A staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, Lebanese Rice Pilaf is made with vermicelli noodles toasted in clarified (rendered) butter.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again. I could eat Lebanese food everyday for the rest of my life. Today I thought I’d share a classic recipe, and one that is eaten often in my household: Lebanese Rice Pilaf with Vermicelli. Extremely simple, but tasty and satisfying, it’s a great entry recipe into the world of Middle Eastern food.
- White rice: I like to use long-grain, enriched white rice as it cooks to by nice and fluffy and has a low starch content.
- Clarified butter: Also called ghee, it tastes like butter with with a slightly nutty flavor.
- Vermicelli: A thin noodle similar to spaghetti, it commonly is browned or toasted before being cooked, and pairs well with rice.
- Salt & pepper: Simple seasoning that is all you need for this simple dish.
- Parsley: Freshly minced parsley is the perfect finish for this pilaf, as it’s clean, and somewhat peppery in taste.
How to make Lebanese Rice Pilaf
Start your Lebanese Rice Pilaf by rinsing your rice. You want to remove as much of the starch as possible, and rinse till the water runs clear.
Next, you’ll melt the clarified butter in a large pan over medium high heat.
Then add the broken up pieces of vermicelli to the pan.
Cook the dry vermicelli until golden-brown, being careful not to let them burn.
Add the dried rice and stir in with the vermicelli, letting the rice toast for a couple minutes.
Season the rice and vermicelli with salt and pepper.
Then add hot water to the pan. Bring to a boil, stir once or twice, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a lid. Let cook for about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, then fluff with a fork before serving garnished with fresh parsley. Serve and enjoy your Lebanese Rice Pilaf!
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the difference between rice and rice pilaf?
A pilaf usually just means the rice has been toasted in butter before cooking.
What kind of rice should I use for rice pilaf?
I like to use a long-grain white rice, but you could use whatever rice you have on hand, including brown rice.
How can I boost the flavor of this dish?
Cook the rice and vermicelli in chicken broth instead of water!
More Lebanese Recipes
- Lebanese Baked Fish with Tahini Sauce
- Classic Hummus with Toasted Pine Nuts
- Vegan Tomato Kibbeh
- Lebanese Potato Salad
Did you try this Lebanese recipe? The next time you make it, snap a picture and share it to your socials! Tag @thelemonbowl and #thelemonbowl so we can admire and share your dish.
Enjoy it on it’s own as a simple lunch or snack, or share it with the family as a part of dinner, either way my Lebanese Rice Pilaf is sure to be a hit.
Your fork is waiting.
Lebanese Rice Pilaf With Vermicelli
- 1 ½ cups white rice (enriched parboiled long grain)
- ¼ cup clarified butter (homemade or store-bought ghee)
- ½ cup vermicelli pasta (broken in 2 inch pieces)
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- minced fresh parsley (optional garnish)
- Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly using your fingers to rub off as much starch as possible. You’ll know the rice is properly rinsed when the water comes out clear from the bottom. Set aside.
- In a large, deep pan heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the broken vermicelli pasta and brown, stirring frequently, until it is golden/dark brown. Be careful to not let burn – don't walk away from the pan. This takes about 4-5 minutes.
- Add rinsed rice to the pan and stir into the vermicelli and butter. Toast the rice for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Carefully pour boiling water into the pan and stir once. Add salt and pepper then stir again.
- Bring to a boil, stir once, then reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove pan from the heat and fluff rice with a fork before sprinkling with fresh parsley to serve.
I have been challenged to make this for 200 girls at The Kenya Kesho School for Girls. I may be busy for a while! It sounds very similar to Swahili pilau.
Wow! That’s a lot of mouths to feed, good luck! I hope they enjoy it!
If you were going to add and brown onions, at what point would you do that (before vermicelli, before rice, after both?).
That sounds delicious! I think you could brown the onions with or right after the vermicelli.
I’d like to serve this rice with the Shish Tawook Chicken but since we keep kosher, can’t use the butter. Will this come out well if the vermicelli is browned in olive oil? Thanks and I’m glad I discovered your site!
