Ouzi Rice (Rice with Ground Meat and Peas)

Are you looking for an easy and quick midweek meal that your family will love? Then I’ve got you covered! As much as I love cooking (especially traditional Middle Eastern dishes), we all sometimes find ourselves short on time. That’s where this easy and delicious Ouzi Rice comes into play.

Ouzi Rice is a twist of the traditional Ouzi that comes together in less than 30 minutes. It’s packed with flavors and perfect for busy workdays. Let’s dive right in!

Ouzi rice

Ouzi vs. Ouzi Rice

Ouzi is a traditional Middle Eastern dish that is hugely popular in countries like Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. There are several variations of this Middle Eastern classic.

Traditional Ouzi (Syrian style) is a type of “rice pockets”. It consists of pastry dough stuffed with spiced rice with ground meat and nuts.

Jordanian Ouzi comes without a dough shell. Instead, it’s spiced rice mixed with ground beef and topped with chicken drumsticks. Regardless of the country and method, Ouzi is a fragrant dish that is often served on special occasions and celebrations.

Sometimes, we just don’t have time to create a sophisticated dish. That’s where this Ouzi Rice recipe comes in. It’s a wonderful and quick recipe to make when you crave the delicious flavors of Ouzi with just a fraction of the time and effort.

Types of Ouzi:

  • Syrian Ouzi (“rice pockets”, dough shells stuffed with flavored rice, ground meat, vegetables and nuts)
  • Jordanian Ouzi (flavored rice with ground meat and veggies, topped with chicken drumsticks)
  • Ouzi Rice (flavored rice with ground meat and vegetables)

Although these varieties have a lot in common, they vary in ingredients and preparation method.

Ouzi Rice Ingredients

To make Ouzi Rice, you’ll need the following ingredients.

For the rice:

  • Rice: Basmati rice (or a similar type of white long grain rice) works best for this recipe. You could also use Jasmine or Pandan rice.
  • Seasonings: Bay leaves, cinnamon (stick), cardamom (pods), Seven Spice (Baharat) as well as a bit of salt and pepper are used to season the rice. If you don’t have whole spices (cinnamon and cardamom), you can substitute them with spice powders instead. Seven Spice is a Middle Eastern spice blend consisting of the most popular Middle Eastern spices. You can find it at any Middle Eastern grocery store or make your own mixture with my Baharat recipe.
  • Water: Regular tap water to cook the rice.
  • Stock cube: To add some more flavor to your rice, dissolve a stock cube (bouillon cube) in hot water and add it to the rice. Some people use broth (chicken broth) to cook their rice (instead of water + stock cube). Either way is fine.
  • Oil: A bit of olive or (or sunflower oil) to fry the whole spices and the rice. You can also use butter instead of oil.

For the ground meat mixture (it will be pan fried and added to the cooked rice when serving):

  • Ground meat: Ground beef (full fat aka 20% fat) or ground lamb works best. I also tried it with ground chicken and it worked well, too.
  • Onion: Yellow, small or medium-size onion, finely chopped.
  • Frozen green peas: Frozen green peas add to the flavor and texture of your Ouzi Rice. Be sure to use frozen green peas, not canned green peas. Frozen green peas cook fast (only needs a couple of minutes with the meat) and are crunchy (not mushy).
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves (ideally fresh cloves, not garlic powder or paste).
  • Oil: A bit of olive or (or sunflower oil) to fry the meat. As the meat naturally releases fat while frying, you won’t need much oil.
  • Seasonings: Same as the rice, the meat mixture has a variety of warm seasonings. You’ll need the following ground spices (powdered): Seven Spice (ready-made or see my Baharat recipe to make your own), salt, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg (grated or powdered).

You can also add carrots (which is part of Syrian and Jordanian Ouzi). I chose to omit them for my Ouzi Rice to make this recipe a little more convenient.

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.

Ouzi rice

How to Make Ouzi Rice (Step-by-Step)

Ready to get cooking? Let’s get started! You’ll find the detailed step-by-step instructions below. For a shorter version (to print out), simply scroll down to the recipe card.

Step 1: Wash rice

Start by washing the rice thoroughly. You should always wash rice to remove any excess starch. This makes your rice lighter and fluffier. To do so, add the rice to a large bowl and add water. Swirl with your hand (the water will turn white). Discard the water. Fill up with fresh water again and repeat the process. Wash the rice three times until the water runs clear.

Step 2: Fry whole spices (rice)

Get a large non-stick saucepan ready (to cook the rice). Heat oil or butter in the saucepan. Once it’s heated, add the whole spices for the rice to the saucepan (bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods). Sauté the whole spices in the oil for about 30 seconds to release their aromatic flavors. By the way: don’t forget to crack open the cardamom pods (e.g. briefly tab with a pestle or cut open).

Step 3: Add rice and powdered spices

Add the washed rice to the saucepan and stir to combine with the oil and whole spices. Also add the powdered spices (salt, pepper and Seven Spice). Mix well to combine all ingredients and fry for 1-2 minutes before adding any water.

Step 4: Add water

Meanwhile, dissolve a stock cube (bouillon cube) in hot tap water. Pour it into the rice mixture.

Step 5: Cook rice

Bring the water in the saucepan to a boil over high heat. Boil for about a minute. The water level will decrease a bit, reaching about the same level of the rice. Reduce the stove to very low heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the rice is cooked. The rice should be tender and all the water absorbed. Once it’s cooked, turn off the stove and let the rice sit in the saucepan (lid closed), until you reach the end of the recipe (meat mixture ready).

