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The Key to This Savory Rice Dish? Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Why relegate this versatile ingredient to desserts and baked goods?

Published Oct. 27, 2021.

Starting in September (or even late August, in the case of major coffee chains), pumpkin spice is unavoidable on bakery menus, in beverages, and in snacks on supermarket shelves. In home kitchens, the jar of pumpkin pie spice is dusted off to get added to breads and pies and cakes.

But why relegate this versatile ingredient to desserts and baked goods?

Store-bought jars of pumpkin pie spice contain a variety of spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger (you can make your own mixture too). So when you add a pinch to a dish, you’re automatically getting all of those ingredients in one fell swoop instead of pulling out four separate containers. For this reason, employing it in an unexpected savory application is a useful shortcut to one of our favorite weeknight dinners, Cook’s Country’s Rice and Lentils with Spiced Beef and Crispy Onions.

This recipe is inspired by mujaddara, a Middle Eastern dish that combines lentils and rice and tops them with fried onions. To round it out for a satisfying full meal, we add ground beef to these staple ingredients. You can learn how to make this cozy dish in the latest episode of our YouTube series Today's Special, with Ashley Moore.

To eliminate some guesswork and make the recipe even more forgiving, Ashley starts by cooking white rice like pasta, in plenty of boiling water. While the rice is simmering away, the ground beef is browned in a separate pan.

Here’s where our handy pumpkin pie spice comes in. This dish leans heavily on warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, all of which are found in that trusty jar. The only additional seasonings needed are salt, pepper, and a few teaspoons of cumin. This mixture gets added to the beef once it’s done browning, staying on the heat for just about 30 more seconds to allow the spices to bloom in the residual fat.

Rice and Lentils with Spiced Beef and Crispy Onions

A pre-fab pumpkin pie spice blend allows us to add a range of flavors with just one ingredient. Click through for this 30-minute meal.  
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“Those warm spices in there—a little cinnamon, a little nutmeg, and a little allspice,” Ashley says. “This is just a complete, well-rounded, well-seasoned weeknight meal that we made in under 30 minutes.”

The drained rice and canned green lentils (another timesaver) get added to the spiced beef to warm through. When it’s time to serve, Ashley finishes the dish with a drizzle of whole-milk yogurt, chopped fresh dill, a squeeze of lemon, and store-bought fried onions. A big bowl of perfectly cooked rice, tender lentils, warm spiced beef, and crispy onions are calling your name, and thanks to this recipe, it’s just 30 minutes away.

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