Spicy Moroccan Rice with Tomatoes and Peppers

Photo © Christine Benlafquih
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
191 Calories
8g Fat
28g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 191
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 823mg 36%
Total Carbohydrate 28g 10%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 150mg 751%
Calcium 63mg 5%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 620mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

While it's true that bread accompanies almost every Moroccan meal, khobz is not necessarily needed when the main dish is built around couscous or pasta or rice, all of which might be offered alone with no sides or bread at all.

This saucy, spicy Moroccan rice recipe is one example. It's very versatile and can be served as a main dish or side. I was introduced to the recipe many years ago by my mother-in-law, and it immediately reminded me of a Spanish rice dish which my own mother used to prepare in the States. A Spanish influence might indeed be at play here, as a number of regional Moroccan dishes can be linked to our northern neighbor.

Here, the rice gets a little bit of kick from its blend of Moroccan spices which includes cayenne pepper, but if you really like things fiery throw a chili pepper into the pot while the rice is cooking. Conversely, omit the cayenne if you don't want any heat at all.

I'm most inclined to offer the rice as stand-alone fare in the evening when a light supper suffices after a much heartier main meal at lunchtime. I like it as a vegetarian entree with lots of bell peppers, but if you prefer, go ahead and add some diced beef, lamb or chicken – simply brown the meat with the rice before adding the liquids, or throw in some leftover cooked meat when you add the broth.


  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice, or medium-grain rice

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or a little more if desired

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 green pepper, coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 yellow pepper, coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 red pepper, coarsely chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, or more, pressed or very finely chopped

  • 1 large tomato, , peeled, seeded, and chopped

  • 1 large tomato, grated

  • 2 1/3 cups chicken broth, or beef or vegetable broth

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, or parsley

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, optional

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1 pinch saffron threads, optional

  • 1 small stick cinnamon stick, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the broth to nearly boiling, then hold warm over low heat.

  3. In a deep skillet or heavy bottomed pot placed over medium heat, saute the rice, onions and peppers in the oil. When the rice begins to brown, add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently.

  4. Add the broth, tomato paste, cilantro and spices. Bring the liquids to a boil then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 25 to 30 minutes without stirring, until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquids. 

  5. Remove the rice from the heat and lightly stir with a fork to fluff the rice and mix the vegetables throughout. It should still be a little saucy; if not, gently mix in a few tablespoons of hot water. Cover and leave the rice sit for at least five minutes before serving.