BEST Brown Rice Salad

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Looking for a tasty and healthy Mediterranean-inspired dish? Try this Brown Rice Salad! This recipe brings together the nutty flavor of brown rice with the fresh and vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean. It’s filled with crisp cucumbers, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and crumbled feta cheese, all tossed in a flavorful lemon dressing.

Overhead image of Brown Rice Salad

Our Favorite Brown Rice Salad

Grains are a great way to add some satiating power, flavor, and texture to a salad. Brown rice is a perfect choice for this, as it has a nutty flavor and pleasant chewiness, and it is also packed with nutrients. Brown rice is a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even protein, which makes it a great way to stay fuller for longer.

We’ve made salads with quinoa, lentils, wild rice, bulgur, and farro, but it’s time to try brown rice in a salad! This recipe is perfect because unlike most greens salads, it will last (even dressed) for several days in the fridge. The absence of salad greens means that the dressing won’t wilt the salad and it will keep fresh longer.

The best part of this Mediterranean-inspired recipe is that it’s versatile and can be tailored to your taste. You can add or omit ingredients as you prefer. It’s also a great dish to make in advance and enjoy as a lunch or dinner option. Not only is this dish delicious, but it’s also a great option for those looking to add more whole grains to their diet. 

Ingredient shot-- image of all the ingredients used in this dish

The Secret To Perfect Brown Rice: Boil It!

Boiling brown rice is a great way to cook it because it allows for more even and consistent cooking. When brown rice is boiled, the water is able to penetrate the tough outer layer of the rice and cook the inside evenly. This results in a more tender and fluffy texture. And this is just how we want it for this Brown Rice Salad!

Steaming brown rice, on the other hand, can lead to under or over-cooking because the steam may not be able to penetrate the tough outer layer of the rice as effectively. Additionally, steaming rice can also cause the rice to clump together, resulting in a less desirable texture.

A few tips:

  • When boiling brown rice, it’s important to use a large enough pot so that the rice has enough room to move around freely, and the water can fully cover the rice. 
  • I also recommended rinsing the rice before cooking to remove any excess starch. This will help in preventing the rice from sticking together.
  • One important step when boiling brown rice: salt the water. Salting the water helps to season the rice as it cooks and gives it a more balanced and full flavor. When the water is salted, the salt penetrates the rice grains, seasoning it from the inside out. This is especially important for brown rice, as it has a nuttier and earthier flavor than white rice, and salting the water helps to bring out its full flavor potential.
  • We like to use about 1 teaspoon of salt for every 4 cups of water when boiling brown rice
  • It’s also important to keep in mind that when you are adding the salt, you should add it before the rice and bring the water to a boil. If you add the salt after the rice, it can cause the rice to clump together and not cook evenly.
  • Once the rice is finished cooking, cool completely before adding it to the salad. If the rice is still warm, it will wilt the vegetables and can affect the texture of the salad.

Process shots of Brown Rice Aalad-- images of the dressing being mixed together

Brown Rice Salad Recipe Tips

  • When preparing the vegetables for the salad, make sure to dice them finely and evenly. This will make the salad more manageable to eat and will allow the flavors to meld together more easily.
  • Use a wide-mouth jar to make the dressing. This will make it easy to combine all the ingredients together.
  • Use fresh lemon juice in the dressing; bottled lemon juice doesn’t pack the same flavor as fresh, and lemon is one of the main flavors here. The dressing also benefits from lemon zest which is another reason to use fresh lemon.
  • A few kitchen tools make recipe prep a breeze — we love zesting the lemon with a microplane and then juicing with this citrus juicer.
  • Be sure to taste and adjust the seasoning of the salad before serving. You may need to add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice to taste.

VARIATIONS

Switch Things Up!

  • Add other fresh vegetables such as sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, or snap peas.
  • To make this salad dairyfree, leave out the cheese or use a vegan feta cheese.
  • Swap out the lemon vinaigrette for a Greek salad dressing.
  • If you want to make this Brown Rice Salad a complete meal, add some protein like grilled chicken, grilled flank steak, shrimp, chickpeas, or tofu.
  • Add some chopped fresh cilantro, dill, or basil in addition to or instead of the parsley.
  • Add some diced avocado for a creamy and rich addition.
  • Top with some toasted nuts like pine nuts, pepitas, or almonds for a crunchy contrast.
  • You can also switch up the grain by using quinoa, bulgur, farro, or barley instead of brown rice for a different texture and nutritional profile.

