Arabic Rice Recipe (Butter Rice with Vermicelli)

Rice plays a special role in Middle Eastern cuisine. Rice is the side dish of choice, closely followed by pita bread.

Arabic rice is anything but boring. On the contrary, it’s very light, fluffy and delicious. From grilled meat to vegetable stews, it pairs well with pretty much all Middle Eastern main dishes. Every Arab family serves rice at least every other day. Sometimes as a side dish, sometimes as part of a one-pot meal.

With this step by step recipe, I’ll show you how to make Arabic rice quickly and easily at home. Besides, I’m also going to share a few additional tips about rice with you.

Butter rice recipe

What is Arabic Rice?

Rice is rice, right? Not even close!

Rice can be dry and boring if prepared incorrectly. On the other hand, rice can also be super delicious – provided it’s prepared the right way. Of course, this starts with the right amount of water, but it goes much further.

Middle Eastern rice is usually made with other ingredients in addition to white rice. There are several varieties of Arabic rice, for example yellow rice (turmeric spiced rice), rice with raisins and nuts, or the popular Arabic rice made with vermicelli.

The latter is the easiest and most popular version. Since the rice is cooked with a little butter, this Arabic rice is often called butter rice.

Ingredients for Arabic Rice

Below you’ll find the ingredients for Arabic rice. You can customize this basic recipe to your preference.

  • Basmati rice: There are many different types of rice. In Arabic cuisine, basmati rice is the most popular. To prepare Arabic rice as a side dish, I usually use basmati rice, but sometimes I also use jasmine rice (pandan). You definitely need loose rice for Arabic rice, not rice in cooking bags. Loose rice is much cheaper than bagged rice anyway. Once you know how to cook rice properly, you’ll probably never buy bagged rice again.
  • Vermicelli: A special feature of Arabic rice is vermicelli. A short, fine noodle, similar to soup noodles. You can find them in every Middle Eastern grocery store and many supermarkets.
  • Water: Rice is cooked in water. Part of the water is absorbed by the rice, the other part evaporates. Unlike with pasta, the amount of water you add to rice is very important.
  • Stock (vegetable broth): Using vegetable broth is optional. It gives the rice a little more flavor. You can omit it if you don’t have vegetable broth at home or don’t like it. Some brands contain way too much salt, which I personally don’t like. The brand (quality) is decisive.
  • Butter: Traditionally, Middle Eastern rice is cooked in butter. Don’t worry, the amount of butter is quite low, so you don’t have to worry about the calories. If you don’t like butter or want to make vegan Arabic rice, you can also use ghee (vegetable ghee) or sunflower oil.
  • Salt: Unlike pasta, salt is less essential when cooking rice. I just add a pinch of salt to the rice water.

Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.

How Much Water to Cook Rice?

Using the right amount of water is crucial to producing perfectly fluffy and airy rice that won’t burn. As a rule of thumb, you need 1.5-2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. This holds true when cooking in an ordinary saucepan, at least. The amount is slightly less in a rice stove and pressure cooker.

  • Not enough water = rice will be undercooked, likely to burn
  • Too much water = rice becomes mushy
How to cook rice
Perfectly fluffy rice

Arabic Rice Recipe (Step by Step)

Step 1: Soak rice

If you want to do everything right, you should soak your rice before cooking. Soaking reduces cooking time and improves flavor. Any contaminants (contained in some brands) can be drastically reduced.

I recommend soaking your rice in plenty of water for about 30 minutes before cooking. But if you don’t have time, you can go straight to step 2. However, try to make soaking your rice a habit.

Step 2: Wash rice

One step you should never skip is washing your rice. Washing helps the rice lose unnecessary starch residue and rinses away any impurities.

Add rice to a large bowl (or fine mesh strainer) and add plenty of water. Stir with your hands. Once the water turns white (starch residues), pour out the water. Repeat the process 2-3 times until the water runs clear. Place washed rice aside.

Step 3: Melt butter

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over high heat. Make sure your pot is not too small. A medium to large sized pot is your best choice. You should have a lid (you’ll need it later).

