Dress up your favorite rice or grains with a squeeze of lemon juice, crumbled feta, and fresh basil. This quick and easy rice side dish takes less than 10 minutes to make and goes with so many of your favorite meals.
I like it best with a simple protein like pan-seared chicken, or a garlic and herb roast chicken but you can also serve it with grilled fish or crispy tofu!
About This Recipe
I first stumbled onto a version of 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 recipe 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 or cumin roasted broccolini 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, edamame, or corn right from the freezer while the rice is still warm and let the residual heat from the rice defrost them.
Here are the ingredients you need to make this simple lemon basil feta rice! See the recipe card at the end of the post for quantities.
- Rice - I use long grain white rice, but any rice or grain will do. I've also made this with quinoa, farro, couscous, brown rice, etc. Cook it according to the package directions or use a rice cooker.
- Lemon Juice - One whole lemon is about 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. For a more intense lemon flavor, you can add a bit of lemon zest too!
- Olive Oil - Regular olive oil or extra virgin olive oil, whatever you have on hand. A neutral oil will also work. I prefer an olive oil with a mild flavor here.
- Salt and Pepper - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which half as salty as other brands of salt. If you're measuring by volume and using a different brand of salt, even a different brand of kosher salt, cut the amount of salt in half. For pepper you can use freshly cracked or pre-ground black pepper, pink peppercorns, white pepper, tri-colored pepper, whatever you like best.
- Crumbled Feta - I prefer the dry crumbled feta for this recipe as opposed to buying the brick and crumbling it myself, but you do you! Marinated feta will work but will obviously change the flavors slightly.
- Fresh Basil - A big ol' bunch of fresh basil, which you can hand tear into chunks or thinly slice as a chiffonade. Wait until the last possible moment to slice it so it stays bright green and fresh!
This recipe is so simple, there's hardly any cooking involved. I usually use my rice cooker, but you can also follow the stovetop instructions on the bag OR use pre-cooked rice.
Once your rice is cooked, all you've gotta do is whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Then stir in the rice, using a spoon or spatula to break up any clumps.
Then, stir in the crumbled feta cheese so that the warmth of the rice begins to soften it slightly. The feta won't truly melt into the rice, but as it softens it will lightly coat the rice grains.
Finally, you'll finely chiffonade the basil (thinly slice) or tear it into pieces by hand and stir it in to finish.
Basil oxidizes and darkens fairly quickly once it's cut, so you'll want to wait to do this until right before serving.
Storage and Reheating
Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. After that the rice sometimes gets a bit of a weird texture.
Reheat the lemon basil feta rice in the microwave, heating in 20 second bursts on high, stirring in between. The basil will be darker after a day or two in the fridge, but will still taste great and is safe to eat.
Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- Depending on what rice or grain you use, you may need to add more or less lemon juice and olive oil 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.
- 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 cooked rice (or grains, any kind)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (one whole lemon)
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon 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.