Pilau rice recipe

(2189 ratings)

Pilau rice is so easy to make and a great recipe for adding a powerful flavour to your rice. Perfect served with chicken, lamb or beef spiced

Pilau rice recipe
(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo E5TPBF)
  • healthy
Preparation Time10 mins
Cooking Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Cost RangeCheap
Nutrition Per PortionRDA
Calories329 Kcal16%
Sugar1 g1%
Fat11 g16%
Saturated Fat1 g5%
Salt6.2 gRow 4 - Cell 2
Protein7 g14%
Carbohydrates53 g20%
Salt6.2 gRow 7 - Cell 2

Learn how to make classic pilau rice in just three simple steps.

Pilau rice is traditional Indian rice that is perfect paired with a variety of classic Indian curries like healthy chicken tikka, chicken bhuna, or keema curry. Its golden yellow colour is made by turmeric, a natural food colouring agent, which dyes the rice during the cooking process. Spiced with cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, this pilau rice really packs a punch of flavour. It’s so easy to replicate this takeaway favourite at home as it takes just 10 minutes to prepare.


  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1tbsp turmeric
  • 250g basmati rice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks, broken




  1. Heat a large pan, which has a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle the cumin seeds over the base and cook for 30 secs, stirring well to toast them but taking care not to burn them. Tip out of the pan into a bowl.
  2. Heat the ghee or oil in the pan. Add the onion and cook it over a medium heat for 5-7 mins, until it starts to soften. Crush the cumin seeds lightly with the cardamom pods. Add the cumin, cardamom, cloves and turmeric to the pan and cook for 1-2 mins.
  3. Rinse the rice well and add to the pan, along with 450ml boiling water, the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and stir briefly just to mix. Bring the mixture to the boil, cover the pan and cook over a low heat for 12-15 mins, until the water is absorbed. Leave the rice in the pan but off the heat for a few mins before serving.

Watch how simple it is to make pilau rice 

Top tips for making pilau rice

If you want to give this classic pilau rice a twist you could add veg to the rice once cooked. Try our mushroom and spinach pilau rice combo or opt for cooked peas or roasted vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower, and carrot just like Gordon Ramsay's vegetable pilau rice. You could also add some more spice to this dish by stirring in a red chili or two when cooking.

How to store and reheat pilau rice

The rice may be prepared in advance. Store leftover pilau rice in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. You can freeze pilau rice easily too. Just make sure it is completely cooled and cooled quickly to room temperature before placing it into a freezable container or bag. You can freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat until piping hot in the microwave on high heat.

Find out everything you need to know about cooking rice with our how to cook rice guide including how to prepare rice, how much rice per person, and how to store leftovers too.

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Jessica Dady
Food Editor

Jessica Dady is Food Editor at GoodtoKnow and has over 11 years of experience as a digital editor, specialising in all things food, recipes, and SEO. From the must-buy seasonal food hampers and advent calendars for Christmas to the family-friendly air fryers that’ll make dinner time a breeze, Jessica loves trying and testing various food products to find the best of the best for the busy parents among us. Over the years of working with GoodtoKnow, Jessica has had the privilege of working alongside Future’s Test Kitchen to create exclusive videos - as well as writing, testing, and shooting her own recipes. When she’s not embracing the great outdoors with her family at the weekends, Jessica enjoys baking up a storm in the kitchen with her favourite bakes being chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and a tray of gooey chocolate brownies