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Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks {vegan and gluten-free}

Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks

I’m cleaning up dirty rice–taking a classic Cajun favorite and turning it vegetarian. Some of the healthiest foods you can choose–long grain brown rice, fresh antioxidant-full greens, plus nutritious pumpkin seeds–are the cornerstones of this meatless rendition. This dirty rice with collards and leeks is not only delicious–it’s wholesome!

In Louisiana, they cook dirty rice with parts of the chicken that are normally thrown away—the “dirty” color comes from liver and gizzards. Tradition also calls for the holy trinity of onions, celery and peppers. My vegetarian version is made with a whole lot of collards and a duo of leeks and cayenne pepper.

Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks

Southerners, don’t chastise me too much for dirtying the recipe the wrong way. Please lend redemption for the collards ribbons in every single bite, and for added crunch from toasted pumpkin seeds. In return, I’ll forgive you for the time you made dirty rice from a boxed mix. 😉

Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks

Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks

I love this dirty rice for its peppery spice, for the subtly fragrant nibbles of leeks, and for the generous amount of collards, their taste like a cross between kale and cabbage. This dish is flavorful and easy to put together, and all in one spoonful, it’s both dirty and clean.

The clean part is clean eating, a relatively new buzzword for being mindful about what we eat. Clean eating means eating “real” foods as close to their natural form as possible. It’s about seeking out whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods.

Clean eating is a goal I reach for. I’m certainly not perfect or completely anal about it, and I’m not being judgmental about the way anyone eats. Clean cooking and eating are the recipes I share with you on this blog. Like this one for clean and dirty rice, with collards and leeks.

Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks

Wishing you a fabulous day–get in the kitchen and cook something delicious!

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4.7 from 10 votes
Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks
Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks {vegan and gluten-free}
We sometimes eat this dish as a simple supper with a salad. Dirty rice is a perfect side dish, and can be used as a base for New Year’s Day hoppin’ John. Are you looking for an untraditional stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey? Vegetarian dirty rice is the answer!
Author: Letty Flatt
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice see note
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch collards stems removed and discarded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek about 1 ½ cups, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise into half-moons
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast see note, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon Real Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a saucepan, bring the 2 cups vegetable stock to a boil. Add the rice and bay leaf, cover and return to a boil. Reduce heat to very low and cook, covered, 30 to 40 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. (To see if the liquid has been absorbed without stirring, tilt the pan to the side.) Let sit 5 to 10 minutes to cool. Fluff with a fork.
  2. While the rice is cooking, prepare the collards: Stack the collard leaves on top of each other, with the leaf tips all at the same end. Roll the stack tightly in a long tube
  3. Starting at the thick end, slice the collards as thinly as possible to make spaghetti like strands.
  4. In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic.
  5. Add a cup of water to the leeks and garlic. Stir in the collard strands and a pinch of salt. Cover the skillet. Cook over medium-heat about 15 minutes, until the collards are just tender. Transfer to a colander and drain well.
  6. Dump the drained collards on a cutting board. Chop into pieces less than an inch long.
  7. Stir the collards, pumpkin seeds, soy sauce, cayenne, nutritional yeast and salt into the rice. Grind in a generous amount of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Recipe Notes


  • This looks so good! In Santa Barbara there is an eat local challenge for the month of October. Not sure how local I can get rice but I’d sure like to try this dish. Thanks Letty. Reply · 26 September, 2014

  • Nice chiffonades. I hope that didn’t sound disrespectful. GREG Reply · 29 September, 2014

    • Letty

      I just clicked LIKE. Reply · 30 September, 2014

  • Hey, this might even get my husband to eat greens! Reply · 23 October, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks Sean. You could put some chicken livers in yours… or sausage….always a good sell. Reply · 23 October, 2014

  • […] Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks by Letty’s Kitchen […] Reply · 16 January, 2016

  • Val

    I made this the other night. Loved it! Reply · 24 March, 2016

  • Courtney

    I have been growing collards and I have a ton of them. I’ve been searching for a recipe that didn’t call for bacon or fat, collards taste so good without it (Although, I do love bacon). Anyhow, this was wonderful, my hubs loved it too! I didn’t have the seeds or that type of soy sauce, used regular soy sauce. Tasted great! Thanks! Reply · 4 April, 2016

    • Hi Courtney! It’s always good when the hubs like what we cook–glad this was a hit! Thank you. Reply · 4 April, 2016

  • Skyler

    I’m trying this tonight! Reply · 10 July, 2016

    • Thanks Skyler–let me know how you like it! Reply · 11 July, 2016

      • Skyler

        Very good. I’ve been vegan for only 4 months, but this will definitely stay in rotation. I added portabella mushroom and some fresh jalepeno for a little kick… REALLY GOOD! Reply · 11 July, 2016

  • Katie

    I am single and have a TON of collards from my CSA share. I’m wondering if this would be ok to freeze some? Any thought?? Thanks! Reply · 24 July, 2016

  • Barbara V

    Very yummy! Threw in a can of black eyed peas and it’s dinner tonight and lunch for the next few days. Thanks for sharing! Reply · 7 August, 2016

    • Thanks Barbara. Black eyed peas a great idea for added protein in keeping with the Southern dirty rice theme! Reply · 9 August, 2016

  • Kathy stevens

    I don’t normally comment on recipes but I wanted to tell you how much of a hit this was in my house! So delicious! My husband even told me to put this recipe in his favorites collection! Reply · 14 January, 2017

    • Thanks Kathy! Your comment leaves a glow in my heart! Reply · 14 January, 2017

  • So delicious and simple to put together! I made my rice ahead in a rice cooker (saves time as I have twin newborns) and then boiled the rest in the broth. Worked great! Thanks! Reply · 13 September, 2017

  • Gisela

    This was so delicious! I am so glad I added the nutritional yeast. It really added that savory flavor you talked about. Reply · 26 September, 2017

    • Thank you Gisela! Nutritional yeast brings its flavor-enhancing umami to this dish, for sure. Reply · 26 September, 2017

  • Renee

    I’ll be making this tonigh. Looks great! Is there a reason you don’t cook all at the same time? Greens and other ingredients all added to the rice as it cooks? Reply · 14 January, 2018

    • Hi Renee, I keep them separate so there is a flavor and color difference. The lighter rice vs the green leeks and collards. If you cook them together the veggies kind of become part of the rice. Reply · 14 January, 2018

  • Holly

    I’ve never tried collard greens before. I made this tonight and I love It! Reply · 21 January, 2018

    • Thank you Holly! I’m happy to hear you love the recipe! Reply · 22 January, 2018

  • […] Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks by Letty’s Kitchen […] Reply · 7 March, 2018

  • Great dish
    I loved it,filled with flavor and the toasted pumpkin nuts makes this dish a keeper.KBM Reply · 13 March, 2018

  • Haley

    I’ve made this no less than 4 times and I just have to say it’s sooo good! Thank you for the recipe! Reply · 19 March, 2018

    • Thank you Haley! I am so happy to know you love this dish! Reply · 19 March, 2018

  • Erin

    Just made this with CSA collards and leek scapes- DELICIOUS! Thanks so much! Reply · 7 June, 2018

    • Thank you! Wow, leek scapes–I have never had or seen them. Will check them out! Reply · 8 June, 2018

  • I have a bunch of collards in my garden right now ready to eat. This recipe was just what I was looking for. I added black eyed peas and some Beyond meat sausage and the whole family ate it all up.
    Thank you Reply · 3 weeks ago

    • Thank you! Love the idea of adding protein making it a delicious vegan main! Reply · 3 weeks ago

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