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

Long grain brown rice, fresh antioxidant-full greens, and nutritious pumpkin seeds, some of the healthiest foods you can choose, make up this meatless rendition of the classic Cajun favorite, dirty rice. Flavorful and easy to put together–dirty rice with collards and leeks is about to become your new favorite side dish!

Loaded with peppery spice, tossed with fragrant leek nibbles and a generous amount of healthy collard ribbons, all in the same spoonful this dirty rice is not just dirty, it’s clean!

Click here to PIN Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks!

 collard leaves ready to cut for Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks

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

Southerners, don’t chastise me too much for dirtying the recipe this 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. 😉 (Affiliate link.)

cutting collard leaves into thin ribbons for Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks
collard ribbons ready to add to the rice

How to make vegan dirty rice with collards and greens.

  • First cook brown rice in vegetable broth instead of water. (You can do this ahead of time.)
  • Slice collard leaves into spaghetti-like strands.
  • Sauté thinly sliced leeks with a bit of garlic, and toast the pumpkin seeds.
  • Steam the collard ribbons until they’re tender, then chop them into (about) 1-inch pieces.
  • Toss the veggies and rice together and season with tamari, cayenne and black pepper and if you wish, nutritional yeast.
  • Ta-da!

The clean part of this dirty rice–what is clean eating?

  • Clean eating is about 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 cooking and eating are the recipes I share with you on this blog.
  • To learn more about the concepts of clean eating, read Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. (Affiliate link.) It’s a slim little bible for eating wisely.
Dirty Rice with Collards and Leeks in bowl overhead photo

More recipes with brown rice and collards:

  • Do you enjoy the nutty flavor of brown rice? You might also enjoy this Lentil Very Brown Rice recipe.
  • Stuffed Collard Rolls. Rice-filled vegetarian dolmades made with blanched collards instead of traditional grape leaves.

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  • Peruse my Pinterest boards for more vegetarian recipe ideas.
  • Find daily vegetarian and healthy living ideas on my Facebook page.

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PS If you make this recipe and love it, please consider leaving a blog post comment. Your comments help other readers learn more about the recipe. If you’d also give the recipe a ✮✮✮✮✮ rating, I’d be delighted!

Nutrition information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. The numbers will vary based on the quantity consumed, brands used and any substitutions.

I keep thinking of this dish as the perfect holiday side dish. I updated ofthe dirty rice with collards and leeks recipe that I posted way back in 2014. Here you go–enjoy!


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 · 27 October, 2018

    • Thank you! Love the idea of adding protein making it a delicious vegan main! Reply · 28 October, 2018

  • Brandy

    Hello! I would like to make this soon but was wondering why you wait until the veg/greens are all cooked before cutting them into bite-sized pieces. It just looks like an extra step? Reply · 22 November, 2018

    • Hi Brandy, We don’t want to have big pieces of greens in the rice. To get the the collards and leeks into pieces as uniform and tiny as possible, we need to cut the uncooked collards into very thin ribbons first. Once they are cooked, you cut them even smaller. Reply · 23 November, 2018

  • Kim Quinn

    Making this as I type. Using Trader Joe”s Brown Rice, Black barley and Daikon radish seed blend. Have my ribbons collards and leek sauteeing. Will admit, I am roasting a chicken in the oven but Gosh! The top of th e stove smells as divine as the inside. I added a can of diced tomatoes in with the rice along with garlic and a pinch of smoked paprika. Love smokiness with my greens. Thank you for th e recipe Reply · 13 December, 2018

    • Hi Kim! I love that you feel comfortable tweeking recipes! I do it all the time–can’t leave alone and love to work with what I have on hand! I haven’t seen that Trader Joe’s product so thanks for the heads up–I will pick one up next ime I get there. Reply · 13 December, 2018

  • Rachel P

    Loved this! I substituted quinoa for the rice and it was great! I used regular soy sauce and didn’t have the pumpkin seeds. This was my first time making leeks and collard greens and I really loved them! 🙂 Reply · 17 March, 2019

    • Thank you Rachel. I am going to try this recipe with quinoa–what a good idea! Reply · 18 March, 2019

  • Hana K Garner

    It’s so so good! Really doesn’t need salt. The soy sauce and nutritional yeast do the trick. I just got a ton of veggies from volunteering at a local farm, and this is by far my favorite thing I have made so far. Thanks! Reply · 24 May, 2019

    • Hana K Garner

      Oh. Only thing I did different was sub Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for the soy sauce. Not really much of a difference there. The pumpkin seeds are a delicious addition! Reply · 24 May, 2019

      • Yes, Braggs is a very fine substitute for the soy sauce. Those pumpkin seeds give the rice a bit of a protein bump too! Reply · 25 May, 2019

    • Thank you Hana! I’m so glad you like the recipe. Reply · 25 May, 2019

  • Susan Murray

    We loved this recipe!! Had it with grilled salmon and my husband raved about it. Didn’t have pumpkin seeds so subbed toasted pine nuts and it was great. I’ll be making this again! Thank you! Reply · 14 September, 2019

    • Yay! I’m so happy you enjoy the recipe.
      Letty Reply · 17 September, 2019

  • Johanna

    What other greens would work in this recipe? I’m thinking kale and chard would be wonderful, but how about mustard? I’ve got a surplus of that one and nary an enticing recipe to try! Reply · 26 May, 2020

    • Hi Johanna,
      I think kale over chard because it is more sturdy, like collards. But that wouldn’t stop me from using chard either. 😉 Mustard greens should be perfect in this recipe–spicy. Check out this recipe for Brown Rice Pilaf with Mustard Greens. Reply · 26 May, 2020

  • CJ

    I don’t have pumpkin seeds on hand, but have several other seeds. Is there a couple of others you could recommend? Reply · 18 February, 2021

    • My first substitute would be lightly toasted sunflower seeds. Sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts would be my next choices. Thank you CJ. Reply · 19 February, 2021

  • Cindi Koehler

    This is a wonderful recipe! I didn’t have leeks so I used onions. Came out great – very flavorful. A new favorite for us! Reply · 16 March, 2021

  • Marion Taylor

    Using long grain and wild rice with some leftover greens from my freezer. Let you know how it goes Reply · 26 September, 2021

    • The wild rice and long grain mix will be a good substitution. As for the greens, you want a fairly sturdy green, like the collards or kale. Beet greens or spinach or chard will wilt a lot more quickly. If you are using one of those 3, cook the leeks and garlic with less water and add the wilty greens at the last 2 or 3 minutes, just until they are tender. That should work just fine. Yes, let me know how it goes. Thank you. Reply · 26 September, 2021

  • Sounds delicious. Your collard-slicing technique is on point! Reply · 24 November, 2021

  • JM

    Truly wonderful recipe. I love leeks , and the clean natural vegan ingredients sealed it. One of my absolute fave Collards recipes already, thank you. Reply · 19 January, 2022

    • Thank you! A comment like yours makes my day! Reply · 19 January, 2022

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