This colourful, flavourful Italian rice salad is perfect for a picnic, potluck, summer BBQ, or as a versatile side dish for a simple lunch or dinner. Reminiscent of a salad you might enjoy in Italy or Greece, every mouthful of this Mediterranean brown rice salad is bursting with fresh ingredients such as tasty salad vegetables. In Italy it is called Insalata di Riso.
Not only is this the best brown rice salad recipe in terms of flavour, but it’s also highly a nutritious rice salad, boasting ingredients such as nutty brown rice, tomatoes, red onion, arugula, cucumber, fresh lemon juice, and more.
Why You’ll Love an Italian Rice Salad Recipe
Nutritious: This is a very healthy salad with plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants, from the fresh vegetables. The olive oil is a great source of healthy fats. Healthy doesn’t have to mean boring, and this recipe isn’t boring in the slightest.
Authentic: The ingredients in this Mediterranean brown rice salad were carefully chosen with the Mediterranean region in mind, especially Italy and Greece. If you enjoy Greek dishes, you will love how great this is.
Versatile: Whether you’re looking for a summer side dish, a snack or the basis of a main meal with added protein, this is certainly a versatile dish. It’s also easy to tweak the chopped salad ingredients to truly make the recipe your own.
Mediterranean Salad Ingredients
Brown rice, crunchy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, onion, arugula, and feta cheese make up the salad, while the tasty trifecta of dill weed, oregano and cilantro add subtle herbal flavours. The dressing is a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, lemon, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper.
How to Make Mediterranean Brown Rice Salad
For more detailed instructions with weights and measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.
Cook rice: Follow the package instructions to cook the rice, then drain off any excess water and let it cool to room temperature.
Prepare the vegetables: Finely dice the veggies for the chopped salad.
Make the dressing: Toss all the dressing ingredients together.
Assemble the salad: Toss the cooked rice and prepared vegetables with the dressing and serve at room temperature.
Substitutions and Variations
There are plenty of ways to change up this summer side dish. You might like to use cauliflower rice for a low-carb option or sub in long grain rice, wild rice, white rice, or even some leftover rice from the previous day. Whole grain brown rice offers a nice nutty flavour though, which is why it’s so good in salad recipes.
Consider adding any other salad ingredients you have in the crisper drawer, such as red bell peppers or hot red peppers, and green onions in place of the red. Kalamata olives or regular black olives, sun-dried tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, fresh basil, fresh parsley, black beans or cannellini beans, artichoke hearts, green bell pepper, or sunflower seeds would all work. In Italy, you often see quartered hard boiled eggs added on top of the rice salad.
What to Serve with Italian Rice Salad
Consider adding extra protein (such as shrimp, chicken, steak, or even tofu) to turn this side salad into a main dish. Some pita bread on the side is always good with fresh salads. It would be delicious served with chopped chicken gyros, reverse seared New York strip steak, ricotta and spinach stuffed shells or shrimp and pan seared pork chops.
How to Store It
Store: This is a nice meal prep option so long as you keep the components (the rice, vegetables, and dressing) separate and then assemble just before serving. Keep the components for this cold rice salad refrigerated and make the salad within two days. Leftover leftover Mediterranean rice salad will keep in an airtight container for a few days but, if you already added the dressing, the herbs and arugula will get a little soggy.
Freeze: If you made extra rice you can freeze that, but the rest of the salad isn’t suitable for freezing.
Summer Rice Salad FAQs
Either way is good. You might like to have the salad at room temperature and serve it with hot sliced steak or chicken on the side.
Don’t leave it out for more than two hours.
Italian Rice Salad Recipe
Italian Rice Salad
- 1 cucumber diced
- 3 roma tomatoes diced
- 1 red onion diced
- 6 Ounces feta cheese block, cubed
- 1 Cup arugula
- 2 Cups brown rice cooked
- 1 Tablespoon oregano chopped
- 1 Tablespoon dill chopped
- 1 Tablespoon cilantro chopped
- ¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 lemon juiced, 2 to 3 Tablespoons
- 2 Teaspoon oregano Greek
- 2 Cloves garlic
- ½ Teaspoon salt
- ½ Teaspoon pepper fresh cracked
- Cook the brown rice, following the directions on the package, then drain off the excess water and cool.
- Meanwhile, dice the cucumber, tomatoes, and red onion, and chop the feta cheese.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together with a fork or small whisk.
- Toss the rice with the chopped salad vegetables, feta cheese, and dressing.
- Serve the Mediterranean salad at room temperature or chill it for an hour if you’d prefer it cold.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.
Mediterranean rice salad makes a great summer side dish and it’s also a great way to get plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into your diet. Try it at your next summer dinner party or enjoy it for lunch paired with your protein of choice.
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Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.