Turn a bag of rice into a flavorful side with these recipes from cultures around the world.
Pilaf is a centuries-old style of cooking rice that originated in Middle Eastern cuisines and spread across the globe. Today, pilafs — beautiful dishes of rice cooked with other ingredients like vegetables, spices, nuts, and fruits — are a common feature of Caribbean, South Asian, and Mediterranean cuisines.
Pilafs vary in seasoning and appearance, but they share a fundamental technique. First, rice is rinsed or soaked to remove surface starches and to ensure that each grain is distinct and will cook to fluffy perfection. Next, the rice is usually toasted in fat with aromatics and spices to bring out its nuttiness and to pick up the flavors of the other ingredients. Steaming, the final cooking step, takes place in the same pan and is done by adding a flavorful cooking liquid (often broth, but it can also be tea or even wine), tightly covering the pan, and cooking until all of the liquid is absorbed. The key is to use just the right amount of liquid so that when the pilaf is ready, all you’re left with is perfectly fluffy, tender grains and all of the goodies you’ve cooked into the dish. Here, our favorite pilaf recipes use spices, nuts, and vegetables to add flavor and crunch to each bite; scroll down for options to make tonight.
Cardamom-and-Cumin-Spiced Pea Pilaf
Cumin and cardamom lend this basmati pilaf extra pops of flavor, while the peas and cilantro keep it bright and fresh.
Saffron Rice Pilaf with Cherries and Pistachios
With plump dried cherries and toasted pistachios, this eye-catching side is sweet, crunchy, and packed with flavor.
Chicken Rice Pilaf
Chef Asha Gomez calls her chicken pilaf a "one-dish wonder." You can swap out the spices, adding a little cinnamon or ginger in place of the star anise.
Warm Broccoli and Barley Pilaf
Barley toasted in a saucepan with butter and then boiled is a terrific showcase for fresh vegetables, like the bright, crisp broccoli Grace Parisi uses here.
Brown Rice Pilaf with Toasted Almonds and Parsley
Toasted almonds and chopped parsley are welcome additions to this simple brown rice pilaf.
Stuffed Yellow Peppers with Spicy Swiss Chard and Scallion Pilaf
London chef Celia Brooks Brown stirs spiced Swiss chard and tomatoes into cooked short-grain rice and then stuffs the mixture into yellow bell peppers before baking them until tender.
Hashweh (Spiced-Lamb-and-Rice Pilaf)
Hashweh, which literally means “stuffing” in Arabic, is often used to fill proteins like chicken and lamb in Lebanese cuisine. Studded with spiced lamb and crisp nuts, the fragrant pilaf is a meal in itself. For special occasions, Reem Kassis tops it with slow-roasted, melt-in-your-mouth leg of lamb.
Red Quinoa and Lentil Pilaf
Akasha Richmond’s cauliflower-flecked pilaf is a fantastic meal in one dish. Chopped Marcona almonds add a welcome crunch while coconut oil gives the dish its richness.
Brown Rice Pilaf with Mushrooms
The wonderfully nutty and chewy brown rice in this simple pilaf help make this a hearty meatless main course or side dish.
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