Indian Style Rice
This fragrant Indian Style Rice Recipe is flavored with Indian spices, onion, garlic, and sweet peas. It's better than takeout, simple to make, and the perfect accompaniment to any Indian inspired dish.
Rice is one of the most popular foods on earth, and a staple throughout a wide varieties of cuisines in many, many countries. Being curious about the amount of rice we consume each year across the globe, I looked it up and discovered that nearly 500 million metric tons of rice is harvested globally each year. I don't even know how to wrap my head around that number.
India is the second largest consumer of rice, after China, devouring over 100 million tons of rice every year. India not only eats a lot of rice, they produce a lot of rice - and a lot of varieties of rice. I read somewhere that rice is to India what wine is to France. I have no idea if that's actually true, but it's probably not too far off.
What's the difference between Basmati Rice and Jasmine Rice? And, which should you use to make Indian Rice?
Outside of India, the two main varieties of rice used in Indian-style cooking is Basmati and Jasmine. In many dishes, they can be used interchangeably, but there are some differences between the two.
Jasmine rice comes from Thailand and is a staple ingredient in most Asian cooking. While Jasmine rice is considered a "long-grain" rice, it's grains are shorter and slightly thicker than basmati. It's also starchier, which gives it a softer, slightly sticky texture when cooked. For the most part, I reach for Jasmine rice when cooking asian inspired dishes, like Asian Short Rib Fried Rice.
Nearly all of the world's basmati rice is grown in India and Pakistan. It's also a long grain rice, meaning that the grains are long and skinny, about 4-5 times longer than they are wide. When cooked, basmati rice is less sticky than Jasmine, with grains that tend to remain on the firm side. Basmati rice also doesn't stick together like Jasmine rice does which makes it a great choice for rice pilaf, salads, and Indian Rice side dishes like this one.
Is it necessary to rinse the rice before cooking?
I know I might receive some angry comments for this, but I don't think it's 100% necessary to rinse rice before cooking. I've forgotten this step many times over the years and the rice is still delicious.
However, rinsing rice before you cook it IS the better option. Rinsing rice is especially important with long-gran varieties, like Basmati. Rinsing the rice for a minute or two under cold running water rinses away excess surface starch that can cause the rice to stick together during the cooking process.
Rice that sticks together is not the end of the world. But, for dishes like Indian Rice, you really are going for individual grains that don't clump and rinsing will help make this happen.
Is it necessary to soak Basmati Rice?
Over the years I've seen several recipes that call for soaking basmati rice for 30 minutes or so before cooking. To be honest, it's an instruction I happily ignored. But then I decided to try it and discovered that it actually does make a difference in the texture of the rice.
When basmati rice is allowed to soak for a bit in cold water, the grains expand, absorbing some of the water. The result is noticeably fluffier cooked rice. If you look at two grains of cooked rice side-by-side, one that has been presoaked and one that hasn't, you will be able to see the difference.
The other benefit to pre-soaking rice is that it increases the grain's ability to absorb other liquids and sauces. So, if you're making something like Indian Butter Chicken, with plenty of gravy spooned over the rice, this can be an advantage.
Having said all that, presoaking basmati rice is only something I do when I think of it in time. It makes a difference, but not so much of a difference that I consider it in any way essential. If you happen to think about it, toss your rice in a bowl of cold water 30 minutes before you want to cook it. If you don't think about it, or just don't feel like it, don't worry about it.
The Many Spices in Indian Rice
Despite the fact that the ingredient list for this recipe is kind of long, making Indian Rice is extremely easy. The long list of ingredients is due to the fact that Indian Rice contains a lot of different spices. All those delicious spices are what makes it so fragrant, flavorful and delicious. But, do you really need all of them?
Well, yes. And, also no. Arguably, the 5 most important spices to Indian cooking are:
- Cayenne pepper
- Black mustard
This recipe for Indian Rice includes 4 of those spices, and honestly, if you only used those, the dish would be delicious. So, if you're not sure you want to make such a large investment in your spice cabinet, stick to cumin, coriander, cayenne, and turmeric. Increase the amount of each spice slightly and you'll be good to go. (You could even narrow it down to three and leave out the cayenne.)
Having said that, the touch of cinnamon, garam masala, and bay leaves in this dish really do round out the flavors. If you already have them on hand, there's no reason to not throw them in. If you don't, consider adding them to your assortment of spices not only for this recipe, but as an excuse to experiment with them in other dishes.
Other recipes that use many of the same spices in this Indian Rice:
- Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken (pictured above)
- Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry with Coconut
- Couscous Veggie Bowls with Butternut Squash and Sausage
- Indian Shrimp and Rice
- Tahini Marinated Grilled Chicken
- Shrimp, Rice, and Shiitake Mushroom Soup
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.
- 2 cups basmati rice (see note about soaking rice)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 tsp minced fresh garlic
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ⅛ tsp ground cayenne
- 1 -2 bay leaves, preferably Turkish Bay Leaves
- 2 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 ½ cups water, or chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups (16 oz) frozen peas
- Put the rice in a fine mesh colander/ strainer and rinse it in the sink under cold water for a minute or two, until the water running out of the bottom of the colander is mostly clear. This will remove any excess starch from the rice so the grains won't stick together while cooking. Leave in the sink to drain.
- Add butter, oil, and onion to a large, heavy bottom sauce pan and set it over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until it's soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.
- While the onion cooks, add garlic, ginger and all the spices except the bay leaves to a small bowl and stir to combine. Add to the pan with the softened onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes more. Add the bay leaves along with the water or broth. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low, and let simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the frozen peas. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes to cook the peas. Remove the bay leaves and serve.
- Soaking basmati rice in cold water for 30 minutes will make the rice fluffier and better able to absorb sauces and gravy. But, it's not in any way essential to cooking delicious Indian Rice. If you want to, put the rice in a bowl and cover it in cold water. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes, then rinse and proceed with the recipe.
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Authentic Royal Royal Basmati Rice, 15-Pound Bag, White
McCormick Ground Cayenne Red Pepper, 1.75 oz
McCormick Gourmet Organic Ground Cumin, 1.5 oz
Simply Organic Ground Coriander Seed, Certified Organic | 2.29 oz
The Spice Way Cinnamon Ground - 8 oz
Spicy World Ground Cardamom Powder 3.5oz
NOMU Essentials Ground Turmeric Spice (2.76 oz | 2-pack) | Non-GMO, Non-Irradiated
Morton & Bassett Turkish Bay Leaves 0.1 ounce
Rani Garam Masala Indian 11 Spice Blend 3oz
Cuisinart 766-26 Chef's Classic 12-Quart Stockpot with Cover, Brushed Stainless
Cuisinart Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers
Serving Size:½ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 596mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 4g