Indian Basmati Rice is the perfect side dish for a curry. Serve it with a saucy curry gravy for a delicious dinner.
Basmati rice is light and fluffy with an aromatic, almost nutty floral taste, and with this easy recipe, your basmati rice will always be perfect. Just like you get from your favorite takeout place!
I have a few restaurant cooking secrets to share to give you PERFECT basmati rice every time.
What is Basmati Rice?
Basmati rice is long-grain white rice commonly grown in the Himalayas, India, and Pakistan.
It has a distinctive smell and a light nutty flavor. When cooked well, the grains remain individual and are long and fluffy, with no stickiness.
Indian Basmati Rice is perfect for serving with a curry.
You can get brown and white basmati rice; this recipe will work with either variety. But brown basmati rice will need cooking for longer.
Restaurant tricks for cooking Basmati Rice
When you order basmati rice in an Indian or from a takeout, the rice is always super fluffy, tender, and has no stickiness. It has a great flavor and is often flecked with color.
Trick 1: The trick to this fluffy tender basmati rice is to soak it for 30 minutes first. Many recipes will tell you this isn't necessary, but you will find all Indian restaurants soak their rice.
Soaking the rice does two things. First, it softens the rice, meaning it cooks more quickly; this preserves more of the aromatic chemicals in the rice (which are broken down by heat), meaning you get more flavor at the end. Secondly, it helps to remove any excess starch or debris from the rice, leading to fluffier individual grains.
Trick 2: Adding an extra fleck of color. While this doesn't add much extra flavor to the rice, it does make it look gorgeous, and as they say, we eat with our eyes first. It also makes it look like the rice you get from a takeout, and I love having that authentic taste and feel to a meal! To add vivid yellow color to some grains, we mix a little turmeric with a couple of tablespoons of boiling water and pour it over the cooked rice. It will stain some of the grains yellow but leave many pure white. Giving you the multicolored rice you get in takeaways.
Trick 3: Finishing the rice with a bloom of spices. This involves heating some oil or ghee in a frying pan, adding some whole spices, letting them crackle a little, and then pouring them over the rice for extra flavor and a delicious aroma and look.
This trick is more optional than trick 1 and trick 2. When cooking for the kids, I leave this step out as 4 out of 5 of them try to pick the spices off. And that is just painful to watch!
Cooking Basmati Rice
Many online recipes use the absorption method. The absorption method uses a set water to rice ratio. But restaurants and catering firms cook large quantities of rice and they always use the drainage method. The drainage method uses more water than the rice can absorb and then drains the excess water away - the same way you would cook pasta.
I find the drainage method perfect for large or small quantities of rice, and it is more forgiving, meaning it is harder to stuff up 😉
So for this recipe, once you have soaked the rice, you bring a large pan of water to the boil. Once boiling, add salt and add the rice and cook the rice until tender. Once cooked, you drain the rice to remove all excess water.
To drain the rice, you will need a large small holes sieve or mesh strainer. Once the rice is cooked, carefully empty the water and rice into the strainer. This drains the water from the rice and stops it from cooking.
Serve this Indian Basmati Rice with:
- Shrimp Saag
- Simple Chicken Karahi
- Easy Chicken Jalfrezi
- Indian Lamb Dopiaza Curry
- Red Lentil Dhal
- Kachumber Salad (Indian Salad)
For other Indian side dishes why not try:
If you cook this Indian Basmati Rice, don't forget to come back and comment or tag me on social media.
Any questions about the recipe? Use the comments section below.
Indian Basmati Rice Recipe
- 1 cup basmati rice
- boiling water
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ghee/oil optional (- see note 1)
- 3 curry leaves optional (- see note 1)
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds optional (- see note 1)
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds optional (- see note 1)
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds optional (- see note 1)
- Place the rice in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover by 2-3 inches. Use your hand to gently turn the rice over, swishing it to release any excess starch. Carefully pour off the water, leaving the rice in the bowl. Repeat three times.
1 cup basmati
- Cover the rice again and leave it to soak for 30 minutes. Then use a fine-mesh strainer to drain the rice.
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil, add the salt and the drained rice. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until the rice is tender. Start checking at 12 minutes.
1 teaspoon salt
- When the rice is cooked, use a fine-mesh strainer to drain the rice - pour the cooked rice and remaining water carefully into the strainer and allow the excess water to drain.
- Mix the turmeric with the boiling water, and while the rice is still in the strainer, pour the mixture over the top. It will stain some rice yellow.
1 tablespoons boiling water
⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- Use a rubber spatula to gently turn the rice and distribute the colored grains. You aren't going to color all of the rice, just some of the grains.
- Transfer to a serving bowl.
- Heat the ghee/oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the curry leaves and the mustard, cumin, and fennel seeds. Remove the pan from the heat and pour over the rice.
1 tablespoon ghee/oil
3 curry leaves
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- Cooking the spices in oil/ghee imparts their flavor into the fat, and this is then used to pour over the rice and add extra flavor and some interest to the rice, but it isn't essential. If I am serving the kids, I skip this stage!