Indulge in the rich flavors of a Cajun classic with this Old-Fashioned Dirty Rice recipe. Discover the essence of true Louisiana cuisine with the ease of one-pot cooking. Each savory bite holds a taste of culinary magic.
Dirty Rice, a soulful Cajun classic from southern Louisiana, varies in family recipes. Rooted in tradition like Etouffee and Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, it’s a sacred rite of passage through generations.
My version, a nod to my own great grandmother, offers a practical twist…not that I think I know better than my great grandma. I’m nobody’s fool. However, chicken livers & gizzards are replaced due to availability and personal health conflicts.
If you prefer a traditional-style recipe with organ meats, a simple protein swap does the trick. First cook the allotted livers/gizzards separately, then remove. Add them back to the rice mixture at the same interval as the ground beef and pork. Voila!
What is Dirty Rice?
Dirty Rice is a traditional Creole and Cajun dish originating in the south, particularly Louisiana. It traditionally consists of white rice, cooked with a mix of finely chopped meat (often chicken livers/giblets or other offal), the holy trinity of green pepper, celery, and onion as well as Cajun spices. It gets its name because the rice turns a brown color, that looks somewhat dirty, but there should not be a gritty texture.
Dirty rice is flavor forward and as flexible as a dish can get. Serve it as a weeknight entree or offer as a savory side dish. Mix it in with your gumbo to create a compelling Cajun concoction. It even works to go with your Thanksgiving turkey and skip the stuffing this year. The list of possibilities is long.
Ingredients and Notes
Step-by-step instructions including ingredient quantities are featured in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Hit the “jump to recipe” button at the top of any of my posts to skip to the recipe card. I’ve sprinkled in helpful tidbits throughout the post, such as where to find certain spices or substitutions.
Ground Meats. I use a mixture of breakfast sausage and ground beef to maximize flavor. Hot sausage will work, but I suggest cutting back on the cayenne and black pepper (depending on your heat preference).
Vegetables. The classic holy trinity mixture of yellow onions, green bell pepper, and celery round out this dish. A sprinkling of green onions on the end make it a little more appetizing.
Spices. A robust blend of Cajun spices including cayenne, black pepper, salt, paprika, cumin, thyme, oregano, dry mustard, bouillon or beef base, garlic, and green onions or parsley. You can also use bay leaves based on personal preference, but I don’t.
Chicken stock. Either chicken broth or stock will work. I use stock because it’s a bit milder in flavor and usually unseasoned.
Parboiled rice. This is important! Precooked rice will get mushy and regular white rice will be too starchy and make the dish gelatinous.
*Hot and Dirty: If you like it spicy, increase the cayenne to 1 teaspoon and the black pepper to 1 teaspoon for some real kick. Or substitute hot breakfast sausage. It was muy picante for my family at this level of spice!
How to Make Cajun Rice Dressing
This provides an easy visual reference for how the recipe should look as it progresses.
- Prep the meat and spice mixture. Begin by combining the seasoning mix. Brown mixture of ground beef and pork sausage. Strain excess grease and set aside.
- Soften the vegetables. In the same pot, sauté veggies in butter until softened. Add garlic and the seasoning mix. (photo 1 above)
- Combine the flavors. Pour in chicken stock, stirring to deglaze the pot. (photo 2 above) Introduce the browned meat, uncooked rice, and beef base. Adjust seasoning, cover, and simmer. (photo 3 above just after adding rice)
- Cook the rice. After 10 minutes on low heat, let it rest until the rice is tender. (photo 4 after all liquid has been absorbed) A deliciously authentic Louisiana dish ready to impress!
Tips for Making this Recipe Perfectly
- Adjust the spice heat level. I make my recipes so the heat supports the flavors in the dish, not overwhelms them. This is written to land on the milder scale, but I’ve provided directions where/when/how to adjust the heat to your tastes.
- Don’t forget your favorite hot sauce. Some prefer to add hot sauce to their meal after cooking. It makes it a little bit more manageable if you have a variety of spice level tolerances.
- Use Parboiled Rice. The rice cooks in the dish, not separate, so it is timed specifically for this. Regular white rice will have too much starch and minute rice will be very mushy.
- Let it Rest. Allow the dirty rice to rest about 10 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld together. Then fluff with a spoon or fork.
Serving and Storage Suggestions
Dirty rice pairs well with a variety of dishes, complementing the robust flavors of the main course. Here are some of my favorite pairings:
- Southern Classics: Fried Chicken, Blackened Mahi Mahi or Catfish, Grilled sausages, BBQ Ribs, Smoked Turkey
- Side dishes: Roasted Vegetables, Sweet Potatoes, Parmesan Green Beans, Cornbread, Cinnamon Fried Apples, Grilled Corn, and Coleslaw
- Cajun Classics: Shrimp Etouffee, Seafood Gumbo, Shrimp Creole, just to name a few.
- Stuffed Peppers. There’s no better stuffed peppers than Dirty Rice Stuffed Peppers!
Storing leftovers. This recipe lasts about 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It also freezes very well after cooking. Lasts 4-5 months in the freezer.
More Delicious Rice Recipes
These rice dishes have a bevy of different flavors!
The dish gets its name from appearing “dirty” after the cook because the white rice transforms into a brown hue. The meat and spice mixture can almost appear like flecks of dirt coating the rice, although it should never be gritty.
Dirty rice traditionally features ground meat and organ meats such as chicken livers and gizzards. On the other hand, jambalaya can have anything from tasso ham to whole shrimp. Jambon is actually a French term meaning ‘ham’, but I’ve enjoyed modern versions of Jambalaya without ham. Although not required, my jambalaya also includes tomatoes, which is a big no no for dirty rice.
This classic is often called Cajun Rice dressing too.
Traditionally, dirty rice does contain chicken livers. However, like most Cajun and Creole cooking, the ingredients are frequently based on what the cook had available while maintaining the spirit of the dish.
No, you can make this recipe in a large skillet. It’s optimal to prepare dirty rice in a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet, but not necessary.
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Cajun Dirty Rice
- ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1.25 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- ½ teaspoon Dried Thyme
- ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- ½ lb Ground Pork or Sausage or ¼lb Chicken livers and ¼lb Chicken Gizzards
- ½ lb Ground Beef
- ½ cup Celery diced
- ½ cup Yellow Onions diced
- ½ cup Green Bell Peppers diced
- 2 tablespoon Butter
- 2.5 cups Chicken Stock
- 1 cup uncooked parboiled rice
- 2 teaspoon Minced Garlic Cloves
- Green Onions
- Beef Base or 1 cube of Beef Bouillon
- Combine the seasoning mix in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add vegetable oil and then add the ground beef and pork sausage. Crumble and blend the meat together. Once all the meat has thoroughly browned, pour through a strainer to remove extra grease and set aside.
- In the now empty large pot, add the butter, celery, onions, bell peppers, and butter over medium heat. Cook about 10-12 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent.
- Add garlic and the seasoning mix and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the chicken stock and stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer.
- Stir in the meat, the uncooked rice, and beef base. Taste test and adjust seasonings if needed. Cover and bring to a simmer.
- Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered until the rice is tender (about 10 minutes). Garnish with sliced green onions or parsley if desired. Serve immediately.