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This easy rice pilaf recipe takes things to the next level with basmati rice. I hope you’ll add this classic dish to your repertoire. It’s a perfect side dish or bed for a wide variety of meals. We love it with seared scallops.

Basmati Rice Pilaf 780 | Umami Girl
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Why we love this recipe

Some recipes are so basic, so versatile, so good that every cook should know them. There’s that pesky “should,” I know. But I feel pretty strongly about this. Rice pilaf is one of those recipes. And basmati rice pilaf is pilaf’s best version of itself.

Rice pilaf woke up on the right side of the bed this morning. And if you’re new to this side dish and ready to learn a simple, easy recipe, then so did you.

What you’ll need

You only need a few basic ingredients to make this recipe. As always, the fewer the ingredients, the more important their quality.

ingredients in bowls
  • Basmati rice is just as easy to prepare as plain white rice, but its flavor and aroma elevate this simple dish to next-level status. You’ll rinse in well in a colander under running water. The runoff will start out a milky color and, after a minute or two, will turn clear.
  • Use a good yellow onion and dice it nice and small so it doesn’t have a major impact on the texture of the dish.
  • Plenty of minced fresh garlic adds dimension to the flavor profile.
  • Homemade stock works beautifully if you happen to have some on hand. If not, this recipe is great with a high-quality boxed chicken or veggie broth, too (that’s usually what I use). My favorite boxed vegetable broth by far is Imagine No Chicken lower-sodium broth. It has a great flavor profile and none of the rust-colored nonsense that plagues many other brands.
  • Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price. To make this recipe vegan, you can substitute olive oil.
  • Snipped fresh chives make an optional garnish at the end, but I love them for both their delicate allium flavor and the pop of color they add.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a beautiful pan of basmati rice pilaf. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. You’ll start by rinsing your basmati rice until the water runs clear. Then find a 12-inch pan with a lid and melt the butter in it. Sauté the onions until translucent and a tiny bit browned. Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  2. Stir in the rice and cook for two minutes to toast.
  3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, turn down the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Off the heat, place a clean kitchen towel between the pan and the lid, and leave it to absorb any extra moisture for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in some chives if you like. That’s it!

Expert tips and FAQs

What’s the best way to strike a balance when seasoning a simple dish?

A few keys to a good pilaf: flavor, flavor, flavor. You don’t want to overwhelm, but you definitely don’t want to bore. Starting with excellent ingredients, developing flavor through smart cooking techniques, and tasting for seasoning as you go will get you far.

Use good butter (I love Kerrygold salted butter like I love my children) and good stock (I almost never make my own but have a couple of boxed favorites such as this one for veg and this one for chicken). 

Brown the onions a little like the recipe suggests to develop the flavor. 

Basmati rice will speak for itself in the flavor department. 

And don’t skimp on the salt and pepper.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

This recipe is quick and easy to make, and it really shines straight out of the pan — so I don’t recommend going out of your way to make it in advance. That said, leftovers keep very well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and can be reheated with a quick spin in the microwave.

What to serve it with

This side dish is so versatile that there’s almost no limit to what you could serve it with. We especially love:

Basmati Rice Pilaf | Umami Girl 780

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Basmati Rice Pilaf | Umami Girl
4.55 from 343 votes

Basmati Rice Pilaf

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This is a best-self version of a classic recipe with plenty of flavor and zero complicating factors. It’s a versatile side dish that I hope you’ll build into your repertoire.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
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Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup (180 grams) basmati rice
  • 2 ½ cups (590 ml) chicken or vegetable stock (see note 2)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper, see note 3

To garnish (optional)

  • Minced chives
  • Chopped almonds

Instructions 

  • In a wide pan with a lid (like this onethis one, or this one), melt butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just starting to brown, about five minutes.
  • While onion cooks, rinse rice in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear and shake out any excess water.
  • Add garlic to pan and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about a minute.
  • Add rice and stir to coat with butter, then cook, stirring once or twice, for two minutes.
  • Pour in stock and give it all a good stir.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat. Then cover pan, lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until broth is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • Off the heat, place a clean kitchen towel between the pan and the lid to absorb excess steam and let pilaf rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with chives and almonds if using and serve.

Step-by-step video

Notes

  1. Basmati rice is just as easy to prepare as plain white rice, but its flavor and aroma elevate this simple dish to next-level status. You'll rinse in well in a colander under running water. The runoff will start out a milky color and, after a minute or two, will turn clear.
  2. Some American brands of basmati rice do better with a little less liquid. If your rice is very thin or the package instructions indicate less than two cups of water per cup of rice, you may want to scale back to two cups of stock.
  3. Homemade stock works beautifully if you happen to have some on hand. If not, this recipe is great with a high-quality boxed chicken or veggie broth, too (that's usually what I use). My favorite boxed vegetable broth by far is Imagine No Chicken lower-sodium broth. It has a great flavor profile and none of the rust-colored nonsense that plagues many other brands.
  4. If you use salted butter and stock, you may not need additional salt. Just taste and adjust before serving.
  5. This recipe is quick and easy to make, and it really shines straight out of the pan — so I don't recommend going out of your way to make it in advance. That said, leftovers keep very well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and can be reheated with a quick spin in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcal, Carbohydrates: 26.4g, Protein: 3.3g, Fat: 6.4g, Fiber: 1.4g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sides
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.55 from 343 votes (343 ratings without comment)

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23 Comments

  1. Is it a problem if my pan’s lid has steam holes? I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I could use instead but it isn’t as wide.

    1. Hi Jo, I’d recommend a lid that seals in the steam. You could use a piece of aluminum foil either alone or under your regular lid if you like.