Rice-A-Roni is a classic quick and easy side dish that’s been a pantry staple for decades. But did you know you can cook it easily in the microwave? With just a few simple ingredients like rice, pasta, and seasonings, you can make a tasty Rice-A-Roni copycat recipe right in your microwave in under 15 minutes.
Benefits of Microwave Rice-A-Roni
Cooking Rice-A-Roni in the microwave has several advantages:
- It’s fast – Making it in the microwave significantly cuts down on cooking time compared to the stovetop. You can have Rice-A-Roni ready to eat in about 15 minutes.
- Uses fewer dishes – With microwave cooking, you can cook it all in one dish, minimizing cleanup.
- More control over sodium – When making it from scratch, you can control how much salt goes in. This allows you to make it as healthy as you want.
- Customizable – Don’t like one of the ingredients? Swap it out for something you do like. Make it your own!
The basic ingredients for microwave Rice-A-Roni are:
|3⁄4 cup, uncooked
|Pasta (orzo, angel hair, vermicelli)
|1⁄2 cup, uncooked
|Margarine or butter
|Chicken or vegetable broth
|2 1⁄4 cups
You likely have most, if not all, of these ingredients already in your pantry. Feel free to customize and add your own spin to this classic side dish!
Step-by-Step Microwave Instructions
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to cooking Rice-A-Roni in the microwave:
- Place rice, pasta, and margarine in a 2-quart microwave-safe dish.
- Microwave on high for 3 1⁄2 – 4 minutes, stopping to stir every minute. You want the pasta to become golden brown.
- Once the pasta is toasted, stir in the broth and seasonings (parsley, garlic powder, onion powder).
- Microwave on high for 12 full minutes. Do not open the microwave during this time.
- Let the dish sit for 3 minutes in the microwave before opening.
- Fluff with a fork and serve!
- Use a deep microwave-safe bowl or casserole dish to allow room for the rice to cook and expand.
- Stirring occasionally during the first cooking stage helps the pasta toast evenly.
- Don’t skip the standing time – this allows the rice to continue to absorb moisture and leads to fluffier results.
- Add extra broth if needed to achieve the desired creamy consistency once cooked.
Customize It! Recipe Variations
One of the great things about making Rice-A-Roni in the microwave is that you can customize it to suit your tastes. With just a few simple ingredient swaps or additions, you can take this classic side dish in lots of flavorful directions.
Make it Hearty
Turn your Rice-A-Roni into a hearty one-dish meal by stirring in cooked meat. Diced ham, chicken, sausage, or bacon are all delicious options. For a complete protein-packed meal, add 1 cup of chopped cooked chicken breast in the last few minutes of microwaving.
You can also give it more heft by adding extra vegetables. Add a combo of corn, peas, carrots, or green beans when you add the broth and seasonings. The vegetables will cook down in the simmering Rice-A-Roni and make it more substantial.
For a rich, creamy Rice-A-Roni, stir in shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or parmesan cheese after cooking. The heat from the just-cooked rice and pasta will melt the cheese into an indulgent, cheesy side. For an even cheesier dish, make it with evaporated milk instead of broth for an ultra-creamy consistency.
Sprinkle crispy fried bacon bits on top for a play on carbonara flavor. The saltiness of the bacon complements the cheese beautifully.
Spice It Up
Use different spice blends in place of the parsley, garlic and onion powders to give your Rice-A-Roni a flavor kick. Cajun seasoning adds heat while taco seasoning mix brings a tasty Tex-Mex twist. Italian herb seasoning gives it richness.
For Indian-inspired Rice-A-Roni, stir in a teaspoon of curry powder, garam masala or other curry blend you enjoy. A squeeze of lime juice right before serving adds brightness.
For a vegetarian Rice-A-Roni, use vegetable broth instead of chicken and add vegetables like mushrooms, spinach or broccoli. The vegetables wilt down in the steaming rice and make it hearty and satisfying without meat.
Subbing in raw, unsalted cashews or sunflower seeds for a crunch texture contrast is another way to bulk it up. Pepitas would also pair well with a Mexican-style version.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and make it your own! The possibilities are truly endless when you customize Rice-A-Roni to your tastes.
Should I use instant or regular rice?
Regular long or medium grain white rice is recommended, as instant rice can turn mushy in the microwave. The grains of regular rice hold their shape better and have a nicer texture once cooked.
Can I use fresh herbs instead of dried?
Yes, you can substitute fresh parsley, chives, dill, or other soft herbs for the dried parsley called for in the recipe. Since fresh herbs release flavor more readily, add them right at the end off the microwave time so they don’t lose potency.
What pasta shape works best?
Small pastas like orzo, stars, alphabet pasta, or mini penne work best, as the small shapes cook evenly with the rice. Larger pasta shells or noodles may end up unevenly cooked or too al dente.
How do I know when the pasta is toasted enough?
The pasta should take on a nice golden brown color and smell nutty and toasted when it’s ready. Stirring halfway through the initial microwave time helps you check the doneness and toast evenly.
Can I use a microwave rice cooker?
Yes, you can cook the Rice-A-Roni in a dedicated microwave rice cooker like the ones made by Aroma or other brands. Follow the same method of toasting the pasta then adding rice and liquid. The cooking time may be a bit shorter with an appliance specifically designed for microwave rice cooking.
Can I double the recipe?
Yes, you can double this recipe for a larger crowd or leftovers. Use a 3-quart microwavable dish and add a minute or two to the cooking time. Stir well before serving.
How long does cooked Rice-A-Roni last in the fridge?
Cooked Rice-A-Roni will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Reheat individual portions in the microwave with a splash of water to restore moisture.
Enjoy Restaurant-Style Rice-A-Roni at Home
With just a few pantry staples and your microwave, you can enjoy a hot, fresh bowl of Rice-A-Roni any night of the week. In 15 minutes or less, you can recreate this classic side dish to serve alongside any meal. Make it as-is or get creative and customize it to suit your tastes. Either way, microwave Rice-A-Roni makes a quick and easy dinner!