Portuguese Greens and Rice (Arroz de Grelos)

When fall rolls around, I start craving steaming bowls of cozy-yet-light dishes like this Portuguese braised greens and rice. It’s just brothy enough to be warming and comforting, but doesn’t tip into soup or stew territory. I would classify this as a side dish, but to be honest, topped with a fried egg, a bowl of this braised greens and rice makes a fantastic meal on its own.

Simplicity at its finest: comforting, healthy, feel-good braised greens and rice!

Portuguese greens and rice, arroz de grelos, doesn’t usually have tomato. I like including some fresh tomato for a bit of natural acidity and umami. The juices of the tomatoes mingle with the cooking water, making a light yet flavorful broth for the rice to drink up! Arroz de grelos can use any type of green, however I believe that “grelos” are technically turnip greens. I’ve seen it brothy, I’ve seen it creamy like risotto– it can vary house to house or mood to mood.

What to Expect:

A lightly brothy rice dish, with comforting simplicity.

Rather than the creaminess of risotto or the soupiness of soup, my version of this Portuguese rice and greens is on the brothier side of dry. Or, perhaps, the drier side of soupy. Regardless, it’s steamy and silky, with tender grains of rice and just enough flavorful broth that you’ll want to eat it with a spoon.

The combination of onion, tomatoes, garlic, and a hearty glug of olive oil make a truly wonderful flavor base for the rice to absorb. A squeeze of lemon, though, is that secret ingredient that takes this dish to the next level of delicious. It brings a jolt of life to the savory flavors, making each ingredient taste more like itself. Do a little taste test before and after adding the lemon juice. I think you’ll be surprised at how much work just a few teaspoons can do!

Work smarter, not harder.

Some of the best dishes are infinitely adaptable, making it easy to stay away from a food rut. The perfect example? Braised rice and greens!

The flavors from this dish are straightforward, but the method is even more simple.

  • Sauté aromatics, let them brown a bit.
  • Add your greens, let them wilt, then stir in water or broth and par-cook the greens–just giving them a head start over the rice.
  • Add the rice–don’t forget the salt!–and cook until the rice is tender.
  • Add your final seasonings, including that squeeze of lemon, and voilà!

It’s easy to change up the ingredients. You can make the most of whatever you have in your fridge, or tailor the flavors specifically to complement whatever main dish you’ve prepared.

  • Add spices to bloom when wilting the greens.
  • Finish with a handful of fresh herbs.
  • Swap out the lemon juice for your favorite vinegar.
  • Make it creamy! When the rice is done cooking, swirl in a pat of butter, a splash of cream, or a spoonful of creme fraiche.

Notes for Success:

You can use any type of rice here– even brown rice. Just know that different types of rice will cook at different rates and absorb different amounts of liquid.

For different types of white rice, I recommend starting with the recipe-as written and adding more water as-needed towards the end of cooking.

For brown rice, which takes much longer to cook, I recommend adding the rice to the greens with the water in step 2. You will likely need to increase the overall simmering time, too. I also recommend increasing the water to 3 cups, if not more, since brown rice will absorb more liquid than white.

Portuguese Greens and Rice (Arroz de Grelos)

Portuguese greens and rice, arroz de grelos, doesn't usually have tomato. I like including some fresh tomato for a bit of natural acidity and umami. The juices of the tomatoes mingle with the cooking water, making a light yet flavorful broth for the rice to drink up as it simmers! This is a fantastic side dish for any larger spread, but I also recommend serving it simply, with a sunny-side up egg nestled on top.
YIELD4 Generous Servings


  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes on the vine, chopped, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • ½ pound kale or other hearty green, such as turnip greens or collard greens, tough stems removed, torn into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • ¾ cup white rice
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice, plus wedges to serve


  • Step 1
    In a medium to large pot over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, ⅓ of the chopped tomatoes, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot have turned a dark golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Step 2
    Add the kale and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the leaves have wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in 2½ cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a lively simmer. Cook without removing the lid for 10 minutes.
  • Step 3
    After 10 minutes, remove the lid, and stir in the rice, the remaining tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Return to a simmer, cover, and reduce to low. Cook without stirring until the rice is tender and some liquid still pools at the bottom of the pot, 15 to 20 minutes. Try to keep the lid on the whole time, so as to not lose too much moisture.
  • Step 4
    Stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice. Serve hot.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Cat

    5 stars
    I made this a while back and it was so cozy and delicious, especially with an egg on top as you suggested!! I’m circling back now to re-print because I think I’m going to bring it as a side to Thanksgiving, but I’m wondering if you think it would be easy to omit the tomatoes? One of my family members is anti-tomato! Thanks!

    1. Julia @ Small Pantry

      Hey Cat! I’m so glad you liked the egg, too! So cozy. You can absolutely omit the tomatoes–just increase the overall liquid to reach your desired level of soupy-ness!

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