Best Asian Rice Pilaf

Asian Rice Pilaf

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When it comes to Asian cuisines, Rice and spices work wonders when combined with meat. So if you are looking for something different to add to your everyday menu, try this easy Asian Rice Pilaf. The best thing is that you can customize it to your taste preference, and add any meat you like. You are free to add vegetables such as beans, cabbage, and capsicum as per your taste. If you want to make it a vegan meal, skip the meat and animal fat, and make a pilaf with vegetables only.

Rice pilaf is one of the healthy side dishes for a potluck party if you make it with brown or black rice, which is highly nutritious. However, white rice also makes a good hearty meal. Asian Rice Pilaf itself has many variations depending on the country. Afghans cook it less spicy with carrots and raisins, Indians and Pakistanis prefer a spicier version with lamb or beef, and in China, it is preferably made with vegetables and quinoa or orzo. So our recipe is a more generalized version, which suits the taste of many Americans.

Ingredients For Asian Rice Pilaf

For Pilaf:

  • 1.5 lb meat (preferably lamb stew) or chicken
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups long-grain basmati rice
  • 4 to 4 ½ cups of water
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 cups of carrots
  • 1.5 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp. coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp. dark soya sauce

For Salad:

  • 3 small tomatoes chopped
  • 1 capsicum chopped
  • ⅓ of an onion finely cubed
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredient Notes and Variations

Basmati rice


The whole recipe, its texture, and taste heavily depend on the type of rice used. For these kinds of Asian Pilafs, I always recommend long-grain basmati rice which gets even longer during cooking. It is also completely gluten-free, so Gluten-intolerant people can safely consume it. It is full of flavor and cooks well in the high water content. You can also use quinoa, but you may have to adjust the water levels because quinoa cooks sooner than regular rice. The same goes for orzo and all the other varieties of rice. Remember that orzo is NOT a gluten-free rice, so be sure to avoid it if you are allergic to gluten.

lamb stew meat in a bowl


This depends on what flavors you are seeking. Lamb and beef usually give strong flavor and are rich in protein. Chicken also makes the dish flavorful. Use a mixed cut of that which should include both bony and meaty parts. If you want to make it with boneless cuts, prepare a broth using bones and add that instead of water to ensure the traditional and authentic Asian flavors.

onion carrots and tomato salad


The usual addition is carrots and raisins. This is typical for Afghani-style Asian Pilaf. However, if you do not like the sweetness of carrots and raisins, you can skip them and add green peas, potatoes, capsicum, cabbage, or any other vegetable you like. The recipe has a dimension to absorb as many flavors as it can and give the same great taste. You can also skip adding any vegetables and make a pilaf out of meat and rice only.


Asian recipes are well known for their spice content. Our recipe has included a minimum of those, but feel free to add a dash of whole allspice powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, or black pepper powder as per taste and liking.

How to make The Best Asian Rice Pilaf?


Wash the rice thoroughly using your hands to rub them. Clean and soak the long-grain basmati rice. Remember to check the type and quality of the rice before soaking them. Some rice requires more than 2 hours of soaking, whereas others do not absorb much water and require 20-30 minutes of soaking time. This timing is critical because you do not want overcooked slimy rice in your Pilaf.

Basmati rice soaked in a bowl

Clean the meat and remove additional fat. You can use it along with vegetable oil to fry the meat or discard it if you do not want to use animal fat.

lamb stew meat in a bowl

Wash, peel, and chop the vegetables as required. I suggest using the whole garlic bulb, so wash and peel any extra layers off.

Cooking the Pilaf

Heat the oil in the wok and add animal fat. ( You can skip it and cook only in vegetable oil also).

Add onions, and fry until they become soft and a bit translucent. Keep stirring.

stir fry onions in the wok

Place the garlic bulb in the wok. The purpose of keeping it whole is to ensure that taste and essence reach the Pilaf, but not the small chunks which may be unpleasant to some people.

Fry until the onions become nicely brown and caramelized. Remove the onions and garlic and place aside for future use.

In the same wok, add the lamb meat. Fry on medium-low heat until it changes its color and its moisture dries up. Add the brown onions and garlic bulb to the meat. The color of onions is the element that will impart the Pilaf its traditional brown color.

stir fry beef meat in the wok

Pour in the water. Cover and let it cook for 25 to 30 minutes. The aim here is to tenderize the meat and blend in the onions. After a while, Add salt and mix well. Cover again.

cook fried beef with fried onions and garlic in the wok

When you uncover it, you will see that there is still some water. This will be used to cook the rice. Check if the meat is tender. The best way is to try and break a piece from your fingers and see if it is soft enough. Add carrot sticks. Mix well and allow to cool for 10 more minutes.

asian rice pilaf (1)

Meanwhile, drain the rice through a sieve and discard the excess water. Add the rice to the wok and mix well. Place the garlic bulb in the center of the rice so that it becomes easy to take it out when the rice is ready.

drain rice through a sieve

With the help of a chopstick, poke holes in between the rice. This will ensure that the steam will be equally dispersed. Cover and cook on low heat.

asian rice pilaf -1

After a while, uncover and flip the rice up and down. This will ensure even cooking and steam dispersion. Cover again and allow to cool for a while.

