Vegan Maltese baked rice topped with nutritional yeast

Ross il-Forn – A Traditional Maltese Baked Rice Recipe

Ross il-Forn (baked rice casserole) is definitely one of Malta’s favourite comfort foods. It’s surely on the list of top foods that families enjoy when gathered together for Sunday lunch. The traditional Maltese recipe calls for a number of key ingredients. These include a base of rice, tomato sauce, and ground beef. 

The great majority of Ross il-Forn recipes also include beaten or hard-boiled eggs and bacon, as part of the mix. You top the rice with a generous helping of cheese and bake it to golden brown perfection. 

This is one of those recipes that everyone has a slightly different version of. Most variations adjust the quantities of ingredients used, or add/remove particular ingredients according to the tastes of the person cooking. You’ll find some adding ricotta or veggies to the mix. 

Then you’ll find my family who would omit anything green or remotely looking like a vegetable. 

Then there’s me. I remove the parts everyone loves (i.e bacon) and replace this with lentils. Shocking. I also have the audacity to pack in even more veggies than the traditional Maltese baked rice usually calls for. Double shocking.

I was never great at sticking to recipes. I always feel the need to substitute something or do it my way. 

Maltese baked rice casserole

The only time I can remember sticking to a recipe religiously in the past  months was the Sweet Potato Brownie recipe. This ultimate is a creation for The Healthy Malteser by one of our instagram followers Cynthianne. That recipe is absolutely top, and I won’t dare touch anything. Seriously, you should give it a go, it’s fab! 

Back to the ross il-forn recipe. I was never a huge fan of meat to be honest. But I wasn’t a fan of veg either back in the day. My taste buds seem to have undergone a natural evolution though. I now follow a plant based diet so I pretty much throw some sort of vegetable into every dish I make or eat. 

This is my twist on the traditional Ross il-Forn. It’s suitable for vegans and people trying to reduce their calorie intake. The recipe is also gluten free, dairy free and high in protein.  

Square portion of traditional Maltese ross il-forn (oven baked rice)

So how is this different you ask? 

The main substitution is obviously doing away with the minced beef and replacing it with a soy based alternative. Both dehydrated soy and frozen vegetarian mince are options you can use. Although I don’t usually reach for processed alternatives, I wanted this recipe to be as authentic as possible. Naturally, that wouldn’t have been possible without a meat-free veggie mince. 

The only other things which are different to the traditional ross il-forn are the addition of lentils and riced vegetables. Lentils add an extra dose of protein and a subtle sweet taste. Riced vegetables are simply awesome. For those people who don’t like munching on a carrot while eating nanna’s beloved rice, this option is fantastic. 

  1. You’ll still be eating your portion of greens. 
  2. You won’t taste the veg AT ALL since they blend in with the rest of the ingredients so well.  
  3. You can have a bigger portion AND eat fewer calories at the same time. 
  4. Thanks to the fiber inside the veg, you’ll be feeling fuller for a longer period. 

It’s just a win right?

How to make baked rice 

When it comes to rice, you can use both white and brown rice depending on what you prefer. Ideally, choose a type of rice that sticks together while cooking. Since the recipe doesn’t contain eggs, the sticky consistency has to result from the rice.

Simply boil the rice for a few minutes less than what the package instructs. In the last 3 minutes add the lentils to the rice and boiling water and your base is ready.

There’s no specific way of how to cook baked rice. Some recipes instruct you to not cook the rice, and just mix with the rest of the ingredients and bake.  I prefer to cook the rice in advance, yet leave it slightly undercooked. This recipe only requires baking for 25 to 30 minutes, this isn’t sufficient time for the rice to cook properly unless you cook it beforehand. 

 Don’t get discouraged by the somewhat lengthy ingredient list. It’s a very easy baked rice recipe to make!

What baking dish should I use to cook the rice? 

Similar to the other traditional Maltese recipe for Imqarrun il forn, it’s he’s to bake this rice casserole in a glass dish. Any casserole is best baked in a glass dish for the matter.  

The glass casserole dish ensures the heat is distributed more evenly throughout, and keeps your food warm for a longer period. 

I would find it extremely difficult to follow a healthy, plant-based diet if I had to eat just salad or roast vegetables every single day and dishes like this keep my diet interesting. What’s your favourite plant-based recipe? Let me know in the comments below!

2 squares of Ross il-forn (Maltese Baked Rice)

Maltese Ross il-Forn (Baked Rice)

Geraldine Bartolo
Here in Malta, we especially enjoy Ross il-Forn when it's baked by our Grandma!
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Maltese, Mediterranean
Servings 7
Calories 534 kcal


  • Saucepan
  • Chopping Board
  • Glass Baking Dish (30cm x 25cm)


  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Small Onion diced
  • 5 Cloves Garlic
  • Herbs & Spices to season 1 teaspoon each of; medium curry, paprika, oregano, basil
  • Pinch of Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tomato Cube
  • 350 g Rice Parboiled
  • 450 g Lentils
  • 500 g Riced Vegetables
  • 150 g Veggie Mince
  • 400 g Tomato Polpa or fresh tomatoes
  • 700 g Tomato Passata
  • 1 tbsp Sundried Tomato Kunserva or normal Kunserva (tomato paste)
  • 185 g Canned Peas
  • 25 g Nutritional Yeast
  • 30 g Vegan Grated Cheese
  • 1-2 Tbsp Cornflour


  • Add olive oil to a medium sized saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until golden brown.
  • Add soy sauce, herbs, spices, salt & pepper.
  • Add in the riced or chopped mixed vegetables and lightly fry for around 5 minutes.
  • Mix in the soy mince and fry for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato polpa, passata and kunserva. Mix the ingredients well and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on a low heat.
  • When the sauce is ready add in a tablespoon of cornflour to thicken the mixture. If you use fresh tomatoes, you might need to add in more cornflour to reduce the amount of water in the mixture.
  • While your sauce is simmering, bring 1.5 L to 2 L of water to a boil and add in the cube, rice and lentils. Cook for 12 minutes.
  • Drain the rice from any excess water and mix into the sauce. Add the can of peas to the mixture.
  • Place into a glass dish and top with nutritional yeast and cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.


If you’re wondering why this serves 7, it’s because there were some leftover rice and sauce, which I cooked in a separate small dish. 

If you use My Fitness Pal to log your food, you can find this recipe listed on the database as ‘The Healthy Malteser Ross il-Forn’ .

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