Yes absolutely! Great idea!!!
I remember my grandmother (Sitto) making this when I was little! I am definitely going to have to try this recipe for myself!! The ultimate comfort food! Thank you for bringing back a piece of my childhood!!
Yes!! Isn’t it the best?
This is one of my favorite recipes. Always a hit and turns out perfect every time. ☺️
Awww mine too!! So happy you love it!
Hi Liz, my name is Terri and I am Lebanese. I grew up eating a kind of rice pilaf that had garbanzo beans in it and it wasn’t dark at all. Do you know the recipe for that dish? I made the green bean dish with tomatoes but I used cut up lamb and it was delicious. Thank you for the recipes!!
Gosh I don’t but that sounds SO GOOD!!!
Hello. I make that rice that you mentioned with garbanzos and meat. The name of the dish is Ruz bi dfeen. I make it with beef traditionally it’s made with lamb. It’s very nice. We eat it with labneh on top.
Oh that sounds amazing Diana!
Enjoyed very much and would make again. I just broke up some spaghetti for the vermicelli. Next time I will brown some diced onions for some added dimension.
Anything with vermicelli is not gluten free. I wish it was. It looks delicious.
You’re right it’s not – sorry about that type-o! of course you can leave it out too :)
I use gluten free brown rice pasta for the vermicelli and it comes out delicious!
I made your clarified butter and the rice. Both are glorious. Can you tell me what uses there might be for the coarse wheat that strains out of the butter? It has such a rich, nutty smell and flavor. I browned a little in a pan and used it for a salad topping, sprinkled some on top of my already decadent mac and cheese and mixed it in with whole grain hot cereal. I would love to find more uses for it it.
Oh i’m so glad to hear it Katherine. I’ve never used the strained bulgur wheat before but what if you tried cooking it with chicken stock??
No, but that sounds amazing, too. Chicken stock, beef stock, au jus, even a confit that was to be strained might benefit from the body. Oh, the mind boggles. Thank you!
Thank you for providing such clarity with your recipes. I was introduced to Labanese food many years ago when I came to the US from Burma and I remain hooked to the food. My recent trip to MiddleEast has made me realize how tasteful the food truly is and made me want to learn to cook the middle eastern/labanese food at home. I understand there are variations and unique creations within the Arabic type of middle eastern food. Perhaps you would consider sharing and posting recipes for those popular dishes and drinks as well.
Once again, I appreciate your taking the time to share your family recipe in such an easy to follow manner with a ready to print feature. The pictures are beautiful and speak a thousand words! Those pictures help me understand basic yet confusing stuff like what is deep brown vs regular brown.
Oh wow that is so awesome!!! I’m so envious you got out there – I would love to visit one day!! I have an entire cookbook with my family’s cherished Syrian recipes you might enjoy: https://thelemonbowl.com/cookbook/
I’ve given you five stars because I’m thinking that this recipe’s going to hit the more. But I do have a question… I will be serving 20 people on Saturday and I’m wondering if I can prep the rice and will it be a detriment if I do that. At the very least can I brown the vermicelli’s in the g h e e and then put that away until Saturday so I could finish up the rest of the recipe? Thank you for your time
It reheats great!!! No problem to make ahead! Sometimes I add in a little chicken broth to loosen.
Thx. Can’t wait to brown the verm for the nutty taste
I’m trying it right now, smells so good I can hardly wait. I used gluten free spaghetti noodles browned in butter and olive oil and I sauteed some garlic with it. I’m serving with sauteed steak strips, and fresh cucumber and tomato salad.
How did you like it?!?!
Loving this recipe, thank you so much! Can you tell me how much a serving is? I looked at the nutritional information but don’t see it.
Sorry about that – it’s 1/2 cup!! Isn’t it the best? Just made it this week for my family with greek meatballs. ENJOY!
Thank you for the info. And yes, this recipe is delicious !
I’m so glad you enjoy it!