a square photo with a close up on the onions and rice grains in a black bowl
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5 from 1 vote

Easy Indian Rice (Indian Pilaf)

With this easy Indian rice you will never need to order yellow rice from the takeout again. Serve this with your favorite curry for a delicious side dish that takes minimal effort. Fragrant fluffy basmati rice, packed with flavor and all cooked on the stovetop, this Indian pilaf (or Indian pilau) is so much better than takeout and so easy to make at home.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Optional Soaking Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4
Calories: 486kcal
Author: Claire | Sprinkles and Sprouts
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For the rice

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 1 tbsp salt - see note 1
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed - see note 2
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick (5 cm)

For the onions

  • 2 onions - see note 3
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds


  • Rinse the rice in cold water at least three times to remove any excess starch. (see note 4)
    2 cups basmati rice

  • Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water, let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour.

Start on the onions

  • Peel and slice the onions into thin half-moons.
    2 onions

  • Heat the vegetable oil and butter in a large skillet or frying pan.
    3 tbsp oil
    1 tbsp butter

  • Cook the onions over low heat until they have softened and are starting to caramelize. Add in the mustard seeds and stir gently.
    ½ tsp mustard seeds

  • While the onions are cooking, pour the water into a large pan and bring back to the boil. Add the salt, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom (if using). Stir to dissolve the salt.
    8 cups boiling water
    1 tbsp salt
    1 tsp turmeric
    2 cloves
    3 cardamon pods
    2” cinnamon stick

  • Add the rice to the water and stir gently. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8-12 minutes until the rice is soft. (there will be lots of water left in the pan)
  • Drain the rice, remove the whole spices, and set it to one side until the onions are cooked.
  • Add the drained rice into the onions mixture and gently stir to combine.
  • Check the seasoning and add more salt as required.


  1. If you are not soaking the rice then add only 2 teaspoons of salt to the water.
  2. If you can't find cardamon pods, just leave them out.
  3. Any onions will work here, I usually use brown onions, but red or white onions will work too.
  4. I know it is an extra step, but I really do recommend rinsing the rice and then letting it soak for 30 minutes to an hour. It makes the rice so fluffy and keeps every grain separate. It also means the rice cooks more quickly and evenly.
    • How to rinse rice
      Place the rice in a bowl and cover with water. Use your hand to turn the rice over in the bowl, be gentle as you don't want to break the grains. Carefully drain the water away and repeat this process twice more. Once you have rinsed the rice three times, use a fine-mesh sieve to drain the rice. To ensure you have washed away as much starch as possible, place the sieve under the flow of running water for 10-15 seconds. Leave the rice to drain dry. 


Calories: 486kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 477mg | Potassium: 217mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 89IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 1mg
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