Indian-Style Rice

I’m not going to say I  never order Indian takeout, but to some extent I’ve managed to successfully cut back–I’ve been making plenty of curries (which last for several days) from my favorite slow-cooker book by Anupy Singla, The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes and as my mom would say, it “hits the spot.”

Indian Style Rice (6 of 6)

But just boiling up a pot of rice to go alongside has left me feeling lacking.  I’m sure that simply boiled brown rice is a lot more healthy than the rice that accompanies most takeout.  But let’s be honest–it’s a lot more boring too.

Indian Style Rice (5 of 6)

I’ve struck a happy balance, however, with this recipe for Indian style rice.  One key I’ve found is to use a bit of ghee which goes a long way to replicating the taste I’m after.  Ghee is nothing more than clarified butter–you can make your own in bulk and it becomes shelf stable, though I honestly have been just buying it in the Indian section of my grocery store.  Just like oregano says Italy and smoked paprika says Spain, it’s one of those ingredients that all by itself makes everything it touches seem more authentically Indian.  As much as I am qualified to pronounce anything authentically Indian, which is probably questionable.

Indian Style Rice (2 of 6)

And then there’s the spices–you can’t not have spices.  Cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, cloves–whole and aromatic, I can’t imagine this rice without them. These are spices that are worth having on hand for so many other reasons, so no need to be reticent about buying spices you’ll never use.  I make this so often, however, that I can easily justify having them on hand just for this rice.

Indian Style Rice (1 of 6)

This recipe requires pre-soaking the rice for 20 minutes.  Before you balk at an extra step, know that by the time you’ve prepared the remaining ingredients and sauteed down the onions, it will be nearly time to add the rice.  Drain it well so that you can toast the rice in your pot before adding the remaining water.  It brings out a nice toasted aroma in the rice, so it’s worth the few extra minutes.  Though I’ve accidentally added the rice without draining at times and we’ve still had no trouble finishing it all.

Indian Style Rice (4 of 6)

Garnish with cilantro, your favorite pickle, or as I’ve done here, some fragrant dukkah (a nut and spice blend) from the Garum Factory.  Serve with your favorite Indian recipe, or one of ours here or here.

Indian Style Rice (3 of 6)

Adapted from a recipe on

Indian-Style Rice
  • 1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (substitute vegetable oil)
  • 1 (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon
  • salt to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups water, plus additional water for soaking the rice
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • cilantro for garnish
  1. Measure your rice and pour enough water over it to cover. Allow to soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the ghee in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and cumin seed. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add the onion. Saute the onion until it is soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the water from the rice well, and stir into the pot. Cook and stir the rice for a few minutes to toast the rice. You will notice the aroma when it begins to toast. Add salt and the remaining 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low.
  4. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.

8 thoughts on “Indian-Style Rice

  1. That’s so like the rice I cook at least twice a week … It’s nice with a little turmeric stirred in just as you toast the rice. Some raisins or chopped dried apricots go very nicely too 🙂

  2. Oh dear .. 1 teaspoon of … just before the salt to taste .. I want to make this recipe. I’m thinking you might’ve just added it by accident ’cause I can’t see any other spice mentioned above that. Also, I think you meant “water to cover the rice” not “rice to cover ..”. I just can’t imagine rice on rice (>,<)! Just a tease but you DID write it .. =D

    I'm fairly proficient at my own curries but the rice is always the challenge (in any of my cooking!). & I think there's a genetic flaw in me 'cause I LIKE brown rice! However, I've also never seen brown Basmati rice & prob'y won't unless I stop living in backwater towns in the South or Midwest. Nothing wrong, really, w/ living the simpler life but it does limit the culinary range ..

    Anyways, thanks for the inspiring posts, to all THREE of you! I'm not cooking at the moment. I'm not well enough. However, when I can cook I find myself wanting to make something that I can easily reheat in the nuker or eat cold that I LIKE eating even when I'm not really hungry. Rice does that for me. Cold, I add soy sauce & sesame oil & some lime juice & eat it like a salad (those days when I can't stay upright for more than a few minutes) & warmed up, I add an egg AND the soy sauce & sesame oil! If I'm specially well, I'll add toasted sesame seeds that I've done myself & added diced onions, some fennel seeds (cumin & cilantro & allspice too, if I'm inspired) as they toasted. ALL good!

    Bet it'd be even better w/ your brown rice recipe!

  3. Just lovely. We go through a lot of rice around here and I’ve been trying to change it up a bit (using other grains) and by making the rice a little more special. This will make a nice addition to that effort. Thanks so much!

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