Indian restaurant-style pilau rice, with a mild aromatic flavour, only takes 5 minutes longer to make than regular boiled rice.
Pep up that homemade curry with this easy recipe for vibrant yellow pilau rice.

Pilau rice in a black bowl on a dark surface with ingredients scattered around
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The yellow colour of this rice is so bright that I find it almost impossible to photograph!
You can see I’ve gone for a dark set-up above, a light set-up further down the post and a blue colour scheme with the curry at the end.
A highly frustrating photoshoot (and I’m still not happy with the pics).

It’s a good job I get to eat it at the end. Food always calms me down 😋

I love the gentle aromatic flavour of this vibrant rice. Super easy to make, but it adds a little something special to the dinner table on curry night.

Jump to:

📋 What do we need?

I’m using basmati rice for this, but you can replace with long-grain white rice if you like.
Be sure to use white rice (brown rice takes longer to cook and you won’t get the same yellow colour). Also, don’t use easy-cook rice – or you won’t get that nice fluffy rice texture.

Ingredients for Pilau rice on a wooden table

🔪 How to make Pilau Rice

**Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.**

  • Soften chopped onion in a saucepan with a little oil and butter.
  • Stir in those lovely spices (I’m using cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cloves and turmeric), plus a couple of bay leaves before adding the uncooked rice.
  • Add boiling water to the pan, then stir, cover and cook on a VERY LOW heat for 20 minutes.
6 image collage showing how to make Pilau rice

Remove the lid, fluff up the rice and serve.

Pilau rice in a white bowl on a light background. Flatbreads and plate of curry just in frame

🍛 Serving Suggestions

I’ve got so many curry recipes on the site! Try some of these:

Or how about served up with this chicken jalfrezi and my homemade chapati

Pilau rice with chicken jalfrezi in a blue bowl on a blue background. Further dishes scattered around.

🍽️ More fantastic Indian-style side dishes

📺 Watch how to make it

YouTube video

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4.75 from 12 votes

Pilau Rice Recipe

This Indian restaurant style pilau rice, with a mild aromatic flavour, only takes 5 minutes longer to make than regular boiled rice.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Course: side dish
Cuisine: Indian


  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion peeled and finely diced
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 cardamom pods (*see tip)
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300 g (1 1/3 cups) dried basmati rice
  • 600 ml (2 1/2 cups) boiling water
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  • Heat the oil and butter in a pan until the butter melts.
    1 tsp vegetable oil, 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • Add the onion and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened.
    1 small onion
  • Add in the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, turmeric, and bay leaves. Heat through, whilst stirring for a further minute.
    1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 6 cardamom pods, 6 cloves, 2 tsp turmeric, 2 bay leaves
  • Add the rice and stir to coat in the spices.
    300 g (1 1/3 cups) dried basmati rice
  • Add the boiling water, stir once and bring back to the boil, then place a lid on the pan and turn the heat down to very low (I use the lowest heat if cooking on gas, or setting 5 (of 10) for induction). Cook for 20 minutes.
    600 ml (2 1/2 cups) boiling water
  • Once cooked, turn the heat off. Leave the lid for a few minutes, then remove the lid, fluff the rice using a fork and serve. You can discard the cardamom and bay leaves.


YouTube video


Cardamom pod tip
Sew the cardamom pods together using a small length of un-dyed thread. This makes it SO much easier to find them and fish them out at the end (I always have a needles threaded with a little cotton stored in my cardamom jar).
Can I make it ahead?
Yes! Cook the rice, then spread it out in a large dish or tray (so it will cool quickly) cover and refrigerate for up to a day. Don’t leave cooked rice out at room temperature. Bacteria can grow on cooked rice very quickly, so it’s important to:
  • Refrigerate it as quickly as possible
  • Don’t store for more than 24 hours in the fridge, and
  • Thoroughly reheat it.
You can reheat the rice in the microwave until piping hot.
Can I freeze it?
Yes – as per the instructions above – don’t leave cooked rice out at room temperature, as bacteria can grow on cooked rice quickly.
  • Spread the rice out it out in a large dish or tray to quickly cool, then transfer to a covered container.
  • Freeze it as soon as it reaches room temperature.
  • Defrost in the refrigerator overnight 
  • Thoroughly reheat it in the microwave.
Nutritional information is per serving (this recipe serves 4).


Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 32mg | Potassium: 188mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 62IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links – which means if you buy the product I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). If you do buy, then thank you! That’s what helps us to keep Kitchen Sanctuary running. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors. For more information please see our Terms & Conditions.

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Hi, I'm Nicky and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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  1. Jonathan says:

    4 stars
    Amazing but add less cardamon pods because it was a bit overpowering but nice recipe

  2. Peter says:

    5 stars
    Making this right now and my kitchen smells heavenly!

  3. Maria says:

    5 stars
    Loved this rice!
    Easy and delicious. Very fragrant from all the spices and goes well with curries