Cheesy Zucchini Rice

My new favorite side dish! Considering I have zucchini growing out of my ears and add to that the fact that I’m always looking for a quick and simple side dish to accompany easy weeknight entrees (anything from these fab grilled pork chops to this Island Chicken), this zucchini rice is a lifesaver. Please tell me I’m not the only one who lays awake at night pondering the side dish conundrum: what to serve with stand-alone meat entrees as opposed to the all-in-one casserole that needs no such side dish garnishing.

Not only is this rice dish a godsend for my apparent side dish issues, but it doesn’t hurt that it is downright delicious and hearty enough to fill the hollow legs that sit at my dinner table (i.e. my four growing boys). I watched in wonder as my family scooped spoonful after spoonful of this rice onto their plates. I’m not entirely sure they knew they were consuming no less than two zucchinis from our garden but I’ll keep that little secret to myself if it’s alright with you.

I hope this simple, cheesy, homestyle rice will please the palates at your table as much as it does at mine and let all of us who obsess over side dishes sleep a little better at night.

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

One Year Ago: Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago: Red Berry Risotto Oatmeal
Three Years Ago: Soft Wrap Bread

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Cheesy Zucchini Rice


  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 medium or 2 small zucchini, grated on a box grater or with a food processor (no need to peel beforehand)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and let the rice simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the grated zucchini, cheese, and garlic powder. Add salt and pepper to taste (don't skip this step - I needed at least 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt to boost the flavor). Add a tablespoon or so of milk to adjust the texture if needed. Serve warm.

Recipe Source: found via Pinterest, adapted from Buns In My Oven

64 Responses to Cheesy Zucchini Rice

  1. Kim says:

    I just made this, it’s not dinner time yet and my kids have eaten half of it already. I had some left over shredded zucchini and literally just poured some garlic powder, cheese and salt and heated enough to melt the cheese and it was delicious. Who would have thought. P.S. my kids hate zucchini. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Sarah says:

    Can I use water instead of chicken broth?

  3. Anne says:

    This was very tasty and easy! I still have zucchini in my freezer so I’m glad to use it up. I used brown rice and it was delicious! Thanks!

    • Hi Anne, I have a question. Do you freeze the zucchini yourself or you use a store bought. Every time when I bought excess of fresh zucchini I wanted to freeze it, but I didn’t know how to do it: should I slice it or leave it whole, should it be blanched or not, etc.?

  4. Jas says:

    Just made these for dinner for my 2year old.. Added bit of spinach as well. Tastes yummy. Thank you for this great recipe.

  5. Katie Ray says:

    we made this tonight with Goat cheese, YUM!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve made this several times and we all love it. I was just wondering if you’ve made this with quinoa?

  7. We had this tonight and it was a big hit, even with my zucchini-averse husband and my unpredictable toddler. I did make a bunch of changes, but I loved the recipe as a starting point. We eat rice and zucchini all the time, and I never thought to make a dish like this. So glad I saw this post and really love your blog!

  8. Christie says:

    Do you think this might freeze well?

    • Mel says:

      Christie – Certainly worth a try – I haven’t frozen it so I don’t know how the texture fares after being thawed, though. Good luck if you try it!

  9. Teri Larsen says:

    I’ve got shredded zucchini in my freezer already – does anyone know approx. how many cups I should use for this recipe? Sounds fabulous!

  10. Anna says:

    I just ate half of this recipe as dinner. Delicious! I’m new to this website and I’ll definitely be back.

  11. angie says:

    I’m adding some leftover chicken and some shredded carrot and calling it supper! 🙂

  12. Ellen says:

    This is a great recipe! It reminds me of broccoli cheese rice (which my DH loves) but this recipe is healthier, and it’s quick and easy to prepare.

    I’m really enjoying your blog! This has become the first place I look for recipe ideas. I also appreciate that you list a link or tell where recipes originated, as I like to compare and see which version will work best for us.

    Thanks for all of the great recipes!

