Flavoring Rice

I need some suggestions.
I have this elderly neighbor down the street who is recovering from surgery. It is going to be a long and arduous recovery.
My girlfriend and I have been checking on her (from time to time). This neighbor has bad days where she doesn’t feel well enough to cook, so I have been sending meals down about twice a week.
Her doctor has her on a “Low Sodium” diet, so my cooking has been a bit bland.
Recently, I sent some rice down (as a side) and she asked if there was a way I could “spice” it up a bit.
I have a small amount of saffron in my spice collection and I’ll try that.
I’m looking for other spice combinations that would go well in white rice (added to the water prior to cooking). My goal is to infuse some flavor into the rice.
I also need to know how much to add per 1 cup of uncooked rice.
Thank you in advance.


Kind and generous of you to cook for her.

Lots of types of flavored rice across various cultures. A few I enjoy:

  • “Brown” rice (indian): caramelize onions well, then add rice and sauté for a few minutes before adding water (whole spices options - cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf)
  • Green rice (mexican): add a spoon or two of mole verde (blended cilantro, parsley, garlic, cumin) to cooking water
  • Lemon rice (indian): Cook rice with large peels of lemon zest and bay leaf, add lemon juice at the end and fluff (optional: add toasted or fried nuts like cashews at the end, unsalted for your friend)
  • Coconut rice (indian but also others): Cook rice in a mixture of coconut milk and water (spices optional - I like whole cardamom and cloves)
  • Aromatic rice: sauté onion and garlic in butter, add rice and sauté before adding liquid (variation: bloom a pinch of garam masala or curry powder or other salt-free spice mix in the oil too)
  • Cumin rice (indian): bloom whole cumin seeds in oil, add rice and sauté before adding liquid
  • No-salt mexican-ish rice: puree onion, tomato, garlic, optional cilantro, and top up with enough water to cook rice.

Saffron is superb (and healthy).

A teaspoon or so of cumin and chili powder and a little tomato juice hints of Spanish rice.

A good squeeze of lime can be good.

A little curry powder and apple juice would be good.

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And consider roasting those (along with some chiles) before pureeing for even more flavor.

Coconut rice is also really good with pineapple and various curry concoctions.


low sodium boullion?

coconut oil?



I’ve tried using various spices and herbs in my rice, and I much prefer the result if I make a pilaf or rice dish instead of infusing rice.


But can she eat spinach?
She might be on a BRAT diet vs or something similar.

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No idea.
Sharing it for anyone else.
HungryOnion isn’t really going to have too much to offer someone on the Banana Rice Applesauce Toast since the whole point is bland food for GI recovery .

I can’t make Spanakorizo unless it’s for me alone, because I cook for someone who can’t tolerate vitamin K.

If she can tolerate butter and vermicelli
. I’ve made this without added salt, and I cut back on the bouillon.(Watching salt here)


It was sort of a general question to the thread.

Being a CKD patient, I’m on a low sodium diet for the rest of my life.
But there are also a lot of “healthy” foods that are actually bad for me, spinach being one of those. So relaying my personal experience.


The nice thing about spanakorizo is that you could substitute drained chopped tomatoes, or some shredded zucchini for the spinach.

After about a decade of adding mushrooms, dried herbs, fresh herbs to rice, I found I liked plain rice better than my infused rice. It was mostly adding colour, not flavour. I like pilaf, I like risotto, I like biryani.

My infused rice wasn’t as tasty as plain rice topped with fresh herbs.

Now, I either make plain rice, or put in the effort to make a pilaf or other dish.


Yes, she likes spinach.
Can I puree the spinach and add it to the rice??


I sent down a lentil/rice/vegetable dish and the tomatoes upset her stomach, so I have to stay away from anything “tomato” related.


My favorite way to eat coconut rice is on its own – I find curries overwhelm the flavor (even though I know it’s a traditional pairing).

The best coconut rice I ever ate was at Asia de Cuba, where it was made with sticky rice and then wrapped in pandan leaves and steamed again. So delicious!


She didn’t mention anything like “BRAT” diet, just said “low sodium”.

I did make an egg fried rice with various vegetables (including mushrooms) but no tomatoes. She absolutely loved that, so that was a win.


If the lentils were fine, take a look at Indian khichdi – a lentil and rice risotto of sorts, endlessly variable.

There’s also mujadara, which uses whole brown lentils and lots of caramelized onions.

I didn’t venture down the path of rice dishes, as you said rice as a side – one-pot rice dishes have lots more options.


That’s interesting. There’s a lot of what you’d described as infused rice in my repertoire, and it’s always a big flavor punch vs plain. The question for me is usually whether I want it competing with / diluted by whatever it’s being served alongside.

I think of biryani, risotto, pilaf as a separate category of dish that stands on its own, not a side.


I made rice the other day and when it was done grated a tomato on it and stirred it in. But if she can’t take tomatoes that’s out for your situation. Perhaps some garlic and ginger in the cooking water? Also, that is very, very kind of you.


I’m planning to make a Coconut Lime Chicken dish for Saturday’s meal for her.
I’m wondering if I could put that over coconut rice??


Garlic and ginger – Great idea!! She has already stated she enjoys garlic and likes ginger.
Can I ask how much of each you would add to the water for 1 cup of uncooked rice?? (Teaspoon??)

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I’m a big fan of cilantro lime rice (even at Chipotle), so maybe something like this? I haven’t personally tried this recipe though.

Maybe some fried rice dishes. More traditional style fried rice isn’t doused in soy sauce like at fast food Chinese restaurants. You can use low sodium soy sauce, coconut aminos for a low salt alternative, or even forgo soy sauce and just salt lightly with regular salt. Fried rice should be white, not brown unless you sub brown rice.

A tasty rice side is “oil rice” in Chinese. Rice grains are coated in a bit of chicken fat/schmaltz with minced ginger and garlic by stir frying them quickly together. The rice is then added to your pot and cooked with either chicken broth or also the leftover water after poaching chicken. The resulting rice is amazingly flavorful and tasty enough to eat alone. It’s meant to pair with poached chicken but it’s delicious on its own.

Similarly, rice pilaf? You an still get good flavor if you’re not using a salty chicken broth cube or bullion to cook the rice.

By the way - what a wondeful act of kindness. She’s lucky to have you both as neighbors.