Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds

5 stars based on 8 votes


As promised, here’s the basmati rice pilaf that was pictured with the Chicken Kebabs a few weeks ago. Bright yellow, studded with dried fruit and almonds, and scented with cumin, cinnamon and turmeric — it will remind you of someplace exotic you’d like to travel far far away.

Basmati is a type of rice grown in the Himalayas and Pakistan. It’s incredibly fragrant with a light nutty flavor. “Bas” in Hindi language actually means “aroma” and “mati” means “full of,” hence the word Basmati — or “full of aroma.” The grains are long, slender and fluffy compared to standard white rice.

It’s always a good idea to rinse basmati rice, otherwise it will be gummy and stick together.  It only takes a minute or two — all you have to do is place the rice in a bowl with water, and then swish it around to release any excess starch. Rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water runs almost clear.

Let the rice drain in a fine mesh strainer, then move on to the pilaf by melting the butter in a medium pot.

Add the onions and cook over gentle heat until soft and translucent.

Stir in the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant.

Next, toss in the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes.

Add the water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer over low heat until the rice is cooked, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the dried fruit over top, then cover loosely and let sit for about 10 minutes. (As you can see, I used a combination of currants and chopped apricots but feel free to use whatever you like.)

Finally, toss in the almonds and fluff the pilaf with a fork.

Serve and enjoy!

Recipe adapted and modified from Cooks Illustrated

Basmati Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Almonds

Servings: 4
Cook Time:
Total Time:


  • 1-1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions, from one small onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit, such as currants, raisins or finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted until golden


  1. Place rice in medium bowl and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Using your hands, gently swish grains to release any excess starch. Carefully pour off water, leaving rice in bowl. Repeat four to five times, until water runs almost clear. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain water from rice. Place strainer over bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring regularly, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic to sautéed onions and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Add rice to pot, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add water, salt and pepper to rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 15-18 minutes. Off heat, remove lid, and sprinkle dried fruit over rice (do not mix in). Place lid loosely over pot and let stand 10 minutes. Toss in toasted almonds, fluff rice with a fork, then serve.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 4

Reviews & Comments

  • Can I use regular rice for this recipe if I don’t have basmati or sweet brown rice, barely and wild rice blend? Or will it effect the overall flavor to much?

    - Florence on March 26, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Florence, It will work, but you’ll need to change the cook time and liquid measurement depending on which type of rice you use.

      - Jenn on March 27, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We had friends over for dinner on Saturday and I made this rice. We all loved it! There was a little left over which I sent home with our guests. We loved it so much I made it again tonight. Served it with salmon. Followed the recipe exactly. I will be making this often!

    - Diana on March 2, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn! I am making this along with your Middle Eastern Kebabs for a special birthday party and I am truly excited! I was wondering, I am going to be tripling this pilaf recipe, would the rice cook within 15 minutes as well, despite having much more rice to cook? Thanks in advance!

    - Joanne on February 8, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Joanne, Cook time should be about the same. Hope everything turns out well!

      - Jenn on February 8, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this, along with the tandoori chicken thighs last night and it was AMAZING! My boyfriend, who is a chef, raved about both of them! The rice pilaf was a perfect accompaniment to the chicken. Thank you!

    - Melissa on February 2, 2015 Reply
  • This looks delicious! I’m planning on making Chicken Marbella for special company this Sunday . Do you think that this Basmati Rice Pilaf recipe would go well with that or compete with too much flavor? Also, can you suggest a wine that would go well with the meal? (Also planning to make a salad and your haricot vert and shallot recipe) Oh… and planning to also make the lemon squares for dessert. Any feedback about the menu or drinks would be really appreciated! I’m an enthusiastic novice! (But I have made Chicken Marbella before and love it!) Thanks!!!

    - Phyllis on January 8, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Phillis, I think the basmati rice pilaf would be nice but I would probably omit the dried fruit and spices (okay to leave in the turmeric, as it’s really just for color). The rest of the menu sounds absolutely perfect! As for the wine, there’s a lot going on in the dish so I’d stick to a crisp and clean white. Here’s a link with some options:

      Or if you prefer red, I’d go with something light like Pinot Noir.

      - Jenn on January 8, 2015 Reply
  • Can I make the rice minus the fruit and nuts? Just want a nice flavored rice

    - Lad on September 29, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Lad, Yes that would be fine.

      - Jenn on September 29, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This rice is truly delicious. I followed the recipe to a “t” and used dried cranberries and golden raisins for the fruits. It was so good. I would say that the recipe makes more like 6 servings rather than 4.

    - Katherine on September 20, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! Made it once just as is, but second time, made a few changes. Cooked for 25 minutes (v. low – have gas stove); added 1 tsp of turmeric (makes the color more yellow) and a few bay leaves, which I removed before stirring/fluffing up the rice @ the end. Also doubled up the quantity of dried fruit. Love the texture of the rice and so different than when I use for making Asian rice (cook that in a rice cooker), so nice to see basmati being so versatile.

