This easy pilau rice is better than any restaurant version you can order. Fragrant with spices and herbs and cooked to fluffy perfection, this Indian side dish is perfect for serving with your favourite homemade curry recipes. This pilau rice recipe is straightforward, taking just 20 minutes from start to finish.
If you're a fan of Indian recipes, you might want to check out my pork curry recipe or the classic coconut chicken curry for a full-on Indian feast at home. And these recipes should absolutely be served with this easy naan bread.
⭐️ Why You'll Love This Pilau Rice
- Quick and Easy: Ready in just 20 minutes.
- Flavourful: Packed with spices that create an authentic Indian restaurant-style experience.
- Versatile: A perfect side dish for numerous curries like these easy curry chicken thighs.
- Basmati Rice: The long, slender grains provide the perfect fluffy texture.
- Butter: Adds a touch of richness to the rice.
- Onion: Gives a slight sweetness and depth.
- Pilau Seasoning Spices: Including cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods (optional), cloves, ground turmeric, bay leaves, and salt. These spices are what make pilau rice truly stand out, offering warmth, depth, and the signature yellow colour.
See recipe card for quantities.
📖 Substitutions & Variations
- Rice Type: If you don't have basmati on hand, long-grain white rice is a decent substitute.
- Vegan Friendly: Replace butter with coconut oil or any plant-based alternative for a vegan pilau.
- Spice It Up: Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your palette. For those who love an extra kick, a pinch of red chilli flakes works wonders.
👩🏻🍳 Step By Step
- Start by gently melting the butter in a pan.
- Add the finely chopped onion and spices. Remember, it's essential to soften the onions without browning them.
- Mix in the basmati rice, ensuring every grain is well coated with the flavorful buttery-spice mix.
- Pour in boiling water, bring to a gentle simmer, and let it cook until the water is absorbed.
- Once done, let the rice steam for a few minutes before fluffing and serving.
Pro-tip: For perfect rice every time, refrain from stirring too often as this can break the grains.
- Fridge: Store the cooled pilau rice in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Freezer: For longer storage, freeze the rice in portions. Ensure it's entirely cooled before doing so.
- Reheat: Reheat the rice in a microwave or on the stovetop with a splash of water. Make sure it's piping hot throughout before serving.
💡 Top Tips
- Always rinse your basmati rice before cooking to remove excess starch and prevent stickiness.
- While using whole spices like cardamom pods and bay leaves, remember to remove them before serving.
While both are spiced rice dishes, biryani typically includes meat or vegetables, layered with partially cooked rice, and then cooked together.
Absolutely! Peas, carrots, or bell peppers make excellent additions.
Rinsing the rice well and cooking on low heat without excessive stirring should give you perfectly fluffy pilau rice.
Recipes to create an Indian feast
These are my favourite Indian dishes to serve with this pilau rice:
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You can also find more comfort food recipes using everyday ingredients over on our sister site Salted Mint.
The Easy 30 Minute Pilau Rice
- 20 g (5/7 oz) salted butter
- 1 (1) brown onion, diced
- 1 clove (1 clove) garlic, minced
- 2 (2) sprigs thyme, leaves picked
- 1 (1) bay leaf
- 3 (3) cloves
- 1 (1) cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon (½ teaspoon) cumin
- ½ teaspoon (½ teaspoon) turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon (¼ teaspoon) ground coriander
- 250 g (1 2/7 cups) basmati rice
- 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
- Heat the butter in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Mix in the thyme, and all the spices. Continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Mix in the basmati rice and mix to coat all the grains in the spices. Pour in the hot stock and bring to a boil. Turn down to a very gentle simmer over very low heat and put the lid on the pan. Continue to cook for about 11 minutes until the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed.
- Once the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
- Rinse First: Before cooking, always rinse the basmati rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This helps remove excess starch, preventing the rice from becoming sticky during cooking.
- Cardamom Pods: When adding cardamom pods, lightly crush or "bash" them open to release the seeds inside. This will impart a deeper flavour. Just remember to remove the pods before serving.
- Lid Matters: Use a tight-fitting lid to ensure proper steam cooking. If your pot doesn't have a good lid, a clean kitchen towel under the lid can help seal in steam, ensuring fluffy rice.
- Reheating Tips: When reheating pilau rice, add a splash of water to keep it moist. Microwave or steam until it's piping hot throughout. Always reheat rice only once.
- Experiment with Add-ins: Pilau rice is versatile. Feel free to add veggies like peas or carrots for a colourful twist, or toss in some raisins for a touch of sweetness.