  13. Morning says:

    This is the first time I have commented. I am a personal chef for 4 families, the 4th one being my husband, 7 year old and 3 year old twins.
    I love this rice! The first time I made it according to your directions. Then I had extra zucchini one night and needed to get dinner on the table quickly. The cheddar cheese didn’t seem like a good match so I sautéed some finely chopped onion, added the zucchini, seasoned it with salt, cooked for just a few minutes then added about 4 oz of cream cheese. I used leftover warmed rice.
    I have also added ground cumin and chopped fresh cilantro to make into a Mexican rice.
    Thank you for all the work you put into this blog!

  14. Melissa says:

    I made this tonight(thanks to your new side dish menu planner) and it was SO GOOD! Next time I will double the recipe because my family ate every last bite! Thanks!

  15. Kelly says:

    My husband FLIPS about this recipe! He loves rice, especially with cheesy creamy goodness, and I can add as much zucchini as I want to get extra veggies in for the two of us. Once, he requested this 2 nights in a row!! Thank you Mel!

  16. […] Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  17. master chef says:

    WOW, looks amazing 🙂 Love your blog

  18. melissa says:

    so i just made this and it was amazing!! i used a meltable, low fat cheese and garlic salt instead of powder/salt. and it was incredibly yummy. everyone here loved it and i will definitely be adding it to my dinner rotation!!

  19. Janet says:

    One word……delicious. My family enjoyed it

  20. Anissa says:

    THis was delicious. I put the zucchini, cheese, spices in with the rice then stirred a little bit and then covered with the lid for 5 minutes. THis melted the cheese and softened the zucchini perfectly.
    My picky kids didn’t like it, but my husband and I loved it. Sigh…

  21. Duh! Why didn’t I think of this before! Cheesy broccoli rice casserole is a favorite of ours and zucchini is a great substitute/addition to the broccoli.

  22. Sara says:

    Just put this together and added a extra little milk and chicken stock, so it was a bit liquidy, THEN put it in a casserole… I’m going to bake it alongside my Enchiladas for 15-20 min and see how it comes out =D Thanks for the recipe! My Zucchini disliking 4 year old says he’ll eat this <3 Winning!

  23. Heather says:

    I made this today and it was so yummy, I actually sauteed shredded carrots and zucchini then added it. And I think I will make it with your baked brown rice next time, which I make often and love too. Thanks for all the great recipes.

  24. Nicole Peck says:

    Made this with Sunday dinner yesterday. Loved it, even my kids did. I think I would throw the zucchini in to cook for just a few minutes as it was too crunchy for my taste and when I reheated it today, I liked the flavor better. Otherwise, this was such a huge hit, I’ll definitely be making it again!!!!

  25. Mel says:

    Irina, yes I think brown rice should work, just make changes to liquid and cooking times to work better with the brown rice.

  26. Hannah says:

    This recipes was yummy and easy! I made it for my kids for lunch and it was a hit. Instead of garlic powder I just grated 1 fresh garlic clove into the rice and let it all cook together. The chicken stock adds great flavor. Next time I’m going to try brown rice. Thanks for a great recipe!

  27. Laurie says:

    Mel, loved the cheesy zuccinni rice. I only use my zuccinni for goodies. Your little girl is a doll!!!!

  28. emily says:

    my daughter, who is almost 2 and very picky about food right now, LOVED this 🙂 i think next time i’d cut down a teeny bit on the garlic, but it was definitely a hit!

  29. Irina says:

    I would love to try this recipe, but I hardly ever eat white rice. Do you think brown rice would be ok to use?

  30. Sarah says:

    Had this for dinner with salmon. It was so delicious! Thank you!! We also made crazy cupcakes on Monday–your chocolate cupcake recipe was a keeper, too. I guess it has been a Mel’s kitchen cafe week at our house!

  31. Mel says:

    Katie – I didn’t squeeze any liquid out, but I did use small zucchini that had hardly any seeds in the middle which might make a difference (larger zucchini will have considerably more liquid). Good idea to squeeze it dry if it seems to moist. Thanks!

