A fragrant Rice Pilaf that’s right at home on your holiday feasting table OR a Middle Eastern meal! Lightly spiced with cinnamon, cumin and cardamom, fluffy seasoned rice is tossed with pistachios, almonds, dried apricots, and sultanas or raisins.
This Rice Pilaf recipe is a terrific side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas with the festive spicing, dried fruit and nuts. Or try it on the side of Lamb or Chicken Shawarma, Moroccan Lamb Meatballs or Turkish Koftas!
Fruit and nut studded fluffy Rice Pilaf
I have a huge soft spot for flavoured rice. Tomato Basil Rice, Garlic Butter Rice, Mexican Red Rice, Green Coriander/Cilantro Rice. Not to mention Mushroom Rice, the epic golden crispy Persian Saffron Rice I shared just a few weeks ago and all manner of fried rice recipes I’ve shared over the years.
Give me a flavoured rice that’s tasty enough to eat plain, and I’m one happy gal. Add it to the side of a simple piece of cooked protein, like sausages, Crispy Pan Fried Fish or Marinated Pork Chops, and you’ve suddenly made the dinner plate a whole lot more interesting.
Let’s face it – plain rice is no comparison to a great Rice Pilaf!
What goes in rice pilaf
The ingredients you need to make this rice pilaf are:
- Best rice for rice pilaf – basmati rice is the best for both flavour and fluffiness. Basmati is a type of long grain rice – the longer the grain, the fluffier the rice. It also has a lovely subtle fragrance that really compliments the flavours in this rice pilaf;
- Fat – I choose butter for flavour, but any oil of choice is fine here;
- Flavour Base – sautéed garlic and onion, to add savouriness;
- Rice Pilaf Spices – I’ve used a combination of cinnamon, cardamom and cumin in this Rice Pilaf. It’s reminiscent of Middle Eastern flavours but also a festive combination. Feel free to customise this to your own taste;
- Broth OR water – For extra flavour, I almost always make my Rice Pilaf with vegetable or chicken broth. However, water will work just fine as well, though I’d add an extra pinch of each of the spices;
- Nuts – I’ve used pistachios and almonds in my Rice Pilaf recipe. I adore both the flavour and colour that pistachios bring to this seasoned rice. Almonds and pistachios are also on theme for a Middle. Eastern style rice pilaf. For more of a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas theme, try pecans plus / or almonds. Walnuts are also great!
- Dried Fruit – Use anything you like here. I like using apricots for a touch of colour, and raisins or sultanas because the flavour melds in nicely with the rice. Cranberries / craisins also work well but be aware that they provide a sharper pop of flavour because they are tart. Goji berries would also be great.
- Non nut options (allergies) – try using sunflower seeds and/or pepitas/pumpkin seeds. Terrific texture and flavour!
There are some Rice Pilafs that are packed with gorgeous fresh herb flavours, but this isn’t one of those. This is a Rice Pilaf that celebrates the earthy, festive spice flavourings, the nuts and the sweet pops from the dried fruit. So I just add a tiny sprinkle of parsley as a garnish, just to add a little colour when serving.
How to make Rice Pilaf
Rice pilaf is straight forward to make. Toast the nuts to bring out the flavour. Sauté onion and garlic in butter, then add the rice, broth, spices and fruit.
But here are my tips for how to make the best rice pilaf every time!
- Right liquid to rice ratio – 1 3/4 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice will yield perfectly cooked fluffy rice;
- Do not peek while rice is cooking! Escaped heat compromises the cooking of the rice;
- Rest undisturbed – this is the most important step for cooking rice. This is when the rice finishes cooking and becomes fluffy!
- Add nuts at the end – While most Rice Pilaf recipes add the nuts into the broth, I prefer not to do this because it softens the nuts and they bloat. I like preserving the texture of the nuts so I toss them in at the end.
And on that note – I present to you a fabulous Rice Pilaf, made with fluffy, unwashed rice.
It’s aromatic. It’s well seasoned. It’s littered with plump dried fruit and toasty nuts. And you’re going to adore it! – Nagi x
PS Try the one pan Baked Chicken with Cranberry Walnut Rice Pilaf for a meal!
THIS RICE PILAF WILL GO GREAT WITH….
- Any Middle Eastern main (personal faves: Chicken Shawarma, Lamb Shawarma, Falafel, Chicken Doner Kebab plate, Persian Lamb Shanks, Moroccan Meatballs)
- Thanksgiving meal – great festive flavours!
- Garlic Chicken Thighs or Oven Baked Chicken Breast
- Marinated Pork Chops or Lemon Garlic Pork Chops
- Pan Fried Fish with Lemon Butter Sauce or Garlic Prawns
- Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms (great veg meal option)
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Sometimes it helps to have a visual, so watch me make this Rice Pilaf recipe!
Rice Pilaf with Nuts and Dried Fruit
- 1/3 cup pistachios , shelled
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp (30g) unsalted butter (or olive oil)
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1/2 small onion , finely chopped
- 1 cup (180g) basmati rice (Note 1)
- 1 3/4 cups (435ml) vegetable or chicken broth / stock
- 1/2 cup dried sultanas or raisins
- 1/4 cup dried apricots
- Finely chopped parsley , optional garnish
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Place dry, oil free large saucepan or small skillet over medium high heat.
- Add almonds and pistachios. Toast lightly, shaking the pan, until the nuts smell amazing. Remove immediately.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, saute until translucent.
- Add rice and stir for 30 seconds or until mostly translucent.
- Add Spices, stir. Add broth, sultanas and apricots, stir.
- Cover with lid, bring to simmer then immediately turn heat down to medium low (low for strong ovens).
- Cook for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed (tilt pot to check). Then remove pot from the stove (still covered) and leave, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
- Remove lid, use fork to fluff rice. Add most of the nuts, toss.
- Transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with remaining nuts and a little sprinkle of parsley if using. Serve!
LIFE OF DOZER
Another snap from last weekend away with my besties. Dozer – checking out the surf. Me – checking out the surf lifeguards. 😜
Both with jumpers on – it was a bit nippy on Sunday! 😂😂😂