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Crispy tomato rice

Updated: Mon, 24 May, 2021

Crispy tomato rice can be made with leftover rice but it’s so good it’s worth cooking it from scratch. Zinged with tomato and chilli, with cheesy topping flashed under the grill, this is one of the best rice side dishes.

crispy tomato rice

What to do with leftover rice (when there is never any)?

What’s wrong with me? I never, ever have any leftover rice. There are all those wonderful recipes out there saying ‘use cold leftover rice’ but I honestly don’t know how other people do it.

I always seem to cook as much rice as I need and even if there’s a smidgen left, it’s a) never much, and b) in the prepared dish already, as I don’t often cook just plain rice to serve as a side.

Prawn fried rice! Special fried rice! Arancini! Rice cakes! Nasi goreng! Stuffed peppers or vine leaves! So many delights I either miss out on or have to boil rice from scratch for.

tomato rice with crispy cheese topping

How to handle cooked rice

Maybe it’s my suppressed FOR (fear of rice) as rice can be a ripe ground for nasty bacteria developing if it’s left cooked too long at room temperature.

But it’s not an effort to make sure it goes into fridge as soon as it cools down a bit; and at the end of the day you don’t hear of many Chinese takeaways-related food poisoning cases; and I don’t imagine absolutely all of them are super big on hygiene and safety.

Either way, if cold cooked rice I need, I have to have it fresh and hot first. And so in the recipe below (inspired by tomato rice with crispy Cheddar on NY Times Cooking) the instructions include my fool proof rice cooking method not as a bonus, but as a main part.

By all means use your ready cooked, cold rice instead if you have it and don’t mind eating rice dishes two days in a row*.

crispy cheesy grilled rice dish

Tomato rice is a cupboard staple dish

This is basically a jazzed up rice side dish, though I admit I love it so much I'm happy to have it on its own for dinner. It's a cupboard staple recipe, because you can use lightly drained tinned tomatoes instead of fresh.

Can you just use a bit of tomato puree? sure, why not. Can you use a different type of cheese? of course you can. Can you skip the onion? hell, yes.

The magic and the secret is in slipping the dish under the grill to make it crispy and melty, a little like inverted socarrat or tahdig, those marvellous crusty rice cakes lining the bottom of a Spanish paella or Persian rice.

Cooking rice

And a final word on cooking rice from scratch. The method given below is a failproof way of cooking perfect fluffy rice, excellent if it's served as a side dish.

But between you and me, when I need to cook the rice and immediately chill it to be further prepared later, I simply plonk it into plenty boiling, salty water and cook for 10 minutes for white and 25 for brown rice. Drain, cool and fridge it - because the absolute essential condition for fried rice is to have it fridge-cold.

*because also, how long does rice safely keep in the fridge? don’t you have to use it pretty much immediately, i.e. the following day?

Crispy tomato rice

Servings: 4Time: 40 minutes


  • 200g (1 cup) basmati rice
  • 500ml (2 cup) water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium heat red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 large fleshy tomatoes, diced
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. shaved Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp. shaved Comte, Gruyere or Cheddar cheese


1. Rinse the rice several times in cold water. Place it in a saucepan with the salt, butter and water. Cover it with a lid, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes on medium-high heat.

how to cook the best fluffy rice

2. Turn it down to minimum and cook for 20 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, leave it to stand, still covered, for minimum 10 minutes. After that time fluff it up with a fork. For use in this recipe (otherwise it's good to eat), cool down completely and chill in the fridge at least 20 minutes.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan. Add the onion and chilli and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened and translucent.

cooking tomatoes

4. Turn up the heat and add the tomatoes. Cook them for about 10 minutes until they break down and turn saucy. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cooked cold rice until it warms through.

5. Preheat the grill or fan grill to medium.

rice side dishes

6. Transfer the rice to one large or individual gratin dishes, unless your skillet is ovenproof. Sprinkle with both type of cheese and grill for about 10 minutes until bubbling, lightly browned and crispy.

Originally published: Mon, 8 July, 2019

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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