak the rice in plenty of water for 15-20 minutes or until you can break one grain of rice by pressing it between your index finger and your thumb. 2.toasting the vermicelli in EVOO as a first step is what gives this rice great flavor. Do not skip this step. 3. If you can at all help it, let the rice rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.