International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Vegetable rice pulao

(Indian aromatic rice pilaf)

Image by Divya Kuydua

Average: 3.9 (16 votes)

Pulaos form a wide variety of spiced rice dishes in India. It is a method of cooking rice that was adopted from the Persians with their rice polows. The style of first sauteing and then boiling rice is also known as the pilaf, or pilav, method.

Pulao is also popular in East Africa due to past Indian immigration to the area.

4 to 6 servings


  • Basmati rice -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Oil or ghee -- 2 tablespoons
  • Cinnamon stick -- 1
  • Cardamom pods -- 4 or 5
  • Peppercorns -- 4 to 6
  • Whole cloves -- 3 or 4
  • Onion thinly sliced -- 1
  • Water or stock -- 3 cups
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste


  1. Place the rice in a large bowl and rinse in three or four changes of water until the water runs fairly clear. Fill the bowl with water to cover the rice by 1 inch and set aside to soak for from 30 to 60 minutes. Once the rice has soaked, drain it well and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil or ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the whole spices and stir until fragrant, about 20 to 30 seconds. Take care not to burn the spices. Immediately stir in the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the drained rice and stir until it is heated through and all the grains are coated with the oil or ghee.
  3. Stir in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove lid, fluff rice with a fork and serve.

Pulao Variations

  • There are hundreds of variations of this basic dish. As long as you follow the basic method and proportion of about 2 parts of water to 1 part rice, feel free to experiment. For larger batches, a proportion of 1 3/4 parts water to 1 part rice works better.
  • Rice: Common long-grain rice may be substituted if basmati is not available. The soaking step can then be eliminated.
  • Spices: None of the spices is by itself essential, so use what you have. You can also add a cuminseed, mustard seeds or a pinch of saffron.
  • Vegetables: Add 1 cup of chopped assorted vegetables with the stock or water if you like: peas, cauliflower, carrots, green beans.
  • Garnishes: Add a couple tablespoons of toasted almonds or cashews and some raisins with the stock or water for a Kashmiri-style pulao.


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