This refreshing Mediterranean Rice Salad is the best summer side dish to serve alongside Greek-inspired fare. Cool basmati rice, citrus juices, herbs, spices, currants, and pistachios come together to make this fresh, flavorful, and nutritious rice salad.
I’ll be honest. While this salad is not the prettiest salad I’ve ever made, it is absolutely the most delicious, and Greek Feast would not be the same without it.
Salads aren’t usually most peoples’ first choice when there is a spread of incredible Greek-inspired grub to choose from, but this rice salad is different. It’s loaded with fresh ingredients, bold flavors, and contrasting textures. Your guests will be going in for seconds long after they’re full.
The dressing itself is bursting with sweet and savory Mediterranean flavors and tastes amazing drizzled on a simple green salad. Nutritious, vegan, gluten-free, and absolutely delicious, this Mediterranean Rice Salad is simply the best.
- Basmati Rice – or any other long-grain rice like brown rice or jasmine rice.
- Salt – is used to flavor the water used to boil the rice and then again to season the entire dish.
- Lemon Juice – adds a hint of tang and citrus, a common flavor found in Mediterranean dishes.
- Orange Zest & Orange Juice – adds another layer of citrus flavor as well as sweetness.
- Olive Oil – Use the best quality olive oil within your budget. The brine-y flavor of olive oil shines in this dish, so you want to make sure the olive you use tastes great.
- Cinnamon – adds subtle warming flavor, enhancing the entire dish.
- Pepper – enhances flavor.
- Dried Currants – are sweet and tangy (dried fruit) that add great taste and texture.
- Green Onions – add bursts of mild onion flavor and a pop of color.
- Pistachios – add some contrasting crunch to the soft and chewy textures of the rice and currants. You could also use almonds or walnuts.
- Parsley – perfects the sweet, savory, and spicy flavors of the entire recipe.
How to Make // The Steps
- Step 1: Toast the rice. Heat a dry pan over medium heat. Add uncooked rice. Toast until the rice becomes opaque and fragrant (1 to 2 minutes).
- Step 2: Cook rice. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add rice and 2 teaspoons of salt. Boil, uncovered, for 8 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and tender. Drain the rice and then spread it onto a lined baking sheet to bring to room temperature.
- Step 3: Make dressing. While the rice is cooling, make the dressing. In a small bowl, add olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice/zest, and cinnamon. Whisk until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pistachios, currants, and some of the parsley and green onions.
- Step 4: Toss salad. In a large bowl, toss together cooled rice and dressing. Let stand for at least 20 minutes. Season to taste, garnish with remaining parsley and green onions, and serve!
Tips & Tricks
- Mediterranean rice salad can be made with any type of rice (or grain) but cooking times may vary. Follow recommended cooking instructions on the packaging.
- This cold rice salad can be made 1 day in advance and brought back to room temperature before serving. Doing so makes this dish even more flavorful.
- If you have leftover rice on hand, you can absolutely use it for this rice salad. Simply toss leftover cooled rice with Mediterranean rice salad dressing, garnish and serve.
- This salad tastes the best served at room temperature.
- Double up on the dressing, so you have plenty to serve on the side if your guests would like to drizzle a bit more over their plate.
Why is Mediterranean Rice Salad So Good?
- Nutritious and delicious. This salad is made with all whole food, plant-based ingredients.
- It can be made in advance (it gets even better when the flavors have time to mingle).
- Easily modifiable to fit your friends and family’s tastes.
- Great way to use leftover rice!
Serving Suggestions //
This summer side dish is delicious served with grilled lamb, fish, and shrimp. A reader mentioned making this salad to serve alongside kabobs and it was a hit. Check out the recipes below for more dishes to serve with Mediterranean rice salad:
- Feel free to use any type of rice or grain you’d like (farro, barley, couscous). Just be sure to adjust the cook times accordingly.
- Add veggies. A reader mentioned adding celery and red bell pepper to their Mediterranean rice salad and loved it! Diced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, and diced red onion would also taste great in this salad.
- Stir in leafy greens. Before serving, toss in some fresh greens like spinach or arugula.
- Switch up the herbs. Any variety of fresh cilantro, oregano, thyme, etc. will add great flavor.Top with feta. No Greek feast is complete without feta. Top finished salad with crumbled feta cheese before serving. YUM
How to Store
Storing – Store leftover Mediterranean rice salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.
Mediterranean Rice Salad
- 1 cup basmati rice or any other long grain rice
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 chopped green onions
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 3/4 cup shelled pistachios or almonds or a combination of both
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Toast the rice in a dry saute pan over medium heat until the rice is opaque and you begin to smell the rice.
- Add the rice and a 2 teaspoons salt to 4 quarts of boiling water. Boil uncovered for about 8 minutes or until the rice is tender. Drain the rice and spread out on a lined cookie sheet to cool completely.
- Whisk together the the oil, juices and spices.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the nuts, currants, and some of the parsley and green onions. Save some for garnish.
- Toss with the cooled rice and let stand for at least 20 minutes. Taste again to check for seasonings before you serve. This can be made 1 day ahead of time. Bring it back to room temperature before you serve.