Comfort Food: Brown Rice with Cherry Tomatoes and Lemon

brown rice with cherry tomatoes and lemon

I confess, I came very close not to publishing this dish. It’s so painfully simple, so not-really-a-recipe, that I was a bit embarrassed to be writing about it. Then I remembered that my most simple recipes are often the ones that my readers seem to appreciate most (hello, one ingredient banana ice cream), and moreover, this post answers a question I get rather frequently, which is “what do you eat when you don’t really have time to cook?” There are all sorts of things I call upon in those moments—big salads, pureed raw soups, among them—but this kind of easy grain bowl is one answer.

The origin of this dish is actually from my childhood. My Greek grandmother—my Yaya—used to make perfect, beautiful rice whenever she roasted chicken. Her roasted chicken always came with roasted tomatoes, and I—burgeoning non-meat-eater that I was—often ate very little of the chicken, but was delighted to scoop the roast tomatoes over the rice. It was sweet, simple, and filling: my kind of comfort food.

I’ve made the dish with roasted tomatoes, and it’s always lovely, but what you see here is my shortcut version, the version I make when I don’t have time to roast tomatoes, but do have rice on hand (brown rice is one of the many grains I often make in advance on weekends in my rice cooker, so that I have plenty to use through the week, or freeze as needed). I serve it cold, with a bit of avocado or olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sometimes, I add nutritional yeast, and sometimes, I add a little dill (which feels quintessentially Greek!). The cherry tomatoes burst with sweetness, the rice is grounding and comforting, and the lemon livens the entire dish up nicely.


Much to my surprise and delight, I found a recipe quite like this one in Alicia Silverstone’s wonderful, macrobiotic inspired cookbook, The Kind Diet. In that book, it’s “Hot Rice with Cold Lemon, Basil and Tomato,” so the grain is served warm. I like the whole dish cool, and I don’t use basil, but the idea is very similar. This kind of comfort food, it seems, spans across many vegan kitchens! If you make this yourself, feel free to serve the rice either hot or cool. It’s lovely either way.


Brown Rice with Cherry Tomatoes and Lemon (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Serves 4

1 cup brown basmati rice, dry
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth or water and 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
Optional: 2 tsp dried dill
Optional: 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring the rice and water and salt or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 35-45 minutes, or until rice has absorbed all liquid and is fluffy and soft. Add more liquid as needed if it’s getting dry in the last ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and let rice sit for a while. If you’re not serving right away, you can keep rice in the fridge for at least two full days, or freeze it and defrost.

2. Combine rice with the cherry tomatoes, the lemon juice, and the oil. If you like, toss in the dill or nutritional yeast. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and serve.


Dishes like this prove just how much can be done with very little in the way of fancy ingredients or effort. I sometimes serve it with a green salad for dinner, but I’ve also been known to come home from class, get a spoon, and snack on a bowl of this all on its own. It’s an especially good wintertime snack, but if you serve it cool, it’s nice for pretty much any time of year.


Speaking of after school snacks, I have currently fallen in love once again with my high protein hemp hummus:


It may be my all time favorite hummus recipe, but I actually hadn’t made it in ages until yesterday. At which point I made it, and proceeded to devour it all in about twenty-four hours. So, so good, and such a great, nourishing school year snack!

Which reminds me: I’m getting overwhelming email requests for student-friendly, packable snacks and meals! I’m working on it. And since my new (and final) post-bacc semester begins today, it is only appropriate that I share a special, snack and dessert worthy student treat tomorrow. Stay tuned.


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Categories: Side Dishes
Ingredients: Rice
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan

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  1. Gena,

    Excellent post! Keep these coming! I just had this delish dish for lunch but added peas for no other reason than I needed to eat them. It was a wonderful meal and will be a weekly dish for lunch at work.

    Thank you for all your posts. I enjoy this blog very much.

    Have a great Labor Day Weekend,


  2. I love posts like this! Thank you for posting it even though you were nervous about it! I went to make it but figured I should use up cabbage and radish I had, so I added that, then I wanted protein so I added beans, then I thought why not add some black pepper and I have all these chives I might as well add them and then I thought ok I’m going crazy already might as well add some currants for extra sweetness and chopped almonds and pumpkin seeds for crunch lol. It was great! I would leave out the currants next time though. Thank you for your simple recipe and showing us that it’s ok to eat simple food!

  3. I hear you, too much pressure when blogging about food to dazzle! Razzle-dazzle isn’t my everyday life. Quick and easy is. And for that reason, I’m particularly happy you shared this with us!

