Make your own gluten free rice a roni dish with all the right flavors, and make a great meal tonight in no time at all. Add some chicken, or leave it plain.
In case you were wondering, rice itself is gluten free.* In fact, it’s one of the most useful, versatile gluten free grains. Ground super fine, it is the base for every all purpose gluten free flour blend I use. It makes the perfect side dish for almost any meal. And if you make it into gluten free Rice a Roni, you can even make it into a complete meal in no time at all!
*If you’re just getting started on a gluten free diet and would like to know the basic rules, maybe you’d like to see my Ultimate Guide to the Basic Rules of a Gluten Free Diet. Everything you need to know is in that guide, along with plenty of links for a deeper dive into some important information.
So welcome back to another D.I.Y. Friday, an occasional blog series where we D.I.Y. a basic (sometimes naturally gluten free) recipe (like today’s recipe for homemade gluten free Rice-A-Roni chicken flavor mix) or other ingredient that you otherwise might be inclined to buy. We’ll save you money, and the bother of running to the store for every little thing. And with recipes like today’s, well, you pretty much can’t buy gluten free Rice-A-Roni so you have to make it yourself. It’s all a little confusing, I know, but just go with it okay? My whole family absolutely loves this side-dish-that-can-be-a-main-dish and it’s ridiculously easy to assemble the fragrant, flavorful dry mixes (and even dice the chicken ahead of time and store it in the refrig), so everybody wins. You hear that? Everybody wins!
If you’ve ever made the actual boxed, gluteny Rice-A-Roni, you know how this works. My method is a teeny tiny bit different than the method on the box, but don’t trouble yourself over it. I just find that this way works best for this particular copycat recipe.
When the Rice-A-Roni people tell you how to add chicken to the chicken flavored box, they tell you to cook it with the rice and pasta. But it only takes a few moments to sauté it separately, and it results in much more flavorful chicken that is never, ever overcooked.
Serve it with chicken, or without. But most importantly, please explain to me why they called it the “San Francisco treat.” I mean, really. (!)
Prep time:Cook time:Yield:4 servings
For the dry mixes 1 1/2 cups (270 g) long grain rice (brown or white)
3 to 3 1/2 cups (24 to 28 fluid ounces) water (depending upon type of rice used)
*Ingredient details and sources:
Long Grain Rice—I used Lundberg brand long grain brown rice. They also make long grain white rice, but my kids are used to brown rice and of course I prefer a complex carb to a simple one.
Gluten Free Spaghetti—I used Barilla gluten free spaghetti because I wanted to make this recipe as simple and accessible as possible and gluten free spaghetti is readily available. There are a number of companies that make gluten free vermicelli, though, and gluten free angel hair pasta.
Nutritional Yeast—I used Bragg brand “Nutritional Yeast Seasoning,” and I find it online, in my local health food store and in Whole Foods. Bob’s Red Mill also makes a gluten free “Nutritional Food Yeast,” but I haven’t tried it. Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast, and has a mild nutty and cheesy flavor. And strangely, it sort of tastes like chicken. These are life’s little mysteries. Embrace them.
First, make the dry mixes. In a medium-size bowl, place the rice and spaghetti or vermicelli and mix to combine. Set the bowl aside or place in a 4-cup glass or plastic container with a lid, then set it aside. In a small bowl, place the rest of the dry mix ingredients and mix to combine well. Set the bowl aside or place its contents in a small, zip-top bag, squeeze out all the air and seal, then place in the lidded container with the rice and pasta and seal the container for later use.
To cook the dish, in a 12-inch skillet with a lid, place the butter and olive oil and melt the butter over medium heat.** Add the rice and pasta mixture to the skillet and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the dried pasta and rice begin to smell nutty (about 3 minutes). Add the entire spice mixture, and mix to coat the grains evenly in the spices. Add the water (3 cups if using white long grain rice, 3 1/2 cups if using brown), and mix to combine. With the skillet still uncovered, bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are tender. Allow to sit, covered, for 3 minutes before serving.
**If adding the optional chicken, place the chicken in the skillet at this point, and sauté in the butter and oil for about 5 minutes total or until cooked through. Transfer the cooked chicken to a separate bowl, draining it of all liquid as you remove it from the skillet. Then proceed with the recipe as written, and add the chicken before serving.