Dirty Rice

The Southern side dish goes well with just about anything, and it's delicious all on its own.

An overhead shot of a serving bowl of dirty rice

Jillian Atkinson

Why It Works

  • Cooking the rice separately ensures it's perfectly cooked.
  • Puréeing the giblets helps distribute their flavor evenly when the purée is mixed with the rice.

Dirty rice, which sometimes goes by “rice dressing” or “Cajun rice,” is a rice dish typically made with the “Holy Trinity” of onions, bell peppers, and celery, a hefty amount of ground meat and chicken giblets, and a heavy sprinkling of Creole seasonings, like cayenne, sage, and paprika. While it’s now enjoyed all across the country, it’s celebrated in the South, particularly Louisiana, and its odd name is less an insult than a term of endearment: it describes the recognizably brownish-gray coloring from the browned meat and puréed giblets, which are prized by cooks, chefs, and good eaters alike. Some people may be turned off by eating these bits of the bird—the gizzards, the livers, the hearts—but they’re nutrient-rich and delicious, and dirty rice is a great way to eat them, especially for people who might be intimidated by the way a whole gizzard, liver, or heart might look.

I like serving my dirty rice as a side with fried or baked fish, with red beans and sausage, or with smothered okra and barbecued, baked, or fried chicken or pork chops. Or, sometimes, I like to serve it in a big bowl on its own, with a garnish of green onion or chopped parsley. This recipe is a bit more mild in terms of chile heat than many of the dirty rice dishes I’ve had, so feel free to adjust the quantities to suit your own taste and level of spice tolerance. Using ground beef or chicken, adding small picked-over pieces of meat from a leftover roast, and cooking the rice in the puréed giblets rather than separately are all alternative ways to also explore making this dirty rice recipe your own.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 65 mins
Serves: 2 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (7 ounces; 200g) uncooked long-grain white rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable or other neutral oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces; 70g) finely diced yellow onion (about half an 8-ounce/225g onion)
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces; 45g) finely diced green bell pepper (about one quarter of an 8-ounce/225g pepper)
  • 1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces; 35g) finely diced celery (about 1 large rib)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound (225g) ground pork, beef, or spicy breakfast sausage (if using sausage, remove casings)
  • 1 pound (450g) mixed chicken giblets, such as liver, gizzard, and hearts
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, rinse rice with multiple changes of cold water until the water begins to turn clear. Drain rice well, return to saucepan, and cover with 2 cups (475ml) cold water along with a pinch of salt.

    white rice added to pot and covered in water

    Jillian Atkinson

  2. Set saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, stir rice once, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork; set aside to cool.

    Water coming to a boil to cook rice

    Jillian Atkinson

  3. Meanwhile, in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron or stainless-steel skillet, heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables begin to soften and onion becomes slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, for 1 minute longer.

    Onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic added to pan

    Jillian Atkinson

  4. Add the ground meat or sausage, season lightly with salt, then increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring and breaking up chunks of meat with a wooden spoon, until meat is fully cooked and begins to brown in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Scrape vegetables and meat onto a heatproof platter and set aside. 

    ground beef added to vegetable mixture and lightly browned

    Jillian Atkinson

  5. Wipe out skillet, add remaining 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken giblets and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring often, until they are fully cooked through and browned on all sides, about 10 minutes (you can check doneness by cutting a thicker piece of giblet in half). Remove from heat.

    chicken giblets browning in a pan

    Jillian Atkinson

  6. Working in batches, if necessary, transfer giblets to food processor or blender and pulse, scraping down sides as necessary, until very finely minced and almost smooth, about 2 minutes. If you don't have a blender or food processor, you can very finely mince the giblets with a knife after letting them cool.

    cooked giblets before and after being pulsed in a food processor

    Jillian Atkinson

  7. Wipe out the skillet once more. Return vegetable-meat mixture and processed giblets to skillet. Set over medium heat and stir in black pepper, ground sage, paprika, and cayenne.

    ground meat and vegetable mixture returned to skillet with seasoning

    Jillian Atkinson

  8. Stir in rice and season with salt, if needed. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until all ingredients are incorporated and rice is fluffy and has taken on an even brown tint, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

    cooked rice added to skillet and mixed in, turning an even brown color

    Jillian Atkinson

Special equipment

Blender or food processor.