25 Tasty Topping Ideas for Rice Cakes
When people start looking for ways to cut calories, one of the first products they tend to reach for is rice cakes. While I’ve previously thumbed my nose at them, a recent haul of generic items at my local Winn Dixie has me listing rice cakes at the top of my grocery list. At roughly two bucks per large sleeve, they provide cheap lunch fodder and make stocking the pantry a simple and affordable process. (See also: 6 Painless Ways to Cut Calories)
However, it took me a while to come up with some topping ideas for rice cakes that suited our eating style and budget. Since I had to research a few for myself anyway, I put it a bit of extra time to come up with a list that provided options for meat lovers, vegans, and vegetarians alike. And since we’re talking rice cakes, that makes all of these ideas appropriate for the gluten-free crowd. Score!
Full of fiber and suitable for spreading on plain or flavored rice cakes, hummus is a fun lunch treat that can also be topped with chopped sprouts, scallions, or even chopped tomatoes and zatar for a bit of Middle Eastern flair. If you’d like a break from the traditional, consider a homemade alternative like white bean hummus with sundried tomatoes to mix things up a bit. I recently made a hunger-satisfying snack hummus using garlic, tahini, and brown lentils because I wanted to take advantage of their high nutrient density.
If you’re craving full-fat flavor but still want to keep things healthy, consider some guacamole or mashed avocado with diced veggies to top off your rice cakes. They’re full of good-for-you oils and are one of my favorite secret-weapon foods for going vegan. You can even mix in a little canned corn if you like to bulk up your midday meal to keep you going strong until dinner.
3. Mexican Mix
Try topping your rice cakes with refried black beans with shredded soy cheddar, black olives, and other Mexican ingredients. Of course you can always use pinto beans, but the black beans add an extra antioxidant punch and keep things fresh and unexpected on the lunch front.
4. Nutty Butters
For frugality, it’s tough to beat peanut butter, but there are other options including both almond and cashew. For those with across-the-board nut allergies, consider making a homemade “butter” from sunflower seed kernels. You’ll still have a bit of nuttiness in the flavor, but you’ll remain allergen free.
5. Organic Strawberry Spread
There are any number of lower-calorie jams and jellies worth spreading on your rice cakes at breakfast or snack time, but I’m particularly fond of strawberry for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve always been a strawberry fan. Second, it’s one of several great bulk bargains available to me when I shop at Costco, and I haven’t found any other low-sugar organic fruit spread that compares in price.
6. Lentil Pâté
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of lentil recipes, so it should come as no surprise to see lentil pâté on my list of low-calorie topping ideas for rice cakes. There are several different kids you can make. Some of them are based on red lentils; others include the brown variety combined with mushrooms and nuts. The point is, this is a simple way to use a recipe you can whip up affordably in a large batch and have on hand for snacks and lunches throughout the week.
7. Mushroom-Walnut Spread
Mushrooms bring a great deal of meaty flavor to the plant-based diet table, so if you’re in the middle of a full-blown vegan transition, you may want to consider something for your rice cakes that includes them. This mushroom-walnut spread from She Runs, She Eats should do the trick.
8. Sturdy Soups and Stews
If the soup or stew you are digging into is sturdy enough, rice cakes can make an excellent delivery system. Scooping up an old-fashioned split pea soup or some other suitably chunky alternative with your rice cake bulks up the meal and adds extra fiber along with stick-to-your-ribs goodness. Use scallions or other soup garnishes to liven things up and add a bit of extra crunch.
A decadent chocolaty-nutty spread available around the world, Nutella makes great travel food and the perfect topping for your rice cakes when something sweet is in order.
When you want something a little chunkier than jam on the fruit front, consider a hearty chutney. Available in a variety of flavors like mango, papaya, pineapple, and more, chutney makes a great condiment as well as a rice cake topping.
11. Apple Butter
A low-fat spread that’s perfect for autumn, apple butter is one of many fantastic uses for apples and a powerful topping idea for rice cakes at that time of year. If you’d like even more frugal fiber, consider mixing in a few raisins, chopped nuts, and perhaps a bit of coconut.
