Arabic Rice with Vermicelli Recipe

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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. At the end of the recipe I’m also going to share a few additional tips about rice with you.

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 many different recipes for Arabic rice, for example containing tomatoes, 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.
  • 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 quite a bit of salt, which I personally don’t think is appropriate. 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: Adding salt to boiling water is a controversial issue. Many add a little salt to the water, others do not. Unlike pasta, salt is less essential when cooking rice. I just add a pinch of salt to the rice water (about ½ teaspoon per 400 g of rice).

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 two cups of water for one cup of rice. This holds true when cooking in an ordinary pot, 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

In addition, the cooking method is also a decisive factor. More about this in the recipe below.

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 pot over high heat. Make sure your pot is not too small. A medium 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: Deglaze vermicelli

Pour water over the vermicelli. When deglazing, be sure to pour the water onto the vermicelli (not onto any remaining butter that does not contain vermicelli) to prevent splashing. If your stove gets very hot, you can also turn it down a bit before deglazing.

Step 6: Add rice, salt and vegetable broth

Add the washed rice, a pinch of salt and vegetable broth to the pot. Stir well. Bring the water (still on high) to a boil.

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 12-15 minutes. Some of the water will be absorbed by the rice as it cooks, causing the rice to become larger. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

What Goes Well with Rice?

Arabic rice is a popular side dish served with many main dishes. Butter rice goes well with meat, fish and vegetables. 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 dip such as Khyar bi Laban.

Arabic Rice with Vermicelli Recipe

Arabic Rice (Butter Rice with Vermicelli)

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.
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Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Servings 4 people
Calories 465 kcal


  • 400 g (2 cups) white rice e.g. Basmati rice
  • 100 g (0.5 cups) vermicelli
  • 4 tbsp butter or ghee
  • 700 ml (3 cups) water
  • 1 cube vegetable broth
  • 1 pinch salt


  • Place rice in a bowl, add plenty of water. Soak (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 to the melted butter and toast, stirring constantly.
  • Deglaze the golden brown vermicelli with water.
  • Add the rice, a cube of vegetable broth (optional) and a pinch of salt to the pot. Stir well and boil (on high) briefly (about 1-2 minutes).
  • Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low. Close the pot and simmer for about 12-15 minutes.


  • The amount of water is a good indication when preparing rice in the pot on a stove. You may need a little more or less. Make sure to keep an eye on the process and add a little more water of required.
  • The nutritional values are rough indications. They can vary according to the exact weight, type and brand of your ingredients.


Calories: 465kcalCarbohydrates: 101gProtein: 8gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 77mgPotassium: 143mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 25IUCalcium: 50mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Rice, Arabic Rice
Did you make this recipe?Let me know how it was in the comments below or mention on Instagram.

About Kitty

Ahlan, I’m Kitty! Welcome2Jordan is the result of my love for Jordan, good food and adventures. Through this blog and my self-published travel guide, I’d like to share information on Jordan and it’s heritage, culture and cuisine.

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