My Mediterranean rice is filled to the brim with lots of texture and sweet-savory flavor, a deliciously healthy “power” rice, rich in protein and healthy fats. Bursting with sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and tender eggplant, plus chickpeas, sweet dates, cashews, almonds and fresh mint, this rice recipe is terrific as either a side dish or even a light vegetarian meal!
A Hearty Rice Dish With a Healthy Mediterranean Twist
As a recipe developer and cook, I have quite a nice handful of beloved dishes that I've been making for years at this point that just never seem to get boring, and I love that.
Mediterranean rice is just such a recipe.
It's a dish I've been preparing since my days as a personal chef, as a slightly sweet and savory side dish that was part of a healthy, protein-rich lunch spread for the clients I had.
I guess you could say that I've always thought of this brown basmati rice recipe as a bit of a “power” rice, because it's utterly brimming with loads of variously textured morsels, rich in lots of heart-healthy fats and fiber, which is wonderfully filling and totally satisfies the appetite.
I'm in love with the juicy flavor from the roasted cherry tomatoes and the tender, savory eggplant, along with some crunch from a handful of nuts, the fragrance of fresh herbs, plus a little something “extra” from the sprinkle of dates, chickpeas and warm spices.
My Mediterranean rice is just as delicious cold out of the fridge as it is nice and hot when freshly prepared, which makes it extra convenient to whip up and have on hand.
Each bite offers a little surprising burst of flavor, which makes this scrumptious rice recipe a wonderful option as a side dish, or even enjoyed on its own, spooned into a bowl as a mid-afternoon snack or a light, vegetarian evening meal!
How to Make Mediterranean Rice Loaded with Lots of Texture
While one could absolutely use white basmati (or even regular white rice) for this recipe, I keep things just a little extra nutritious, opting for brown basmati rice here.
Yes, brown rice does take a bit longer to cook. But the way that I like to prepare it, sauteed and toasted in a bit of olive oil and garlic, makes it worth the bit of added time, because it's wonderfully flavorful.
Here's a little sneak peek at my Mediterranean rice recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I saute and toast my brown basmati rice in a bit of oil and garlic, to make it extra fragrant and flavorful, then add water and allow it to simmer until tender.
- While the rice cooks, I roast my cherry tomatoes along with my finely diced eggplant, just until a bit charred, tender and juicy.
- Once my rice is cooked and my veggies are roasted, I spoon my rice into a large bowl, and finish it up by folding in my roasted veggies, my chickpeas, dates, nuts, fresh herbs and spices, plus a bit of lemon zest, until well combined.
- I serve the Mediterranean rice immediately, while fresh and hot, as a side dish, or even allow it to cool and serve it kind of like a rice salad, out of the fridge, on its own.
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 207 calories per serving
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
- Olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
- Pinch or two salt
- 3 cups water
- 1 Chinese eggplant (the thinner, longer type), diced into small cubes
- 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- Pinch black pepper
- 1/2 cup chickpeas, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons roasted cashews, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons roasted almonds, roughly chopped
- 6 pitted dates, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- Squeeze of lemon (about 1 teaspoon or so)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch cayenne
- Preheat the oven to 400°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
- Place medium-size pot over medium heat, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of oil; once hot, add in the pressed garlic and stir, just until aromatic, about 30 seconds; add in the rice, plus a good pinch of salt, and stir to combine, toasting the rice in the garlic oil for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the water, bring to the boil, and cover; reduce heat and simmer the rice for about 40 minutes, or until cooked; spoon into a large bowl.
- While the rice cooks, drizzle your prepared baking sheet with a little oil; add the eggplant and the halved tomatoes to a bowl, drizzle with a bit of oil, plus a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
- Turn the veggies out onto the baking sheet and roast for about 25-30 minutes, or until the eggplant and tomatoes are tender and slightly golden; spoon into a bowl to hold.
- To assemble, combine the rice with the roasted eggplant and tomatoes, plus the remainder of the ingredients; toss gently together with a spoon, and check to see if additional salt/pepper is needed, or a little extra drizzle of the olive oil.
- Serve the rice warm as a healthy side dish to chicken or fish, or enjoy it by itself, cold, as a snack or a light meal.
Tips & Tidbits for my Mediterranean Rice:
- Opt for fragrant brown (or white) basmati rice: Basmati rice is such a terrific rice to cook with, what with its unique aroma and flavor. Though it lends itself really nicely to this rice dish, please feel free to substitute whatever kind of rice you happen to have on hand.
- Chinese eggplant, or other small variety: Whenever the market has Chinese eggplant, I tend to like to use that one. I find the skin slightly thinner and the seeds smaller, and the flesh more mild. I find it a bit easier to cut/work with as well. If the market doesn't have it, then feel free to use any kind of eggplant you can find, preferably a smaller variety.
- Choice of nuts for crunchy texture: Roasted cashews and almonds are my favorite in this recipe, but pine nuts, walnuts or even pistachios would work really well here.
- Serve warm or cold: The fun thing about this Mediterranean rice recipe is that it's absolutely yummy and satisfying served either hot or cold! It's terrific served warm freshly prepared, but if you'd like to enjoy it as a kind of rice “salad”, then allow it to cool, keeping it in the fridge until ready to serve.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2016, and has been updated with even more love!