Remove the cover and add the cumin powder and the raisins. At this stage, you can also add whole allspice powder or black pepper powder to further enhance the flavor. Give the rice a good mix to ensure equal mixing of lamb meat, carrot sticks, and raisins throughout the wok. Drizzle the dark soy sauce and mix again.

Dish out on a platter and serve hot with salad.

asian rice pilaf ready for serving in wok

Making the salad

Since this Pilaf is a hearty dish with animal fat, meat, rice, and raisins, I always try to balance it up with a bowl of colorful salad. You can use as many vegetables as you like as long as they are fresh.

Chop tomatoes, onion, and capsicum. I usually prefer the julienne cut, but you can dice them as well. Add corn, olives, mushrooms, and tofu as per your liking. You can also add to the protein content by adding green peas or red kidney beans to the salad. These elements make it a children’s favorite.

Season with salt, pepper, a bit of sugar, and cumin powder. You can also add a bit of lemon juice. Drizzle vinegar or olive oil as desired.

onion carrots and tomato salad

Dishes That Go well With Asian Rice Pilaf

Salads you can also try with Rice Pilaf

Asian Rice Pilaf

Best Asian Rice Pilaf – Authentic Recipe

Adalynn Ward
Something Savoury, something simple, something irresistible! Asian Rice Pilaf might just be the addition to your menu you are looking for.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish


For Pilaf

  • 1.5 lb meat (preferably lamb stew) or chicken
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cup long-grain basmati rice
  • cups water
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 cups carrots
  • tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp dark soya sauce

For Salad:

  • 3 small tomatoes chopped
  • 1 capsicum chopped
  • onion finely cubed
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to Make?

For Pilaf

  • Wash rice and soak it in clean water for 1 hour.
  • Pour a ¼ cup of oil into a wok. Add onions and stir fry on medium flame until soft and translucent.
  • Add the whole garlic bulb. Caramelize the onions until they become brown. Take them out and set them aside.
  • In the same wok, add the lamb meat and stir fry on medium to high flame till it achieves a nice brown color. Add the brown onions along with 4 cups of water and salt. Bring it to a boil.
  • Now reduce heat to medium flame; cover, and let it cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until the meat is tender.
  • Add carrots. Drain the rice and pour them into the wok. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Ensure equal dispersion of steam.
  • Check the rice and flip it up and down to ensure even cooking. Cover and cook at lowest flame for another 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Add 1 tbsp. of cumin powder, raisins, and some soya sauce. Serve hot.

For Salad

  • In a salad bowl, mix tomatoes, onions, and capsicum. Season with salt, sugar, and black pepper. Drizzle a bit of vinegar or olive oil.
  • Serve with Pilaf.


Serving: 100g (dish)Calories: 355kcalCarbohydrates: 75gProtein: 10gFat: 1.4g
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Nutrition facts

Serving: per 100 g

  • Calories: 359
  • Protein: 10 g
  • Fat: 1.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 76 gm
  • Calcium:8%    
  • Iron: 13%
  • Vitamin B6: 20%
  • Magnesium: 8%

Frequently asked questions FAQs

  1. How to store Rice Pilaf?

If you want to prepare the Pilaf ahead of time or want to store the leftovers, you can refrigerate the pilaf. It is best to place it in an air-tight, microwave-safe container so that it is easily reheated in the microwave. In the refrigerator, it stays well for 5 days at max.  You can also freeze Rice pilaf to keep it for longer. When needed, simply defrost and heat in a microwave oven.

  1. Is Rice Pilaf good for diabetics

Rice, quinoa, orzo, and all such rice varieties have a moderate to the high glycemic index. They tend to raise blood sugar levels quickly. I would advise diabetics to consume not too frequently and in moderate amounts. Raisins are a key ingredient and it is high in fructose which may raise blood sugar levels quickly.

  1. Can I cook rice pilaf in a rice cooker

If you are using lean meat such as chicken or lean mutton, or you are using less bony cuts, then the meat will get quickly tender in a rice cooker. This is why you can prepare a rice pilaf with meat in a rice cooker as well. Be sure to first saute your soaked and drained rice in a saute pan, and then add all the ingredients along with broth to the rice cooker. Set the time and temperature, and your rice Pilaf will be ready.

Hello!! My name is Adalynn I love to eat, travel, and eat some more! I am married to the man of my dreams and have a beautiful little girl whose smiles can brighten anyone’s day!