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Pilau Rice

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If you want to make pilau rice like you get at the best curry houses, you’re on the right page!

This is pilau rice like I’ve seen it made in so many popular curry houses around the UK. You are going to get restaurant quality results here. I promise.

Pilau Rice


About this pilau rice recipe

Over the years, I have experimented many times with jeera rice. Some of the recipes were quite different to this one but this is the one I wanted on my blog. 

Jeera means cumin in Hindi and it is the cumin that really makes this rice dish stand out. The cumin is first infused with other whole spices in ghee before adding the rice to cook it through. The end result is amazing.

Some recipes call for even more cumin but I hope you agree, this spice combo is exactly what a good jeera rice should be like.

How do you cook pilau rice?

The method for cooking the rice similar to my steamed Basmati rice recipe and you will find a recipe for that here if you would like to see step by step photos. The instructions for cooking the rice are in the recipe card below though.

With my steaming method, you will get perfect results every time. 

The rice grains will be firm and not at all stodgy or soggy. With pilau rice, you first heat ghee in a sauce pan. Then whole spices are added for flavour before adding and frying chopped onion.  Then ground turmeric is added just before stirring in the soaked raw rice and water. 

You then cover the pan and bring that water to a boil. Once boiling, you turn off the heat and allow the rice to steam, untouched for 40 minutes. That’s it. Perfect pilau rice every time!

How important is the Basmati rice you use?

The Basmati you choose is very important! You want to look for the best quality, aged Basmati rice you can get your hands on. I use VeeTee Extra Long Premium Rice.

You could use other brands. Just look for premium quality, long grain Basmati that states that it has been aged on the packaging.  Basmati rice actually gets better with age so if you like Basmati rice, you can safely purchase a large bag and keep it for when you want to cook up your next pilau rice.

Can you work ahead?

If more convenient, you can allow the rice to soak overnight. It’s not at all necessary but it won’t hurt the rice to soak longer. 

How long does pilau rice keep in the fridge.

It is very important not to eat rice that has been sitting at room temperature for over an hour as harmful bacteria will begin to grow.

If you wish to keep the rice in the fridge, get it into a suitable bowl, allow to cool some and then get it into the fridge.

Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and consume within 3 days. 

Can you freeze pilau rice?

Yes. It freezes really well. Place the cooked pilau in a suitable, air-tight container. It will freeze well for up to 6 months.

Just be sure to freeze it in portion sizes that work for you. You don’t want to freeze it all in one container if you only want to serve yourself.

How do you reheat pilau rice?

Whether you place it in the fridge or freeze it, the easiest way to heat up your pilau rice is in a microwave.

Pilau rice from the fridge should heat up in about a minute. You can microwave your pilau from frozen in the covered container in 3 to 4 minutes.

Can this recipe be upscaled or downscaled?

Yes. Just double or halve the ingredients. 

Generally speaking, 185g (1 1/2 cups) of raw rice will make two generous portions of cooked rice, though when served as part of a larger meal, you can probably stretch that to three people.

If upscaling, the water to raw rice ratio is 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water. 

What size pan do you need to cook rice pilau?

It is important that you use a pan that is large enough or the rice won’t cook correctly.

When your rice is in your sauce pan covered with the water, the pan should be no more the 1/3 full so that the rice has plenty of room to expand.

What do you serve with pilau rice?

You can eat rice on its own and not be disappointed. You could also serve it topped with nice chutney or two

It’s also delicious served with dal and I have a few for you! Just follow this link —>  dal recipes for you.

Of course this rice will go well with pretty much any curry. Try some of these chicken, lamb, veggie and seafood curries. You might also like to try your jeera rice as a side for curry house style curry.

Step by step photographs

Ingredients for pilau rice

Get your ingredients together before starting for an easier cook.

Infusing the whole spices in the ghee.

Heat the ghee in a sauce pan over medium-high heat and stir in the whole spices to infuse for about a minute.

Frying the onions in the spiced ghee mixture.

Stir in the chopped onions and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.

Adding turmeric to the pan.

Add the turmeric and stir well to combine so that the onions are completely coated.

Stirring rice into the ghee and spices.

Now add the soaked rice and gently stir it into the ghee mixture to coat. Frying for a couple of minutes will bring out the natural flavour of the rice.

Cooking the rice in a covered pan.

Cover the rice with the water and bring to a boil with the lid on. When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for 40 minutes.

Cooked pilau rice

After 40 minutes of steaming the rice will be perfectly cooked.

Finished pilau rice.

Serve hot with your favourite curry.

Pro Tips

  1. Always wash the rice grains in at least 5 changes of water. This will remove the excess starch and ensure your pilau rice is fluffy and not at all clumpy or sticky.
  2. When steaming the rice, do not be tempted to lift the lid! Walk away and come back in 40 minutes.
  3. After the jeera rice has steamed, stir it lightly with a fork or chopstick. Do not stir too vigorously as Basmati rice has a tendency to spit and become mushy if stirred too hard.

Yield: 4

How to Make The Best Rice Pilau Recipe

Pilau Rice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 280g (1 1/2 cup) good quality Basmati rice
  • 530ml (2 1/4 cups) water
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 x 5cm (2 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 Indian (cassia) bay leaves.
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


  1. Pour the rice into a bowl and cover with water. With your hand, move the rice around in the water. The starch will come of the rice and the water will become milky. Repeat 5 times and then cover with fresh water to soak for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Once your rice has soaked, heat the ghee in a sauce pan that has a tight fitting lid. Stir in the whole spices and bay leaves and let them infuse into the ghee for about 30 seconds. Then add the chopped onion and salt and fry it for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Stir in the ground turmeric until the onion is completely coated and yellow.
  3. Drain the rice through a sieve. Pour the rice into a sauce pan and cover with the water. Cover and bring to a boil. When the water boils, turn off the the heat and allow it to steam, without lifting the lid for 40 minutes.
  4. After 40 minutes, uncover the pan and your pilau rice will be cooked perfectly. Carefully, stir the rice grains with a fork or chopstick. You just want to move the grains around and not stir to harshly as Basmati has a tendency to split if stirred to hard.
  5. Serve garnished with the chopped coriander (cilantro).

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 118Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 585mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

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I hope you enjoy this rice pilau recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. 



Sunday 21st of May 2023

Made this for the first time - and it's delicious, my rice at the bottom was a little clumped together but the taste was amazing. Practice makes perfect!:-)

Dan Toombs

Monday 22nd of May 2023

Great to hear, I’m sure next time you’ll get it perfect. Dan


Thursday 18th of May 2023

Hi Dan How much turmeric do i put in the pilau recipe!? Making it tomorrow ! She says hopefully :-)

Dan Toombs

Monday 22nd of May 2023

Add about 1 tsp Thanks Dan

Peter Evans

Saturday 10th of December 2022

Done this many times now, always perfect and a hit with everyone.


Wednesday 12th of May 2021

Cook for boil for 10 seconds? Is that right

Dan Toombs

Friday 14th of May 2021

Hi Yes - that is correct. Just let it come to a boil until you see big bubbles then you cover and leave for 40 minutes. This will work if you follow my instructions. Thanks Dan

Tina Cole

Monday 20th of July 2020

Hi Dan. Just to let you know that on the recipe for "th best pilau rice" there is a spelling error. It should say "not to" but it says "it is important to to stir too vigorously" Just wanted to let you know to stop any errors for the people making it. Loving the recipes. Thanks

Regards Tina

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 21st of July 2020

Thanks very much, Tina. I will get that changed. Dan

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