Tomatoes and rice is an incredibly easy and inexpensive southern side dish that can be dressed up to serve as a main dish too.
This budget-friendly meal was likely born in simpler times when money was tight and ingredients were scarce. However, that doesn't mean this simple recipe doesn't still taste great! The tangy tomatoes really brighten up the fluffy rice, while chicken broth adds great flavor to an otherwise simple dish.
What is it?
Tomatoes and rice is known as a southern dish, but in reality, this was the type of meal that would be found in rural kitchens throughout the midwest as well. When there are a lot of hungry mouths to feed, and not much money to go around, meals like this or the very similar Macaroni and Tomatoes (which uses pasta as a carb rather than rice) would be popular at homes like my grandparents.
The premise of this dish is simple. Rice is cooked in chicken broth, which gives it more flavor than water alone, as well as diced tomatoes and sauteed onion for flavor. Diced tomatoes act at the tomato sauce, giving the rice and bright and tangy bite. Think of it as an American-style Spanish rice.
As one can expect, clever home cooks jazzed this recipe up in numerous ways. My preferred way is simply adding chopped bacon and parmesan cheese (my grandma would have added hotdogs). Easy and delicious!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Butter - Olive oil or bacon grease can be substituted instead.
- Onion - Yellow onion or a sweet onion would be my top choices. Red onion can be used if you want a stronger flavor. White onion is best used as an uncooked ingredient.
- Garlic clove - Garlic powder can be substituted, but fresh garlic cloves are best.
- Bay leaf
- Uncooked white rice - Brown rice can be used as well, however, you will have to adjust the cook time accordingly because it takes considerably longer to soften.
- Chicken broth - Chicken stock works equally well. Otherwise, vegetable broth can be used.
- Canned Diced tomatoes - One pound of garden fresh tomatoes can also be used. Feel free to add a dollop of tomato paste to further enhance the tomato flavor.
- Salt and Black pepper - Additional seasonings, such as paprika, oregano, or basil can also be used.
How to make it
The basic game plan for making this southern Tomatoes and rice recipe is to saute the onions and garlic, then simmer everything together with rice until the liquid has been absorbed. Pretty easy right?
To begin, melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat and add the diced onion. Saute, while stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, then add garlic and saute for an additional two minutes.
Everything is now ready to be cooked together. Add the bay leaf, rice, chicken broth, can of tomatoes, and seasonings to your saucepan and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover with a lid and let gently cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
Recipe tips and tricks
- Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container and reheated within five days. This dish reheats well in the microwave.
- Add chopped bacon for a delicious smoky flavor. 4 ounces of bacon would be perfect for this recipe. Although, it would not be unheard of to add seasoned ground beef instead.
- Top this dish with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
- Canned tomatoes are better than grocery store tomatoes. Only use fresh tomatoes if they are fresh picked from a garden, otherwise they won't have much flavor (grocery store tomatoes are picked green for transport and artificially ripened).
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Tomatoes and Rice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ yellow onion diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup white rice uncooked
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 14 ounces canned Diced tomatoes with liquid
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Once the butter has melted add chopped onion and saute until tender.
- When onions are tender, add minced garlic and cook for an additional two minutes. Then add the bay leaf, uncooked rice, chicken broth, tomatoes with liquid, salt, and black pepper.
- Cover the saucepan, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Remove bay leaf, fluff rice with a fork, and serve.