I can’t say for sure how dishes like Tomatoes and Rice originated, but if I had to guess, I’d say out of necessity. And that was probably the need to feed lots of mouths for not a lot of money.
Just like my Macaroni and Tomatoes, dishes like this have stood the test of time and often do wonders at reminding us of our childhoods. I think it’s so fun to see how a dish with basic ingredients changes as we move around the country or even around the world. From this basic Tomatoes and Rice, to the Red Rice of the low country, to tomato-based jambalaya in Louisiana, to Spanish Rice, to Portuguese Tomato Rice, to Mexican Rice, to Jollof Rice, to Tomato Fried Rice. It’s amazing to see how simple ingredients like rice and tomatoes can turn into recipes that have so much delicious variation.
My version is quick, easy, and filled with great flavor. It’s pretty dang good warmed up the next day, too.
As with a host of other classically Southern dishes, this one starts with a little bacon grease. And while you can certainly replace that with olive or vegetable oil, I would strongly advise against it. The flavor of this dish is built on the combination of the smoky flavors from the bacon grease and the tangy acid from the tomatoes. In fact, I’d say it’s probably worth cooking a batch of bacon just to get the grease to make this.
The dish is pretty versatile, too. I mean, there are TONS of variations of the recipe out there. I’ve heard of folks crumbling bacon into it, adding cooked ground beef, even shredded cooked chicken and turning it into an entire meal. The beauty is that when you get the basics right, you can have fun tailoring it to suit your taste.
A few things to take note of…
I use long grain rice in this dish. Using rice of a different size will change the cook time. Be sure to check the instructions on the package to be sure if you don’t use the same size. Overcooked rice can get pretty mushy and no one likes undercooked crunchy rice.
Don’t drain the tomatoes. The juice in the can helps add even more flavor.
You can use fresh tomatoes in this dish if you wish. I’d use 3 to 4 chopped tomatoes and recommend adding them to the pan right after the garlic and cooking them for 5 to 10 minutes before adding the broth and rice.
And just a reminder: Bacon grease is essential to getting the flavors right in this one. If dietary restrictions keep you from using pork products, I’d recommend looking at some of the bacon and ham flavored seasonings on the market so you can get that smoky flavor this dish needs. Many of them are pork and or even entirely meat free.
Tomatoes and Rice
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 (28-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, melt the bacon grease over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent and tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add the rice and stir well. Add salt to taste. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest for an additional 5 minutes to allow the remaining liquid to be absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.