This vegetable and rice salad is a hearty, healthy, and nutritious summer salad, or side dish. Combining brown rice, vegetables, and a vegan sour cream-based dressing- this recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and super satisfying!
A Healthy, Hearty Summer Rice Salad
All year round, I’m used to eating rice warm alongside main meals and even desserts (like this Mango Sticky Rice). However, this summer, I’m appreciating this humble ingredient in a whole new way; as a filling, hearty, cold rice salad. Plus, this recipe takes about 30 minutes to prepare, with around 10 minutes of hands-on prep time!
This dish combined brown rice, tons of veggies, and a dairy-free sour cream based-dressing, for a healthy vegan salad that will impress friends and family. So next time you feel the desire to knock out a cold pasta salad, or are looking for the perfect dish for a summer cookout, BBQ, or other gatherings, then why not pick up a bag of rice instead and try out this recipe!
Best of all, this recipe is super versatile. With just a few ingredient swaps or add-ins, this salad can morph from a Mediterranean rice salad to a ‘cowboy’ salad. Meaning it’s a great dish to make in batches and flavor accordingly, to everyone’s’ taste buds.
I also love the combination of flavors and textures, from the slight chew of the savory rice to the crunchy fresh veg and creamy, luxurious Vegan Sour Cream based dressing. This recipe has it all!
Quick And Simple Versatile Ingredient Swaps and Add-ins
As I said above, this cold rice salad is basically made up of just three elements: rice, vegetables, and dressing. All of which can be experimented with for a truly versatile dish.
This recipe is excellent as I’ve suggested. However, it’s also a fantastic end-of-week option for using up leftover veggies and fresh produce. It can be customized with whatever you have to hand, really.
Here are a few super simple ways to easily adapt this recipe:
- For even more Mediterranean rice salad vibes: Feel free to add in more delicious Med flavors such as sun-dried tomatoes, vegan feta cheese, etc.
- A grilled Med veg version: As a perfect BBQ accompaniment, mix in some BBQ grilled peppers, onion, zucchini, and eggplant.
- For a cowboy salad version: ‘cowboy salad’ is a dish adapted from the popular ‘cowboy caviar’ (aka Texas caviar – a simple bean salsa dish), which includes beans, corn, bell peppers, tomato, red onion, and cilantro. Serve with the dressing I’ve suggested or a sweet vinaigrette.
- For more heat: Add in some chopped chili or chili flakes.
- Do you want additional crunch: Add some raw or lightly toasted flaked almonds, pepitas, or sunflower seeds.
- For a heartier meal (and extra protein!): Add a cup of cooked legumes – such as beans or chickpeas. Grilled/ marinated tofu would also work.
- Add more flavor: with fresh herbs; cilantro, mint, basil, parsley, dill, chives – pair whatever you have available with the ingredients in your dish.
There are tons of other ways to adapt this vegan Buddha bowl to your needs too. But for the sake of not overly complicating this post, let’s move on!
This Recipe Is:
- Super Customizable
- A perfect summer salad, side dish, or addition to a BBQ/ Potluck/ summer cookout
The Step-By-Step Instructions
There are just four steps to making this brown rice salad. First, prepare the rice and vegetables, then the dressing, and finally assembling everything.
For the full ingredients list, measurements, and nutritional information for this recipe, then find the recipe card below.
Step 1 – Soak The Rice:
Add the brown rice to a bowl and cover with lukewarm water to soak for fifteen minutes, then drain. Soaking it for longer (i.e., 1 hour) will also work, and the rice will cook faster too.
Step 2 – Cook The Rice:
Bring two cups of vegetable broth (or salted water) to a boil and then add the rice and cover with a lid. Allow it to simmer for around 30-35 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Then, remove it from the heat and allow it to sit for a further 10 minutes with the lid on- then remove the lid, fluff up the rice, and allow it to cool.
Note* This will help it to become fluffy, with individual grains, rather than stodgy or gloopy. You could also place a tea towel under the lid during the last 10-minute steam so that the condensation doesn’t drip back onto the rice.
Step 3 – Chop The Veggies And Make The Dressing:
Meanwhile, as the rice cools, you can finely chop all the vegetables and prepare the dressing by adding all the dressing ingredients to a bowl and stirring well. If you prefer a thinner dressing, then add a little water.
Step 4: – Assemble:
Finally, when ready to assemble, combine the vegetables and rice in a large bowl, pour over the dressing and toss to mix well. Serve immediately or allow it to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before serving- enjoy!
How To Serve
This cold rice salad works well as a side dish as well as a main, alongside your favorite protein and some bread or toasted pita.
How To Store
Depending on what veggies and leafy greens that you add to the dish, this salad can become a bit ‘soggy’ if left for too long. For that reason, I suggest storing this recipe in the fridge for a maximum of 2 days.
However, if you want to make the rice in advance, then plain rice will last up to five days in the fridge.
Though many of the elements are freezer friendly, I wouldn’t recommend freezing this salad, as it is likely to change the texture of the fresh vegetables.
For more fresh and healthy vegan salad recipes perfect for the summer months, you may also like:
- Healthy Vegan Pasta Salad
- Vegan Potato Salad
- Mexican Avocado Salad
- German Cucumber Salad
- Vegan Coleslaw
- Vegan Buddha Bowl With Chickpeas
Recipe Notes and Tips
- I used homemade vegan sour cream, but you can also use vegan mayo or dairy-free yogurt if you like.
- The flavor of this salad is best when left to marinate for around 30 minutes, before serving. This allows the rice to absorb the flavor of the dressing and ingredients around it.
- I usually always have some cooked rice ready to go in the freezer too- to just defrost and combine with the other ingredients for a practically effortless meal.
- You can use other long-grain rice or even mix some wild rice into your rice too. However, avoid short-grain rice for this dish as it can be too ‘sticky.’
- If you’re planning on making this salad ahead, then it’s best to leave the lettuce out of the bowl until before serving. Alternatively, use greens like spinach or kale, that taste great, even when wilted.
- If you’re serving to picky eaters, then you can serve it in an extra-large serving dish with the rice in the middle, and veggies and dressing in neat piles on the outside. Leave a serving spoon or tongs, and everyone can choose exactly what they want to include in their personal salad.
If you give this healthy rice salad recipe a try, I’d love a comment and recipe rating below. Also, don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan and #elavegan – I love seeing your recreations.
- 1 cup (200 g) brown rice uncooked
- 2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth or water + salt
- 1 cup (150 g) cucumber diced
- 1 cup (100 g) carrots grated
- 3/4 cup (130 g) cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/2 (90 g) bell pepper diced
- 1/2 cup (50 g) purple cabbage thinly sliced
- 1-2 handful of (40 g) arugula or lettuce
- 2 (35 g) green onions thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup (30 g) olives
- Add brown rice to a bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Soak rice for about 15 minutes, then drain. Soaking it longer, e.g. 1 hour is fine too, it will cook faster then.
- Bring a pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth (or water + salt) to a boil, then add rice, cover with a lid. Simmer for about 30-35 minutes (without stirring), then turn off the heat. Let sit covered for a further 10 minutes. Let cool. You can start chopping the veggies while the rice cools.
- Add all dressing ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. If you prefer a thinner dressing, add a little water.
- Combine all veggies and rice in a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve. Enjoy!
- I used homemade vegan sour cream but you can also use vegan mayo or dairy-free yogurt if you like.
- You can add 1 cup of cooked beans or chickpeas or even fried tofu for additional protein.
- Read the blog post for more helpful tips and variations + serving suggestions.
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