Food & Drink Magazine

Indian-Style Rice

By 3cleversisters @3cleversisters
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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Adapted from a recipe on

Indian-Style Rice Print

  • 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 rice 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.

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