Aromatic Rice Pilaf

Aromatic Rice Pilaf

If you often find yourself in a rut of steaming plain white rice to complement your weeknight dinners, this fragrant rice pilaf recipe is an easy upgrade. Toasting a warming mixture of spices—cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves—in butter awakens a range of flavors you wouldn’t get without blooming them first. (The spice mix is inspired by garam masala, a classic Indian blend that straddles the line between sweet and savory.) 

After toasting the spices, you’ll sauté the rice to coat each grain with the spiced butter before adding water and simmering on the stovetop. This does two things for the rice: It adds flavor by caramelizing the starches in the grains. And, since you’re using fat (i.e., butter, but this goes for olive oil too), the rice will steam into individual, scoopable grains instead of a sticky mass. You can use white basmati rice instead of the jasmine called for here, or any variety of long-grain rice you have on hand.

This seasoned rice dish can be a delicious meal all on its own, topped with a fried or poached egg or bulked up with various sweet and savory add-ins like tart dried apricots or cherries; silky roasted bell peppers; or crunchy pine nuts, pistachios, or almonds. It’s also a perfect side dish for a vegetable-forward dinner and makes a great base for slow-roasted salmon or any grilled fish.

Rice pilaf is as delicious cold as it is warm; if you’d like to make a big batch to divvy throughout the week, leave out the herbs and store in an airtight container. To reheat, microwave the pilaf in bursts or cook it crispy-rice style, and add the herbs just before serving.

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  1. Seasoning Blend

    Step 1

    Whisk together 2 tsp. store-bought fried onions, 1 tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom, and ⅛ tsp. ground cloves in a small bowl.

  2. Pilaf and Assembly

    Step 2

    Melt 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add seasoning blend and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed until water runs clear, and cook, stirring often and reducing heat if needed to keep spices from scorching, until grains are coated and opaque around the edges, about 2 minutes.

    Step 3

    Pour in 1½ cups water and add 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt; stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until water is completely absorbed and rice is tender, 15–18 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let rice sit (still covered) 5–10 minutes.

    Step 4

    Uncover rice and fluff gently with a fork. Transfer pilaf to a platter and top with chopped tender herbs (such as parsley or cilantro) if desired. Serve with lemon wedges if desired.

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