3 Best boxed rice pilaf deserve a spot in your pantry

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience foods have become a staple in many households. Among these, boxed rice pilaf stands out for its ease of preparation and versatility.

Whether you’re a busy professional, a parent juggling multiple responsibilities, or simply someone who enjoys a quick and tasty meal, boxed rice pilaf can be a lifesaver. But with so many options available, how do you choose the best one?

Let’s dive into the world of boxed rice pilaf and discover the top three brands that deserve a spot in your pantry.

rice pilafs and blends

Rice Pilaf is typically a blend of rice, spices and toasted pasta. Pilafs can also have ingredients added such as other grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, meat or seafood — the variations are as endless as your creativity!

What is Rice Pilaf?

Rice pilaf is a beloved dish that has its roots in the Middle East and Central Asia. Traditionally, it involves rice cooked in a seasoned broth, often with the addition of vegetables, meat, or dried fruits.

The key to a good pilaf is the cooking technique where the rice is sautéed in oil or butter before being simmered in broth, giving it a unique flavor and texture.

When it comes to boxed versions, they aim to replicate this traditional dish’s taste and convenience. These pre-packaged mixes typically include rice, seasonings, and sometimes dehydrated vegetables or other ingredients.

Criteria for Choosing the Best Boxed Rice Pilaf

To find the best boxed rice pilaf, several factors need to be considered:

  • Taste: It should be flavorful and close to homemade.
  • Ingredients: Look for high-quality, natural ingredients without excessive preservatives.
  • Ease of Preparation: It should be simple and quick to prepare.
  • Nutritional Value: A good balance of nutrients without too much sodium or unhealthy additives.
  • Price: It should offer good value for money.

Top 3 Boxed Rice Pilaf Brands

Brand A: Lundberg Organic Rice Pilaf

  • Taste Profile: Rich and hearty with a blend of organic seasonings.
  • Ingredients: Organic long grain rice, organic seasoning mix, no artificial flavors.
  • Preparation: Easy to cook; just add water or broth.
  • Nutritional Value: Low in sodium, no artificial preservatives, gluten-free.
  • Price: Slightly higher but justified by organic ingredients.

Brand B: Near East Rice Pilaf Mix

  • Taste Profile: Classic, with a hint of Mediterranean flavors.
  • Ingredients: Long grain white rice, toasted orzo, seasoning mix.
  • Preparation: Quick and straightforward; ready in about 25 minutes.
  • Nutritional Value: Moderate sodium content, enriched with essential vitamins.
  • Price: Affordable and widely available.

Brand C: Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Rice Pilaf

  • Taste Profile: Bold and spicy, true to its New Orleans roots.
  • Ingredients: Parboiled long grain rice, seasoning blend with Creole spices.
  • Preparation: Simple, with a slight kick that enhances the overall flavor.
  • Nutritional Value: Higher sodium, vibrant flavors, includes dehydrated vegetables.
  • Price: Reasonably priced, offers a distinctive taste experience.

Detailed Reviews On boxed rice pilaf

Brand A: Lundberg Organic Rice Pilaf

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  • Overview: Lundberg Family Farms is renowned for its commitment to organic and sustainable farming practices. Their rice pilaf is no exception, offering a delicious and healthy option for those who prioritize quality ingredients.
  • Pros and Cons:
    • Pros: Organic, gluten-free, low sodium, rich flavor.
    • Cons: Higher price point, limited availability in some regions.
  • Consumer Feedback: Many customers appreciate the wholesome taste and the company’s ethical practices. Some note that the price is higher but believe it’s worth it for the quality.

Brand B: Near East Rice Pilaf Mix

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  • Overview: Near East is a trusted name in convenient side dishes, offering a variety of rice and couscous products. Their rice pilaf mix is a classic choice for many households.
  • Pros and Cons:
    • Pros: Affordable, easy to prepare, widely available.
    • Cons: Contains more sodium than some other brands, not gluten-free.
  • Consumer Feedback: Users often praise its consistency and flavor. It’s a go-to for quick meals, although some wish it had less sodium.

