Pakistani pilau rice dish with meat
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How to Make Pakistani Pilau a Rice Dish

Pilau rice is a delicious and flavorful Pakistani rice dish.  It is definitely a family favorite! Pilau rice is cooked in a stock with whole spices, onions and meat which is then used to flavor the rice. Some people may call this a Pakistani brown rice recipe, but the rice is only brown after having been cooked in the meat stock.

This pilau recipe (some spell it pulao) is a meat pilau recipe. The meat that is pictured is actually goat meat. However, chicken pilau is quite popular, along with lamb, mutton and beef.

I love Pakistani/desi food, it’s my all-time favorite! The word ‘desi’ often refers to people of Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi decent.  Although the spices and flavors may vary by region, dishes such as pilau are known and made uniquely throughout these areas. 

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I am not Pakistani, but I am married to a wonderful Pakistani man! They say that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Even though I knew I already had his heart, I still wanted to learn to cook Pakistani style food since I was a huge fan of the cuisine.  I took it upon myself to learn to cook Pakistani food to keep him satisfied in between my Western style cooking!

pilau rice with goat meat on a plate

Not all my Pakistani style dishes are a hit since I’m still learning! However, I promise to always test run my cooking by my husband first to get his approval before posting an authentic Pakistani dish recipe! LOL.  So since you are reading about my pilau, I guess it passed the taste test!

Here are a few of my other Pakistani dinner recipes: Bhindi gosht (beef and okra curry)

Keema (ground meat curry) and

Chicken korma.

Cooking Tools

I recommend using at least a 6 quart stainless steel pot when cooking for family and 8 quart if you are making more for entertaining. I like stainless steel because I feel it lasts longer than non-stick pots.

It does take some practice cooking with stainless steel, but you will become a pro in no time! A good pot is definitely worth the investment.

Does Pilau Rice Have a Lot of Spice?

I love all the flavors, the aroma, and definitely love some added heat in my food. However not everyone is a fan of spicy south Asian food. So if you would love to try something that’s more on the mild side but still has all the wonderful flavors, then pilau is the dish for you!

This Pakistani rice recipe doesn’t use chili peppers.  So if you are serving it at a dinner party and aren’t sure if your guests enjoy spicy food or not, this Pakistani rice dish will definitely be a winner with everyone, including the kids.

What Do You Eat Pilau With?

Pilau is typically served with a dollop of plain yogurt or with raita which is yogurt mixed with spices and shredded cucumber.
You can also opt to make a vegetable pilau and eat it with a curry on the side like this lamb curry Rogan Josh or Chicken Korma.

Can You Make Pilau Without Meat?

Yes, although this is a meat pilau rice recipe, you can definitely make vegetarian pilau. Mattar pilau which is a Pakistani rice dish made with peas and sometimes potatoes, is very popular, as well as Kabli Chana Pilau which is made with chic peas. You can just cook the rice in water, or vegetable broth instead of the stock of the meat.

What is Pakistani Rice Called?

The rice used in pilau is called Basmati. Basmati rice is a long grained rice that is grown in Pakistan, as well as in India and Nepal.

Can Pilau Rice Be Frozen?

Pilau rice can be frozen for up to 3 months. I sometimes like to add a few drops of water around the rice to keep it soft while its in the microwave. I would only be hesitant to freeze versions of Pilau that include potatoes as I find potatoes don’t taste great after being defrosted and reheated.

What is the Difference Between Pakistani Pilau and Pilau from Other Regions?

This Pakistani pilau recipe isn’t typical is other regions of the world. I noticed in other pilau rice recipes such as from Kenya and other African countries that they use tomatoes as well as coconut milk to make their style of pilau.

In Pakistani style of cooking we would use the tomatoes and milk as ingredients in another Pakistani rice dish called biryani rather than pilau because we don’t make a separate ‘masala’ with pilau. Masala is cooking down onions, tomatoes and spices to form a paste.

