How To Make Rice Pilaf

how to make rice pilaf

I basically lived off of rice pilaf when I was in college. It’s cheap and filling and pretty nutritious and you can add almost anything you have lying around. “Rice with some shit in it”. That’s what I called it to my boyfriends. That’s probably why I never got stuck cooking for any of them. Hey-Oh!

But seriously, humans have been making pilafs since, like, way before Jesus and all that jazz. Alexander the Great ate pilaf! It is OLD SKOOL. Lots of places and peoples have their own version but what they all have in common is the toasting of the dry grain in oil before adding liquid and cooking it. This here is a very basic rice pilaf recipe that you can mix up however you like. Bulgur pilaf can be made the same way or you can do a half and half mixture of rice and bulgur. That is real good. You can also substitute tomato sauce or broth of any sort for part of the water. Do whatever you want. It’s always good. That’s part of the Magic of Pilaf. Try it and get whisked away on a make-believe flying carpet of deliciousness and ease.

How to Make Rice Pilaf Video

Rice Pilaf Recipe


How To Make Rice Pilaf

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4 from 1 review

Simple rice pilaf to be adjusted to your tastes!

  • Author: Hilah Johnson
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


  • 1 teaspoon each butter and oil, or 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/41/2 cup chopped other vegetables (carrots, peppers, potatoes)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup long grain rice or bulgur
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • Optional herbs: a teaspoon of dried dill, oregano, fenugreek, thyme, mint, tarragon, or basil (or just go crazy. Experiment.)
  • 1 7/8 cup water (the more vegetables you add, the less water you need since the liquid in the vegetables counts, too. For every 1/4 cup of vegetables you add, take out a tablespoon or so of water)
  • Optional: about 2 tablespoons nuts (pistachios, almonds, walnuts, you know what kind of nuts you like)


  1. Melt the butter and oil and saute your vegetables and garlic for a couple of minutes to soften them.
  2. Add the rice and stir it around quickly to coat every grain. Let it toast up, stirring occasionally, for a couple more minutes until some of the grains are browned and all are glossy and opaque.
  3. Add your herbs and seasonings. Stir it up.
  4. Add the water. Stir it again. Bring it to a boil.
  5. Turn down to low and put a lid on that sucker.
  6. Let it cook over low for 15 – 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Turn off the heat and set it aside for 5 minutes. This is important. If you stir it right away you will break up the grains and the rice will get mushed and not be so fluffy.
  8. After it has rested, add your nuts and toss gently to incorporate. Serve.

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basic rice pilaf recipe


  1. Dan Alcantara on May 19, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I am making this at some point this week.

    • Hilah Cooking on May 19, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      Update later, please!

  2. Ruby on June 3, 2010 at 5:25 am

    mmmmm I’m making this tomorrow night!

  3. Great Stone Face on October 8, 2010 at 2:22 am

    I’m old, so I have a rice cooker. How would I make this in a rice cooker?

    • Hilah Cooking on October 8, 2010 at 12:18 pm

      Rice cookers are great! I’d just saute the vegetables separately and then throw everything in the rice cooker together. Or maybe I would just skip the saute step and chuck it all in raw. In fact, that’s actually more likely what I would do.

  4. Cindy S on March 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    YUM!!!!!! I made this last night, I added chopped baby carrots and used jasmine rice, AND I made the collard greens (I used my FAV! mustard greems, but bought a bunch of collard too…I may just cook them tonight!!) and WE LOVED BOTH!!! Your cooking fits my style: cheap, easy, and most importantly YUMMY! (okay, healthy should be in there somewhere……)

    • Hilah Cooking on March 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Hello, Cindy! That sounds like a great combination, my dear! I’m really glad you wrote in and told me about your experience with the recipe. Hugs!

  5. Great Stone Face on September 14, 2014 at 11:37 am

    5-Star Recipe!

    Last night, we made your rice pilaf recipe as a side dish (with a salmon entrée) for a dinner party. We sautéed the vegetables & toasted the jasmine rice in a pan, then tossed it into the rice cooker with chicken broth. We did it early, and set the timer for dinner time. Everyone loved it.

    Today, for a football tailgate, we tossed the chilled leftover pilaf with chopped fresh tomato, chiffonaded fresh basil, and a dressing made from rice vinegar, canola oil, and toasted sesame oil. Delicious again!

    • Hilah on September 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Great idea for leftover pilaf! That sounds lovely.

  6. Taqwa on December 11, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Brilliant! I made this today and it was awesome! 🙂 Thanks Hilah! 🙂

    • Hilah on December 12, 2016 at 7:30 am

      Yay! Thanks, Taqwa! 🙂

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