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Typical Italian Rice Salad - Great Appetizer or Main Dish

Updated on December 9, 2019
Robie Benve profile image

Born and raised in Italy, Robie loves good, healthy food (even better if it's easy to cook). She cooks every day for her family and friends.

4.3 stars from 3 ratings of Rice Salad

Great as Appetizer or Main Dish

The Rice Salad is a classic summer Italian dish whose ingredients and appearance may vary quite a bit from cook to cook. Whatever the ingredients, it makes a great food for a picnic, a potluck party, or a home summer family dinner. It's great for packing lunch too.

Colorful and fresh, the Rice Salad brings joy to the table, and because of the bright colors is usually loved by grownups and children alike. I always make extra and pack the leftover for my children's lunch on a school day, they love it.

Rice salad is good as appetizer but can be a complete meal, since it has all the nutritional elements needed in well balanced diet. It's colorful, tasty, and nutritious; a fun dish for everyone.


Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: Serves 8 people

Rice Salad Ingredients

  • 3 cups Parboiled rice, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 cup cheese, diced
  • 2 cans tuna, drained
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup olives, sliced
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 3/4 cup roasted peppers, cut in small strips
  • 3/4 cup artichoke hearts, cut in small pieces
  • salt, to taste
  • lemon Juice, to taste
  • fresh peas, boil with the rice
  • baby carrots, diced, boil with the rice
  • 1/2 cup cocktail onions, cut in four

Possible Ingredients for Rice Salad

Cocktail onions
Chicken breast
Rosted bell peppers
Cooked hot dogs
Steamed shrimp
Smoked salmon
Green beans
Canned tuna

Make sure you have a good balance of flavors: salty, acid, smokey...

This dish is not really meant to be spicey, but that's up to you if you want to try, of course. :)

These are the ingredients that I used for the rice salad in the picture above. The mixed veggies in the center are actually from a jar, an Italian product called "Condiriso" that contains a mix of carrots, olives, artichoke hearts, and peppers.
These are the ingredients that I used for the rice salad in the picture above. The mixed veggies in the center are actually from a jar, an Italian product called "Condiriso" that contains a mix of carrots, olives, artichoke hearts, and peppers. | Source


  1. Boil the rice in salty water according to cooking instructions on package, usually for about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Optional: quickly rinse the cooked rice with running cold water. Optional:you may want to add fresh peas and diced carrots to the cooking rice. They'll cook all together, giving more taste and richness to the salad.
  2. Dice all the ingredients: vegetables, cheese, and meats, and break the tuna into small pieces.
  3. When the rice is cooled, place in a big bowl and add all the ingredients, including the extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Stir well until there are no areas of completely white rice.
  5. Add some of the ingredients to the top for garnish, like cherry tomatoes cut in half, olives, or slices of hard boiled eggs, and some parsley. Adjust salt as needed.
  6. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
  7. Add lemon juice.
  8. Serve cold.

The Rice Salad Tastes Better if Made a Day Earlier

To enhance the taste of your Rice Salad, I recommend preparing it one or two days in advance and let it rest in the refrigerator, covered.

This will allow the rice to absorb the aromas of all ingredients, and really get the best taste.

You Can Make It Your Own Recipe

The rice salad is a very flexible dish. You can make it with many variations of ingredients, and it's a great way to use some leftovers.

You can also get creative with the rice, using different grains and different color rice, like basmati rice and wild rice.

Here are some alternative ingredients that you may want to include, and they all work well together, just remember to dice them up.

Note: The only ingredients that I never add are spices and herbs, because they may be too powerful and overpower the all dish, but that is a personal choice. You can try to add anything you think of to a small portion and taste to see if you like the combination of flavors.

Add some lemon juice

Optional: serve with a slice of lemon.

I love to add some freshly squeezed lemon juice on my rice salad, it adds a nice zest to it. You can try lime juice as well.

You Can Really Get Creative with the Ingredients!

Depending on what you put into it, the rice salad can become more or less tasty.

My staple ingredients that I always include, as the minimum, are:

- Something acid (like capers, cocktail onions, etc.)

- Some kind of cubed cheese, the tastier the better (aged cheese is better than fresh for taste)

- Canned tuna. it goes particularly well with the acidic ingredients.

- Something salty, like olives.

- Some color: diced tomatoes, corn, boiled carrot cubes, parsley, etc.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Robie Benve


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