Learn how to make pilau rice at home. One of the most popular Indian side dishes enjoyed by people worldwide.
Basmati rice, perfectly cooked with spices and stock to create this homemade pilau rice recipe.
Great served with curries, meat or fish.
How to make pilau rice?
It is easy to make pilau rice at home. Follow along with the video below.
Or continue reading for all the advice from what ingredients are needed, suitable substitutes and rice cooking times.
What is Pilau Rice?
Pilau rice (otherwise known as pilaf rice in the US) is a rice dish originating from South Asia and the Middle East.
The recipe usually involves cooking long-grain rice in stock with spices using an absorption method to create fragrant fluffy long-grained rice.
Sometimes other ingredients such as meat or vegetables are added.
In the British Indian restaurants and takeaways, pilau rice is often served in curry houses as a side dish to a curry.
To make authentic pilau rice with all the aroma and colour, you see in an Indian restaurant.
You will need; Basmati rice, oil, rice turmeric, cumin, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, curry leaves, vegetable stock, fresh coriander, salt and pepper.
Of course, if you haven’t got all of the above-listed ingredients, there are suitable substitutes.
Use any type of oil, sunflower, vegetable, coconut or ghee.
In Indian rice recipes, basmati rice is usually used. Other long-grain rice varieties may be used instead.
I suggest using white rice. Using brown rice or wild rice will need a longer cooking time and alter the texture of your pilau rice dish.
It is best to rinse the rice before cooking.
Pilau rice seasoning
The spices used for making pilau rice are the same as those used in many Indian recipes. It is essential to include them for flavouring plain rice, but you can adjust what is used if you have not got everything you need!
Check that the spices in your cupboard are still fragrant for maximum flavour.
Turmeric is responsible for giving Indian pilau rice a vibrant yellow colour, but did you know turmeric is also full of health benefits.
Cumin adds a rich earthy flavour to the rice. Instead of ground cumin, you can use whole cumin seeds; you will need a pestle and mortar to grind these into powder.
Using vegetable stock instead of just water gives yet more flavour to the rice. You can use chicken stock or others depending on what you are serving with the pilau rice.
If you can’t source curry leaves, bay leaves make a great substitute; they are larger, so you only need one.
Cinnamon Stick and Cardamom pods
Cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods are great taste enhancers. Remember to remove them after cooking the rice as they are unpleasant to chew on!
I love adding fresh coriander leaves and stems (cilantro) finely chopped and sprinkled on top of the finished pilau rice.
Struggling to find all the ingredients or missing some in the cupboard?
A simple mild curry powder is a quick substitute instead of using all the listed spices. Use two teaspoons (per 4 servings of rice)
Cooking Pilau Rice
Now that you know all the ingredients needed for pilau rice, it's time to get cooking. The recipe card below has all the measurements you need.
But here is a quick run-through of the pilau rice cooking process.
You will need a large saucepan with a lid.
First, fry the basmati rice over medium heat with the oil and ground spices until the rice is yellow from absorbing turmeric into the grains.
Make up the vegetable stock with boiling water, pour into the yellow rice, add the curry leaves, cinnamon and cardamom pods, then turn the heat to max and bring to the boil.
Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, stir and place the lid on the saucepan.
Time for 10 minutes on low heat, then turn the heat off but LEAVE THE LID ON for another 10 minutes.
DO NOT REMOVE LID during the whole 20 minutes; it is crucial to allow the rice to cook in the steam created for perfectly cooked fluffy rice.
After the full 20 minutes with the lid on, you are ready to remove the curry leaves, cinnamon and cardamom pods, which conveniently rise to the top during cooking.
Fluff the rice grains with a fork to separate the grains.
Pilau rice is fantastic served up with homemade Indian curries we have created a few on our blog, take your choice from some of our Indian inspired recipes below.
📖 Step by Step Recipe
Pilau Rice - Indian Side Dish Recipe
- 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
- 400 g Basmati Rice Rinsed
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- ½ teaspoon Ground cumin
- 625 ml Vegetable stock
- 3 Cardamom Pods
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 2 Curry Leaves or bay leaves
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Fresh Coriander leaves (optional) to serve
- Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large lidded saucepan. Add rice, tumeric and cumin.1 tablespoon Vegetable oil, 400 g Basmati Rice, 1 teaspoon Turmeric, ½ teaspoon Ground cumin
- Stir through for a couple of minutes until the rice absorbs the colour from the spices.
- Add stock625 ml Vegetable stock
- Add cardamon pods, cinnamon stick and curry leaves. Bring to the boil.3 Cardamom Pods, 1 Cinnamon Stick, 2 Curry Leaves
- Stir, then turn down to lowest heat setting, place the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off (do not remove lid) leave to stand for 10 minutes to allow the rice to absorb water and finish cooking.
- Remove curry leaves, cardamon pods and cinnamon stick.
- Separate the cooked rice grains, using a fork to fluff it up.
- Season to your taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh coriander (optional)Salt & Pepper to taste, Fresh Coriander leaves (optional)
We hope you enjoy this easy pilau rice recipe as much as we do, let us know in the comments what you like to serve yours with?