Citrus Rice

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Citrus Rice made with brown basmati cooked pilaf style in a freshly squeezed orange juice broth and seasoned with all the savory flavors of carnitas. The natural sugars help caramelize the rice grains on the bottom creating a divinely scorched crispy bottom layer. A super delicious vegan rice recipe! 

citrus rice

Citrus Rice

Not your classic Mexican orange rice (who’s name simply refers to the final color of the dish), this zesty citrus rice is literally cooked in orange juice and all the traditional spices of savory citrusy carnitas. Cumin, coriander, oregano, onion flakes, this dish is the perfect balance of sweet and savory with multiple layers of delicious flavor throughout. Bonus points for being easy to make and also gluten-free.

I like to cook it pilaf style, preferably in a high sided skillet so there’s plenty of room for the natural sugars to caramelize at the bottom and create a Soccarat / a scorched crispy bottom layer crust made of toasted rice grains just like in the case of a properly cooked Spanish paella.

This recipe is a true upgrade to your basic pot of rice, a new one for the books that reheats beautifully and pairs well with a variety of vegetables and meaty vegan dishes. We had it topped with this unreal walnut meat and I can totally see those flavors work amazingly in a burrito and even fried rice.

citrus rice

About the Rice

Long grain brown basmati or jasmine rice is all I ever use with this recipe and with most of my rice pilafs. Brown basmati rice takes anywhere between 45 to 55 minutes to cook, for this recipe I like to give it a good 50 minutes for the bottom layer to get crispy.  I did test this recipe with red rice as well as that appears to be the most nutritious variety, however the stronger nuttier flavor of the red interfered too much with the zesty orange flavor profile that makes this dish the star of the meal and not just a side or filler option.

freshly squeezed oranges

The Orange Juice Broth

Freshly squeezed oranges are the way to go, the store bought stuff just isn’t the same unless you can find a cold pressed unpasteurized offering within your budget. The broth is mostly orange juice balanced by either a juiced lime or lemon and a touch of maple syrup. I like adding the maple as it helps with caramelizing the crispy bottom layer while enhancing the sweet and savory element, you can opt to omit it however. Remember to reserve both some of the zest and peel for extra depth of flavor.

vegan rice with walnut meat

Flavor Profile

Classic Latin flair reminiscent of carnitas: cumin, coriander, oregano and onion flakes set the tone of this savory delicious dish. I spiked mine with a pinch of red crushed chili flakes and boosted the umami and nutritional profile with a good sprinkling of nutritional yeast. Then the orange broth does its magic as it gets absorbed into each individual grain of rice until plump and with just the right amount of sticky. Really, you’ve got to make this!

orange rice

Serving Suggestions

Vegan Rice Recipes

how to make citrus ricevegan rice

citrus rice

Citrus Rice

This citrus rice is brown basmati cooked in orange juice and all the traditional spices of savory citrusy carnitas but vegan. I like to cook it pilaf style in a high sided skillet so the natural sugars get to caramelize to the bottom and create a Soccarat / scorched crispy bottom layer crust made of toasted rice just like in the case of a properly cooked paella.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:1 hour
Total Time:1 hour 15 minutes


The Citrus Broth

  • 2 cups orange juice freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 lime (or lemon) juiced (optional)
  • 1.75 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup optional


  • Zest one orange and reserve the zest. Peel a few inches of orange peel (no pith) from one of the oranges. Squeeze the juice out of the oranges until you have 2 cups of juice. (You will need 2-3 pounds of juicy oranges). Mix with the juice from 1/2 juicy lime and the maple syrup if using. Set aside.
  • Over medium heat preheat a 10 inch high sided skillet or pot. (Use something that has a tight lid, for beginners preferably glass so you can see inside the pan). Add a light drizzle of olive oil (or water for WFPB compliance) to the hot pan and sautee the onion with a pinch of salt until softened and begins to get a little color. Stir in the bell pepper and continue cooking until the peppers have softened.
    1 yellow onion, 1 cup bell pepper
  • Push the veggie to the side and drizzle a tiny bit oil in the center. Add the garlic and allow it to sizzle until fragrant, about 35 seconds or so making sure you don’t let it burn. Give everything a good stir.
    3 garlic cloves
  • Sprinkle in the spices and cook for another minute until fragrant. Stir in the rice and toast another minute.
    2 cups brown basmati rice, 1.5 tsp cumin, 1.5 tsp ground coriander, 1 Tbsp oregano, 2 Tbsp minced onion flakes, 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • Pour in the orange broth, add the bay and orange peel, stir and turn up the heat to high. Bring to a rolling boil then cover with a lid and turn the heat down to medium low so that you still have a nice constant bubble going.
    1 bay leaf, 2 cups orange juice, 1/2 lime (or lemon), 1.75 cups water, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 strip orange peel
  • Cook the rice for 55 minutes (no peeking except through the glass lid) or until all of the liquid has been fully absorbed. Sometimes this can take between 45 minutes and 1 hour depending on the rice and the heat level and how much steams escapes. (Make sure to check the rice package for specific directions, It’s taken mine between 45 to 55 minutes every time I have made this).
  • Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit tightly covered with the lid on for another 15 minutes and finish cooking in its own steam. DO NOT REMOVE LID, it's important that the steam doesn't escape. Fluff with a fork and serve garnished with the scallions, orange zest and if available some toasted pepitas / pumpkin seeds or sliced almonds.
    Orange zest from 1 orange, 2 scallions or fresh cilantro


  • The Orange Juice - You will need 2-3 lb of juicy oranges to get 2 cups of orange juice. Alternatively you could use store bought cold pressed unpasteurized orange juice. To avoid disappointment do not use the boxed pasteurized juice, it's something totally different. 
  • How long to cook brown basmati rice? - Brown basmati rice takes anywhere between 45 to 60 minutes to cook, for this recipe I like to give it a good 55 minutes for the bottom layer to get a little crispy. Make sure to check the rice package for any special instructions on timing.


Calories: 468kcal | Carbohydrates: 100g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 892mg | Potassium: 743mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 1538IU | Vitamin C: 125mg | Calcium: 106mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Spanish
Keyword: citrus rice, orange rice, vegan rice
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 468kcal
Author: Florentina

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