Carolina Red Rice

Although his father used to spend days planning huge vegan feasts whenever we’d visit my in-laws, Mark’s mother doesn’t enjoy cooking any more than my mother does, so I’m not going to be getting a lot of family recipes from her. What I did get for Christmas from her this year, however, was a big ole bag of South Carolina food stuffs.

Most of Mark’s family moved to Charleston a couple of years ago. Some people, when I tell them I’m heading down there for a visit, will say, “oh, the food is so good down there!” I haven’t found that to be the case, however. Not only is it rather meat-centric, but EVERYTHING is fried. One time, somewhat out of desperation, Mark ordered a BLT sans the B and was shocked to discover the tomatoes were fried! On his sandwich! It was…disturbing. Asian restaurants are few and far between, and not of the quality we’re used to up here in our little Asian wonderland of Northern Virginia. There actually are a few veggie-friendly restaurants on James Island, where they live, including a couple that have vegan things right on the menu, so it’s not completely hopeless, but it is a lot different than it is here. And if you stray too far from the more populous locales, the vegan food situation gets sketchy quickly. Which is too bad because once you get past all the meat and the fried stuff, there’s something to be said for Southern cuisine.

Anyway, my mother-in-law frequently gives me Charleston-related food items, which I love. The jalapeno jelly I often slather on my bagels over cream cheese came from her. And tonight while putting away groceries, I found an adorable little bag of Carolina rice that she had given me for Christmas. I’d been puzzling over what to make for dinner, and in fact, had planned to just pick something up from the hot bar at Whole Foods before finding it decidedly un-vegan-friendly this evening. And since Smark is a riceasaurus, and the recipe on the back of the rice bag called for bacon, which meant I could use up some of that leftover UnPork from last night, I figured it would be the perfect thing to throw together tonight.

Here’s the bag of rice:

Isn’t it cute?! I’m trying to think of something crafty to do with the bag once the rice is all gone. The only thing I’ve come up with so far is a pin cushion, or it’s a pretty good size for making into a cold pack. Funnily enough, I’d fill it with rice for such an application.

If you can’t get your hands on genuine South Carolina heirloom rice like this, any long grain rice should suffice. It’s cool to use non-mass marketed stuff like this though. The following recipe comes directly from the back of the bag of rice. Ordinarily I’m a very throw-whatever-together kind of chef, but it seems like this week I’ve been a slave to recipes! I’m really having fun with it, though. So here we go:

Carolina Red Rice

1 1/4 cup Carolina Gold rice (or any long grain white rice)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, diced (I used two because that’s how we do things in our household)
1 1/2 cup good quality canned crushed tomato (I used 1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted)
1 cup vegan chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 thin slices UnPork, diced (optional)
2 Tbsp vegan “bacon bits”
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar (or 15 drops stevia – I find it so much more convenient than dragging out the sugar canister)
6 dashes Tabasco (or to taste)
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper

The UnPork is optional because the bacon bits will sub for the bacon that is called for in the original recipe and provide all the taste you need. But since I had the leftover UnPork I threw it in to provide a little bacon-like texture, which the bacon bits don’t really do as they don’t get crispy. Possibly you could just fry them instead of the UnPork and they’d get crispy. I don’t know.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do use the UnPork, put the olive oil into a frying pan, bring it up to temperature, and then add the diced UnPork:

When it’s crispy …

… add the onions, jalapeno peppers, thyme, bay leaf, soy sauce, “bacon bits”, salt, and pepper (or if you didn’t use the UnPork, just throw all of this into the pan to start with).

Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar or stevia, and Tabasco:

Cook for five minutes, then add the stock or water and the rice. Bring to a simmer again.

Pour everything into an oven-safe casserole dish:

Place a lid on it or cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes or until rice is done. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes, then remove bay leaf and fluff with a fork.

While the rice was cooking, I wondered what I could serve with it. I had harvested these adorable purple peppers from our garden earlier in the day:

Okay, that’s a lie. The horrible gardening skills I had before have done nothing but get worse this summer. I’m pathetic, really. I got those cute peppers from the farmer’s market.

God, I’m such a liar. Although I LOVE farmer’s markets, I hardly ever drag myself out of bed before 11 a.m. on weekends, which makes them next to impossible for me attend. I bought those peppers at Whole Foods. I will have you know, however, that they ARE from a local farmer. If you consider Pennsylvania local to Northern Virginia. I’m going to pretend that I do.

