Rice Pilaf Recipe – How to Make Rice Pilaf

Cooked Rice Pilaf with vegetables and meatWhat is rice pilaf?

Rice pilaf (rice pilau, or pilaf rice) is a simple and easy dish made of long-grain rice that is cooked in broth with some vegetables and spices while ensuring the rice grains are none sticky nor soggy. There are many variations of making pilau rice and some may cook theirs plain, without adding meat or vegetables. I will show you how to cook this with lamb and vegetables in this easy rice pilaf recipe. Other methods of cooking rice pilau and some variations would also be discussed.

What is Pilaf?

Pilaf is a dish made of either rice or wheat that is cooked so that the grains of wheat or rice is intact without sticking or being soggy. It is often cooked with broth and some vegetables and meat. Rice pilaf recipe is a cuisine of many countries and has many variations according to each country. Below is a list of countries where rice pilau is very common.

Some common dishes evolved from rice pilau; such recipes include the Spanish paella, Central Asian pilau recipe (which is also called pulao), and the Indian biryani recipe.

What is the pilaf method of cooking rice?

The pilaf method of cooking involves frying the rice grains in fat to make them before adding liquid or broth – this way the rice grains remain separate and do not clump together when cooked. The amount of liquid has to be small so as not to make the rice pilau soggy or mushy. If the rice is not stir-fried in fat before cooking, it should be thoroughly rinsed with water to get rid of much starch content (until the water is clear) which may make it sticky and then cooked afterward without stirring the rice while it is being cooked.

List of Countries and Regions where Rice Pilau is a common Cuisine

  1. Latin American
  2. Israel
  3. China (especially in Xinjiang)
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Iran
  6. Balkan
  7. Central Asian
  8. Armenia
  9. Cyprus
  10. East African
  11. Eastern European
  12. Azerbaijan
  13. Middle Eastern
  14. Caribbean
  15. South Caucasian and South Asian cuisines
  16. Afghanistan
  17. Armenia
  18. India
  19. Iraq especially in Kurdistan
  20. Kazakhstan
  21. Georgia
  22. Greece especially in Crete
  23. Kenya
  24. Tanzania, especially in Zanzibar
  25. Kyrgyzstan
  26. Russia
  27.  Nepal
  28. Sri Lanka
  29. Tajikistan
  30.  Pakistan
  31. Romania
  32. Turkey
  33. Turkmenistan
  34. Uganda
  35. Uzbekistan

Rice Pilaf Ingredients

Rice Pilaf Ingredients
Rice Pilau Ingredients
  • 2 cups of Basmati rice or any long grains rice such as Jasmine rice.
  • 400 grams of lamb
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 7 medium-sized carrots
  • 2 tbsp of fruit raisins
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tsp of Cumin
  • 1 tsp of black pepper powder
  • 1/4 tsp of Cinnamon
  • 3 minced Garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp of fat – such as butter, lard, or any vegetable shortening.

How do you make rice pilaf from scratch?

  • Slice your carrots and onions into thin strands
  • Place a pot on the stovetop and add 4 tbsp of fat; allow it to heat up and then go in with the sliced onions.
  • Fry the onions until they are brown in color and keep them aside.
  • Next, go in with the meat. For this pilau rice, I am using lamb, but you can use my type of meat. You can also make the plain pilaf recipe without meat that is called sade pilav in Turkey or ruzz mufalfal in Arabic. Plain pilaf is known as chelo in Persian.
  • Fry the meat until it is brown in color then add 3 minced garlic cloves and stir fry for 30 seconds.
  •  Now, add the sliced carrots, fruit raisins, and 250 ml of meat broth. Cover and cook for 15 minutes to soften the carrots and the meat.
  • While the meat and carrots are cooking, start washing the basmati rice. Wash thoroughly with clean water several times until the water is clear. This helps to reduce the starch content of the Basmati rice and therefore makes the rice pilaf non-sticky and separate when cooked. When you are done washing the Basmati rice, drain in a colander and keep aside.
  • After 15 minutes, add the rice pilaf seasonings which are cinnamon powder, cumin, black pepper powder, and salt. Stir all the rice pilaf seasonings to combine with the meat and carrots.
  • Next, add the drained Basmati rice and spread it evenly over the meat and carrot.
  • Add 2 cups of meat broth to just cover the top of the rice. Adding liquid to rice pilaf should be minimal. It is better you add a little at a time than adding much liquid which makes the rice pilaf mushy and sticky.
  • Cover and cook the pilaf rice for 25 minutes or until the liquid has dried up. Do not stir the rice once it has started cooking; stirring breaks the grains.
  • After 25 minutes, your easy rice pilaf is ready. You can sprinkle the fried onions over it and further cook for two or three minutes to warm up the fried onions. The classic rice pilau should be firm, the grains of rice should be separate, and no mushiness.

