I first stumbled onto this lemon basil feta rice in an issue of Cooking Light a few years ago where it played second fiddle to a grilled lemon chicken breast. I rarely make that particular chicken anymore because the marinade was often finicky and resulted in rubbery chicken (ew!) but the rice — oh the rice. The acidity of the lemon juice, the tangy bits of feta cheese, and the brightness of the fresh basil combine to throw a dance party on your tongue. That’s right, a dance party. The lemon rice with the herby basil would be great on its own, but each chunk of crumbled feta is like a little gem, bursting with flavor as you bite in.
I’ve tweaked the original recipe a little bit over the years. The original called for equal parts oil and lemon juice which often resulted in rice that felt greasy, so I’ve cut down the olive oil. And where the original calls for microwavable pouches of precooked brown rice, I far prefer using my rice cooker and a white long-grain rice like jasmine or basmati. But as you’ll see in the notes, you really can use any rice or grain you want.
If you’re a beginner home cook or just starting to build your confidence in the kitchen, what I want you to take away from this is: Making great food doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. Cooking doesn’t have to mean tons of prep, lots of dishes, or hard to find ingredients. Sometimes it just means tossing rice in a bowl with lemon juice, a sharp cheese, and a fresh herb. Try a lime juice/cotija/cilantro combo for Mexican flavors or lemon/parmesan/thyme for an Italian twist.
The Mediterranean flavors of this lemon feta basil rice pair nicely with a simple pan-seared chicken breast, in a grain bowl with roasted broccoli and tahini sauce, or even rolled up in a wrap or stuffed in a pita pocket with lamb or chicken meatballs and a tzatziki sauce. You can also add frozen peas or corn right from the freezer while the rice is still warm and let the residual heat from the rice defrost them.
a few quick notes
- You can use any kind of rice or grain here. I like using white jasmine rice, but have also done this with couscous, farro, quinoa, and brown rice. You may need to add more or less lemon juice depending on how absorbent your grain of choice is.
- Always rinse your rice before cooking. I used to be skeptical of this extra step, but it really does make a difference — your rice will be fluffier, and less likely to clump up or stick together.
- When adding feta I break up the bigger chunks with my hands, but I also like to add the tiny lil baby crumbs of cheese that collect at the bottom of the container. The mix of sizes plus adding the cheese while the rice is still hot makes it easier to combine and distribute evenly.
- To chiffonade basil leaves, layer 6-8 leaves on top of each other, roll them into a log, and slice thinly across the log. If you’re more of a visual learner, click here.
- I use my Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker to make rice. It can keep rice warm for days, which means I can make a big batch and use some for this and still have more left for other dishes throughout the week.
Lemon Feta Basil Rice
- 3 cups rice (cooked) (any kind)
- 2 TBSP lemon juice (one whole lemon)
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- ⅓ cup fresh basil (hand torn or chiffonade)
- Cook rice using whatever method you prefer.
- In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- When rice is done cooking, add it to the bowl with the lemon juice and stir to combine and break up the rice. The lemon juice and olive oil will naturally separate, so whisk it again right before adding the rice if you see separation.
- While the rice is still quite hot, add the feta cheese and stir to evenly distribute. Use your fingers to crumble any especially large chunks as you add them. The heat from the rice will melt the feta slightly, but it should still remain in visible chunks.
- Tear or thinly slice the basil leaves and add them to the rice. Toss to combine.
- Serve warm.
- To chiffonade basil leaves, layer 6-8 leaves on top of each other, roll them into a log, and slice thinly across the log.