Dirty Rice

5 from 2 votes

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This flavorful Southern favorite is rich and earthy, but with some lively freshness thanks to some fresh vegetables and parsley.

Spoon in a white dish of Dirty Rice.

Dirty Rice is a classic Creole dish, served on its own, or as a companion to almost anything served down South. It is eaten all throughout the South, but not all that well known in other areas of the country, which — as you will soon see — is something that needs to be rectified.

It also goes by the names Cajun Dirty Rice, Cajun Rice, Cajun Fried Rice, Rice Dressing, and Creole Rice.

Cooked bacon on Dirty Rice.

Dirty Rice: This flavorful Southern favorite is rich and earthy, but with some lively freshness thanks to some fresh vegetables and parsley.

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Why Is it Called Dirty Rice?

The dish is called dirty rice because the chicken liver and giblets give the color of this dish a slightly brownish tone. The flavor is far from dirty – it’s rich and earthy, but the vegetables and the scallions and fresh parsley stirred in at the end offer up some lively freshness.

Sometimes, little pieces of pork, beef, or chicken are added to the dish, and you should feel free to add those in if you have them on hand. It’s a great way to use up small amounts of leftovers.

Plate with Dirty Rice, slaw, greens, and sliced meat.

Where Is Dirty Rice From?

This dish originated in Louisiana during the time of slavery. Rice was a plentiful and cheap crop for plantation owners and farmers to grow, especially with experienced slave labor. Enslaved farmers who grew rice in West Africa were forced to grow and tend the rice fields when they were kidnapped and brought to the U.S., along with rice and other African crops.

Inexpensive rice was one of the main rations given to the enslaved people by their owners, and then they created dishes like dirty rice, which also utilized the parts of the animals that would have been thrown away. Gizzards, various bits and pieces of chickens, cows, and so on added protein and flavor to rice, and now Dirty Rice is a beloved Southern specialty, but originally, it was a food of ingenuity and sustenance.

Dirty Rice on a plate with slaw, greens, and slices of meat.

Is Dirty Rice Creole or Cajun?

Creole seems to be the answer, though my research suggests it can be either or both, depending on who you ask! And again, it’s widely cooked and loved all throughout the Southern states in the U.S.

Dirty Rice Ingredients

These are the basic ingredients found in traditional dirty rice recipes. Of course, like any regional dish, there are hundreds of variations, as many as there are dirty rice cooks.

  • Rice (of course) – Use long-grain white rice.
  • Pork, beef, or chicken – There is usually some kind of pork in the dish.
  • Chicken giblets – Here we just use chicken livers.
  • Green bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Onion – Any color is fine.
  • Broth – I prefer less sodium, but it’s up to you. Use vegetable or chicken broth, your choice.
  • Seasonings – A classic medley of scallions, cayenne pepper, garlic, thyme, and parsley.
White plate on a counter and set with Dirty Rice, meat, greens, and slaw.

Giblets in Dirty Rice

While traditional dirty rice is made with pretty much all of the giblets that come in the bird (gizzards, heart, liver, and kidneys), those flavors can be a bit strong. I started with some crispy diced bacon and then used just the chicken liver, but you can use the other giblets as well if you like the pungent flavor.

How to Make Dirty Rice

  1. In a large heavy pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Leave 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pan. Place the chicken livers, onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well combined into a rough paste.
  2. Add the butter to the bacon fat in the pot and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken liver and vegetable paste to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and add the thyme.
Spatula in a pan of vegetables and liver.
  1. Cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and the liver has started to brown.
  2. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes until the rice is well coated and glistening.
Pile of rice in a pan of vegetables and liver.
  1. Add the bay leaf, hot stock, and cayenne, stir, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Stock pouring into a pan with rice and other ingredients.
  1. Reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a low simmer, and cover the pan. Cook, covered over low heat for 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed, then remove from the heat, and let the rice mixture continue to steam for another 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
Wooden spatula stirring Dirty Rice.
  1. Remove the lid, fluff the rice, and stir in the parsley and scallions. Sprinkle the crispy bacon on top. Serve hot.

And here’s what you need to know about reheating dirty rice.

What to Serve With Dirty Rice

Spoon in a dish of Dirty Rice set on a counter.

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5 from 2 votes

Dirty Rice

This flavorful Southern favorite is rich and earthy, but with some lively freshness thanks to some fresh vegetables and parsley.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6 People
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Ingredients 

  • 6 ounces thick cut bacon (diced)
  • ½ pound chicken livers (diced)
  • 1 small onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 stalk celery (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small green bell pepper (cored, seeded, and roughly chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 ¼ cups hot chicken broth (preferably less sodium)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 scallions (trimmed and thinly sliced; white and green parts)

Instructions 

  • In a large heavy pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Leave 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pan.
  • Place the chicken livers, onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well combined into a rough paste.
  • Add the butter to the bacon fat in the pot and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken liver and vegetable paste to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and add the thyme. Cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and the liver has started to brown. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes until the rice is well coated and glistening. Add the bay leaf, hot stock, and cayenne, stir, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a low simmer, and cover the pan. Cook, covered over low heat for 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed, then remove from the heat, and let the rice mixture continue to steam for another 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove the lid, fluff the rice, and stir in the parsley and scallions.
  • Sprinkle the crispy bacon on top. Serve hot.

Notes

While traditional dirty rice is made with pretty much all of the giblets that come in the bird (gizzards, heart, liver and kidneys) those flavors can be a bit strong. I started with some crispy diced bacon, and then used just the chicken liver, but you can use the other giblets as well if you like the pungent flavor.  

Nutrition

Calories: 312kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 156mg, Sodium: 549mg, Potassium: 290mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 4842IU, Vitamin C: 26mg, Calcium: 36mg, Iron: 4mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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