Step 6: Prepare meat mixture

While the rice is simmering, prepare the meat mixture.

First, peel and crush a garlic clove and finely chop an onion. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once it’s heated, add the crushed garlic and fry for about 30 seconds to release its flavors. Add the diced onions and fry for another 2-3 minutes until translucent.

Add the minced meat along with the powdered seasonings to the skillet: Seven Spice, salt, pepper, ground cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well and fry for 4-5 minutes until the meat is fully cooked. Break up the meat with a spatula while frying.

Add frozen green peas to the meat in the skillet and cook for a couple of minutes until they are cooked through.

Step 7: Assemble

As the rice and meat are being prepared simultaneously, the rice will be done at some point when you prepare the meat. Let it sit in the saucepan with the lid closed while you prepare the meat. Once the meat is ready, fluff up the rice with a fork and transfer it to a large plate or serving platter. Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and, if you can spot them, the cardamom pods.

Spoon the meat-peas mixture onto the rice.

Step 8: Add almonds & serve

To wrap up your dish, we’ll briefly fry some almonds. In the same skillet used for the meat, heat oil and briefly fry the almonds for 1-2 minutes until slightly golden. Add the fried almonds onto the dish for a delightful garnish. If you wish, you can level up the garnish by adding some finely chopped parsley too.

Ouzi rice

What to Serve with Ouzi Rice?

Ouzi rice is the perfect midweek meal. It comes together in no time with little effort and staple ingredients. Serve with an easy chopped salad, plain yogurt or a Middle Eastern yogurt sauce.

While this recipe is a popular midweek meal for your family, it can totally be served when hosting. This flavored rice makes a wonderful alternative to white rice or Lebanese butter rice. It pairs wonderfully with chicken (e.g. roasted or grilled chicken).

Make Ahead & Storage

Ouzi rice can be perfectly prepared ahead of time. You can make it ahead of time to consume over several days (as a main dish or side). If you make it ahead of time, it’s best to keep rice and meat in separate containers to serve them in two layers the next day.

Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

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Ouzi rice

Ouzi Rice (Rice with Ground Meat and Peas)

Kitty Ramasamy
A twist of the traditional dish this quick and easy Ouzi Rice recipe makes the perfect hearty midweek meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes.
Rate this recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Servings 4 servings
Calories 569 kcal

Ingredients
 

Rice

  • 200 g (1 cup) Basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 370 ml (1.5 cups) water
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • ½ stick cinnamon small
  • ½ tsp Seven Spice Baharat, see notes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Meat

  • 300 g (2/3 lb) ground beef 20% fat
  • 200 g (1.5 cups) frozen green peas
  • 1 onion yellow, small
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp Seven Spice Baharat, see notes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch nutmeg powdered or grated

Garnish

  • 2 Tbsp slivered almonds
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Wash rice. Set aside the washed rice.
  • Heat oil in a non-stick saucepan. Sauté the whole spices in oil for 30 seconds to release their flavors.
  • Add rice to the pot. Stir to combine with the oil and whole spices.
  • Add the powdered spices to the saucepan: salt, pepper and Seven Spice. Mix well to combine and fry for 1-2 minutes before you add any water.
  • Meanwhile dissolve a stock cube in hot water. Then add it to the rice.
  • Bring to a boil on high. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Then, reduce the stove to low heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  • For the meat mixture, peel and crush a garlic clove. Finely chop an onion.
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet (frying pan) over medium heat. Once it’s heated, add crushed garlic and fry for 30 seconds to release its flavors. Add the diced onions and fry for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add the minced meat, along with the seasonings (for the meat mixture): Seven Spice, salt, pepper, ground cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Mix well and fry for 4-5 minutes until the meat is fully cooked. Break up with the spatula while frying.
  • Add frozen green peas to the meat in the skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes until cooked through.
  • The rice should be done at some point when preparing the meat. Turn off the stove and let sit (lid closed) for 5 minutes. Then fluff it up with a fork. Transfer the rice to a large plate or serving platter. Pick off the whole spices (bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and if you see them, the cardamom pods).
  • Add the meat-peas mixture onto the rice.
  • In the skillet in which you prepared the meat, heat oil and briefly fry the almonds (1-2 minutes) until slightly golden. Add onto the ouzi rice to garnish.

Notes

  • Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend also known as Seven Spice. You can find it in any Middle Eastern grocery store or make your own from scatch using my Baharat recipe. If you don’t have Baharat, you substitute by adding ground cinnamon and coriander (half a teaspoon each for one teaspoon of Baharat).
  • The amount of water is an indication and may vary depending on the brand and type of rice. A rice-water-ratio of 1:1.5 is a good indication for Basmati rice (1 cup of rice with 1.5 cups of water).
  • Always wash the rice thoroughly. To do so, add the rice into a bowl and fill up with water. Stir with your hands. The water will turn whitish (due to the starch). Drain and repeat three times until the water is clear.

Nutrition

Calories: 569kcalCarbohydrates: 55gProtein: 22gFat: 29gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 884mgPotassium: 522mgFiber: 6gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 483IUVitamin C: 28mgCalcium: 81mgIron: 3mg

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 Ouzi Rice, Ouzi, Rice Dish
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