Got frozen peas and rice? You’re in business.
Rice and Peas
Credit: Getty / Westend61

My rice cooker works overtime in winter. With the stove occupied with endless soups, stews, and braises, being able to pop some rice in the cooker to have at the ready makes for super simple, complete dinners with minimal fuss. But with only two of us in the house, I am often left with extra rice. And while there is nothing wrong with a great rice salad for lunch, or a great rice pudding for dessert, currently my favorite thing to do with rice, either leftover or fresh, is to make this simple creamy dish.

The genius of Creamy Rice and Peas

Inspired by risi e bisi, a traditional Italian rice and peas dish, I wanted an easy dish that could be either a great side dish for any protein, or a terrific vegetarian main dish. I wanted something that would work with a variety of types of rice, and most importantly, would use simple pantry, fridge, and freezer ingredients to make it a perfect last-minute choice. Even better? I discovered as much as I love it hot, it works well as a chilled salad and a great alternative to cole slaw or traditional creamy potato salads. 

How to make Creamy Rice and Peas

Once you have started to make this dish, don't hesitate to make it your own. I always have sour cream or crème fraiche in my fridge, but you can also use Greek yogurt or heavy cream. I keep frozen peas in the freezer always, but it works great with fresh peas, or other legumes like edamame, baby lima beans, or green lentils. I love how the whole-grain mustard brings punch and little pops of intensity, but you can sub in Dijon, or leave it out altogether. Sometimes I get fancy and stir in some lemon zest or fresh chives or parsley, but usually I just keep it super simple and stick to the formula.

Only tip is that if you are using leftover rice, be sure to reheat it first before continuing with the recipe, if you stir it together and then heat, it can get greasy.

Creamy Rice and Peas

This recipe can be expanded upwards pretty much endlessly. These amounts serve 2-4, but just double up if you have more people, more rice, or want leftovers.

2 cups plain cooked rice, either fresh and hot or re-heated in a microwave

1 cup frozen peas, cooked according to package directions and still hot

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3-1/2 cup sour cream, crème fraiche or Greek yogurt (use the higher amount if you wanted it creamier)

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

Salt and ground white pepper to taste

1. Toss rice and peas with melted butter until well coated.

2. Mix mustard into sour cream and season well with salt and pepper. If you are adding extras like lemon zest or chopped herbs, blend them into this mixture to ensure they will mix well into the rice.

3. Once you like the flavor, stir the sauce into the rice and peas blend. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. (Note: Whole grain mustards can vary wildly in intensity—if you can't taste the mustard coming through, add more half a teaspoon at a time until you like the flavor.)

Serve hot or warm as a side dish or vegetarian entrée or chilled as a salad.