There’s nothing that screams Indian takeaway to me more than pilau rice! I’ve spent years cooking curries (if you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll know how many we make), but for whatever reason, that glorious turmeric infused rice never hit my list. What a waste of years that was, because I couldn’t believe how easy it is to make! We’ll show you exactly how to prepare pilau in this article.
Don’t settle for plain rice at your next curry night, because I promise you pilau is so easy to prepare, I’m sure it’ll become a regular any time you’re cooking up an Indian feast. You can see just how simple it is to make in our video!
We made this quick video to show just how quick and easy it is to prepare pilau rice!
Pilau spices & ingredients
This is a simple, six ingredient recipe – you’ll have a delicious pot of pilau rice ready in no time! As with every popular dish, you’ll find 100s or 1000s of varieties out there, some with a bigger variety of spices and some with fewer.
While we were working on this recipe we definitely found that less is more. The simple combination of cloves, bay leaves and cumin seeds delivers a really aromatic pilau, but isn’t overpowering. That means it will go great with whatever curry (or curries!) you’re cooking alongside it. Fewer ingredients also means preparing your pilau is going to be even easier and faster!
All you’re going to need is:
Easy cook rice – we used a classic basmati, but you can use whatever you have, but make sure it’s “easy cook” rice so it’s a bit faster to cook. If using brown or wholegrain rice, cooking time will be a lot longer.
Vegetable stock – you could also use water and season with salt instead.
Pilau rice origin
I enjoyed finding out more about pilau, because like I said at the beginning of this article, it’s just something I’d get at an Indian restaurant (providing they offer a vegan version). While the dish I’ve been enjoying with my curry all these years is considered an Indian dish now, at least here in Britain, the history goes back centuries.
Pilau is prepared by cooking a grain in stock or broth and adding spices – so far, so good. But it traditionally has meat or vegetables added to it as well. This sounds a lot like a biryani, and for good reason, because it seems to share the same origin as pilau!
I’ve had the middle-Eastern rice dish pilaf at some point in my life, perhaps in Turkey, as I’ve travelled there a couple of times. But whether it’s pilau, pilaf, pulao, polao or even the classic Spanish dish, paella – the origins date way back to somewhere around 500-750 AD. Based on how the world is currently divided into countries, it was probably born in Iraq, or at least somewhere in the region.
The first documented recipe belongs to a Persian scholar, who included many pilaf recipes in his books on medical sciences, where he talked about the benefits of various ingredients.
Anyway, you’re probably here to find out about how to prepare pilau, not a history lesson...
How to cook pilau rice
Here's how to prepare pilau the Vegan Punks way (it couldn't be easier)! Start by heating up some oil in a saucepan.
You then need to fry off the spices – cloves, cumin seeds and turmeric. Once your kitchen is mouth-wateringly fragrant, you know it’s time to add the rice. Stir the uncooked rice briefly, coating it in the spice mix.
The final step is simply adding the bay leaves and stock, then leaving to simmer with a lid on. Stir it once in a while to make sure it’s not sticking, but it’s really that simple.
Just before serving we’d recommend removing the cloves – they’re not the most enjoyable thing to crunch down on during a meal! And don’t forget to remove the bay leaves too.
Basmati rice is the classic choice for pilau, but any long-grain rice would work just as well. For this recipe, make sure it’s easy cook. The cook time on the packet should be around 10-15 minutes.
While it’s traditional and will add some extra depth of flavour, there’s nothing stopping you just using water and seasoning the dish with salt instead.
We always recommend experimenting with different ingredients – it’s part of what we find so enjoyable about cooking! Many other recipes call for spices such as cinnamon or cardamom, so they’d be great spices to substitute in. You can even use saffron to colour the rice, instead of turmeric, though this is a much more expensive option!
Sure! Just make sure you fully defrost it and thoroughly heat it when you come to eat it. Rice is notorious for making people ill if it’s not reheated properly.
Looking to cook a huge Indian fakeaway at home? Here’s some of our favourites:
- You can’t beat our Fluffy Naan Breads to mop up curry sauce.
- Mushroom bhaji is our favourite side dish to order from a takeaway, so we created our own delicious version to make at home.
- Our Cauliflower Madras will hit the spot with a rich, warming sauce and the satisfying bite of cauliflower.
- Vegetable Tikka Masala - this is fast becoming one of our most popular recipes, with its rich and creamy tomato sauce, we can tell why!
- Easy Vegetable Bhuna is a takeaway favourite, and now you can make it at home.
Are you still looking for even more Indian recipes? Try out this list: 60+ Ultimate Vegan Recipes! It's jam-packed full with inspiration, and they're all easy to make too.
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How To Make Easy 15-Minute Pilau Rice
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 300 g easy cook basmati rice
- 550 ml vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp oil
- Rinse the rice in a sieve.300 g easy cook basmati rice
- Heat the oil up in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat.1 tbsp oil
- Add the cumin seeds, cloves and turmeric powder. Fry off the spices for a minute or so, until fragrant.1 tsp cumin seeds, 4 cloves, 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Stir the rice in with the spices, then add the vegetable stock and bay leaves.300 g easy cook basmati rice, 550 ml vegetable stock, 2 bay leaves
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. The rice should be cooked and not too wet.
- Remove the bayleaves and cloves, fluff with a fork and serve!
- This rice freezes well for 3 months. Defrost overnight or in the microwave and reheat thoroughly.
- Make sure to rinse the rice first, this prevents the rice from going clumpy once cooked.