What Type of Rice Do Greek Restaurants Use and How to Cook It?

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Greek style chicken with cauliflower rice in a pan with a text "What Kind of Rice Do Greek Restaurants Use"

Are you craving restaurant-style Greek rice and wondering what type of rice they use? 

Authentic Greek rice or rice pilaf is well-known for its citrusy and herby flavors. The best part is that there is no mystery surrounding its recipe or the type of rice used either.

Restaurant-style Greek rice in a bowl with lemon and herb on top.

Greek restaurants use long-grain varieties, like basmati or jasmine, in their most famous rice dish, pilafi. Pilafi typically consists of toasted rice infused with lemon juice. Sometimes, the restaurants may also use whole-grain brown rice or arborio rice for other dishes, like stuffed grape leaves.

Which Type of Rice Is Used in Greek Restaurants?

2 wooden spoon of white and brown rice.

Greek restaurants use long-grain varieties (Nuhaki in Greek) like basmati or jasmine, known for their tender yet slightly firm texture.

White rice in a white bowl.

Both basmati and jasmine varieties have lower starch content, which helps prevent the rice from becoming mushy when cooked.

Moreover, these two rice varieties also absorb the flavors nicely, making them an ideal fit for scrumptious Greek cuisine!

The restaurants may also use other types, like arborio rice or whole-grain brown rice 

Arborio rice in a wooden plate.

(Carolina Rice).

How to Make Restaurant-Style Greek Rice?

One of the most famous rice dishes in Greek restaurants is the Rice Pilaf (Pilafi). 

Now that you’re familiar with the type of rice they use, let’s also take a look at how they make it.


  • 1 cup of basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1 ½ cup of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove 
  • 3 to 4 saffron strands 
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • Dried herbs (parsley, tarragon) 

Step 1: Wash and Rinse the Rice

Always start with this step. It ensures that the excess starch is removed from the rice, resulting in non-sticky grains.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Add one cup of long-grain rice to a bowl. I prefer using basmati rice, as it is fluffier than jasmine rice. 

Tip: Opt for jasmine rice if you want more moistness and softness.

Jasmine rice in a caserole.

2. Next, soak the rice for 15 to 20 minutes. The cloudy appearance of the water shows the presence of extra starch.

Rice soaked with water.

3. After soaking the rice, drain the water using a sieve

Soaked rice drained with a sieve.

4. Then, rinse the rice under tap water at least twice or thrice, until the water runs clear. Transparent water indicates that there is no extra starch left!

Rice rinsed with water.

Note: Skipping this step may result in mushy or sticky texture. It can ruin the flavors needed for restaurant-style Greek rice.

Step 2: Toast the Rice In Butter and Spices 

This step is the heart of the recipe, as we will infuse the Mediterranean and Greek flavors into our rice here.

1. Add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil to a cooking pot.

Butter melting in a cooking pot.

2. Next, add one finely chopped garlic clove to the cooking pot and sauté it over medium-low heat until golden brown.

Chopped garlic sauteed with a butter.

3. Transfer the rinsed rice into the cooking pot and toast over medium-low heat.

Rinsed rice added to the cooking pot.

4. Squeeze one lemon over the toasted rice to bring out a zesty flavor.

Lemon juice in a white bowl.

5. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of dried parsley or tarragon over the toasted rice, and continue sautéing.

Dried parsley added to the toasted rice.

6. Next, soak three to four saffron strands in milk to bring out their flavor. This is the secret ingredient that many Greek restaurants use to make their rice more delicious.

Soaked three to four saffron strands in milk.

7. Pour the saffron-milk mixture on the rice and toast everything for two to three minutes. 

Saffron-milk mixture added on the rice.

Feel free to use other ingredients like onions, orzo pasta, and black pepper in this step, according to your preference!

Step 3: Cook the Rice In Broth 

You need to cook the toasted rice in either chicken stock (preferable) or vegetable stock for a lovely umami flavor. 

1. Add one and a half cups of chicken or vegetable broth for each cup of basmati or jasmine rice.

Avoid adding salt if your broth already contains it, as the rice may become too salty

Chicken broth added to the rice.

2. Close the lid and cook the rice over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Once done, the rice should have a tender texture. You can check this by chewing on a grain to see if it feels too hard. If it does, add a bit of broth and cook for an additional five to ten minutes.

Cooked rice in a cooking pot.

6. Transfer the cooked Greek restaurant-style rice to a bowl, and garnish it with some fresh cilantro or coriander.

What Can You Serve With Restaurant-Style Greek Rice?

While Greek-style rice is delicious, it’s just not enough to satisfy my hunger! So, I prefer cooking something alongside it to make it a truly fulfilling meal.

Here are a few sides that you can try out too:

  • Grilled Chicken or Tofu: If you want to include protein in your meal, go for grilled chicken or tofu. Its smoky flavor pairs well with the citrusy and herby notes of Greek rice.
Grilled chicken breast in a wooden board with white sauce.
  • Horiatiki Salad: It is a traditional Greek salad made with fresh vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, olives, and feta cheese.

I love how the mildness of this salad complements the strong flavors of the Greek rice.

Horiatiki salad in a white plate.
  • Tzatziki Sauce: If you love creamy dips with rice, try this authentic Greek one consisting of yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and herbs. It adds a unique flavor and moistness to dry Greek rice. 
Tzatziki sauce in a wooden bowl with sliced lemons and herbs on the side.
  • Roasted Vegetables: You can never go wrong with roasted vegetables. They’re simple to make and go well with any rice dish, including Greek rice.
Roasted vegetables in a skilket.
  • Souvlaki: This Greek dish is for all kebab lovers! It consists of skewered and grilled meat marinated with a bunch of delicious seasonings, like olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, and garlic. 
Souvlaki and chicken skewers.

Final Thoughts 

Most Greek restaurants use long-grain rice varieties, such as jasmine or basmati, for their signature dishes. 

The rice is turned into a delicious lemon Greek rice by toasting it with various spices, squeezing lemon juice into it, and cooking it with chicken broth!

Saniya Baxi Avatar


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