Indian Food Recipes – How to Make The Best Rice Pilau Recipe

Nothing makes a good Indian dinner into an outstanding Indian dinner to be remembered like a great rice pilau.


rice pilau

An easy yet tasty rice pilau

Done correctly, rice pilau can be eaten with your favourite curry or simply on its own. In fact I used to make this rice pilau recipe quite often in my university years when I needed to eat but still needed to ensure I had enough beer money.

Nowadays, it is the rice recipe my three kids ask for most and I usually make it for them. It’s easy and tastes fantastic.

To do it correctly, however, it is a bit time consuming. That said, if time is not on your side simply rinse your rice and forget the rather laborious rice preparation.

INGREDIENTS for Rice Pilau

(serves 4)

250g (9 0z) Good quality Basmati Rice

1 pinch of saffron
3 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 finely chopped Spanish onion
3 black cardamom pods or 6 green cardamom pods
1 2″ cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves.



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. Pour out the water and fill the bowl with fresh water.

This time, allow to sit for about a half hour.

Again, move the water around with your hand until the water becomes white and milky. Pour away the white water and fill up the bowl again.

Now repeat the process as many times as required until the water is clear.

Pour about 3 tablespoons of milk into a cup and place in the microwave for about 25 seconds until the milk is hand hot.
Put the saffron threads in the milk and set aside to infuse.

In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, pour the 3 tablespoons of oil and one tablespoon of the ghee. Over medium heat, fry half of the finely chopped onion until crispy. Remove the fried onion to a paper towel to dry.

Now throw in the spices and the rest of the onion. Fry – adding a little more oil if needed – for about five minutes or until the onion is translucent and lightly browned.

Add the rice and about 500ml of water and cover with the lid. Bring to a boil for about ten seconds and then turn off the heat. DO NOT take the lid off of the pot. Allow the rice to sit in the covered pot for 40 minutes undisturbed.

Just one last step to the perfect rice pilau!

Just before serving, take the lid off, add the saffron milk, the rest of the ghee and the crispy onions and lightly stir with a fork to get rid of any clumps.

When cooking basmati rice, it is important to to stir too vigorously as the rice grains will split and become mushy. Be careful.

I hope you enjoy this rice pilau recipes as much as my family friends and I have. It would be great to hear from you so please leave a comment if you like.


If you enjoyed my rice pilau recipe, please subscribe to my blog. I have many more recipes to come! Thank you.


  1. Anna says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I have been looking everywhere for this. It’s gorgeous and goes well with most Indian dishes.I’m doing it for a Tandoori chicken night.

  2. ManhattanGirl says

    Can you explain why milk is used for steep the saffron? I would think warm water would work about the same.

    • Dan Toombs says

      THat’s a first! Water would probably work but the milk makes the blend creamier. Whether you could tell in the end I don’t know. I might have to try water and see what happens.

      I often make paellas and simply add the saffron at the end to the stock. That works fine.


  3. Anna Again says

    Hi again Dan,
    Just wanted to thank you again for this wonderful recipe. I gave some leftovers to my sister and she was so impressed that she organised an Indian food themed dinner party. I was asked to make this Pilau recipe and she made Pakoras (sp?) as a swap/bribe :-) People finished off the rice quickly!
    I will be trying out more of your recipes

  4. milgan says

    hi dan, am looking forward to trying out some of your recipes, have already made the big batch of curry base….for this rice recipe when you say turn off the heat do you remove the pan from the cooker, as mine is electric and would stay hot for a while whereas a gas one would cool immediately, ty xx

    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Milgan

      I think you’re save leaving it on the burner. The worst thing that could happen is the rice on the bottom would become crispy. The crispy rice tastes great served on top of the steamed rice.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>