Dirty Rice is a taste-it-to-believe-it dish. The dish is brown in color, as if someone added too much soy sauce to fried rice–and then set it on fire. No, it isn’t overcooked. Instead, with fried garlic and caramelized onions, it’s umami-packed and oh so good.
My interest in dirty rice piqued when I found a version of this Cajun classic in Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage, and Tara Wigley. Their audacity intrigued me. How could someone make a vegan version of this veritable carnivore’s delight? Traditional versions include chicken liver and heart, pork, ground beef, or all of the above. I was also a little suspicious…what could London-based chefs know about this Louisiana classic? Could a dirty rice recipe work with onions, garlic, and chestnuts for flavor?
The answer was yes.
What is dirty rice?
Called “dirty rice,” “Cajun rice,” or even “rice dressing,” this dish arose out of resourcefulness. Adding giblets along with vegetables, spices, and hot sauces was–and still is–a way to add extra nutritional oomph to the rice that grows abundantly in the region.
I started to understand how this dish got its flavor when I perused the ingredients. They included (gasp) two-and-a-half cups of diced onions and a whopping seven cloves of garlic. (The original recipe even included black garlic.)
Also noteworthy: this recipe isn’t for the faint of heart. The original recipe uses directions like [paraphrased] “crank the heat to high” AND “don’t burn it.” Frying onion at high temperatures does turn its bitter notes into sweetness, but proceed with caution. You may find yourself toeing the line between dirty rice and charcoal brick rice. Monitor the heat of your pan frequently as different frying pans and burners conserve heat differently.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!Print
A classic Cajun dish remade vegan through the richness of caramelized onions, fried garlic, and chestnuts.
- 1 cup Basmati rice
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves sliced garlic
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1/4 cup light cooking oil, such as coconut or grapeseed
- 2 1/2 cups onions, diced (I used sweet red onions)
- 1 1/4 cup roasted chestnuts, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2/3 cup vegetable broth
- 1 big handful of parsley (about half a bunch), loosely chopped
- juice of 1 medium lemon
- Rinse your Basmati rice until the water runs clear. This gets rid of any excess starch that will make your rice stick together and smell a little funky when cooked.
- Cook your rice, as directed, on the stovetop, in a rice cooker, or in an Instant Pot (I chose the latter). Regardless of how you cook it, make sure to add 1/4 teaspoon salt with the rice.
- When the rice is done cooking, remove from the pot and place in a covered bowl to keep warm and moist.
- Next, heat a small frying pan over medium. When hot, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and let heat. The oil is ready when a piece of garlic, dropped into the oil, immediately starts to bubble. Add the SLICED garlic and fry until golden. Make sure you watch the pan and take out the garlic as it turns golden. When the garlic is removed, reserve the oil in a small bowl.
- Next, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add the butter or coconut oil and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the diced onions and minced garlic. Cook this mixture for 10-12 minutes keeping a close eye on the onions to make sure they don’t burn. If you need to, turn the pan down to medium to maintain an even caramelization.
- Add the chestnuts, Creole seasoning, smoked paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue cooking the mixture, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Don’t cut corners here–the longer you cook it, the more the spices will roast, giving you a nice even flavor.
- Next, add the rice, turn the heat up to high, and stir constantly until the rice begins to crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and cook on high for another 2 minutes–no stirring allowed!
- Remove the mixture from the pan and into a bowl. Add the parsley, the lemon juice, the reserved garlic oil, the crispy fried garlic, and stir.
- You made it! Nice work.
Recipe adapted from Flavor.
Keywords: dirty rice, Cajun rice, rice dressing, onions, garlic, sauté, dinner, vegetarian, vegan, flavor