    - Lee-sa on September 11, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This rice is addictive. My SO and I kept going back for more. Truly perfect rice. The instructions were SO spot on. I love Basmati rice, and this is one of the few times it came out perfectly!

    - Edi on July 25, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made the Basmati Rice Pilaf for company and served it in a large platter and added a variety of chopped dried fruits for color. It was delicious and looked magnificient! Thank you, this recipe is a keeper and makes a great presentation.

    - Debbie Freschl on July 2, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This rice pilaf is AMAZING! The rice was the perfect consistency, and so fragrant and flavourful, thanks to the spices and aromatics! Thank you for posting this lovely recipe. Oh, and thanks for the basmati-rinsing tip. I’ve never been satisfied with my rice dishes until I followed your instructions. I will never again use basmati without rinsing first.

    - Jenn on June 22, 2014 Reply
  • I can almost smell it…. Im makin this for my family friday…. The rice looks really yummy beautiful n colorful… Mmmmmm

    - Suzy on March 21, 2013 Reply
  • My husband is Middle Eastern, and when he tried this rice, it took him back to his childhood. You nailed it with this recipe!!

    - Donna on March 10, 2013 Reply
  • I made it last Thanksgiving. It is delicious! Next time I will double or even triple the dried fruits, I think it will be more flavorful. But this is a personal taste. Thank you Jenn for great instruction: very easy to follow!

    - Nella on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • Rice is a favorite in our house, and so I am always quick to spot a new variation. Your combination of spices and dried fruit is a showstopper…fragrant, colorful, perfect blend of sweet and savory. Substituted raisins for currents.

    - Kim Pike on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • So pretty and a great dish to serve with chicken.

    - Kathy on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • Easy and delicious!

    - Mandy on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • I was looking for a good recipe to make rice with dry fruits and this Is it! I am planning to make it for this Thanksgiving. Jenn, can I make this rice a day before with so much cooking to do on Thanksgiving day?

    - Nella on November 21, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Nella, You can definitely make it ahead and reheat it in the microwave!

      - Jenn on November 21, 2012 Reply
      • Thank you!

        - Nella on November 21, 2012 Reply
  • This rice has been on my todo list every since you posted the picture with the chicken kebabs. I made both tonight. I let the chicken marinade for a day and a half this time and it was super flavorful and tender. My husband requested I add these to his list of favorites. I used a mix of raisins + the dried apricots. It really makes the dish. I used about 1/2 c of fruit.

    - Danita on October 10, 2012 Reply
  • I tried this one and it was really good for a side dish.

    - Linda Chaviano on October 10, 2012 Reply
  • this looks amazing. thank you for sharing this recipe! I can’t wait to make it!

    I am sure not a traditional ingredient, but I wonder if I can add green olives to it?

    - Hope on October 9, 2012 Reply
    • Hope, I think green olives would be delicious in this…great idea!

      - Jenn on October 9, 2012 Reply
      • Thanks, Jenn! You convinced me – olives it is! haha

        - Hope on October 10, 2012 Reply
  • I always cook with basmati rice. It is my favorite! I will definitely have to try this.

    - Cooking on a Dime on October 7, 2012 Reply
  • This is a first for me and this recipe was so easy to make, very flavorful and my family, who shy’s away from new recipe’s loved it.

    I love your recipe’s and this is a keeper to make many times over. Thanks for the step by step, everyone can be an accomplished Chef like you.

    - S L Bennetti on October 7, 2012 Reply
  • This recipe sounds wonderful. I’ll make it tonight. I was looking for a carb to go with my steamed fish & chinese cabage. Turmeric is so healthy as well.
    So glad this came up today.
    Thank you for all your great Recipes.

    - Gail on October 4, 2012 Reply
  • Thanks for the rinsing hint for basmati! Do you rinse all of your rice before cooking? I can’t wait to try the recipe, it looks delicious!

    - becky on October 4, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Becky, I don’t rinse all of my rice, but with basmati it’s a good idea.

      - Jenn on October 10, 2012 Reply
  • When my kithen reno is complete (hopefully in a couple of weeks), I am making this AND the kebabs. I can’t wait to make this using my new Miele appliances!

    - marjory on October 4, 2012 Reply
  • I love basmati rice..I cook with it a lot. Great recipe!

    - Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on October 4, 2012 Reply
  • I can smell it over the airwaves !! All Jennifer’s recipes are hits..and are presented so beautifully and clearly. This one is on my menu for Friday night.

    - Ellen Gold on October 4, 2012 Reply

Add a Review or Question

Hungry for More?

Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter — where I share new recipes and seasonal menus for every occasion.

Your email address will never be used for any other purpose.
Curious? See a sample newsletter.