Classic Rice Pilaf is a super simple rice side dish for just about any dinner. When done right, Rice Pilaf is more than just a bowl of rice—it’s aromatic, it’s flavorful, and it’s absolutely delicious. The process for Rice Pilaf isn’t much different from cooking regular rice, but it’s the technique and extra flavors that elevate it to a whole new level.
Basmati Rice is mixed with aromatics like garlic and onions, then after it is cooked it is mixed with fresh sliced green onions, lemon zest, a little lemon juice and some toasted pine nuts.
What is Pilaf?
Before diving into the nitty-gritty of cooking Rice Pilaf, let’s talk about what pilaf actually is. Pilaf, also known as pilau, pulao, or pilav, depending on the cuisine, is a rice dish wherein the grains are first sautéed or toasted in oil or butter before being cooked in a seasoned broth.
This method is in contrast to simply boiling rice in water. The toasting gives the rice a nutty flavor and keeps the grains separate, resulting in a fluffy, aromatic dish. Pilaf often incorporates various spices, aromatics, and even additional proteins or veggies, making it a versatile dish.
Ingredients with Ingredient Tips and Tricks
To make this classic Rice Pilaf Recipe you will need some butter, rice, onions, garlic, a lemon and some pine nuts.
- Long-grain rice – We recommend using a Basmati Rice OR the brand Rice Select Texmati Rice is a great buy. We have found the Texmati Rice has very consistent results. When prepared correctly basmati rice is less sticky, which gives your pilaf that beautiful, fluffy texture.
- Chicken Broth – Use chicken broth or stock as your cooking liquid to enhance the flavor of your rice.
- Onions & Garlic – These are the aromatics that start the first layer of flavor in your Rice Pilaf.
- Butter- This is the fat used to sauté the onions and garlic and to toast the rice.
- Lemon – Adds a nice high note to balance all the savory ingredients in the Rice Pilaf. When you need both zest and juice- always zest before squeezing the juice.
- Pine Nuts – Nuts are a traditional ingredient in rice pilaf recipes, for this one we are using toasted pine nuts.
- Green Onions – Another aromatic added to the rice to enhance the flavors. This one adds a nice fresh bite!
Step by Step How To Make The Recipe
- Prep The Rice.
- Sauté Onions.
- Toast The Rice.
- Cook Covered.
- Fluff & Add Flavors.
Rinse the rice in a colander or a bowl until the water runs clear.
Finely chop the onion and garlic. Add the butter to a large saucepan.
Add onions and sauté until soft but not browned.
Add the rice, minced garlic and kosher salt to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and toast the rice, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes (just until some of the grains of rice start to turn a golden color). This toasting step locks in the flavor.
Pour in the broth, and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. The reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 18 minutes.
Then remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for another 5 minutes.
Once the rice is done fluff with a fork and mix in the toasted pine nuts, lemon zest and juice and green onions.
Toasted Pine Nuts
Toasting pine nuts really brings out their nutty, almost bacon-like flavor. Bacon, yum!! There are two standard ways to toast pine nuts:
- OVEN Place the pine nuts on a piece of foil and place in a 350℉ oven for about 5 minutes until they are nice and golden.
- SKILLET In a dry skillet over medium heat, let the pine nuts toast, shaking the pan often so they don’t burn.
Rice Pilaf is versatile, making it a great side for a variety of main dishes. It pairs well with grilled meats like BBQ Pork Tenderloin, Grilled Chicken or Grilled Tri Tip, even paired with roasted vegetables like Oven Roasted Broccoli or Asparagus, or as a bed for saucy dishes like stews and curries.
More Rice Dishes
Classic Rice Pilaf Recipe
- 3 qt. saucepan with a tight-fitting lid
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 small onion – finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 ½ cups long grain white rice Basmati OR Rice Select Brand White Texmati rice – it has the most consistent results
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup chopped green onion white and dark green portions
- Thoroughly rinse the extra starch from your rice. Use one of two methods: a. Place it in a fine mesh sieve/colander and run water over the rice until it starts to run clear. b. Pour the rice into a large bowl and fill with water, stir around the bowl, then drain into a colander, pour the rice back in the bowl and refill with water. Repeat until the water is clear.
- Drain as much water from the rice as you can before moving on.1 ½ cups long grain white rice
Toast Pine Nuts
- Choose one of the 2 methods below for toasting pine nuts. You can do this while the rice cooks.
- Place the pine nuts on a piece of foil and place in a 350℉ oven for about 5 minutes until they are nice and golden.
- In a dry skillet over medium heat, let the pine nuts toast, shaking the pan often so they don't burn.
Rice Pilaf Instructions
- In a heavy 3 qt. saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned.2 Tbsp. butter
- Add the prepared rice, minced garlic and kosher salt. Reduce the heat to low and stirring constantly, toast the rice for 5 minutes (just until some of the grains of rice start to turn a golden color).1 small onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tsp. kosher salt
- Add the chicken broth, stir once and bring to a boil.2 ½ cups chicken broth
- Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the rice sit covered for 5 more minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
- Add the lemon zest, lemon juice toasted pine nuts and green onions. Toss the ingredients together to combine.¾ teaspoon fresh lemon zest, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, ½ cup chopped green onion
- Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve immediately.
If nutrition facts are provided they are calculated as an estimate to the best of our knowledge.