Homemade Rice-a-Roni is a healthier update on a classic packaged side we were all obsessed with as kids. This version of ours has the same, addictive taste, without all the sodium and preservatives. Perfect for kiddos, quick to throw together, and goes with everything.
Everyone has their vices. Mine? Creamy pasta…of any kind.
My oldest son Teddy, Mac and Cheese.
The baby? Well, he’s into just about anything with red sauce, but right now he’s especially obsessed with our spaghetti and meatballs.
And my husband? Well, he’s a guy with very little vices when it comes to food, because he takes virtually no shame in inhaling just about anything. The one thing I chastise him for adoring? Rice-a-roni and those processed packaged sides packed with sodium and preservatives.
I really shouldn’t judge, because even though I grew up eating a home-cooked meal almost every single night of the week, there were days when my Mom brought our her favorite vice for a side, and it was… you guessed it, rice-a-roni.
While I have nothing against a box of rice-a-roni, I’ve found that homemade rice-a-roni is just as easy to make at home with a few staple pantry items.
My version of homemade rice-a-roni has the varying texture from an almost equal proportion of whole-wheat spaghetti noodles to long-grain rice. The end result is creamy, with a subtle hint of chicken flavor, and freshness from chopped parsley.
Homemade rice-a-roni is kid-friendly, quick to throw together, and the perfect side to accompany just about any main dish.
What is Rice-a-Roni?
If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what rice-a-roni is, it’s the most popular side pre-packaged boxed side dish in all of America. It consists of thin vermicelli noodles and rice, cooked in a little bit of butter, and simmered in a broth of spices that varies from box to box.
Ingredients in Homemade Rice-a-Roni
I know Fridays are technically supposed to be five ingredients, but this homemade rice-a-roni uses almost all staple pantry items and takes practically no effort to throw together, so I’m give myself a break on the strict five ingredient rule.
Butter. Similar to a regular box of rice-a-roni, this homemade version, starts with a little bit of butter. You cause salted or unsalted butter, either works. If you don’t have butter on hand, you could use olive oil, but I like the flavor butter adds to the homemade rice-a-roni.
Onion. About a quarter of a small onion is what you’ll need. For this particular dish, I don’t like for there to be large pieces of onion, so I make sure to dice them really finely.
Whole-wheat spaghetti. In the traditional version of rice-a-roni, you use a white flour spaghetti or vermicelli to make it, but I wanted something a little bit sturdier, and healthier too, so I went with thin whole-wheat spaghetti.
Rice. All I had on hand was a white long-grain rice. There’s a little bit more starch in white rice versus brown rice, so it mimics the texture of the boxed rice-a-roni a little bit better.
Chicken stock. Use a good-quality chicken stock or broth that’s low-sodium so you can control the amount of salt that goes into this homemade rice-a-roni.
Spices. You’ll need a little bit of garlic powder, onion powder, and of course, plenty of salt. I also like to finish off the homemade rice-a-roni with a little bit of chopped parsley for freshness.
How to Make Homemade Rice-a-Roni
Toast the spaghetti. As all versions of rice-a-roni start, you want to begin by toasting the broken whole-wheat spaghetti noodles in a little bit of butter. Whole-wheat noodles already have a subtle nutty undertone to them, and toasting them intensifies that even more.
Add the rice. Once the noodles are nice and toasty, add the rice and onion and continue to sauté until the onion is slightly softened, and the rice is ever-so-slight toasted.
Oh! And season everything with salt and pepper.
Add everything else! Pour in the the chicken stock, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Bring to a bowl and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it steam for another 5-6 minutes until the rice is cooked through.
Finish. Remove the lid and toss with a fork. Add remaining chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in parsley if using.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Rice is notoriously difficult to cook, but trust me, if you cook the rice on low for 15 minutes, then take it off the heat for another 5-8 minutes. It will be perfectly cooked every time!
- We’ve discussed this before, but it’s worth saying it again. And again. When working with very little ingredients, and very little steps, it’s important to season the dish as you go. I like to to season the the noodles and onion, add another hit of salt when the chicken broth goes in, and then season at the end.
- Feel free to add in any of your favorite flavorings to this homemade rice-a-roni. Minced garlic would be nice, roasted garlic, fresh baby spinach, pine nuts, anything goes!
- You want the texture of the homemade rice-a-roni to be creamy, not dry. If you need to add more chicken stock, go ahead.
What to serve with Homemade Rice-a-Roni
- This Cheesy Lemon Bruschetta Chicken would go perfect with homemade rice-a-roni. Plump chicken breasts are stuffed with mozzarella, topped with an easy bruschetta topping, and served with an easy white wine butter sauce. Simple and delicious.
- Serve Creamy Lemon and Mushroom Chicken on top of the homemade rice-a-roni so it can soak up all that amazing lemon cream sauce. It’s better than drinking it with a spoon, right?
- You could also simply grill or sear a few chicken breasts, roast some broccoli, and call it a day.
- Or you could throw these easy Chicken Parmesan Chicken tenders together to serve alongside the homemade rice-a-roni.
If you love this easy side, be sure to check out some of our other favorites like….
- This creamy spinach and parmesan orzo I can’t get enough.
- My kids go CRAZY for this One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta. It’s just as quick as today’s homemade rice-a-roni, but if you’re in more of a pasta mood, that’s your best bet.
- Want something cooler and packed with fresh ingredients? This Feta Caesar Pasta Salad is a favorite and so light.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup spaghetti
- 1/2 cup rice
- 1/4 small onion
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2 cups chicken stock, divided
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- Sauce pan
- Heat a medium saucepan to a medium heat. Add butter. Once the butter melts, add broken whole-wheat pasta. Cook in the butter until toasted and golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add onion and rice. Toast another 2-3 minutes until the onion is fragrant and rice is slightly toasted. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir in remaining chicken broth and parsley. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.