Here’s our video tutorial for how to make pilau rice.

Directions:

The first thing I do is place my meat in a large pot and cover it with just enough water. I let it boil and then dump out the water and repeat this step until the water is fairly clean and no more froth comes up.  I feel like this makes the meat cleaner but you can skip this step.

In the same large pot add the meat, coriander seeds, black pepper corns, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, star anise, salt and 1 onion (cut into quarters). Fill pot with enough water or stock to cover the meat and spices.

sliced onions and whole spices to make the Pakistani Pilau rice dish

Bring to a boil and cover. Simmer until meat is tender (depending on the meat you are using it can take anywhere from 25 minutes for chicken and up to an hour for beef or goat meat.

onions, bones and whole spices in a boiling pot of water

Once meat is tender, you will strain the stock into another pot or bowl which is large enough to hold the stock. Once it is strained put the stock aside and take out the meat pieces and place them aside on a plate. Throw away the whole spices and don’t worry if there are still some coriander seeds stuck to the meat (it doesn’t have to be perfectly clean of spices).

Rice, stock and meat for the Pakistani pilau rice dish

In the same pot you had your meat simmering in, place it back on the stove top and heat the oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the sliced onions and cumin seeds. Sauté till the onion is brown but do not let it burn. Note that the browner you get the onions the darker the colour of the rice will be.

Add the meat and the drained basmati rice and 6 cups of the stock (if you don’t have 6 cups of stock top it up with water). Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer on low heat until the water dries up and the rice is soft (this should take about 10 – 15 minutes).

boiling the meat with the rice in the stock to make the Pakistani pilau rice

Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest covered for another 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

How to Make a Pakistani Pilau Rice Dish

Pakistani pilau rice dish with meat

Pakistani pilau is flavorful rice cooked in stock and whole spices.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of meat bone in (I used goat meat, but chicken, or beef can also be used in this recipe)
  • 2 1/2 tbsps coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsps black pepper corns
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 6 green cardamoms
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 medium onions (1 cut into quarters and the other thinly sliced kept aside separately)
  • 4 tbsps of canola oil
  • 3 cups of Basmati Rice soaked for 30 minutes
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 7-8 cups water or stock (stock is recommended but not necessary)

Instructions

  1. Prior to placing the meat in with all the whole spices to cook in I like to place my meat in a large pot and cover it with just enough water. I let it boil to cook with a cleaner meat and dump out the water and repeat this step until the water is fairly clean and no more froth comes up.  But you can skip this step.
  2. In the same large pot add the meat, coriander seeds, black pepper corns, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, star anise, salt and 1 onion (cut into quarters). Fill pot with enough water or stock to cover the meat and spices.
  3. Bring to a boil and cover. Simmer until meat is tender (depending on the meat you are using it can take anywhere from 25 minutes for chicken and up to an hour for beef or goat meat.
  4. Once meat is tender, you will strain the stock into another pot or bowl which is large enough to hold the stock. Once it is strained put the stock aside and take out the meat pieces and place them aside on a plate. Throw away the whole spices and don’t worry if there are still some coriander seeds stuck to the meat (it doesn’t have to be perfectly clean of spices).
  5. In the same pot you had your meat simmering in, place it back on the stove top and heat the oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the sliced onions and cumin seeds. Sauté till the onion is brown but do not let it burn. Note that the browner you get the onions the darker the color of the rice will be.
  6. Add the meat and the drained basmati rice and 6 cups of the stock (if you don’t have 6 cups of stock top it up with water). Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer on low heat until the water dries up and the rice is soft (this should take about 10 – 15 minutes).
  7. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest covered for another 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

Hope you enjoy this dish! If you love a flavorful rice dish as much as I do, take a look at this Spanish Rice recipe.

If you are interested in other Pakistani dinner recipes, try this ground meat recipe called Keema, and Chicken Korma.

pilau rice with meat on a plate. This is a Pinterest pin

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