  32. Katie says:

    Delicious! Did you squeeze the water out of the zucchini? I think I will next time. Great flavor, but as it sat on the dinner table it got a pool of liquid in it.

  33. brooke says:

    i found one of your recipes on pinterest and now find myself scrolling through your blog. it’s awesome! i’ve pinned several of your recipes and can’t wait to try them out.

  34. Joelle Bennett says:

    This was delicious! I made it with quinoa and everyone loved it! Thanks for the idea!

  35. Reyna says:

    Couldn’t be easier or tastier! Total winner. I have never liked a rice dish more than this one.

  36. Jen T says:

    Yum! I lay awake nights wondering what to do with the zucchini coming out of my ears, so this will help me have a good night’s sleep too! 🙂

  37. Mel says:

    Melissa – any other cheese that melts really well would probably work (Monterey Jack or something like that with good flavor).

  38. Andrea D. says:

    I made it tonight, sans cheese. We’re dieting ’round these parts, so I instead loaded up on the garlic powder, added onion powder, and as you suggested, didn’t skip on the salt and pepper. Ah-mazing. Thank you for a great recipe!

  39. Mandi says:

    Looks so yummy! I completely understand your late-nite side dish debate – have that myself regularly- seems even when I can decide, I always end up regretting picking complicated dishes that make a weeknight more stressful than it should be. I’ll definitely be adding this one into my dinner rotation!

  40. I want to bathe in it… it look so incredibly tasty!

    Zucchini? Love. Rice? Almost welcome. Cheese? A must!
    Put them all together? If there truly is a heaven, it is this.

  41. melissa says:

    this looks yummy and i am always on the hunt for new side dishes!! living in spain, cheddar cheese is not quite as easy to find here. any other suggestions for any other type of cheese i could use?

  42. Teresa Ambra says:

    I nominated your lovely blog for the Lovely Blog Award. I’m sure you have probably been nominated dozens of times already. If you are interested in participating you can access the link:

  43. Brittany C. says:

    Mel, I am really excited to make this for a couple of reasons, 1. It looks super yummy 2. I have zucchini coming out my ears and 3. the last rice side dish I “made up” failed miserably. I’m sure this will help me redeem myself. 🙂 So, thank you!

  44. Mel, I’ve been a long time reader and follower and maker of your recipes. It is time I said THANK YOU. Most of my dinners start out with a little search around your kitchen cafe for some inspiration. I love that tonight I have all of these ingredients on hand.

  45. StephenC says:

    I plan a protein, a veg, and a starch for our dinners. Yes, sometimes parts of this are a combination. This method of using zucchini is perfect for my wants and needs. Bookmarked.

  46. Mel says:

    Staci – I don’t seed the zucchini unless they are really, really big. I personally wouldn’t sub cucumbers but that’s just my own preference – not sure the taste would be quite what this recipe needs.

    Ang – nope, no need to cook the zucchini beforehand.

  47. This is perfect! I have a ton of zucchini growing in my garden and they just keep coming! I’ve been trying to stay creative with zucchini recipes and yours looks great! Hope you have a fun weekend and thanks for the wonderful idea!

  48. Kim in MD says:

    Yum! I am marinating your Grilled Island Chicken as I type this, and I happen to have some zucchini on my counter (thanks to my MIL’s garden). I think I know what my side dish is going to be tonight!

  49. Haley Oakes says:

    Mel you’re darling and I’m so thankful for your blog! I can’t even count how many of your recipes I’ve tried and they are delicious. Thank you for all your hard work!

  50. Leigh says:

    So funny! I made this the other night after seeing it on Karly’s blog. We loved it – my 1 year old couldn’t get enough of it! I want to try her variation with broccoli and ham.

  51. Ang says:

    So you don’t have to cook the zucchini??

  52. I saw this from Karly and have been loving it! Delicious!

  53. Staci says:

    Did you seed the zuchinni and do you think cucumber could be used? That’s what I have a plethora of.

  54. Karly says:

    Yay! So glad you like this. It’s one of my very favorite side dishes, too. And so easy! 🙂

  55. Heather says:

    I just made this from pinterest too! So good!

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