Down & Dirty Cajun Rice

This is a fresher take on a Louisiana style rice known as Dirty Rice While the real deal is a meal in itself, this Down & Dirty rice pulls a just few elements from the original and makes a wonderful side dish. Add sausage, ham or your favorite smoked pork product for a full meal. There’s tons of flavor, lots of vegetable and just a hint of smokiness to this rice.

Down & Dirty Cajun Rice
Down & Dirty Cajun Rice – a little crust on the bottom is lovely; use your nose!

A Louisiana Cajun might very well take issue with the naming of this dish – there are no gizzards or chicken livers here, items that give dirty rice its hallmark flavor. What is here is a lot of the same wonderful spicing found in so many Cajun dishes throughout the South.

Vary the heat level of this rice depending on what else is being served. As is, it’s a perfect accompaniment to dish that’s a bit spicy, like my Grilled Cajun Chicken. The rice is flavorful but it’s milder profile adds a bit of contrast and relief to the spicier main dish. If you’d like to serve this with anything milder, up the spiciness of this dish and really bring the flavor home.

To shortcut, rather than measuring out the spices for this particular recipe, use my Cajun spice blend, or a commercial one instead.

Rinsing the rice thoroughly and removing as much of the starch as possible gives a gorgeous pilaf style texture, light and fluffy. With a bit of luck, the bottom of the pan will get just a bit toasty – combined with the bacon, the whole dish is infused with smoky flavor. For a healthier take, feel free to use oil instead of the bacon.

Down & Dirty Cajun Rice

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 2 ounces (about 2 slices) bacon, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green or yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon oil, optional
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or Frank’s hot sauce
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, optional
  • thinly sliced green onion for garnish, optional

Place rice in a medium bowl, fill with water. Using hands, swish the rice to release the starch, drain and repeat five more times (for a total of six times) until the water is nearly clear. Strain rice and set aside. (Do not skip rinsing the rice as this also affects the amount of liquid needed to make this recipe a success.)

Heat a large pan or Dutch oven, add bacon and fry until crisp. Add onion, celery and bell peppers, saute until slightly softened. Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds longer. Add a little oil, at any point if mixture appears too dry.

Add rice, stirring to coat, and cook for about a minute. Quickly add salt, pepper, cayenne and hot sauce. Immediately add chicken stock and stir in bay, oregano, thyme and parsley. Bring to a boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn heat down to a bare simmer.

Simmer 15 to 17 minutes. This may vary depending on rice and heat level. Taste for texture: rice should be al dente with a bit of a bite, but tender. If not, quickly replace lid and cook a moment longer. When done, turn heat off, leaving lid on and rest for five minutes. Fluff with a fork, using a spatula, if needed to bring any toasted rice up to the top of the dish.

Remove bay leaves and garnish with green onion.

Note: Use your nose when cooking this recipe – while a bit of toasted goodness on the bottom of the pan is wonderful, burned is not. Turn down immediately (and consider moving off heat for a moment so the bottom of the pan can cool some, if necessary) if you smell any actual burning going on.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • Rice:  You’ll find coupons for rice and sales – I picked up rice for nearly a year at no cost or a few pennies a package thanks to Riceland.  If I have to pay, I’ll look for a smaller package that’s covered by the price of the coupon, or if I have no coupon, I’ll buy the larger bags.  Look it the various sections of your store – Asian, Indian, Mexican and see if the price per pound is less. Rice is generally less in the fall.  Cost 16 cents.
  • Bell Pepper:  There are two types of sales, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. The peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. A really good price in our area is about a fifty to seventy cents a pepper for the red, yellow or orange ones, and 40 to 75 cents for the green bell. This is one item I buy at Aldi only if not on sale for less at my regular grocer. Cost 99 cents for two peppers.
  • Onions: They keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. Always less expensive in the fall/winter months, the pricing in my area runs from 33 to 66 cents a pound. Store them in a dark, cool place but not near potatoes. If you’ve bought too many onions, don’t let them go bad.
    Slice or dice them, saute and portion into Ziplocs labeled “onions” and freeze. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. If you have enough, consider making French Onion Soup. If you use half an onion, consider if you can sauté the rest and put it in a Ziploc in the freezer. If not store in the door where you’ll see it when you’re cooking next. 1 at 33 cents a pound, about 10 cents.
  • Celery: Generally inexpensive, but does go on sale from time to time, so I buy extra when it does. Celery keeps so well, there’s no reason to not buy when it’s not on sale. Remember to use your leaves, they’re full of flavor, and if you don’t use them in your cooking, save them, along with the bottom parts for soup or stock.  Always wash your celery extremely well. To keep longer, slip a plastic bag loosely over the exposed top of the celery. A good price in my area is 98 cents a sleeve, with about 15 or so stalks in a sleeve. Cost 6 cents.
  • Garlic:  I look for a price of about $2.99 a pound, or about 54 cents a head. Check the pricing of the bulk per pound as opposed to the packaged. I never really find it on sale, but I use so much, I pay attention and buy a bit more when I see the price is lower.  Cost for 4 cloves, around 5 cents.
  • Bacon: Used to be an inexpensive ingredient, its price has risen with its popularity. Let’s face it, bacon isn’t the healthiest – we seldom use it here on its own as a meat, but do use it in small amounts in recipes, where I consider it as a “flavoring” rather than a protein. I buy on store specials and take advantage of coupons – my go to price is between $2.00 and $3.00 a package. I freeze until needed, partially thaw (until a knife will go through) and cut across the bacon from top to bottom. 1/16th is the same size as a strip. I wrap the bacon back up and freeze again. Cost 38 cents.
  • Hot Sauce: Hot sauces are a highly competitive and sales and coupons make them very inexpensive. Generally the smaller bottles, combines with both are often free or just pennies. Stock up. Cost nominal.
  • Chicken Stock:  If you read me regularly, I make my own with scraps of vegetables and bones – here’s the basic recipe I use for Best Turkey or Chicken Stock – it’s not particular and though it simmers for a long time, the burner is barely on – I just count it as free.
  • Green Onion: I try to buy on sale for about 50 cents a bunch (usually during Holidays) then put the white tips in a jar of water in a sunny window to regrow. Kids love taking ownership of the project. I only need to replenish every few months. Cost is so minimal that I don’t even count it.
    Fresh Herbs: I grow my own in the garden, and keep a few ones I often use on the back steps in a strawberry pot. When winter comes, I bring indoors. Indoors is not always ideal for herb growing, but since a plant costs about the same as a bunch, there’s really no loss, even if it dies off; just snip and dry. Cost: nominal.

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Put Your own Spin on it:

  • Vary the spiciness to your desired heat level.
  • A full on dirty rice could be made by adding in 8 ounces of chopped chicken livers and/or gizzards with the bacon.
  • A full meal can be made by adding in smoked sausage with the bacon.
  • This simple dish could also be used with other vegetables and spices to compliment almost any cuisine.

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