Weekend Cooking: Taco Rice

Taco Rice, despite its name, is a Japanese dish. It was first concocted in 1984 but of course various eateries in Okinawa have claimed that they were the birthplace of taco rice. Perhaps most significant is that these eateries were located near US military bases in Okinawa. Some theories on how taco rice came about:

  • a restaurant employee meal that found its way onto the menu
  • a joke among restauranteurs – because how can tacos fill up hungry US servicemen?
  • it was just easier to serve it on top of rice than to make taco shells

I can’t remember when I first tried it.  I’ve never been to Okinawa but I have eaten at an Okinawan restaurant or two in Singapore (which is where I’m from). It probably was where I first encountered it. It’s easy and delicious and I wanted to try it out on the kids. (Also, if you are curious about Okinawan food, here’s an article from CNN Travel with some examples of its cuisine. It’s very different from what we know as “Japanese” food)

Of course that’s not really a proper taco rice. That would include sour cream and lettuce and more spices just like a real taco. If you would like a proper recipe here is one from Chubby Hubby. 

But you know what, I think taco rice is that kind of creation, that kind of amalgamation of cuisines and cultures that is versatile and adaptable and easy for a quick weeknight dinner. Here for instance is another version from Curiously Ravenous, this time with a fried egg and sliced avocado

I started off with two cups of short-grain Japanese rice and one cup of brown rice. And by cups I mean rice cooker cups and by rice I mean uncooked rice. I let my Zojirushi do its magic because I have no idea how to cook rice without a rice cooker anymore. (My Mum cooks rice in the microwave every night or so though so you don’t need a rice cooker to cook rice).

While the rice was cooking, I made a coleslaw. I didn’t have lettuce but I did have a cabbage and lots of carrots and I figured that if I put some raisins in it (don’t yell at me about that!) the kids would eat it. And they did. They really did. I made mine with mayonnaise, rice vinegar, sugar and salt. And of course raisins. The five-year-old, who has never eaten more than a bite (and unwillingly at that) of coleslaw when we are out, had a plateful and excitedly ran to the garage where the Husband was pulling up and yelled that he loved the coleslaw.

Alas the taco rice was sadly not a hit with my younger boy. I was quite convinced that he would like it as he is very fond of eating rice. Oh well, win some lose some!

Sorry got off track. I chopped one red onion, several cloves of garlic and one carrot then cooked them down and added the minced beef. Then add a can of chopped tomatoes and some tomato paste and a variety of spices – a bit of cayenne pepper, all-spice, some Italian herbs, salt and pepper. You could make it spicy too with chile peppers, red pepper flakes, even throw in some Sriracha if you’re up for it. Add a bit of stock (I used beef cos that’s what I had) then cook for a few minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. I like mine with a bit of gravy so don’t let it dry out too much.

Scoop the rice into a bowl, top with ground beef mixture, sprinkle some of your favourite cheese and maybe some fresh cilantro. If you’ve got lettuce, shred some and pop it on top along with some chopped fresh tomatoes and sour cream if you’d like. How about some salsa? Some guacamole or simply sliced avocado? Some corn would go great too. But I had made my coleslaw and served that alongside.



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  1. I’ve never heard of taco rice, but I’m going to try it. We eat our chili over rice, so why not our taco meat? Makes good sense to me. Love it that that the boy liked your coleslaw


  2. This is completely new to me but I definitely want to try it! My grandfather was stationed in Japan right after World War II and was a big fan of Japanese food. I wonder if he ever had Taco Rice? I don’t see this going over well with my kids but it would make a fantastic lunch or dinner when I’m on my own. I’m so impressed that your 5 year old liked the coleslaw! It’s always so exciting to find something they’ll eat. Or at least it is in my house!


  3. Had never heard of taco rice. Nice idea — sounds like a flexible recipe too, depending on ingredient availability and preferences. We like our chili over rice too, so I’m sure this would also be good.


  4. Rice is often part of a Mexican restaurant dinner. So maybe this isn’t really only Japanese. It sounds like a nice way to serve that combination of foods. I would love to hear what Southwestern US or Hispanic cooks think of it.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com


  5. I think that’s a brilliant idea. I haven’t made tacos for ages. I think it would be a lot easier to do it with rice! I think Mexican food is the next thing I will teach the kids to make.


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