Lebanese Vermicelli Rice

4.75 from 4 votes
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Lebanese Vermicelli Rice is a mainstay with any grilled meats or vegetables. Browned broken vermicelli pieces are the distinguishing ingredient, adding a layer of color and flavor.

Vermicelli rice in a pot with a wooden spoon and chicken shawarma
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This rice dish belongs on the must-know list! I learned as my mom and hers before her taught: break thin pasta into little pieces. Brown those in butter. Add the rice to coat. Add chicken broth, salt, lid, and cook for 30 minutes. Every week at least once. The little browned noodles add color, depth, flair. Given how little butter is used in day-to-day cooking in the Mediterranean, I wonder if the butter-browned piece comes from the French influence that is such a part of Lebanese culture. The classic French pilaf starts with onion and garlic softened, never browned, in butter. When I hybrid my Lebanese + classic French pilaf, I brown the vermicelli first, then at a low temp soften the onion and garlic. Though traditional Lebanese rice needs no improvement, the depth of flavor from the addition of onion and garlic takes the rice to stand-alone level!

What is Lebanese Rice

Lebanese vermicelli rice is a simple rice pilaf, but the distinguishing ingredient is the small pieces of browned vermicelli pasta that flecks the rice with color and flavor. The rice can be made very simply with just rice, butter or olive oil, and water or chicken broth. But take it to next level greatness by starting with a quick softening of onion and garlic to impart deeper, even more delicious flavor to this simple dish.

Broken vermicelli pasta in a container

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted, or extra virgin olive oil)

1/3 cup vermicelli pieces. Middle Eastern grocery stores carry fat bags of these cut pieces for rice. You can improvise by breaking angel hair pasta or any thin pasta into small 1-inch pieces.

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced or grated

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups long grain white rice

2 ½-3 cups chicken stock

Broken vermicelli in butter
Brown butter with pasta
Browned butter with vermicelli pasta pieces in a pan

How do you cook Lebanese rice

Step 1.In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter melts and foams, add the vermicelli noodles and saute, stirring constantly, until the pasta and butter are deep golden brown.

Step 2. Reduce to medium heat and add the onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, with the lid on, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Step 3. In a medium bowl, rinse the 2 cups of rice with cold water 4 or 5 times. This removes the excess starch, to prevent the rice from being sticky.

Step 4. Add the drained rice to the vermicelli mixture, and stir to coat. Add 3 cups of the chicken stock. Taste and add more salt if needed. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for about 30 minutes.

Step 5. Turn off the heat and remove the lid, letting the steam heat escape for 5 minutes. Stir the rice and taste, adding salt if needed, and more chicken stock a tablespoon or two at a time to moisten the rice. Serve immediately. 

How to make hashweh (or hushweh)

Hushweh rice is a different recipe than this basic Lebanese rice recipe. This dish includes a combination of rice with browned ground meat (beef or lamb), is seasoned with spices, and does not always include the vermicelli pasta. Hushweh is topped with a generous sprinkling of toasted nuts (pine nuts, almonds, or a mix of several types of nuts). Read the full recipe for Lebanese Hushweh for this beloved comfort food dish.

Tips for the best Lebanese rice

Don’t use too much liquid. I have reduced the ratio of rice to liquid steadily over the years! Now I find much more consistent results for individual rice grains that don’t stick together, with 1 ¼ cups liquid to 1 cup rice. If the finished rice needs more softening or moisture, simply stir in more liquid and allow the rice to rest with the lid on to absorb.

Spice it up. This rice often includes cinnamon as a seasoning. For this flavor, add two cinnamon sticks with the chicken broth. Remove the sticks before serving. Dust the top of the rice with a dash of cinnamon before serving. 

Add a shower of fresh herbs, such as chopped fresh parsley or mint, to finish the rice.

Go vegan. The same amount of Vegetable broth or cups of water are nice alternatives to the chicken stock for the cooking liquid. The water ratio is the same, as is the cooking time. Be sure to taste the liquid before cooking to the rice to see if it needs seasoning with salt. Similarly, extra virgin olive oil is a fine substitute for the butter to brown the vermicelli pieces.

What to serve with Lebanese rice

Lebanese rice is one of the most versatile dishes you can make! Arabic rice is a mainstay of the rice dishes on Lebanese restaurant menus and in home cooking. Serve this perfect side dish with any grilled meats or vegetables, roasted chicken, chicken shawarma, Lebanese beef kafta. In Middle Eastern cuisine, this rice is always on the plate with Lebanese stew with green beans as well as Lebanese eggplant. Add a salad with fresh, bright flavor such as fattoush salad, tabbouleh, or simple Lebanese Salad (Salata). Round out your meal with hummus, labneh or plain yogurt, Lebanese turnip pickles, kalamata olives, and pita bread

Vermicelli rice in a pot with a wooden spoon and chicken shawarma

Make Ahead and Storing leftover rice

This dish stores very well, so it can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Refresh the rice before serving it by sprinkling it with a couple of tablespoons of water, then reheat in the microwave or on the stove top on medium low heat. Stir occasionally to distribute the heat evenly.

Vermicelli rice in a pot with a wooden spoon and chicken shawarma
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4.75 from 4 votes

Lebanese Vermicelli Rice Recipe

This is THE rice to pair with roasted or grilled meats and vegetables. To make the rice vegan, substitute olive oil for the butter and vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock. Use vermicelli or angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces before cooking. Buy the vermicelli pieces here.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 1/3 cup vermicelli pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
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Instructions 

  • In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and foamy, add the vermicelli pieces and saute, stirring constantly, until the pasta and butter are golden brown.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, and salt. Cook, covered, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, rinse the rice with cool water 4 or 5 times. This removes some of the starch, to prevent the rice from being sticky.
  • Add the drained rice to the vermicelli mixture, and stir to coat. Pour in 3 ½ cups of the chicken stock. Taste and add more salt if needed. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for about 30 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and remove the lid, letting the steam heat escape for 5 minutes. Stir the rice and taste, adding salt if needed, and more chicken stock a tablespoon or two at a time to moisten the rice.
  • Serve immediately. If made ahead, reheat the rice on the stove or in the microwave over medium low heat, first moistening it with a few tablespoons of chicken stock.

Nutrition

Calories: 267kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 300mg | Potassium: 185mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 267
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7 Comments

  1. Bruce Antion says:

    I have made this adding pine nuts when I brown the vermicelli and sometimes add a little shredded chicken. It’s like being in Sita’s kitchen.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Ohhhh how delicious and warm and comforting. Thank you Bruce!

  2. Carol E Simon says:

    Do you ever make vermicelli rice in a rice cooker? or is it possible, if I would brown the vermicelli, rice etc, and then put it in the cooker with broth?
    LOVE your recipes and mint salt in particular.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Carol, that’s a great idea. Browning the vermicelli first and proceeding as usual in the cooker should work great. Report back once you try it if you can!!! And thanks so much for your kind words.

  3. Norms Alaniz says:

    I’m gonna try to make your rice pilaf it looks really good. I saw you on TV on Diners Drive Ins Dives all your food really good. When me and my husband are going to your restaurant when we go to Arlington Tv.

  4. CYNTHIA HILL says:

    LOVE YOUR COOKBOOK, LOVE YOUR TOTALLY YUMMY FOOD…..SO MANY THANKS.

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thank you Cynthia!!