Brand C: Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Rice Pilaf

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  • Overview: Zatarain’s brings a taste of New Orleans to kitchens across the country. Known for its bold flavors, this rice pilaf is perfect for those who enjoy a bit of spice.
  • Pros and Cons:
    • Pros: Unique, bold flavor, easy to prepare, affordable.
    • Cons: High sodium content, not suitable for those with low-sodium diets.
  • Consumer Feedback: Fans of spicy food love the authentic Creole taste. However, those watching their salt intake might find it too salty.

How to Enhance Boxed Rice Pilaf

While boxed rice pilaf is convenient, you can easily elevate it with a few simple additions:

  • Adding Vegetables: Fresh or frozen veggies like peas, carrots, bell peppers, or spinach can add color and nutrients.
  • Incorporating Protein: Cooked chicken, shrimp, or beans can turn your pilaf into a complete meal.
  • Using Broth Instead of Water: Substitute water with chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to enhance the flavor.
  • Spicing it Up: A pinch of extra herbs and spices such as parsley, thyme, or paprika can make a big difference.

Read More: What to do With Butter Cream Frosting

Comparing Boxed Rice Pilaf with Homemade

Time and Convenience: Boxed rice pilaf wins hands down for convenience and speed. Homemade pilaf, while delicious, requires more time and effort.

Flavor and Customization: Homemade allows for complete control over ingredients and flavor, which can be tailored to your preferences. Boxed versions offer consistency and ease.

Cost Analysis: Boxed rice pilaf is generally cheaper when considering the time saved. However, buying ingredients in bulk for homemade pilaf can be cost-effective in the long run.

boxed rice pilaf recipe

Easy Boxed Rice Pilaf Recipe

Boxed rice pilaf is a convenient and tasty side dish that you can easily enhance to create a more flavorful and nutritious meal. Here’s a simple recipe to elevate your boxed rice pilaf with some extra ingredients and steps.


  • 1 box of rice pilaf mix (such as Near East, Lundberg, or Zatarain’s)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds or pine nuts (optional)
  • 2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or the amount of liquid specified on the box)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (optional, for garnish)


  1. Prepare Ingredients:
    • Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and dice the carrots.
  2. Sauté Aromatics:
    • In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter over medium heat.
    • Add the chopped onion and carrots. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the carrots start to soften.
    • Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
  3. Toast the Rice:
    • Add the rice (from the boxed mix) to the skillet, stirring to coat the grains with the oil and aromatics. Toast the rice for about 2 minutes until it becomes slightly golden and fragrant.
  4. Add Liquid and Seasoning:
    • Add the seasoning packet from the box and stir well to combine.
    • Pour in the low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Stir to mix everything evenly.
  5. Cook the Rice:
    • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
    • Cover the skillet or saucepan and let the rice simmer for the time specified on the box (usually around 20-25 minutes), or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
  6. Add Vegetables:
    • About 5 minutes before the rice is done, stir in the frozen peas. Cover and continue cooking until the peas are heated through and tender.
  7. Optional Nuts:
    • If using nuts, toast the sliced almonds or pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until they are golden brown and fragrant. Set aside.
  8. Finish and Serve:
    • Once the rice is cooked and all the liquid is absorbed, fluff it with a fork.
    • Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
    • Stir in the toasted nuts if using.
    • Garnish with fresh chopped parsley for a burst of color and flavor.
  9. Serve:
    • Serve the rice pilaf hot as a side dish or a base for grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables.


  • Variations: Customize this recipe by adding other vegetables like bell peppers, spinach, or mushrooms.
  • Protein: Turn it into a main dish by adding cooked chicken, shrimp, or tofu during the last few minutes of cooking.
  • Spices: Enhance the flavor with additional spices such as paprika, cumin, or thyme.

This easy boxed rice pilaf recipe is a great way to transform a simple pantry staple into a delicious and satisfying meal.

Health Considerations

When choosing boxed rice pilaf, keep an eye on:

  • Sodium Content: Some brands have high sodium levels. Opt for those with lower sodium if this is a concern.
  • Preservatives and Additives: Look for brands that use natural ingredients without artificial additives.
  • Gluten-Free Options: If you need gluten-free products, check the labels carefully. Some brands like Lundberg offer gluten-free varieties.

Sustainable and Ethical Choices

  • Organic Options: Brands like Lundberg offer organic rice pilaf, which is better for your health and the environment.
  • Eco-Friendly Packaging: Consider brands that use recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
  • Ethical Sourcing of Ingredients: Supporting brands that ensure fair labor practices and sustainable sourcing is a good choice for the planet and people.


