Cheesy Rice Pilaf–When You’re Tired of Plain Rice

Sneak Preview: Make this Cheesy Rice Pilaf Recipe with long-grain rice, yellow bell peppers, parsley, peas, and cheese the next time your meal needs some interest, color, and good taste.

Ready-to-eat Rice and Cheese with Peas in a serving bowlPin

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Sharing a good recipe can make a person immortal–especially if the giver’s name is added to the recipe’s title. Do you agree?

I have never understood people who resist sharing their recipes (unless they run a restaurant or make money with them). Not only the recipe but any added notes can stimulate fading memories.

Whenever I make this colorful cheesy rice recipe, I think of the friend who gave it to me.

Recipe inspiration:

I staged a giveaway some time ago and asked my readers to tell me their favorite way to eat rice.

I got several good ideas from a long-time friend, Beth, including this recipe. Every time I make it, I think of her even though I haven’t seen her in ages.

Sharing a good recipe can possibly make a person immortal–especially if the giver’s name is added to the recipe’s title.

Turns out this cheese and rice recipe originated with Emeril Lagasse. I’ve made a few minor tweaks.

Ingredients and substitutions:

collage of ingredients needed for this recipePin

  • RICE: Extra-long rice by Mahatma is my first choice, but any long-grain rice is good. You could also substitute basmati or jasmine if you prefer. If you’re not a rice lover, try it with quinoa.
  • ONIONS: Yellow onions work perfectly, but white onions are fine, too.
  • BELL PEPPERS: The recipe calls for yellow bell peppers. The color makes them blend in with the cheese. Red or orange peppers will change the look but not the flavor. Using green bell peppers will add a slightly bitter flavor profile.
  • CHICKEN BROTH: Homemade stock is the best but certainly not a necessity. Substitute canned chicken broth if it’s more convenient, or use a bouillon cube or powder to make broth.
  • BAY LEAF: You might be tempted to leave this one out, but it adds lots of wonderful flavors. According to, “the closest match to the herb is a mixture of dried thyme and oregano; a quarter teaspoon per leaf gets the job done.”
  • PEAS: Unless you have fresh peas, frozen peas are my first, second, and third choice. Otherwise, leave them out.
  • CHEESE: My friend uses Fontina, but Gruyere and Mozzarella (a cheaper option) would make good substitutes. Although I doubt if you would have clicked on this recipe if you don’t like cheese, you could leave it out.
  • PARSLEY: Fresh parsley will always be better than dried parsley unless it’s the middle of the winter and you’re snowed in. Fresh cilantro is another option.
original picture of cheesy rice pilaf with peasPin

How to make this colorful Cheese Rice Pilaf:

Frying the onions and peppers in a skilletPin
1. Add chopped onions and yellow bell peppers to butter in a medium-sized skillet. Sauté until the veggies are soft but not browned.
rice added to skilletPin
2. Add rice, salt, and bay leaf. Cook for 2-3 minutes to slightly toast the rice.
chicken stock added to skilletPin
3. Stir in the chicken stock. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer until the rice is soft–about 15-20 minutes.
Adding the peasPin
4. Add the peas, cover, and continue cooking over low heat until all liquid is absorbed–about 5 minutes. Take the covered pan off the heat and set it aside for 10 minutes.

FAQ about rice pilaf with cheese:

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Yes, you can make this earlier in the day. If you want to prepare this recipe the day before, leave out the cheese and parsley.

Just before serving, reheat the dish in the microwave. Fluff the rice, then stir in the cheese and parsley. Let it sit until the cheese melts.

Can I freeze this recipe?

Prepare the recipe through step 4. Remove the bay leaf. Wrap well and freeze for up to one month. Thaw before serving.

Reheat in the microwave until piping hot. Fluff the rice and mix in the cheese and parsley. Put the lid on until the cheese melts, and serve immediately.

Parting Thoughts: Are you a rice lover? If so, you might enjoy this Cilantro Rice with Hominy, Easy Jasmine Rice with Southwestern Flavor, and Fresh Broccoli Cheese Rice.

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately for a quick answer: Paula at Hope to see you again soon! 

Cheesy Rice in serving bowl with spoonPin

Easy Cheesy Rice Pilaf

Paula Rhodes
Long-grain rice combined with yellow bell peppers, parsley, and cheese makes a colorful side dish.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Vegetables and Side Dishes
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 250 kcal



  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely-chopped yellow onions
  • ½ cup finely-chopped yellow, orange, or red bell peppers
  • 1 cup extra-long-grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon table or sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 ¼ cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 ounces Fontina - Gruyere, or Mozzarella cheese, diced or grated


  • Melt butter on medium-high heat in a medium skillet or saucepan. Add chopped onions and bell peppers. Sautè until soft, but don't let them brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Add rice, salt, and bay leaf to the onions and bell peppers. Cook 1 minute.
  • Stir in the chicken stock (I use reconstituted chicken bouillon. Cover and simmer on low until the rice is soft and tender, usually about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add the peas. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes or until you don't see any liquid in the rice. Remove from the heat and sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  • When ready to serve, remove the bay leaf, and use a spoon or a fork to fluff the rice before adding cheese and parley. Add some freshly ground pepper if desired.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 250kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 762mg | Potassium: 155mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 753IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 173mg | Iron: 1mg
Keyword cheesy rice casserole, long-grain rice recipes, rice side dish for salmon, white rice side dish
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Recipe Rating


  1. Stealing again, this one looks great for the guys here. Thank Beth for me, okay…she looks lovely.

  2. This looks delicious, I’m saving it in my recipe file. My rice is always so boring:(

  3. Wow, I wish I lived down the block from you so I could eat all your leftovers!!

  4. That girl looks so good!! I love rice and looks like a great recipe. May have to leave off the cheese though as I am not a “cheesy” person. Will it hold together and be just as good without the cheese? Sis, you want to live down the street from Beth and I want to be on the route to Paula’s work. Do you think we can work something out??

  5. Another great rice dish! I agree – I’ll start eating more rice if it makes you look that good! There’s something about cheese and rice that turns it into “comfort” food – can’t wait to try this one too – thanks Beth!

  6. Mermaido2o2 says:

    Hi Paula,
    Thanks so much for the terrific and Yummy sounding recipes. I’m going to be as fat as a pig !! By any chance do you have an easy microwave Banana Pudding recipe? My Uncle Gene in Mississippi
    loves banana pudding.

    Thanks my new friend,


  7. 5 stars
    Love this recipe, I made it as written twice LOVED it and since have modified to fit my mood and what I have on hand. The method is spot on and I make a perfect rice side every time I use it, which has been many times. Thank you!

    1. Fantastic! Glad you are enjoying it. Thank you for the 5-star review.