Variations of Rice Pilaf Recipes

Afghanistan style of rice pilau

The recipe described here is actually the rice pilaf recipe that is made in Afghanistan and it is called Kabuli palaw or Qabili pulao; in Afghanistan cuisine, lamb, mutton, beef, or chicken is used as the meat. Sliced carrots are then fried with fruit raisins and some nuts such as pistachios or walnuts may be added. You can also make rice pilaf with almonds. Kabuli palaw is also common in Saudi Arabia where it is known as roz Bukhari.

In Bangladesh, the method of cooking is similar to that of Afghanistan, but the difference is in the type of fat used. In Bangladesh, clarified butter is used for frying the meat and onions as well as used as a flavoring to drizzle on the cooked polau.

Armenian version of pilau rice

In the Armenia pilau recipe, rice is less used, and instead, it is substituted by wheat groats (bulgur). Armenians often combine rice pilaf with orzo or vermicelli. Orzo is also called risoni, a type of pasta that is cut into short grains that look like rice; vermicelli is also a pasta that looks like spaghetti.

Therefore, combine rice pilaf with vermicelli or rice pilaf with orzo (also known as risoni) is the Armenian way of making pilau rice which is then seasoned with allspice and some mint and parsley. Meat stock is used as the liquid to add more taste to the pilaf recipe.

Azerbaijan pilau recipe

The pilau recipe from Azerbaijan consist of warm rice served with fried chicken or beef together with some herbs. The fried chicken or beef is prepared with onions, dried fruits, and chestnuts (together these are called Gara).

Greek Rice Pilaf

Greek rice pilaf or Greek lemon rice is a type of pilaf that involves cooking the rice in meat stock or adding bouillon stock; in Nothern parts of Greece, the Greek rice pilaf is baked instead of being cooked on the stovetop. Baked rice pilaf is therefore considered the best way of making pilaf in Nothern Greece. On wedding occasions, lemon juice is sometimes added and cooked with rice in a lamb or goat broth, but this type of pilaf is called Gamopílafo in the Crete island; and Gamopílafo is often soggy and not fluffy.

In the French version, the rice is gently roasted and then baked in the oven while being covered by parchment paper. It is served with sauce.

Levant regions style of cooking pilaf

In countries such as Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon (known as the Levant countries); rice pilau is traditionally cooked with vegetables such as eggplants, potatoes, cauliflower, and tomatoes. Meat is also added.

Indian Pulao

The Indian version called pulao consists of cooked rice with meat such as chicken, lamb, prawn, or pork. Fish can also be added. Vegetables such as peas, french beans, carrots, and potatoes can be added as well.

Vegetarian rice pilaf is prepared in the Bengal region of India using vegetarian ingredients such as aromatic rice, saffron, cashew nut, and raisin. Some spices can be added to the vegetarian version; such spices may include nutmeg, cardamom, mace, bay leaf, cinnamon, and clove.

What to add to rice pilaf

  1. Cardamom
  2. Bay leaves
  3. Cinnamon powder
  4. Vegetables such as carrots,
  5. Fried onions
  6. Fruit raisins
  7. Saffron for color
  8. Almonds
  9. In the Caribbean, common ingredients to add to rice pilau include pigeon peas, string beans, carrots, green peas, pumpkin, corn, or cured pigtail.