Step 4: Toast vermicelli

Add the vermicelli to the melted butter. Stir constantly and cook until golden brown. The process takes about 2-3 minutes.

It is important to stir, as vermicelli burns quickly. Do not let the vermicelli turn too dark (a light golden brown color is ideal).

Step 5: Add rice, salt and vegetable broth

Add the washed rice, a pinch of salt and vegetable broth to the saucepan. Stir well. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Don’t add any water at this stage. The idea is to allow the flavors to develop.

Step 6: Add water

Add hot water to your saucepan to deglaze. Stir well. Bring the water to a rolling boil (still on high heat without a lid). When adding hot water, this should take about a minute.

Step 7: Simmer

Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot with a lid and let the rice simmer for about 10-12 minutes. The water will be absorbed by the rice as it cooks, causing the rice to become larger. Stir once or twice in the second half of the cooking time to make sure none of the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot.

Lebanese rice recipe
Lebanese butter rice with vermicelli

What to Serve with Rice?

Arabic rice is a popular side dish served with many main dishes. Butter rice goes well with savory stews such as Lubia (green beans in tomato sauce) or Fasolia (white bean stew). Many families serve bread as a side dish in addition to rice, especially when there are lots of guests.

Rice can also be combined with yogurt. Use either plain yogurt or a Middle Eastern yogurt sauce.

Storage & Make Ahead

Rice tastes best warm, right after cooking. It isn’t a dish you’d typically make ahead of time.

However, it can be a timesaver to make a larger portion of rice for 2 days if you have a small family. Let cool completely after cooking (lid closed). Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Warm up in the microwave or on the stovetop (add a little bit of oil or water).

Other Arabic recipe recipes that can be served as a side dish:

Any Questions or Feedback?

If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.

Butter rice recipe

Arabic Rice (Butter Rice with Vermicelli)

Kitty Ramasamy
By far the most popular type of rice, Arabic butter rice with vermicelli. Perfect as a side dish for a variety of main dishes. Light, fluffy and delicious Arabic rice.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Servings 6 people
Calories 333 kcal


  • 400 g (2 cups) white rice e.g. Basmati rice
  • 100 g (1 cup) vermicelli
  • 4 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 700 ml (3 cups) water
  • 1 cube stock vegetable broth
  • 1 pinch salt


  • Place rice in a bowl, add plenty of water. Soak for 30 minutes (this step is optional).
  • Wash the rice in the bowl and drain the water. Repeat process until water runs clear (2-3 times).
  • Heat butter on high in a medium pot.
  • Add vermicelli (uncooked) to the melted butter and toast until golden. Keep stirring to prevent them from burning.
  • Add the rice to the saucepan, together with the stock (vegetable broth) and a pinch of salt. Stir well and fry briefly (about 1-2 minutes) to allow the flavors to combine (don't add any water yet).
  • Add hot water to the saucepan and stir. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
  • Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low. Close the lid and simmer for about 10-12 minutes. Stir 1-2 times towards the second half of the cooking time.


  • How much water to add? The ratio slightly varies depending on the type of rice and the moisture content it has after you wash it. As a rule of thumb, the perfect ratio of water to white rice ratio is 1.5-2 cups water to 1 cup rice. For me, 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of washed Basmati rice works perfectly. You may need a little more or less than me. If you’re unsure, I recommend that you start with a ratio of 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. Add a little more water to the saucepan if you feel your rice is not cooked yet.
  • Use white long-grain rice, such as Basmati rice. Short grain rice works less well for this recipe. Brown rice has a much longer cooking time and needs more water when compared to white rice.
  • The nutritional values are rough indications. They can vary according to the exact weight, type and brand of your ingredients.


Calories: 333kcalCarbohydrates: 73gProtein: 6gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 52mgPotassium: 179mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 443IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 38mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.

Keyword Rice, Arabic Rice
Did you enjoy this recipe?Let me know how it was in the comments below or tag on Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating