Your microwave may save tonight’s dinner.

By Arielle Weg
October 09, 2018
Credit: Arielle Weg

We’ve definitely all been there. You plan to make a really delicious hearty beef stew or whip up a quick stir-fry chicken dinner, only to realize it’s missing something. No, you don’t think it needs an extra pinch of salt or drizzle of sriracha. What it needs is a fluffy bowl of rice to soak up all the flavorful goodness. Yep, that’s it.

But there are so many ways you can make a mess of a bowl of rice, especially when you’re in a hurry. You can overcook it, it may get gummy, or it could stick to the bottom of the pan. Sure, you can try easy oven rice, Instant Pot rice, perfect stovetop rice, or even grab a rice cooker for a perfect pot of rice. But some nights you kinda need things to be even easier. You just want a perfectly tasty, fluffy, and buttery bowl of rice ready to go when dinner hits the table.

That’s where microwavable rice comes in. These shelf-stable packets can be popped in the microwave just minutes before a meal, and you’ll have a bowl of steamy rice at your fingertips. But don’t fool yourself. Though theoretically simple, rice is a tricky dish to perfect; obviously, some packages are bound to be better than others. We tested nine varieties to determine which are the ones worth stocking up on. Here are the four instant rice packets worth grabbing on your next grocery run.

Honorable Mention: Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Big Easy Heat & Serve Rice in Jambalaya flavor

This package of rice is flavored with green and red bell peppers, salt, spices, garlic, pork stock, and lard for an extra savory and spicy bite. The rice has a pleasantly firm consistency, and smoky flavor. Though this rice could definitely stand on its own or be paired with some beans or plain chicken for a quick dinner, it doesn’t seem to be the best option to have on hand to replace classic white rice. The flavors may not always pair well with the throw-together dinner at hand.

Honorable Mention: Village Harvest Organic Basmati & Lentil

Tasters couldn’t get enough of this microwave rice, and even walked away with cups full of the stuff to munch on at their desks. The packet includes brown rice, brown lentils, cumin seeds, turmeric, and salt for a perfectly flavorful and perfumy dish. Though this was by far our team’s favorite microwaveable rice, we were worried it wouldn’t necessarily be the best all-purpose base to turn to. We’d certainly keep a box of this on hand for last-minute dinner inspiration though.

Runner Up: Minute White Rice

For tender, totally adequate rice that cooks up in just a minute, Minute White Rice is your ticket. The ingredients are simply rice, sunflower oil, sea salt, and sunflower lecithin. Though you can definitely detect the salt and oil tossed in, our team was a fan of it as a last-minute addition to dinner.

Our Pick: VeeTee Rice & Easy Thai Jasmine

A packet of VeTee Rice & Easy was reminiscent of classic takeout rice from your favorite Asian Fusion spot. The container contains rice, sunflower oil, glucono delta lactone, and salt. It was sticky (in a good way, one taster noted), vibrantly white, and just lightly salted. It would be great as a fried rice base or underneath a spoonful of tonight’s saucy supper—whatever it may be.