Cajun-Style Dirty Rice

Classic Louisiana-style seasonings are the key ingredients in the best Cajun dirty rice recipe. Think of dirty rice as a Cajun rice pilaf. Don't knock it until you try it!

Side view of two bowls of Cajun Dirty Rice on a marble countertop.
Michelle Becker

Why is it that so much great food comes out of Louisiana?

Case in point, this "dirty" rice. It's a Cajun classic, and so good that the first time you eat it you'll wonder where it's been all your life.

What is Dirty Rice?

It's basically a rice pilaf that is called "dirty" because it's cooked with minced chicken livers or gizzards, which infuse it with crispy, tasty browned bits.

Overhead view of dirty rice in a skillet.
Michelle Becker

Why Dirty Rice is a Must-Try

If you aren't a liver lover, don't worry! The rice doesn't taste like liver, the addition just deepens the overall flavor of the rice, and the bits are so small you can't really distinguish them.

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Click Play to Watch This Cajun Dirty Rice Come Together

The Origins of Dirty Rice

Dirty rice can be traced back to the plantation days of Louisiana. Those who had many people to feed but few resources to feed them all added what they could get to the white rice that was abundant - chicken livers, spices, vegetables - and the resulting dish would look "dirty."

Over the centuries, the ingredients for dirty rice have expanded and now there are many versions of this filling Creole dish, probably as many as there are families in Southern Louisiana. So, anyone claiming that their family's recipe is an authentic dirty rice recipe is probably right, even if their recipes differ from the hundreds of others.

Cajun Seasoning Vs. Creole Seasoning

Cajun and Creole seasonings differ in their ingredients. A cajun seasoning mix is pepper-heavy with bell peppers, cayenne peppers, and other peppers of varying heats. It's hotter than Creole seasoning mix which is more on the savory side with various herbs such as oregano, basil, and thyme.

This recipe calls for Cajun seasoning, but if you have only Creole seasoning on your spice rack, you can use that. And, if you want a little extra heat, you can add some cayenne pepper to it.

Note that the salt content varies greatly by brand. If you’re worried about the rice being too salty, start with 1/2 of the 1 tablespoon called for in the recipe. You can add more to taste later.

How to Shop for Chicken Livers

Chicken livers may not appear regularly on your grocery list, but you should be able to find them in most grocery stores in the refrigerated poultry section. Chicken gizzards — a muscle found from the digestive track — are also traditionally used in dirty rice so if you're grocery store sells chicken gizzards but not livers, go ahead and swap them out.

Swaps and Substitutions

Dirty rice is highly customizable because it's a dish that originated from using what was available. Try some of these substitutions.

  • Substitute chicken or pork sausage for the chicken livers. Or, add them in addition to the livers.
  • Substitute ground beef or chicken for the ground pork.
  • Substitute red bell pepper for the green bell pepper to add some sweetness
  • Add extra jalapeño peppers or hot sauce for more heat.
  • Substitute brown rice for the white varieties, following the directions on the package for the amount of liquid needed.
  • Add black beans.

How to Store for Later

Refrigerate dirty rice in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Freeze dirty rice in freezer proof containers or freezer zipper top bags for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

More Classic Cajun-Inspired Recipes to Try!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Cajun-Style Dirty Rice

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Servings 4 servings

Use green bell peppers if you want a relatively mild result. If you are looking for something spicier, use jalapeño chili peppers.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice (Carolina, basmati, jasmine, etc)

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 2 cups water

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 pound ground pork

  • 1/2 cup chicken livers

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped

  • 1/2 onion, chopped

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped

  • 1/2 green bell pepper or 1 to 3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped

  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning

  • 2 green onions, chopped

Method

  1. Cook the rice:

    Cook the rice according to the package instructions, but use chicken broth for one third of the cooking liquid. So, for example, if the package says to use 3 cups of water for 1 1/2 cups of rice, use 2 cups of water and 1 cup of chicken broth.

    Once the rice has finished cooking, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

    Turn the rice out onto a sheet pan and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over it. Mix to combine and let cool.

    Spooning rice onto a sheet pan to make a dirty rice recipe.
    Michelle Becker
    Adding olive oil to a sheet pan of rice to make a dirty rice recipe.
    Michelle Becker
  2. Mash or purée the chicken livers:

    While the rice is cooking, mash and finely chop the chicken livers, or purée briefly in a blender.

    Chopping chicken livers to show how to make dirty rice.
    Michelle Becker
  3. Cook the bacon until crispy:

    In a large pan that can eventually hold the rice plus everything else, put 1 tablespoon of oil plus the bacon in and cook over medium-low heat until the bacon is crispy.

    Cooking bacon to show how to make dirty rice.
    Michelle Becker
  4. Brown the pork and vegetables:

    Add the ground pork and increase the heat to high. Allow the meat to brown before stirring. As soon as the pork starts to brown, add the final tablespoon of oil and add the celery, jalapeños, and onions.

    Brown them all over medium-high heat. You may notice the bottom of the pan getting crusty. Keep it from burning by lowering the heat if needed. Add the minced liver and cook for a few minutes more.

    Adding vegetables to a skillet to make Cajun dirty rice.
    Michelle Becker
    Mixing in meat for a dirty rice recipe.
    Michelle Becker
  5. Deglaze the pan:

    Add the remaining cup of chicken broth and deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

    Adding broth to a skillet to make dirty rice.
    Michelle Becker
    A wooden spoon mixes ingredients for a dirty rice recipe.
    Michelle Becker
  6. Add seasonings and cooked rice:

    Add the Cajun seasoning and turn the heat to high. Boil away most of the chicken stock and then add the cooked rice. Toss to combine.

    Two wooden utensils mix in rice to the meat and vegetable mixture to show how to make Cajun dirty rice.
    Michelle Becker
  7. Turn off the heat and add the green onions:

    Toss once more to combine and serve hot.

    Overhead view of dirty rice in a skillet.
    Michelle Becker
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
626 Calories
27g Fat
65g Carbs
28g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 626
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 35%
Saturated Fat 7g 37%
Cholesterol 163mg 54%
Sodium 1498mg 65%
Total Carbohydrate 65g 24%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 28g
Vitamin C 29mg 147%
Calcium 49mg 4%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 530mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.