  4. What is your secret for freezing brown rice?! I’ve heard that its a bit tricky to do… help us out?

    • I just stick mine in a container after its cooled a bit and throw it in the freezer. No trick to it at all and it reheats perfectly!

  5. I will echo the crowd and say I love simple recipes like this. Short-grain brown rice is my favorite – great as comfort food. Good luck getting back to school!

  6. Is that little tiny dish the whole serving? I think I’d need two or three of these at least! Looks delish though…brown rice is one reason I’ll never be 100% raw, that and coffee 🙂

  7. Simple is always welcome! I think this has been asked before (maybe even by me- I have a bad memory) but how do you keep the rice fresh in the fridge? Usually when I reheat rice it is kind of a strange texture, and I wouldn’t find precooked/ leftover rice at all palatable if I ate it cold.

    • When I reheat rice, I add a bit of liquid (veggie broth, water, or rice/almond milk) to it before reheating. It comes out much better. Otherwise, I find it’s too dry. Hope that helps!

  8. i make something similar. i often put kale in the mix. looks amazingly simple. might have this for dinner. oh, i made one of your hummus at the beginning of the week. amazingly good. i have literally never ate a better hummus. i have no excuse to buy it anymore.

  9. I love simple males like this. It reminds me of a dish I used to make with oral, skillet-toasted tomatoes, lemon juice and zest with capers. 🙂

  10. I love mixing raw tomatoes with hot rice, it brings out the flavour without having to properly cook them. And I bet this would be extra special with roasted tomatoes and maybe dried oregano. Good idea to have it as a snack I never think of grains for snacks

  11. Sometimes the simpler the dish is – the better it tastes! This one definitely is one of this cases 😉

  12. Love theese easy quick dishes. I make a similar one with quinoa. As a stay-at-home-mother with two small boys there is hardly time for me to eat and the more I can prepare beforehand the better.

    Thank you for sharing!


  13. That looks like a light but complete meal! And I just love snacking on those cherry tomatoes. Once you pop you can’t stop, right? I eat them like grapes LOL!

  14. Gena, have to say, you saved me today. Had a down and back on the train to DC from NYC today, no spare time. I took your cold raw oats for breakfast onthe train and some homemade Thrive bars and trail mix for snacks. No time for lunch. On the ride home, checked Twitter and saw this post. Immediately texted my wife who put on some rice for me and I chopped up some tomatoes from our CSA box and a leftover jalapeño half with the lemon and nutritional yeast. Voila, quick & easy end of the day meal and another Seamless Web order averted. Perfect timing for this post!

  15. You’re so right Gena- sometimes simple meals are the best! I love getting new ideas for them because, realistically that’s what I’ll end up actually making!

  16. Gena, I’ve never used avocado oil before. Speaking of which, are you still planning on doing a post on fats/oils? This is an issue that I see popping up recently, & I’ve really started to re-access my position on the issue. The lowfat camp: eat fat you’ll get fat! I just don’t think I agree with that anymore. Calories count, fat is calorie dense, but a tsp or two of oil on a salad? Or like you have in this recipe? Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  17. Gena,
    I’m so grateful you shared this recipe. Simple it may be, it’s among my favorite flavor combos this summer as well. I’ve been topping my quinoa with an entire lemon or lime, a few hearty turns from the pepper mill, avocado and cherry tomatoes. It’s delightful when warm, and when cold, it makes a quick lunch. Thank you for your joyful blog and kind spirit. 🙂 (Making an effort to express my gratitude rather than lurk silently as I usually do.)

  18. I love simple meals!
    you got me into the habit of cooking grains and beans in advance and freezing them.
    This has changed my life!

  19. You just reminded me how much I love avocados with rice and maybe a little olive oil and a little Bragg’s! Time to add lemon to the mix. I’m off to make this for dinner now… ripe avocado is calling me!

  20. Your right! I like super simple the best!! Don’t be afraid to keep publishing the simple recipes if they are good!!!

  21. My go-to and basically the thing I bring to work with me every day is a big bowl of brown basmati rice, chickpeas, veggies and Earth Balance. Depending on the spices or subbing in a different bean or grain, you can create a different dish every day. I make a big batch of rice to keep in the fridge, so there’s no prep when I’m busy. So easy, so good!

  22. I love this dish and I love you! Congratulations on your last semester!!!! If I end up moving to NYC (fingers crossed), let’s celebrate.

  23. Love this! I frequently make something very similar (to be honest, it depends on what’s in the fridge). Some nicely ripened avocado and any finely chopped veggies usually make their way in 🙂