When I was 16, I traveled alone to Okinawa, Japan to visit a friend who had recently moved there. It was an absolutely incredible trip, and I’m very lucky to have had such an experience at a young age. My family has always traveled a lot, but as a shy 16 year old (who had never even ordered for myself at a restaurant), the solo trip was life-changing. It only took one major airport break-down and the encouragement of a very kind pilot to safely get me through Narita Airport.

As well as a lifetime-worth of of self-confidence, a new-found obsession with Japan, and a suitcase full of stationery, I brought home Taco Rice. This was also one of the first things I ever cooked for myself and shared it with my family as soon as my flight landed. Recently sharing one of my favorite family recipes, Oven Hot Dogs, made me want to divulge more of the staples of my house. Like OHDs, I’m not sure what makes Taco Rice delicious, but it is. Joseph even had me cook this the first time I met my now-mother-in-law. I told my dad I would be posting the recipe today, and he said, “Oh my gosh! I haven’t had Taco Rice in so long! I have to make some of that now.” It’s good.

My friend Chantell, whose wonderful family I stayed with for the week, took me to a little restaurant popular among the Americans there. Anyone who has lived in Okinawa may know of this dish already. The restaurant might have been called “Pizza House,” but I could be getting that confused with a restaurant in Italy dubbed “Spaghetti House” by my fellow Americans. They specialized in pizza, but Chantell was familiar with the restaurant and promptly ordered us Taco Rice. Thanks, Chantell!


It’s simple. You can add onions, avocado, hot sauce or whatever else you want to it. I’m sure it would be wonderful that way, but I can’t do it myself. To me, Taco Rice is perfect as it is because it will forever represent that wonderful trip.

Taco Rice

1 lbs. ground beef
3 c cooked rice (1 c raw)
taco seasoning of your choice (This is my favorite)
lettuce, chopped
tomato, chopped
cheddar cheese, grated

Prepare rice. Brown ground beef and seasoning according to package or recipe directions.

Make a mount of rice on a plate and top with ground beef. Layer on chopped lettuce, grated cheddar cheese, and diced tomato. Pick up a spoon and enjoy!

34 Comments

  1. Taco rice sounds like a great combination. I know some people in my house who would quite enjoy this. Bookmarked!

  2. Yum! This looks so good! I will have to make this for my Mexican boyfriend, naturally he loves Spanish food!

    • Alyssa Reply

      I’m a fan of authentic Mexican food (I live in Texas!), but I need to warn you that as the recipe is written it is not very authentic, haha. However, if you add some chilies and sauces, it might be!

    • Alyssa Reply

      Actually, I made it with jasmine rice because that’s always what I use! :)

  3. What beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing the story behind such a delicious dish… It made me feel very nostalgic myself; I grew up in a household with a rice cooker that was never empty of steamed jasmine rice. My mother is Chinese and native to the Philippines and my father is a black American. I’ve always had the best of both worlds because of that… And having rice as a staple with nearly every meal made for some really interesting compromises at the dinner table. Your recipe for taco rice is exactly what I would do as a child with my taco fillings when I didn’t want to use tortillas or shells. I normally opt for the more traditional way of eating tacos now that I’m older, but when I have leftovers, they’re usually placed on top of rice for a delightful, quick bite.

    I have always preferred sticky rice to most other starches with my meals, regardless of what might be more ‘normal’–have you tried spaghetti meat sauce over a pillowy helping of steamed jasmine rice? It’s wonderful!

    My mother still insists on having rice even with a hamburger patty and hot dogs (she won’t have them between a bun!).

  4. Ah, taco rice!!! I love it too, and had the chance to eat it a few times during my many years in Tokyo. I think I’ll have to whip up some myself- thanks for the reminder! My best friend lived in Okinawa for years and I know she’ll love this.

  5. I love taco rice! I’m 1/2 Okinawan so I love that this recipe was featured on foodgawker. The rice works so well with the seasoned beef.

  6. Chris Torpelund Reply

    I remember having this at King Taco in Okinawa and I so agree it’s so simple yet so perfect! Brings back great memories :D

  7. Wow, this sounds so delicious and simple too.

    Would be great for a quick supper when you don’t feel like standing in the kitchen for ages.

    Thanks for sharing, Debs

  8. The place is called “Pizza House” but there are now kiosks set up everywhere that sell and specialize in Taco rice. I have just come from living on Okinawa for the past 23 years – your piece brought a smile (and many good memories) Thanks

    • Alyssa Reply

      Thanks for the comment! I was hoping there would be people familiar with the area :)

  9. This looks a great and easy recipe. I know that my family would really enjoy this. And your story is great too!

  10. Why didn’t I think of this????? Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I think this might be a frequent flyer here.

  11. How sweet to have a special dish that will always make you remember that life-changing trip. That’s the beauty of food — even more than the taste, it just holds such wonderful memories in every bite.

  12. I too lived in Okinawa and there was a place called MY HOUSE and it was up a somewhat steep hill towards one of the American Military bases. It served the best Taco Rice in all of Okinawa. It was the first and last meal I ate on Japanese soil. What a wonderful memory to bring back to me. Thank you!

  13. Brandon keeps talking about Taco rice! I guess he ate it a lot in Japan during his deployment. I’ll have to make this and surprise him for dinner one night. =D

  14. Thanks for the recipe. Also, thanks Laura, your site is pretty cool, there much more things than just recipes! I recommend Laura’s site to everyone.

  15. im half-okinawan, half-american… and i can tell you when i moved back to the states, i requested this often from my mother. haha. i didnt even realize until i moved to the states that taco rice wasn’t “normal”!

  16. I happened upon this on Tastespotting and this is definitely my new go-to meal! Made it tonight and it was amazing! Added a little sour cream to the top – even my 2 year old loved it! (and she is not usually one for eating hamburger!) Thanks for sharing!

  17. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I had no idea it would be so tasty. I made it with brown rice because that’s what my family prefers and it was delicious. Usually we eat much more complex meals, but this is going into rotation because it’s just that damn good.

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  20. Hah! Taco Rice recently got mentioned in a current anime airing in Japan and a quick search led me to this page.

  21. I love Spaghetti House :) Its cheap LOL But Casa Bianca is so good too :) I’m def going to try this soon!

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