Genius Recipes

Sqirl's Genius Crispy Rice Salad Is Rice Living Its Best Life

October 28, 2015

This might not be the best way to cook rice, but it's the best way to eat it.

In fact, "I want to eat this every day of my life," is what Amanda Hesser (my boss) said, upon tasting Crispy Brown Rice "Kabbouleh". Its name was probably irrelevant.

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What she was responding to was that same crackly rice that cultures across the world hold on high—the well-toasted bottom layer of rice in a good paella, tahdig, or bibimbap. But this holy grail of texture doesn't have to come only at the end of a perfectly made dish—it can be broken apart and distilled for us to eat whenever we like.

In this case, it's in a souped-up grain salad of sorts. Bon Appetit called it kabbouleh, a portmanteau stemming from tabbouleh made with kale, but it's really its own creation entirely, straight out of the mind of Jessica Koslow, the founder of Sqirl, which is maybe the most famous breakfast and lunch and toast restaurant (and jam workshop) on Instagram. There, it's just called crispy rice salad.

In a place where toasts are served like bread canoes heavy with hollows of ricotta and Nutella, where jams like June and Rich Lady Peach exist: This is where a tabbouleh-inspired kale salad can contain crispy rice, pickled currants, mint, scallions, cauliflower, cucumber, sumac, and dried chiles. And probably only in L.A. would all of these vegetables be in season at the same time, but the rest of us can dream, and stock up on hothouse cucumbers.

As Bon Appetit put it when they first wrote about this recipe, "Is it crazy to cook rice, dry it out, and then deep-fry it? Maybe a little bit." My boss and I disagree, and, once you taste it, I bet you will, too.

For one thing, cooking a pot of brown rice, leaving it on a cookie sheet overnight to dry, and then quickly frying it in a couple inches of oil isn't actually hard to do. It's also a life experience that you won't get any other way. Not even with Rice Krispies.

This is probably a trick you'll want to bust out at dinner parties where you want to show off and feel joy and rapture with others. But you could also make it just for you, with extra to have on hand—just keep the components separate till eating time so the rice stays crunchy.

And once you have a jar of this gold, where else could you use your crackly puffed rice? On top of any salad, any bowl of sundry grains and vegetables. Your eggs, your noodles, your yogurt. Or get Sqirlly, and make some stuff up: broccizzas! Carritos! Arugudillas! (Your turn.)

Jessica Koslow's Crispy Brown Rice "Kabbouleh"

Adapted slightly from Sqirl and Bon Appetit (June 2014)

Serves 4

2 tablespoons dried currants
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup short-grain brown rice
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil (for frying—about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets
1/2 bunch small curly kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
1/2 small English hothouse cucumber, finely chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sumac (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

See the recipe (and save and print it) here.

Every week, Food52's Creative Director Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius. Got one for her—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it her way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to Associate Editor Ali Slagle for this one!

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


VirginiaPlain January 1, 2016
Maybe it's my cold NYC apartment, but I'm having trouble getting the rice to dry out quickly--even when spread in a thin layer. Does anyone have any tricks to expedite the process? I put the rice in a low oven after a day of trying to dry it out to speed it up. I don't know exactly what the final product should taste like and am hoping that I haven't thrown the recipe off with this strategy.

Alyson W. December 28, 2015
Where can I get currants from? I can never find them in USA.
Monica P. March 6, 2020
they have them at many supermarkets in the dried fruit area in bright orange boxes, sometimes they are called Zante Currants (no idea why). Trader Joes has them too
John November 25, 2015
I love this salad recipe. Thanks for sharing.
Jayme H. November 7, 2015
I can already tell that I'm going to love this dish. It does seem like a tabbouleh made with kale, a much more interesting version of tabbouleh, in my opinion. Thank you for the introduction to Sqirl, too. If only it were right around the corner from me!
Anna November 1, 2015
Just a clarification from a Sqirl regular...the crispy rice salad and the Kabbouleh are totally distinct menu items at Sqirl! They both involve crispy rice but "crispy rice salad" is a breakfast dish and the Kabbouleh is on the lunch menu (and arguably is actually more salad-like than the "crispy rice salad"). Different dishes though both are delicious. And thank you for this article. Have been trying and failing to replicate the crispy rice at home for a long time!
Author Comment
Kristen M. November 2, 2015
Thank you for the clarification—this makes much more sense!
Adrianne November 1, 2015
Wondering if this can be done with cauliflower rice? I can't have "regular " rice...
Author Comment
Kristen M. November 2, 2015
Can you eat other grains, like quinoa? I don't think cauliflower rice would be as resilient to cooking at high heat, but it would be delicious as a component in this salad (raw or cooked) regardless.
KC October 29, 2015
Is this significantly rice krispier than brown rice krispies?
NuMystic November 1, 2015
That's what I'd like to know. Does this really bring anything texturally different to the table than taking a box of Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice, tossing it with a touch of oil and toasting in the oven?
Author Comment
Kristen M. November 2, 2015
I'm not familiar with that brand, but if it's anything like regular rice krispies, this version is more substantial and chewy inside, with a craggy, crispy outer edge. I think of rice krispies as airy and smooth.
NuMystic November 2, 2015
The Erewhon is basically Rice Krispies but made with brown rice and without the added sugar/malt, so it really does sound like this will be more toothsome. I'll likely buy a box of the Erewhon in any case for when I don't feel like the extra prep, but I see deep fried brown rice in my near future. Thanks so much for the recipe and the follow up!
Alexandra S. October 28, 2015

This looks delicious.
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 28, 2015
Good one!
Amanda S. October 28, 2015
Okay okay it sounds significantly yummier than rice krispies, and I can't wait to try it!
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 28, 2015
Rice Krispies also yummy!