Cook Your Rice In Pickle Brine For An Effortless Flavor Blast

Rice can be just "blah," or this grain can be the belle of the ball. Once you pick the best type of rice for the dish you have in mind, you have another decision to make: the cooking liquid. Yes, water is fine, but also boring. Broth adds some extra flavor, but it's oh-so pedestrian. Pickle brine, on the other hand? Pickle brine is fun. Pickle brine is intriguing. Pickle brine is already sitting on your refrigerator door saying, "Put me in, coach!" 

Before you twist your mouth into a pucker, give it a chance. Pickle brine is herbaceous and zingy, and it turns this run-of-the-mill starch into a star. Plus — and this is key — you are not going to use 100% brine for the cooking liquid. Instead, cut it with some water, so that the underlying flavors and just the right amount of acidity are pulled through into your very exciting pot of rice. Just wash the raw rice if you prefer, and mix together a ratio of two parts water to one part brine to cook it. 

This ratio should be enough to perfume the rice with flavor, without making it taste so pickle-y that it doesn't go with other foods. A few other tips can help you achieve the ideal flavor balance, as well.

Before you proceed, take a swig

Before you cook your rice in pickle brine, you should taste it. You need to get a gauge of how sour and salty it is, as different brands will have varying levels of sodium and vinegar. Also, most pickle juice doesn't just taste like vinegar and salt — jarred cucumber pickles usually use extra ingredients like mustard seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and/or dill. There are many creatively-seasoned pickles on the market, so try choosing a variety that will go well with the dishes you serve with the rice.

Once you mix together your water and brine, you can taste and adjust for salt at this step. Keep in mind that the flavor will concentrate as water evaporates during cooking, so don't make the cooking liquid too salty. You can always add a bit more salt to the rice once it's done. Whether you choose to use the stovetop or rice cooker, stirring rice is a one way ticket to disappointing texture — set a timer, and leave it alone! When it's done, fluff it with a fork. We dare you not to eat it all straight from the pot.

Pickle rice builds a strong flavor foundation

Rice bowls are an easy way to enjoy your pickle-inflected rice, and you can try so many creative combinations for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Use different types of pickle brines to start creating a flavor story from the grains up, then top with your choice of protein and more pickles. Use classic sour dill pickle brine to make rice for a barbecue meat bowl. Finish it with pulled pork, buttered corn, and creamy coleslaw. Dolly Parton's tangy coleslaw would be perfect, as it also includes pickles in the mix.

You can also use pickled olive brine as the start of a Mediterranean-inspired rice bowl. Load it up with hummus, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, fresh parsley, and plenty of Kalamata olives. For breakfast, you could use the flavorful liquid from a jar of kimchi for rice that is perfectly suited for a runny fried egg. 

At lunchtime, upgrade your meal prep by using a bit of pickled jalapeño brine (you may want to dilute it more to adjust the heat level) to make rice for a burrito bowl. Some simple grilled chicken, sautéed peppers and onions, avocado, salsa, and sour cream will be lifted up by rice that can more than hold its own.