Homemade Rice a Roni

Learning how to replace processed foods isn’t always easy. It requires thinking ahead and planning versus just grabbing whatever is in a box and tossing it in the oven or into a pot.

Here’s how to replace the popular all in one box rice-a-roni with a homemade version without all the preservatives.

rice-a-roni with chicken strips
Rice-a-roni with chicken strips, and a sweet chili sauce. Photo by Jeanie Beales.

Now, rice-a-roni is a side dish meant to be served with a main serving of meat or fish, or vegetables, but by adding some extras like bacon, mushrooms, roasted bell peppers and cheese, it can become a main meal that is quite satisfying.

The traditional way is to use rice (which is naturally gluten free), and vermicelli – the Italian type made from wheat flour. If you want to go gluten free then use rice or cellophane noodles.

You can get ones as fine as vermicelli, but unlike wheat based vermicelli, the rice-based type are quicker to cook so you will need to adjust your style by browning the rice in butter, then adding the water to get it going, then in a separate pan browning the rice vermicelli and adding them to the rice towards the last few minutes.

Additions like bacon and mushrooms can be chopped and stir fried before stirring through the rice a roni once it is cooked. The roasted red pepper strips can be prepared in advance and canned to use whenever you need some color and flavor on a dish. The cheese you use can be a strong cheddar or parmesan.

Adding sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped Italian herbs like parsley and oregano will only add to the flavor of a dish that started in San Francisco after the war, and then became the boxed convenience food. This recipe takes it back to its roots, when it was made at home.

rice-a-roni with chicken strips

Homemade Rice-A-Roni

4 from 1 vote


  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup vermicelli or thin spaghetti broken into ½-1” lengths
  • ¾ cup white long grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ large onion chopped fine
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. chicken bouillon look for powders/cubes that do not contain MSG
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste


  • Melt butter in a skillet. And gently sauté the onion until it is translucent and just changing color. Remove onion and set aside in a dish.
  • Add rice and noodles and sauté until lightly browned.
    rice and vermicilli sauteed in butter
  • Stir in chicken broth, bouillon, salt (if using ), and pepper. Mix all ingredients thoroughly, incorporating seasonings throughout the broth, rice and noodles. Bring to a boil.
    rice-a-roni with broth being brought to boil
  • Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20-23 minutes, checking periodically that the rice-a-roni is not sticking to the pan.
  • Mix additions through, garnish with chosen toppings and enjoy!

Have you made homemade rice-a-roni before? How does your family like it?

rice-a-roni pin

updated Nov. 2nd 2021 by Jeanie Beales

3 thoughts on “Homemade Rice a Roni”

  1. Looks yummy! I ate that a lot as a kid and loved it. I’m still a rice fiend so will have to give it a try. One thing though… if I remember right, didn’t the boxed version have little slivers of almond in it too??

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