Upgrading Instant Rice Is As Easy As Adding Cheese

Cheesy rice with herbs in a bowl
Cheesy rice with herbs in a bowl - Martinturzak/Getty Images

Rice is a staple ingredient in cultures all over the world. And with good reason, it's delicious, versatile, and abundantly available in many varieties, from brown rice to jasmine, arborio to basmati, and white to wild. Cooking it, however, can take some time and finesse, which is why instant rice is a saving grace for many time-strapped grain lovers. That said, sometimes you want a little more flavor from your fast-cooking dish. As it so often does, cheese is here to save the day.

To seriously upgrade your instant rice, all you need to do is select your preferred type of creamy, salty, gooey, savory, funky goodness and mix it right in. This brings a deeply flavorful, umami oomph to a fairly neutral canvas, and creates a silky texture that mimics something close to mac and cheese or risotto.

Bonus points that by adding cheese, you're also fortifying your rice with plenty of nutritional benefits, like calcium and protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can promote everything from bone and gut health to potentially lowering blood pressure, according to WebMD. This tip yields a fast, flavorful, and nutritious meal that only requires two simple ingredients.

Read more: 5 Rice Brands To Buy, And 5 To Avoid

Applying This Cheesy Tip

Shredded cheese on cutting board
Shredded cheese on cutting board - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

Most instant rice is parboiled, meaning that it's partially boiled prior to packaging. This is what makes the process of preparing it at home so magically accelerated — half the work has already been done. Given that the goal here is ease, you can opt for a cheese that's already shredded or crumbled to do some of the work.

When it comes to the flavor, with so many kinds of cheese and rice, you will find yourself with an abundance of combinations that can keep you experimenting and inspired for a very long time, all while having the ability to whip these up in a flash. A handful of parmesan or mozzarella is simple and classically Italian in flavor profile and gives a salty contrast to the mild, lightly sweet white rice, while cheddar puts you closer to the cheesy mac territory. Monterey Jack brings a distinctly Mexican flair, while wild rice, with its inherent earthiness, will stand up well to an assertive blue cheese like Gorgonzola. With so many options, a good rule of thumb is to be sure to choose a nice melty cheese (fontina, Taleggio, asiago, and gouda among them), so you can guarantee a good gooey integration with your grains.

Cheesy Rice Inspiration

Stuffed peppers on plate
Stuffed peppers on plate - Esin Deniz/Shutterstock

Cheesy rice can be served either on its own, or with additions, in just about any course or time of day. As a side dish, add a little broccoli for a nutritious green boost. You can even bake instant rice with cheese and your choice of spices, like cayenne for a bit of heat. Bake your cheesy rice into stuffed peppers for a dish that makes an impressive side, but is substantial enough to be an entree.

As a stand-in for a main like risotto, try a creamy mushroom version for some earthy and satisfying comfort food. By adding goat cheese and broccoli rabe, you get to incorporate a creamy tang with a balancing bitterness.

You can even use this technique to hack Italian arancini by combining your instant rice with mozzarella, forming into balls and frying for a crisp, gooey contender for your next appetizer spread. Grab a hunk of Gruyère, a bit of broth, and some caramelized onions to give your rice a French onion soup flavor that is a complete game changer. There is almost no limit to what you can do with this easy upgrade, and regardless of how you choose to serve it, you'll have a satisfying dish in an instant, guaranteed.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.