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How to Make Dirty Rice

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Dirty rice, or Cajun rice, is a classic Southern comfort rice dish that’s made with chicken livers, gizzards, and meat such as ground pork or sausages. Together with the rice, the meat is mixed with a variety of vegetables such as onion, bell pepper, celery, and made flavorful with Cajun seasoning. An intensely flavorful rice dish, dirty rice can be served both as a main dish or as a side dish. 

For today’s recipe, we’ll be teaching you how to make dirty rice! If you aren’t from the South or maybe you’re just missing a good old home-cooked Cajun meal, then this dirty rice recipe is for you. This rice recipe is pretty easy, with a preparation time of 15 minutes and a cook time of about 35 minutes. 

What Does Dirty Rice Mean?

Dirty rice gets its name from its “dirty” color and appearance once cooked. The variety of ground meat, vegetables, and cajun spices blended into the dish gives the white rice its “dirty” look. Green onion is added on top of it as a garnish, giving it a little color. In some Southern regions, dirty rice is referred to as rice dressing.

What Is Dirty Rice Made Of?

Dirty Rice, is made of, as implied in its name, rice. Its usual ingredients include white rice, minced chicken livers, ground sausage, peppers, and onions. This is then cooked down the “Holy Trinity” in Cajun cooking, which is a mixture of onion, green bell pepper, and celery. Cajun seasoning, garlic, and thyme are added as well to add flavor to the dish. Green onion is added on top as a garnish, but this final step is usually optional.

What Is the “Holy Trinity”?

Cajun dishes such as dirty rice, Jambalaya, gumbo, and the like make use of the “holy trinity” in their ingredients. The Holy Trinity in Cajun cooking refers to a trio of vegetables, namely: onion, green bell pepper, and celery. These three ingredients are usually found in Cajun and Creole cooking as they are a way to build the flavor in any Cajun main or side dish.

Is Dirty Rice Good for You?

Dirty rice is loaded with protein, so it can be a good main dish for those needing to up their protein intake. It can also be a good side dish to complement fish or shrimp. However, it’s worth noting that dirty rice may not be ideal for people who are watching their food intake as dirty rice makes use of a lot of meats, bacon grease, butter, and a ton of spices. If you’re someone who takes count of your calories and nutrients, you can opt to look for a healthier recipe of dirty rice instead. For a healthier dirty rice recipe, you can use lean meat such as ground beef or vegetable broth.

How Do You Make Dirty Rice from Scratch?

To make dirty rice from scratch, you’ll need a couple of ingredients. You might have to do a quick grocery run for some of these ingredients in this recipe, such as the chicken liver, gizzard, ground pork and the main elements of Cajun seasoning. Some of the ingredients in this recipe can be found in your pantry already. This dirty rice recipe makes use of two pans but you can definitely reduce that and make dirty rice as a one-pan meal.

  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or beef broth)
  • 3/4 pound chicken gizzard
  • 1/2 pound chicken liver, minced (use ground beef as a substitute)
  • 1/2 ground pork (or pork sausage)
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (red and green pepper mixed together are okay too)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Green onions for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease (or oil)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided

Dirty Rice Recipe

Now that we have all the ingredients, it’s time to make the dirty rice! Dirty rice can be made in just one pan, making it ideal as a one-pot dish if you’re not up to washing numerous pots and pans. 

Step 1. Pour the broth into a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pan and set it over medium high heat. For this recipe, we used chicken broth but you can also use beef broth as a substitute. Bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add in the chicken gizzards. Reduce the heat to low and simmer it for around 30 minutes.

Step 2. Remove the gizzards from the broth and mince it finely. Set the broth aside to use for later. Afterward, use a Dutch oven or a flameproof casserole and set it over medium heat. Add the bacon grease or oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the ground pork and minced gizzards.

Step 3. Cook the ground pork and gizzards, stirring constantly until it’s browned. Reduce heat and add the onion, celery, garlic, and bell peppers. You can use a mixture of red and green pepper but for this recipe, we only made use of green pepper. Add salt, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. 

Step 4. Add the rice. You can make use of any long-grain white rice that you prefer but for this recipe, we used Basmati rice. Add the bay leaves as well and pour in the reserved chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

Step 5. Stir your mixture, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer it until rice is cooked or about 15 minutes. Add and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a separate skillet. 

Step 6. Add in the minced chicken liver to the butter and sauté together for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the minced chicken livers to the rice in the larger pot and taste. If you find that the flavor is not up to par with your preferences, feel free to add more salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning as you please.

Step 7. Cover the Dutch oven or pan and simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes minimum, 10 minutes maximum. For additional flavor, garnish with green onions on top before serving.

Leftover dirty rice can be stored in an airtight container to be kept in the fridge for 5 to 6 days. You can also plan ahead and freeze dirty rice for a quick lunch or dinner. To reheat, you can microwave dirty in 60 second intervals, stirring it often to make sure everything is warmed through. You can also warm up the rice dish over a stove while stirring often as well. Garnish with green onion after to maximize the flavor.

With this recipe, we hope we’ve made you a star in the kitchen! If you’re still craving for that Southern flavor, check out our Jambalaya recipe that also makes great use of Cajun seasoning.

Want to try your hand at making other rice dishes? Check out our other rice recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Ground Beef Instead of Chicken Livers?

If you aren’t a liver lover, worry not for you can definitely substitute the chicken livers in dirty rice. Dirty rice can also be made with other types of meat. Instead of chicken livers, you can add ground beef and mix it in with ground pork.

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Ji-hyun

Hailing from California, USA. Ji-hyun is a Korean American 🇰🇷🇺🇸 with two growing boys who eat their weight in rice each week. After graduating UCLA & becoming a mom she started We Know Rice as a guide for all the students and moms out there looking to cook healthy and filling meals.

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