Sometimes all I want for dinner is a comforting bowl of rice. But not just any rice – rice with goodies in it, rice with lots of flavor. I’ve made it a habit to come up with a few different ways to add protein, texture and flavor to rice dishes, and this recipe for chile rice is one of my favorites. It has loads of flavor thanks to the spices that go in at the beginning and a finish of maple, lime and cilantro. The crunchy, toasty pecans are essential! You wouldn’t have to include the green beans if you’re using this as a side dish, but I think they add a lot of flavor and texture.

I think this recipe works best with white rice, because white rice absorbs a predictable amount of liquid when cooked pilaf-style. Cooking long-grain brown rice pilaf-style (rather than pasta-style) can be tricky as the measured amount of liquid may not be completely absorbed in a given amount of time. That said, I have made this with long-grain brown rice, extended the cooking time to 40 to 45 minutes (checking to see that most of the liquid is absorbed), and settled for the fact that this is still delicious but with a slightly wetter texture. The nutritional benefit from brown rice is worth it. Leftovers are super delicious either way and easily reheated in the microwave. This recipe originally appeared in my cookbook, Simple Green Suppers.

Serves 4

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (or regular chile powder with a bit of chipotle powder or smoked paprika as a substitute)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large or two small onions, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound medium green beans, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans 
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (more if desired), plus ½ lime, cut into four pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup

1. Combine the cumin, coriander, ancho chile powder, paprika, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Combine the milk and the water or chicken broth in a liquid measure.

2. In a medium (2-quart) saucepan that has a lid, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, turn the heat to medium, and continue to cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 7 to 8 minutes more.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the minced garlic, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spice/salt mixture and cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and about 1/4 of the milk and water mixture. Stir and mix well, scraping all the spices from the bottom of the pan.

4. Add the remaining liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce to very low heat, cover tightly, and cook for 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, in a heavy nonstick 10-inch skillet, heat the remaining butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the green beans and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. The pan will be crowded, but that’s okay — this will allow the beans to steam and brown at the same time. Cook, stirring only occasionally at first and more frequently when the beans begin to brown, until the beans are somewhat shrunken, all have a bit of browning, and some are charry-browned, about 9 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the beans to a plate. 

6. Remove the rice pot from the heat and place a folded paper towel under the lid. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover (the foam from the milk will be on top of the rice) and fluff and stir with a fork. Recover loosely with the lid (leaving the paper towel on) and let sit for 5 minutes more.

7. Uncover and transfer the rice to a medium bowl. Stir in the beans, three-quarters of the toasted pecans, and three-quarters of the cilantro. Combine the 2 teaspoons lime juices and the maple syrup and stir into the rice. Taste the rice and season with more salt if needed. You can also add a bit more lime if you like. 

8. Serve warm in bowls garnished with the remaining pecans, cilantro, and lime wedges.  

TIP:  When measuring liquid for rice, be sure to view the liquid measure at eye level (bend down!). The view from above is distorted and you could wind up using more liquid than you like. This is a great practice for baking recipes, too, where liquid measurements should be as precise as possible for good results.

Susie Middleton