Sauce for Rice: 13 Ideas to Round Out Your Favorite Grain
The humble grain of rice.
It’s a rarely lauded food, but it carries a big load, forming the backbone of far flung cuisines, a staple in cultures all around the world.
From the high deserts of Mexico to the coasts of the Carolinas, from Spain to Persia and Sri Lanka to Beijing, rice is a powerhouse.
But it’s a quiet and subtle one.
Of course, there are variations on flavors such as floral jasmine rice and nutty brown rice, as well as differing grain sizes that yield a variety of textures – think stickier sushi rice versus the distinct individual jewels of long-grain varieties.
Despite these variations, though, this worldwide superstar is gentle, almost invisible, on the palate.
Because its flavors are so subtle, rice is truly one of the fundamental blank canvases of the gastronomical world.
Rice is an open book. A friendly backdrop to almost any flavor you throw at it. This is one reason it’s such a staple to such a wide variety of cuisines.
There are few gastronomic traditions more distinctly different in their flavors than, say, southern soul food and Vietnamese food. But rice is central to each. This just goes to show off rice’s immense versatility and overall gregarious nature.
Yes, rice is friendly. And that means that choosing a sauce for rice is an opportunity to indulge your imagination and your culinary curiosity.
Whether you’re making a healthy new brown rice bowl, a hearty chicken and white rice meal, or a classic Chinese fried rice dinner, deciding on the right sauce is central to tying your whole dinner together.
Sauces are the heart of good food and your rice will thank you for a little consideration.
We’re here to help you suss out your many sauce options for all your rice dishes.
If your rice is a side dish instead of a central player, saucing it based off your main dish is a great approach.
Roast chicken with root vegetables? Those pan drippings are just begging to be made into a pan sauce to drizzle over your rice.
Are you looking for a delectable Asian sauce to lift your rice bowl to a new level? We gotcha.
Searching for a lemon sauce to brighten up your rice side dish? We’re here for you.
Longing for a curry sauce to make your rice sing? Search no further.
Our Delish List of Rice Sauce Recipes
So, let’s get rolling. Rinse off those gorgeous grains and pull out that rice maker or saucepan, because it’s time to get cooking and time to get saucy. And we have just the list you’ve been looking for.
1. Caribbean Hot Sauce
We love a good hot pepper, but sometimes we hear names of hot peppers that make us clutch our metaphorical pearls in horror.
Is there really something called a “scorpion” hot pepper? That makes us…nervous.
Some hot peppers make your scalp fiery, and others simply make you sweat.
However, this is just old fashioned “wow, wow, wow, my mouth is on fire and I need some rice to suck up the heat” sauce.
In other words, your rice and chicken will love it, and you’ll feel alive and brave.
Grab the fun video from Chris at Caribbean Pot, and learn to love your Scoville heat units.
2. Tahini Sauce
Tahini is the ultimate savory food.
Picture it drizzled over a Middle Eastern rice bowl with roasted chickpeas and veggies, along with perfectly seasoned accoutrements, and you can see what we’re saying.
It’s the essence of sesame combined with a little citrus that makes everything sing in harmony.
Hello, creamy amazingness!
Grab the recipe from Adam and Joanne at Inspired Taste here and dig into tahini perfection.
3. Green Mole Sauce
Don’t limit your mole love to the traditional red sauce when it comes to enchiladas and rice.
We like a sparkling green mole filled with cilantro and parsley and cumin.
Oh, the cumin seeds.
It will make everything that it’s under explode with joy.
Drizzle it over your enchiladas and rice and watch them pep up. Then add some of your favorite enchilada side dishes to create your perfect meal combo.
Grab Nicola’s easy-peasy, delicious, light, and breezy mole sauce at Because Food Is Life.
4. Sichuan Sauce
We like sauces that make our palate jump up and take notice, sauces that makes our eyes mist – but not quite tear up.
Something to make us fight the urge to sneeze, but maybe not have full on body convulsion “achoos.”
In other words, we really love a good Sichuan sauce.
And we really love the recipe that we found from Joyce at Light Orange Bean. It’s perfect on any protein and rice bowl you can imagine.
It’s spicy but manageable…
5. Cilantro Chimichurri
When it comes to chimichurri, people tend to think of it as a fantastic accompaniment to a good, aged steak.
We’re not that lofty.
We like it on everything.
We like it on a burger. On chicken. Or on pork. On a falafel sandwich. Or on eggs.
Oh, and we really like it on rice.
It’s bright and spicy, and is completely addictive.
Check out Laurie’s recipe for one of our favorite sauces at Simply Scratch.
6. Parsley Pesto
There are some workhorse herbs that are completely overlooked – but are the first ones we reach for when we’re cooking.
That’s how we think of parsley. We throw it in our rice, in our soups, in our stews, and to finish our hors d’oeuvres.
We put parsley through a workout all the time.
But do we ever let it shine? Like, really shine? It has notes of citrus, and a hint of earthiness. It’s everything you want in an herb.
That’s why we like to make it the centerpiece of a gorgeous pesto to stir into rice.
This is an easy sauce for rice that really delivers.
Check out Jessica’s recipe over at Jessica in the Kitchen to see what we mean about the perfect parsley pesto.
7. Jalapeno Avocado Sauce
We love our burritos surrounded by rice.
And rice loves avocados.
And avocados love jalapenos.
So, when you combine a plate of burritos with rice, and then top both with a spicy and citrusy jalapeno avocado sauce, you’ve got a meal that’s humming with flavor.
Bright. Beautiful. Flavor.
