Pulao (Indian Rice)

The other day my husband’s coworker surprised us by bringing in two delicious Indian meals for us to take home and reheat for dinner. When I stopped by to pick up our special treat, his colleague asked if I knew how to make pulao. I confessed that I had no idea what she was talking about. So, standing in the hallway,  I got a quick how-to lesson so I could go home and make some rice to accompany our chicken and fish.

For starters, pulao is a traditional rice dish – almost like an Indian rice pilaf. If you have eaten at an Indian restaurant, chances are you have had pulao. It is generally served without a lot of spice (often no spice at all) to help balance the flavors of a spicier main dish. Pulao can be made with meat or vegetables – for my first attempt I just stuck with the rice – no extra veggies or meat.

1. First, I was told to use basmati rice and soak it for two to three hours. (I used my rice cooker measuring cup and measured 1 cup of rice.)  After a couple of hours, drain the rice until all the liquid is gone. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, lightly saute chopped onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes. I was told to add two bay leaves and 1 stick of cinnamon broken in half, but I had no cinnamon so I used two bay leaves and 1 teaspoon or so of garam masala seasoning. Stir.

3. If you have a rice cooker, transfer the rice to a rice cooker and follow your measurement line to add the right amount of water – I used about 2 cups of water to my 1 cup of brown basmati rice. I set my rice cooker to the brown rice setting and let it work its magic. (Don’t forget to take out the bay leaves before serving.)

4. If you plan to cook your rice on the stove, add about 2 cups (or a little less depending on your preference) of water and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and let it simmer 20 to 30 minutes (more for brown rice, 20 minutes for white).

My first attempt at pulao was so successful, I made it again tonight as the main course. This time I used more onion and garlic and a little more garam masala and salt. After putting the rice and water into the rice cooker, I added about 1 1/2 cups of (frozen!) chopped carrots and peas and let that cook right on top of the rice. I set the rice cooker to the brown rice setting and let it cook. The rice came out perfectly and the kids loved it! I chopped up some leftover pork tenderloin from the other night and tossed that in with the rice at the very end and dinner was served.


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Erin Brighton

I am a native New Englander now living in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina and enjoying summers in sea-breezy Scituate, Massachusetts with my five small kids and two large dogs. I love to cook easy, local, and gluten-free for friends and family.

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