12. Baba Ghanoush
Healthy and extremely rich-tasting, baba ghanoush is one of my favorite Middle Eastern eggplant recipes. Spread some of its smoky goodness on top of your rice cakes and sprinkle on a little chopped parsley to liven things up.
13. Caribbean Eggplant Spread
I wish I had the time and energy to make this stuff every day. That’s how much I love this Caribbean eggplant spread. Loaded with roasted eggplant, jerk seasoning, chopped tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro, it’s as tasty on rice cakes as it is toasted bread rounds and cucumber slices.
14. Olive Tapenade
A fun alternative topping for your rice cakes, olive tapenade is also fantastic on strips of flatbread and cocktail crackers. Granted, to keep it affordable, you’ll definitely need to utilize your bulk buying skills. It’s still possible, however, especially with large-quantity deals available at places like Sam’s Club and Whole Foods.
15. Artichoke Spread
Artichokes are an unsung hero when it comes to dairy-free ways to add a bit of creaminess to favorite comfort foods. They’re also spectacular in a variety of spreads that are well-suited to rice cakes. Two that caught my eye are this warm vegan artichoke spread from Vegan Street and a white bean and artichoke spread from the folks at Go Dairy Free.
16. Spinach Dip
There are a number of ways to tweak the calories with reduced-fat cream cheese and other ingredients, making spinach dip suitable for lunchtime rice cakes as well as afternoon snacks. Use frozen spinach to keep it thrifty and toss in a piece of fruit and some carrot juice for extra energy.
17. Surimi Salad
Otherwise known as imitation crab meat, surimi is a budget seafood product popular for its affordability. Mix some with scallions and a light mayo and spread on a couple of rice cakes for a late breakfast.
18. Pizza Toppings
According to the people at Taste of Home, you can make rice cake pizzas. Who knew? Simply choose your favorite pizza sauce and other toppings such as sliced mushrooms, pepperoni, or ground beef and pop the whole shebang into the toaster oven for a few minutes. Basically, it’s an easy gluten-free version of English muffin pizzas.
19. Vegan Tuna Salad
Who says vegan sandwiches have to be made with bread? Try using a couple of rice cakes to create an alternative to this toasty and hearty vegan tuna melt. Mix in some chopped chives or sprouts for a little green, and you’re good to go.
20. Chicken Salad
If you’re looking for more open-faced sandwich ideas to try with your rice cakes, try using up the rest of those baked chicken leg quarters to make a horseradish-infused chicken salad. It's perfect with a little chopped fresh spinach mashed into the top and a great way to use up leftovers.
21. Salmon Spread
While I normally make my cream cheese and salmon spread as a cocktail appetizer for moderate-to-large gatherings, there’s no reason it can’t be used as a jazzier lunch option to pair with rice cakes as well. Using canned salmon helps control the cost and enables you to stock a key ingredient affordably in your pantry.
22. Chopped Ham and Relish Spread
If you’ve got some leftover ham and a few extra ingredients, you can whip up a fun rice cake topping. Mix finely-chopped ham with minced onion, pickle relish, mayo, pepper, and salt to taste and store in a container until you are ready to use. It’s a great way to stretch your meat money and bring some fun flavor to an otherwise hum-drum afternoon meal.
23. Cream Cheese Spreads
There’s nothing wrong with plain cream cheese, but sassing things up a bit with homemade cream cheese spreads is much more fun. Mix in some fun extras like raisins, pineapple, coconut, or fresh herbs to make your rice cakes sing.
If you want to bring some traditional holiday flavors to the rice cake table, using canned pumpkin to create a hostess-worthy spreadable butter will do the trick. It works great on rustic baked goods as well.
25. Traditional Tuna
Mix in a bit of horseradish and some red onion to take traditional tuna salad to the next level. Put it in a separate container to spread on your rice cakes during your break and polish off with a crisp apple. You’ll have a full-flavored brown bag experience without breaking the bank.
There’s no reason to be bored if you’ve decided to work rice cakes into your menu plans. With these 25 ideas to get you started, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.