Process shots-- images of the rice being coked and then all the herbs and veggies being added on top

Brown Rice Salad Ingredients

  • Cucumber:  Cukes add a fresh and crisp texture. English or Persian cucumbers are a superior choice due to their less bitter taste, fewer seeds, and thin skin that doesn’t need to be peeled. They’re more flavorful and crispier than regular cucumbers.
  • Roasted red peppers: You can buy jars of roasted red peppers at the store; they are usually near things like pickles, capers, and artichoke hearts. We love the smoky flavor and texture roasted red peppers bring to this salad. If you prefer, chopped red pepper is also delicious in this salad recipe.
  • Sun-dried julienne-cut tomatoes with herbs: These add a sweet and tangy flavor, as well as a chewy texture to the salad. The herbs in the tomatoes add flavor, and the julienne cut saves chopping time.
  • Red onion: This ingredient adds a sharp and slightly sweet flavor, and provides a nice crunch to the dish. To remove its “bite,” soak it in cold water for 5-10 minutes before adding to the salad.
  • Parsley: Parsley adds a fresh and herby flavor. Use flat-leaf Italian parsley instead of curly parsley for more flavor.
  • Feta cheese: Feta cheese adds a tangy and salty flavor to the salad. It also provides a creamy texture and a nice contrast to the other ingredients.
  • Optional: Kalamata olives add a briny and slightly bitter flavor to the salad, and provide a nice contrast to the flavors of the dish.

STORAGE

Storage

This Brown Rice Salad is best enjoyed fresh, but it’s still delicious for a few days after making it. When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it will last for up to 3-4 days. However, it’s worth noting that the rice and vegetables may lose some of their texture and flavor over time.

To ensure the best flavor and texture, store the red onion and feta cheese separately from the rest of the salad. Storing them separately can help to maintain their texture and flavor for longer. The red onion can release liquids and overpower the salad’s flavor, while the feta cheese can become mushy and lose its texture if left in the dressing for too long. Adding them to the salad just before serving will ensure the best quality and flavor.

Up close overhead image of the brown rice salad ready to be enjoyed

Brown Rice Salad FAQs

1What can I add to brown rice for extra flavor?

Add salt! Cooking rice it without salt is a huge miss when it comes to flavor . Additionally, the flavorful lemon dressing adds loads of flavor to brown rice!

2How long does Brown Rice Salad last in the fridge?

Brown Rice Salad will last for up to 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

3What goes well with brown rice?

If you have extra brown rice after making this salad, it’s a great grain to have on hand! Brown rice pairs well with a variety of dishes such as stews, curries, and grilled meats. It also goes well with vegetables and beans.

4Is salad and rice good for weight loss?

Rice and salad can be a part of a healthy weight loss diet when consumed in moderation. Brown rice is a whole grain and provides more nutrients than white rice. And it’s a great source of energy.

5How do you make brown rice less boring?

Make brown rice less boring by adding it to a flavorful salad like this one!

You can add herbs, spices, and other ingredients like nuts, seeds, or dried fruits to brown rice to make it more flavorful.

6What happens if you don't rinse brown rice before cooking?

If you don’t rinse brown rice before cooking, it may have a powdery texture and a less appealing taste. Rinsing removes excess starch and potential dirt from the rice.

7Can I use leftover cooked rice for this salad?

Yes, you can use leftover cooked rice for this salad. Just make sure that it is cooled completely before adding it to the salad.

8Can I use white rice instead of brown rice for this salad?

Yes, you can use white rice instead of brown rice for this salad, but keep in mind that brown rice is a whole grain and has more fiber and nutrients than white rice. There is also a bit less flavor without the nuttiness coming from the brown rice.

9Can I make this salad ahead of time?

You can prepare the rice and dressing and chop the vegetables ahead of time, but I recommend that you wait to mix everything together until closer to serving time for the best texture and flavor.

