Like all casseroles, a brown rice casserole is a hot dish that combines protein, vegetables, and starch into a single serving. There are dozens of ways to combine delicious and healthy foods into rice casseroles. Some of the best recipes include tofu or meat, sautéed onions and garlic, cheese or cream, and beans. Brown rice casseroles can sing with zippy flavors such as curry or hot sauce or appeal to a subtler palate.
Cooks love casseroles because they are easy to prepare, are one-dish dinners that mean easier cleanup, and can be frozen. From children to adults, most diners appreciate the layers of flavor a good casserole offers, and for many, they are a kind of comfort food that brings warm memories of childhood meals to mind. These days, though, many cooks are as concerned with the kind of nutrition a meal provides as they are with how good it tastes.
People who’ve grown up on converted white rice might believe they don’t like brown rice, but with a little time, they can learn to appreciate its nutty, chewy flavor. White rice doesn’t offer much in terms of taste, texture, or nutrition, unlike brown rice, which is a powerhouse of fiber in a deliciously flavored form. A brown rice casserole can be a good introduction to the virtues of the whole grain because it offers a number of other tastes that are already familiar.
Vegetarians have made a fine art of the brown rice casserole. Some favorites include lightly sautéed tofu or tempeh together with seasonal veggies such as summer squash, cherry tomatoes, corn, or beans. Casseroles need moisture as well as something to help the disparate ingredients bond. Cottage cheese, shredded cheese, and eggs are one popular choice. Adding herbed bread crumbs to the top of the casserole and allowing them to lightly brown under the broiler provides a nicely crunchy finish.
For cooks in a hurry, a terrifically easy and utterly delicious brown rice casserole can be thrown together in just a few minutes by layering boneless chicken breasts that have been lightly sautéed with brown rice or wild or domestic mushrooms, onions, and garlic and a jar of diced, fire-roasted red peppers. A can of cream of mushroom soup and a handful or two of shredded cheese binds the casserole and adds a creamy texture.
Bacon, red meat, or a variety of beans as well as lentils can be used in a brown rice casserole with great results as well. The wise cook knows that experimenting with different types of rice will change the flavor and texture of the casserole. Basmati rice is aromatic and flavorful, and short-grain rice offers a stickier texture that some diners prefer.