How to Make Basic Rice Pilaf


  • Start to Finish: 45 minutes
  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner

Browning rice before cooking it in a flavorful stock adds work to the process of making rice, but the resulting savory and deeply flavored pilaf is well worth your time and effort. What's more, the actual cooking techniques are not at all complicated.


  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, butter or a combination
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon each, salt and pepper


  • Use butter for a pilaf with rich flavor or oil if you want a less rich or more neutral-tasting dish.


Melt the butter or oil over medium-high heat in an oven-safe pot that you plan to use for cooking the rice.

Cook the onions until they soften and turn translucent and golden, about 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and pepper.

Add the rice to the pot, turn the heat to medium and stir the rice with the oil and butter until the rice changes from dull-looking to glossy with a slight bit of coloring, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, stir the rice to incorporate the liquid and bring the liquid to a boil.

Remove the pot from the stove, cover it with a tight-fitting lid or a double layer of foil and bake it in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 20 minutes.

Test the rice for doneness by tasting a grain to see if it's tender, and by pulling back some of the rice in the pan to see that all the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid, with only a slight amount remaining.

Let the pot sit, still covered, for another 10 minutes to help ensure that all the liquid gets absorbed.

Fluff the rice with a fork to help separate the grains.


  • Cooking in the oven helps to ensure that the rice cooks slowly and evenly, but you can also cook on the stovetop for about 20 minutes at a very low simmer, keeping the pot covered at all times.

Seasoning Variations

To give pilaf even more flavor, add combinations of spices while you cook the rice in butter and introduce additional ingredients to the pilaf before or after you cook it in the oven:

  • Middle Eastern flavors: Add 1/2 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin and cinnamon to the rice and stir in 1/2 cup of raisins and toasted almond slices after the rice finishes cooking.
  • Savory, umami flavor: Cook 1 1/2 cups of mushrooms before starting the rice, setting them aside while you cook the rice in the oil.  Add the mushrooms and any liquid they've accumulated to the rice along with beef stock. 
  • Pilaf to accompany poultry: Season the rice with 1/2 teaspoon each of ground sage and dried thyme and use chicken stock for the liquid.
  • Brighten pilaf flavor: Add 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro, green onions, mint or parsley while you fluff the rice to add a fresh taste to the savory rice.
  • Pilaf as the main course: Join cooked and diced fish, meat and vegetables with the pilaf while you fluff it. Combinations include shrimp or scallops and snow peas in rice cooked with chicken stock, or pork and shrimp with red peppers also cooked in chicken stock.

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