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Brown Rice Salad

5 from 1 vote
Looking for a tasty and healthy Mediterranean-inspired dish? Try this Brown Rice Salad! It brings together the nutty flavor of brown rice with the fresh and vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean. It's filled with crisp cucumbers, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and crumbled feta cheese, all tossed in a flavorful lemon dressing.
Print Recipe

Brown Rice Salad

5 from 1 vote
Looking for a tasty and healthy Mediterranean-inspired dish? Try this Brown Rice Salad! It brings together the nutty flavor of brown rice with the fresh and vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean. It's filled with crisp cucumbers, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, parsley, and crumbled feta cheese, all tossed in a flavorful lemon dressing.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Healthy, Vegetarian
Keyword Brown Rice Salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Rice Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 403kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $8.67

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice, rinsed and drained
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 cup diced cucumber (Note 1)
  • 2/3 cup finely diced roasted red peppers (Note 2)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced sun-dried tomatoes (Note 3)
  • 2/3 cup finely diced red onion (1 small)
  • 1/3 packed cup finely diced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Optional: kalamata olives, thinly sliced

Lemon Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice plus 1/4 tsp zest

Instructions

  • RICE: To prepare the brown rice for this salad, bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add 2 tsp of salt to the water. Add the rinsed and drained rice to the pot, and boil it uncovered until it becomes tender. (Cooking time will vary slightly, depending on the type of rice used. For medium/long-grain rice, this will take around 30-35 minutes. For brown basmati rice, it will take around 12-18 minutes.) Before draining the rice, taste a piece to be sure it is cooked to your liking. Drain the rice well in a colander, and then pour it back into the (completely dry) pot. Cover the pot with a lid and let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to steam. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and let it cool completely before using it in the salad. (Either pop it in the fridge or let stand at room temperature.)
  • DRESSING: While the rice is cooling, prepare the dressing. Add all the dressing ingredients to a wide-mouth jar and season to taste. (I add 1/4 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper.) Add the lid and shake well to combine. Store the dressing in the fridge until ready to use, giving it a good shake again before dressing the salad.
  • SALAD: To prepare the salad ingredients, finely dice the cucumber, red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, and parsley. Add these diced vegetables to the cooled rice; if desired, add some thinly sliced kalamata olives as well. Pour the dressing over the salad (adding as much as you'd like), and gently toss everything together. Taste the salad, and adjust the seasonings as needed, keeping in mind that the feta cheese will add some saltiness. Top individual servings with cheese, adding as much or as little as you'd like.
  • STORAGE: Brown Rice Salad is best enjoyed fresh, but it's still delicious for a few days after making it. When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it will last for 3-4 days. However, it's worth noting that the rice and vegetables may lose some of their texture and flavor over time.
    To ensure the best possible flavor and texture, store the red onion and feta cheese separately from the rest of the salad. This helps to maintain their texture and flavor for longer. The red onion can release liquids and overpower the salad's flavor, while the feta cheese can become mushy and lose its texture if left in the dressing for too long. Adding them to the salad just before serving will ensure the best quality and flavor.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Cucumber: English or Persian/mini salad cucumbers are a superior choice. They have a less bitter taste, fewer seeds, and thin skin that doesn't need to be peeled. They're more flavorful and crispier than regular cucumbers.
Note 2: Roasted red peppers: You can buy jars of roasted red peppers at the store; they are usually near things like pickles, capers, and artichoke hearts. We love the soft texture and smokey flavor of roasted red peppers, but a raw chopped red pepper is also delicious in this salad recipe.
Note 3: Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil: Make sure to grab the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil-- not dried-- for maximum flavor and texture.
Note 4: Salad tips:
  • To remove the "bite" of red onion soak the diced onion in cold water for 5-10 minutes before adding to the salad.
  • Make sure to grab flat-leaf Italian parsley instead of curly parsley for more flavor.
  • When making the dressing, a few kitchen tools make prep a breeze — we love zesting the lemon with a microplane and then juicing with this citrus juicer.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 403kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 616mg | Potassium: 487mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 419IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 142mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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