Check out Maria’s recipe for this deceptively simple sauce that ties a fantastic Mexican meal together over at Kitchen @ Hoskins. That bowl of avocados on your table will thank you.
8. Chipotle Tahini Sauce
Bright and tangy.
Rice is like a happy child. It loves to be surprised.
And it didn’t see this one coming.
Chipotles and tahini work in tandem to envelop each grain of rice with pure joy and flavor.
Rene at This Savory Vegan has the perfect recipe for this surprisingly simple yet multi-layered sauce that will elevate rice to a whole new level.
9. Kale Pesto
Get your blanch on! Throw some kale into some super salty water as a base for this eye-popping, bursting-with-flavor, joy-on-the-tongue pesto.
Basil pesto, we’ll always love you – but we have enough room in our hearts for another type of green nutty sauce. Don’t worry though, you’re included in this one, just not in the starring role.
Rice loves this recipe from NiftyKeisha, because it hits all the high notes of flavor.
10. Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Don’t let pasta steal all the roasted red pepper love!
Rice loves the smoky, citrusy, briny flavors that are all captured in this savory sauce.
Chicken and pork would love to join the party too, because they perk up at the thought of basil, capers and garlic. Hello, amazing flavors!
Joanne has a fantastic recipe for the roasted pepper sauce of our dreams over at Fifteen Spatulas.
11. Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
You scream, we scream, all of us scream for fish sauce! (Wait, is that right?)
Yes, this umami loaded sauce that’s full of heat and citrus is just the perfect thing for rice.
And we’re not kidding about the heat. If you use the bird’s eye chilies, you’ll be yodeling at the table – in the best way possible.
It’s one of our favorite sauces for white rice.
We can’t get enough of this recipe from Huy over at Hungry Huy.
12. Au Jus Rice
Some nights we just want a good, rich, hearty, and savory rice dish.
And we don’t always feel the need to make it from scratch.
For instance, a couple of packets of au jus in the cupboard means that we can just whip together an earthy meal with mushrooms and the complex flavors of beef in the blink of an eye.
Hello, simple deliciousness!
We really like Steph’s recipe over at Plain Chicken for the ease of preparation, and the flavors that comfort us on a hectic evening.
13. Curry Sauce
When we think of a hearty curry sauce for rice our minds immediately wander to a coconut grove.
And then when there’s saffron, onion, and a titch of citrus, ginger, and cumin – well, that just means that all is right in the world.
We went looking for a sauce that had all the character (and ease!) we were craving, and we stumbled on Julie’s recipe over at Savvy Eats.
Choosing the Best Sauce for Rice: But What Kind of Rice?
Well, these sauce ideas cover a lot of ground, but there’s still more to explore – namely digging a little deeper into sauces for different rice preparations.
Are you making Spanish rice or maybe Asian fried rice?
Are you serving fluffed white rice with roasted chicken or with a medley of seasonal vegetables?
These are all amazing preparations but they each call for their own sauce considerations.
Spanish Rice: One Sauce Isn’t Always Enough
Spanish rice has a tomato sauce at its base, but that’s just the foundation.
Don’t be afraid to use assertive herbs and spices to boost the flavor here. Garlic, onion, and paprika are no brainers, but consider other possibilities too.
Cumin and chili powder will add a great earthiness and foundational flavors.
Oregano is a black horse in the rice world, but it’s one that discerning chefs won’t hesitate to add to their Spanish rice sauce for extra depth of flavor.
If you’re looking for a little heat, of course, fresh jalapenos or other hot peppers will be the perfect addition.
And whether you’ve leaned more into traditional Spanish flavors or done a more Mexican-inspired rice, once you’ve cooked all that flavor into the grain itself, don’t be afraid to add even more layers of flavor at the end.
This could mean finishing with fresh herbs like cilantro. But it can also mean adding a new layer of sauce, one that contrasts or adds new levels to the sauce you’ve already created.
A schmear of mole adds a complex, dark earthiness while an enchilada sauce lends a brighter earthiness and a bit of heat.
A homemade salsa like a pico de gallo or tomatillo salsa adds a whole new level of freshness and texture that’s simply irresistible.
Whichever way to you turn, you almost can’t go wrong topping your Spanish rice with an extra sauce.
Stir and Shake Up Your Fried Rice Sauces
Stir fried rice is another classic that lends itself to a broad palate of flavors and sauces.
A classic Chinese fried rice sauce draws mostly on the saltiness of soy sauce or tamari, some aromatics like garlic and scallions, and bit of acid from rice wine or rice vinegar. But that’s just the beginning.
First, those aromatics can be expanded upon to your heart’s content. Toss in a healthy amount of fresh ginger root to bring that unique bright spiciness or diced hot pepper for something a little more in your face.
Or try some Sichuan peppercorns for a unique “numbing” spice to play off that hot pepper.
If you’re in more of a southeast Asian mood, add some fish sauce instead of (or in addition to) soy sauce and some lime juice instead of rice wine.
Bottled sauces can be great here, but there’s no need to leave them as is. They make a great starting point, but they’re easy to doctor and a better jumping off point than an end in themselves.
Try adding a bit of gochujang paste to add that deep, dark Korean umami spice. Just try to add it earlier in the process so that it can bloom, develop, and blend with the other elements of the sauce you’re creating.
Chili sauce, sambal oelek, and sriracha are all simple ways to add a bit of heat and complexity.
There’s no need for mystery when it comes to picking your best sauce for rice and hopefully we’ve given you a lot of ideas to chew on. What’s your favorite way of saucing it up your rice?