There are so many additions you can use in your rice pilau recipe. Almost all countries listed above have one ingredient added and a different method of cooking this rice recipe.  Therefore, the list of what to add to rice pilau may not be exhaustive.

Cooked Rice Pilaf with vegetables and meat

Rice Pilaf Recipe - How to Make Rice Pilaf

Bongdap Nansel Nanzip
Rice pilaf recipe is a simple and easy rice dish made by cooking long-grain rice in meat broth with some vegetables or meat without the rice being mushy. Pilaf rice is also called rice pilau (in the UK). There are so many variations to making rice pilaf depending on the region and each region of the world has something peculiar about how they make their own rice pilaf recipe.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Eastern Europe, Iran, Latin America, Middle East, Wordwide
Servings 5 people
Calories 650 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups Basmati rice - or any long grain rice.
  • 400 grams lamb
  • 7 whole carrots - medium-sized carrots and sliced
  • 2 tbsp fruit raisins
  • 1 whole onion - large and sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 4 tbsp fat - lard, butter, ghee (clarified butter), or shortening.
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions
 

  • Slice your carrots and onions into thin strands
    Slice the carrots into thin strands
  • Place a pot on the stovetop and add 4 tbsp of fat; allow it to heat up and then go in with the sliced onions.
    Fry the onions until they are brown
  • Keep the fried onions aside
    Keep fried onions aside
  • Add the lamb and also fry until it is brown.
    Fry the lamb in the fat until it is brown in color
  • Once the lamb is brown, add the minced garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds.
    Fried lamb used in rice pilaf recipe
  •  Now, add the sliced carrots, fruit raisins
    Add carrots and fruit raisins
  • Add 250 ml of meat broth. Cover and cook for 15 minutes to soften the carrots and the meat.
    Add meat broth and cook the meat further with carrots
  • While the meat and carrots are cooking, start washing the basmati rice. Wash thoroughly with clean water several times until the water is clear. This helps to reduce the starch content of the Basmati rice and therefore makes the rice pilaf non-sticky and separate when cooked. When you are done washing the Basmati rice, drain in a colander and keep aside.
    Wash the rice to reduce the starch in it
  • After 15 minutes, season the rice pilaf recipe with ¼ tsp of cinnamon powder, 1 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of black pepper powder, and 1 tsp of salt. Stir all the rice pilaf seasonings to combine with the meat and carrots.
    Add the rice pilaf seasoning
  • Next, add the drained Basmati rice and spread it evenly over the meat and carrot.
    Add the drained basmati rice
  • Add 2 cups of meat broth to just cover the top of the rice. Adding liquid to rice pilaf should be minimal. It is better you add a little at a time than adding much liquid which makes the rice pilaf mushy and sticky.
    Add meat broth and cook the rice pilaf
  • Cover and cook the pilaf rice for 25 minutes or until the liquid has dried up. Do not stir the rice once it has started cooking; stirring breaks the grains. Once the liquid dries up, your rice pilaf is ready.
    Cooked rice pilaf with vegetables
  • After 25 minutes, your easy rice pilaf is ready. You can sprinkle the fried onions over it and further cook for two or three minutes to warm up the fried onions. The classic rice pilaf should be firm, the grains of rice should be separate, and no mushiness.
    Add the fried onions

Video

Notes

This rice pilaf recipe was based on the Afghanistan style of cooking pilaf. There are so many methods and variations of cooking rice pilaf. The ingredients for each variation differ, so also the methods of cooking. 
Though the ingredients vary, what makes any rice recipe to be termed pilaf is the fact that the cooked rice grains should be separate, firm, non-sticky, and fluffy. Spices, vegetables, or meat does not define whether a rice recipe should be called pilaf or not. 
Keyword Pilaf, Pilaf Recipes, Rice Pilaf, Rice Pilaf Recipe

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