How to Make Rice Pilaf
What Is Rice Pilaf, Anyway?
Rice pilaf is a delicious way to make a plain rice side dish better. It's really just rice cooked in broth and embellished with a few vegetables and spices. Rice pilaf is very easy to make, especially with the help of a rice cooker/steamer, and it goes well with many types of foods, from shish kabobs to chicken, fish, shrimp and beyond.
You can dress up your rice pilaf for company or tone it down for a family meal—and we bet the kids will love it!
Read on to learn how to make rice pilaf and for an illustrated version of my own rice pilaf recipe, guaranteed to be easy since I am essentially a very lazy cook. But lazy doesn't mean the flavor's been left out, so never fear!
P.S. Rice pilaf is delicious any time of year, but especially when the cooler weather brings out the desire for more seasoning and warm, wonderful comfort food. Yes, I'd say rice is most definitely a comfort food, and I hope you agree!
Rice Pilaf Recipe
Rice pilaf is really a method as much as it is a recipe. Here's what you need and what to do.
- rice (white rice or brown rice or converted rice—your choice)
- chicken or vegetable broth or the broth of your choice (I usually use Swanson's chicken broth)
- butter (or olive oil if you prefer)
- diced onion (green or white or yellow or red—choose your favorite)
- chopped or diced vegetables, 2 or 3 types (celery, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini etc.)
- spices (I love spice blends and use Mrs. Dash more than any other—garlic and herb is my favorite)
- pine nuts or peanuts or almonds or raisins or bits of apple (optional)
- Prepare the rice to cook it the way you usually cook rice. I prefer a rice cooker (the one I use is recommended further down the page). You might cook yours on top of the stove or in the microwave. If you've never cooked rice before, I'd recommend the rice cooker. Truly, I love mine because it's easy and requires less attention than the other options. For now, we'll assume you're using a rice cooker, so measure the rice, rinse and add it to the cooker, then add the broth of your choice in place of the water you'd otherwise be using. Cover and start it cooking.
- Dice the onion of your choice, as much as you want depending on how much rice you're cooking. When I cook for two, I use maybe 1/8 of an onion. Dice or chop (small pieces are preferred, but a few chunky pieces are okay, too) the vegetables. Celery is highly recommended. Carrots add pretty color and a nice flavor. Mushrooms add color and that mushroom texture. Just choose two or three or maybe four of your favorites.
- Heat a teaspoon to a tablespoon or more of butter (depends on how many you're cooking for) in a small skillet over low to medium heat. Add the onions and vegetables and cook until just soft and beginning to change color. Stir in your choice of complementary spices.
- By now, the rice cooker should be good and hot, and the rice should be starting to cook. Uncover and stir in the contents of the skillet, then re-cover and finish cooking the rice.
- If using nuts or fruit, wait until the rice is just done to stir those in. Let them heat up a minute, then the pilaf is ready to serve.
- If you're cooking the rice on top of the stove or in the microwave, prepare the add-ins the same way as above, but either add them along with the rice and broth, or stir the add-ins into the rice at the end. (Look below for pictures of rice pilaf in progress.)
Use plenty of fresh butter, heated in a small skillet over medium to low heat. Choose from diced green onions, red onions, yellow onions, or white onions. Add chopped celery, carrot, mushrooms, even zucchini. Stir in spices, if you like, when the vegetables are ready to add to the rice. (I love to use Mrs. Dash seasonings—garlic and herb is my favorite).
Serving middle Eastern cuisine or curry? Add raisins or apples, peanuts, or pine nuts to the mixture. The choice is yours.
Not using a rice cooker? Stir yours into the rice and water before you begin cooking rice in the microwave or on the stove, or stir into the completed rice before serving.
Serve your rice pilaf alongside the main dish, or rest the meat on top of the rice to make it pretty and blend the flavors even more.
This is toasted sesame fish fillets with rice pilaf (along with coleslaw) on the side. Whether you're serving fish, shrimp, pork, beef, or any other main dish, you'll add a lot of interest as well as flavor by embellishing the rice with vegetables and spices chosen to complement the meal.
What Is Rice Pilaf?
I've always heard that "pilaf" means "pillow," which would make rice pilaf a pillow of rice upon which the main dish rests. Wikipedia says that pilaf is a dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth and to which onions, seasonings, or other vegetables may be added.
Video Tutorials on Making Rice Pilaf
Here you'll find a variety of recipes and methods for making rice pilaf. The first video is for an amazing white and wild rice pilaf cooked on top of the stove. The directions and ingredients are clear, and you can just about smell the finished product. Mmmmm, delicious!
Rice Cooker Recommendation
Simply, I bought a rice cooker to simplify cooking rice. We enjoy rice, but even making it in the microwave was often messy and really wasn't any faster than making it on top of the stove, which required careful observation.
Enter the Rival RC61, perfect for our small family.