Choosing the best boxed rice pilaf involves considering taste, ingredients, ease of preparation, nutritional value, and price. Lundberg Organic Rice Pilaf, Near East Rice Pilaf Mix, and Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Rice Pilaf stand out as top contenders. Each offers unique flavors and benefits, catering to different preferences and dietary needs.


What’s the difference between rice and rice pilaf?

The primary difference between rice and rice pilaf lies in the preparation method and the final dish’s flavor and texture.
Preparation: Typically, rice is cooked by boiling or steaming. It is often prepared by rinsing the grains to remove excess starch, then simmering them in water until they absorb the liquid and become tender.
Flavor and Texture: Plain rice has a neutral flavor, making it a versatile base for various dishes. The texture is usually fluffy or sticky, depending on the type of rice used (e.g., long grain, short grain, jasmine, basmati).
Usage: Plain rice is a staple food in many cultures and is often served as a side dish or as a component of more complex dishes like stir-fries, sushi, or curries.
Rice Pilaf:
Preparation: Rice pilaf involves a more elaborate cooking process. The rice is first sautéed in oil or butter, often with aromatics like onions or garlic. This toasting process enhances the rice’s flavor. Afterward, the rice is simmered in a seasoned broth (instead of plain water) until it absorbs the liquid.
Flavor and Texture: Pilaf is known for its rich, savory flavor, resulting from the broth and seasonings used during cooking. The sautéing step gives the rice a nutty taste and prevents it from sticking together, leading to a more separated and fluffy texture.
Usage: Rice pilaf is usually served as a standalone side dish or as a bed for meats and vegetables. It can include additional ingredients like vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, or dried fruits, making it more complex and flavorful than plain rice.

What does pilaf mean in rice?

In the context of rice, “pilaf” refers to a method of cooking rice where the grains are first sautéed in oil or butter, often with aromatics like onions or garlic, and then simmered in a seasoned broth until they are tender and flavorful. This technique enhances the rice’s taste and results in a dish with a rich, savory flavor and a slightly nutty undertone. The sautéing process also helps to keep the rice grains separate and fluffy, preventing them from becoming sticky or clumped together.
Pilaf is not just a cooking method but also a term for the dish itself, which can include various additional ingredients such as vegetables, spices, herbs, nuts, or dried fruits. The term “pilaf” is derived from the Turkish word “pilav,” which in turn has roots in Persian “pilāv” and Sanskrit “pulāka,” meaning a rice dish.

Is pilaf and pulao same?

Pilaf and pulao are very similar, but they are not exactly the same. Both refer to a method of cooking rice where the grains are sautéed before being cooked in a seasoned broth, which enhances the flavor and texture. However, there are subtle differences that distinguish them, mainly based on regional variations and specific ingredients used.

is near east rice healthy?

Near East rice is considered healthy depends on various factors, including the specific type of Near East product and individual dietary needs. Here are some general considerations to help determine its healthiness:
Ingredients and Nutrition:
Whole Grains: Some Near East products, such as their Whole Grain Blends, include whole grains like brown rice, which are higher in fiber and nutrients compared to refined grains.
Low in Fat: Many Near East rice products are low in fat, which can be beneficial for those looking to manage their fat intake.
Vitamins and Minerals: Near East rice often contains added vitamins and minerals, which can contribute to a balanced diet.
Sodium Content:
One common concern with packaged rice mixes is the sodium content. Near East rice pilaf and other mixes can have relatively high sodium levels due to the seasoning packets. High sodium intake is linked to increased blood pressure and other health issues, so it’s essential to check the nutrition label if you’re monitoring your sodium intake.
Preservatives and Additives:
Near East products typically do not contain artificial preservatives, which is a positive aspect. However, they may include other additives for flavor and preservation.
Portion Control:
Packaged rice mixes often provide more than one serving per box, so portion control is essential to avoid consuming excess calories or sodium.
Dietary Needs:
Gluten-Free Options: If you need gluten-free products, check the labels carefully, as not all Near East products are gluten-free.
Special Diets: Consider how the specific product fits into your overall dietary needs, whether you’re following a vegetarian, vegan, low-sodium, or another specialized diet.

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