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Forbidden Rice Pilaf - A delicious, healthy twist on a classic recipe. Rice pilaf made with delicious black forbidden rice.

This Forbidden Rice Pilaf is full of flavor and nutrients! Read more below about this delicious, ancient grain.

Forbidden rice is a heirloom black rice that dates back to ancient China.  The legend behind this flavorful rice is that only Chinese Emperors and the Royal Family were allowed to eat it due to its rarity, high nutritional value, and healing qualities. Anyone else was “forbidden” to eat this rice!

Today, forbidden rice can be found at most Asian markets and some specialty markets, as well as online – so today, any of us can enjoy the delicious flavor and nutritional benefits of this rice.  My husband Jack first stumbled upon it here – and that inspired today’s recipe for Forbidden Rice Pilaf.

Forbidden Rice Pilaf - A delicious, healthy twist on a classic recipe. Rice pilaf made with delicious black forbidden rice.

Forbidden rice has a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture when cooked – but it’s not as hard and chewy as wild rice.  In today’s recipe, the flavor of the forbidden rice is perfectly paired with a mirepoix of onions, celery and carrots, plus garlic, bay leaves, currants and pecans.

This Forbidden Rice Pilaf is so delicious – you may never want to make our classic rice pilaf ever again! 🙂

As forbidden rice cooks, it does have a tendency to turn the cooking liquid a dark purple color – so that is why the orzo and other ingredients in this Forbidden Rice Pilaf are also dark in color. But don’t worry – the flavor is not at all impacted.  I personally think the dark, rich color of this Forbidden Rice Pilaf gives this dish a stunning appearance – making this a wonderful option to serve at your next dinner party!

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Forbidden Rice Pilaf

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup dry orzo
  • 1 cup forbidden rice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sweet onion diced fine
  • ½ cup celery diced fine
  • 1 cup carrots shredded on large holes of box grater
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced fine
  • 1 15-ounce can chicken stock
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup currants
  • ½ cup pecans


  1. In a 2-quart sauce pan with tight fitting cover, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add orzo and rice and toss and stir for five minutes until orzo has browned. Remove to a bowl and hold for later.
  2. Add butter to hot pan and add onions, celery, carrots and garlic and cook for five minutes.
  3. Add reserved browned rice and orzo, stock, water, bay leaves, salt, pepper and currants. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to low heat.
  4. Cook covered for 25 minutes on low. Remove from heat and let sit five minutes.
  5. While rice is cooking, coarsely chop pecans and toast in a dry sauté pan over medium heat for about five minutes to brown.
  6. After the rice sits for five minutes, stir in toasted pecans and serve.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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Forbidden Rice Pilaf - A delicious, healthy twist on a classic recipe. Rice pilaf made with delicious black forbidden rice.

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  • Janine Barclay wrote:

    This tasted oily I think 1/4 cup of oil is way too much it was just greasy. 2 tbsp oil then 2 more of butter, too much. The pasta was cooked way to long so it was mushy. I should have cooked the rice by itself and then saute the vegetables and added them in with the already cooked rice. The carrots were black the color of the rice which doesn’t affect the taste just the presentation. Honestly if it were not for the oil it would be good. If you want to add orzo pasta I would cook it separately and add it in later.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback Janine – sorry you were disappointed!

  • Estella N Abbott wrote:

    This was my introduction to forbidden rice. We liked it very well. I halved the recipe for the 2 of us and while I assume the currents listed in the recipe were dried currents, I used frozen currents from my garden. That was my only change. This would be a good company recipe.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Estella! Yes – we meant dried currents, but how wonderful that you had currents to use from your garden!

  • Lisa wrote:

    We loved this recipe!! But the rice wasn’t fully cooked after 25 mins and ran out of liquid so we were scared to cook it for a longer time. Do you have any advice?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Lisa – If you ran out of stock, you could always add a little more water so the rice has enough liquid to finish cooking (but not so much that it becomes mushy). Next time, try adjusting the flame down under your pan just a bit – sometimes when rice is cooked over higher heat or at a fast simmer/boil, the stock or water ends up evaporating quickly and before the rice can absorb it.) Hope that helps!

  • rosey wrote:

    This was so yummy! I made it with just rice and left out the orzo and used raisins instead of currents.
    My whole family really loved it! Thank for the recipe!

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome Rosey! So glad you all enjoyed the recipe!

  • SARAH wrote:

    Did not have currents, used dried cranberries. Put the whole mirepoix through the box grater and it was fantastic. Rich and creamy

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Sarah! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! (We’re going to try grating the mirepoix the next time! Great idea!

  • tanya wrote:

    I have never had pecans in rice before. This looks so good, though. I bet that added crunch is nice.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Tanya!

  • Laura ~ Raise Your Garden wrote:

    Chicken + rice pilaf is a big staple here. Because my kids like it, we have it (this is embarrassing) probably 4-5 times a week. SO I’m thrilled to try this “forbidden” spin for a twist. My life is too boring!!! Was just in NYC for a week and wish I would have know to be looking for this while on Canal street.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hope you all love the recipe Laura!

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