Easy Cajun rice is the perfect side dish for any of your Cajun dishes. Turn this side into an entrée by adding sausage, shrimp, or chicken!
I’m not sure why we don’t eat Cajun food more often. We love everything about it! Its robust, spicy flavor with subtle earthiness is practically addictive.
I came up with this recipe for Cajun Rice many years ago when David and I made Cajun Stuffed Shrimp. I love rice with spicy food, but he doesn’t like rice unless it is flavorful. So I used ingredients in the fridge and pantry to create this recipe.
What is Cajun Rice?
Easy to make, this Cajun rice is the perfect side dish to any of your Cajun dishes. This lemony tomato-based rice is sauteed with peppers, green onions, and bold Cajun spices whip up in minutes to create a side dish.
Cajun food is made from the land along the bayous of Louisiana. This French and Southern cuisine began 250 years ago when French immigrants came to the state from Nova Scotia.
Why you’ll like this rice:
- Few Ingredients: there are very few ingredients, and they do not require much prep work or chopping.
- One-Pot Dish: this is a one-pot dish, so clean-up is a breeze!
- Make Into An Entree: Add smoked sausage, chicken, or shrimp to make this rice the main course.
Is Cajun Rice The Same As Dirty Rice?
Kind of, but not really. The main difference between Cajun Rice and Dirty Rice is that Dirty rice is generally cooked with organ meats such as chicken liver, chicken gizzards, hearts, giblets, or a combination of the three. The rice looks “dirty” as the organ meat breaks down. This Cajun rice has a red tomato color from the tomato paste and does not take on the color of meat since the meat is cooked separately.
Ingredients You Need To Make This Recipe
- Oil: I use extra-virgin olive oil to sautee the garlic and peppers. Use whatever oil you prefer.
- Garlic: fresh minced garlic. Add towards the end of cooking to ensure it does not brown too much and burn. Use garlic powder for a more subtle taste.
- Peppers: diced sweet peppers or chilis give you a lot of flavor without being overwhelming. You can use regular green bell peppers or other peppers if you prefer.
- Tomato Paste: adds color and enriches the flavor of the rice without making it saucy.
- Rice: Leftover steamed white rice works great for this recipe. Sometimes I cheat and use Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice. (If you steam rice for this recipe, keep reading for important tips for cooking the rice.)
- Cajun Seasoning: I use one by McCormick. Cajun Seasoning is available in the spice aisle at your local grocery store. Use your favorite.
- Lemon Juice: fresh lemon juice brightens the rice and enhances the flavors of the spices.
- Scallions: green onions (scallions) are mild enough to eat slightly cooked, preserving their crisp texture. Use the greens and the whites!
- Optional Meats: turn this into a main entree by adding beans, ground beef, ground pork, kidney beans, shrimp, or sausage.
How to Make Cajun Rice
- Saute: the peppers and garlic are sauteed in the pan with oil until tender.
- Brown the Tomato Sauce: Not only do you warm the tomato sauce, but you’re also browning it to give it a richer flavor. (Learn more about browning tomato sauce HERE)
- Warm Through: Stir in the steamed rice, cajun seasoning, and lemon juice and warm through. The rice will take on the tomato color. Add a couple of tablespoons of water if the mixture becomes too dry.
- Toss: Toss the rice with the scallions
- Serving: Serve immediately as a side dish or add meat to make an entree.
How To Cook Rice For Cajun Rice
Use the following tips if you are cooking rice to use in this dish:
- Rinse: The secret to good and flavorful Cajun rice is to rinse it before cooking. Rinsing the rice removes the starch from the surface of the grains, which in turn helps prevent the rice from clumping.
- Simmering: Bring the water for the rice to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer.
- Covering: Keep the lid on at all times. Removing the lid from the pot releases stream and drops the heat, which will cause the rice to cook inconsistently and cause you to have to cook it longer.
- Time it: I cannot count the times I forgot about a pot of rice on the stove, leaving it to scorch. Always set a timer for at least 5 minutes short of the suggested cook time so you can keep an eye on the rice, so it doesn’t stick or scorch.
- Check for Doneness: Check the water level of the rice. Give the rice a little stir if you cannot see the water. Taste the rice and check the texture. If it’s still hard or chewy, it needs to cook longer. Add a little water if all of the water in the pot is absorbed. If the rice is soft but still has water in the bottom, increase the heat and cook for a few more minutes until the rice absorbs the water.
- Let the Rice Rest: Remove the cooked rice from the heat and allow it to rest before removing the lid. The heat and steam will distribute evenly around the pot, making the rice fluffier.
- Fluff: Use a fork to fluff the rice with a fork before using.
Tips For Cooking Perfect Cajun Rice
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for three days. Reheat the rice in the microwave and cover it loosely in a microwave-safe container. Microwave for 2-3 minutes. Remove the bowl and break up the rice with a fork. Return the microwave for 2-3 minutes more.
- Freeze leftover rice in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of water if the mixture becomes too dry.
- Add more veggies, such as okra, jalapenos, or beans, to this rice. Beans make this rice a great recipe Meatless Monday entree!
- To make this rice dish spicier, add cayenne pepper to the Cajun seasoning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Old Bay is a good substitute for Cajun seasoning.
Long grain rice is grown in Louisiana. Long grain rice is slender and long, plump but not round.
Yes. If you make it ahead and refrigerate before using the rice, I recommend leaving out the green onions until you reheat the rice, so they retain their crisp texture.
Making this easy Cajun rice? We’d love your feedback. Leave us a comment and a star rating below. We value your opinion and appreciate your time.
See ya on the mountain!
This recipe was originally posted on July 20, 2016.
Easy Cajun Rice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 clove garlic minced
- 4 small sweet peppers or chilis, diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups steamed white rice
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 scallions greens and white, chopped
- Heat oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the pepper and garlic; saute for about 3 to 5 minutes or until peppers soften slightly.
- Stir in tomato paste and allow it to warm through stirring constantly; about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the rice, cajun seasoning, and lemon juice. Stir until heat until the rice is warm.
- Add scallions and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.