I bought them because they were cute, cheap, and organic. They seemed like they’d be a good accompaniment to the rice because Southern cuisine calls for bell pepper in practically everything as part of the “holy trinity”. I’d have considered stuffing the peppers with the rice, but that would delay dinner for too long, so I decided to simply roast the peppers and serve them NEXT to the rice. Same basic taste, right?

Check out my pepper roaster:

My collection of kitchen gadgets knows no bounds, does it? This one was little neater when I had a gas stove (how I miss thee, gas stove), but to my surprise, it works with the electric stove nearly as well. And actually before I had this gadget, I used to roast peppers directly on the gas burners, although that required one burner per pepper. You could also use a broiler, or probably a grill.

What I was not expecting was for the process of roasting to roast the purple right off those peppers!

They started to turn green as their skin charred!

After about 10 minutes of turning the peppers until they were uniformly charred (by the way, I can report that our smoke detector IS working) …

… I put them into a brown paper bag …

… for 10 more minutes. Then I rinsed them under running water and washed the blackened skins off:

Then I de-seeded them and just pulled them apart into bite-sized pieces.

And here’s the meal:

This was really good! Mark loved it. He ate all his peppers up before I even sat down next to him (I had to take the above picture before I could sit down to eat, of course), and when he started in on the rice, he was ecstatic. It was very flavorful and, since I used two jalapenos, nice and hot. I’m making a mental note to consider making this meal for his whole extended family during our next Charleston beach week!

In other news, here is my new invention:

It’s called the Anti-Tigger Shield. Hidden beneath those two domes are three proofing loaves of ciabatta bread. Tigger is FOREVER sitting on my bread dough, pizza dough, freshly-baked muffins…you name it. If it’s a baked good in any stage of its life cycle, Tigger wants to sit or walk on it. WELL NO MORE. TAKE THAT, TIGGER!

Aww, but he’s so cute I can’t stand it. Ok, you can walk on my dough, Tiggs.


  1. Alexis Said,

    August 24, 2008 @ 11:04 am

    Awww, Tigger!

  2. Jennifer Said,

    August 25, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

    You are cracking me up.

    I’m so jealous that you get up around 11AM. 6:45AM is sleeping in at our house. Needless to say, we never have any problems getting to the farmer’s market.

    How strange that those peppers turned from purple to green. I work with a bunch of chemists and I should ask them why that happened.

    I can’t really tell from the picture, but is the rice bag big enough to be converted into a purse? That might be cute.

    I have a major thing for orange kitties. If Tigger ever needs a vacation, send him up to me in Ohio!

  3. renae Said,

    August 26, 2008 @ 12:42 am

    The rice bag is only a few inches across, so not really big enough to be a purse, which is too bad because purses happen to be the one and only thing I am actually capable of sewing!

    As for Tigger, he has a habit of waking up at 6 a.m. and screaming bloody murder. Nothing is wrong; he’s just looking for attention. On those days I’d be perfectly willing to send him your way for a vacation! Unfortunately, he can’t make it the 3 miles to the vet without getting car sick, so I don’t know how I’d get him to Ohio. Sounds like he’s on your schedule more than mine though!

  4. alaric Said,

    August 24, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

    Hi Renae,

    i would like to ask for your permission to use the photo of the carolina red rice (in the bag) for an article that will appear in the October issue of Rice Today magazine.

    Rice Today is published by the Rice Traders Association and the non-profit International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in the Philippines. For more information about the magazine please visit:

    The photo will be credited to you.

    By the way, we need a high resolution file of that photo and I hope you still have the original copy.

    Thank you.

  5. Bubba Said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    We dont need you pork and chicken fearing wierdos in Carolina. Please do us a favor and stay in San Francisco or Key West or wherever you are. Red Rice is made with bacon, sausage or both…or its not Red Rice. Please dont mess with our food because you dont like it… eat something else somewhere else..

  6. renae Said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

    Hey Bubba, I don’t need you vegan-fearing weirdos on my blog, so please do me a favor and refrain from making rude comments on my blog. I would think you’d be honored I like to make “your” cuisine even though I don’t believe in eating animals. If you don’t like it, read some other blog.

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