Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This delicious basmati rice is studded with dried fruit and almonds, and scented with cumin, cinnamon and turmeric.

Studded with dried fruit and almonds, and scented with warm spices, this basmati rice pilaf pairs beautifully with my Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs, Lamb Kofta, or Grilled Moroccan Meatballs.

What you’ll need to make Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds

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.

How to make Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds

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 — simply 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

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Basmati Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Almonds

This delicious basmati rice is studded with dried fruit and almonds, and scented with cumin, cinnamon and turmeric.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 378
  • Fat: 12g
  • Saturated fat: 6g
  • Carbohydrates: 60g
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Sodium: 740mg
  • Cholesterol: 23mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Just perfect. I had to eliminate the apricots and almonds for my teenagers but it was still amazing. Usually I have 1/2 pot of plain white rice left over and the kids ate through the entire pot of rice. Pretty much any of Jenn’s recipes are winners. Seriously. I have gone from a terrible cook to pretty darn good as long as I use Jenn’s recipes. This is a keeper. Serve it with Jenn’s Moroccan chicken and some Naan bread on the side and you’re all set.

    • — Anne on January 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was delicious! I deployed to Iraq back in 2011 and loved the local food. I remember the rice being yellow and having bits of fruit in it. This recipe is very close to the real thing. It was easy to make and delicious! I paired this with the chicken kabobs mentioned in the recipe. Great recipe!

    • — Carrie on September 17, 2020
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  • I made this yesterday. Wonderful! We have leftovers we’d love to enjoy later. Does the finished freeze well?

    • — Mary on August 30, 2020
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    • Yep 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 30, 2020
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      • Thank you!

        • — Mary Ives on August 30, 2020
        • Reply
  • Do you think this will work as a side dish With a middle eastern lamb stew?

    • — Judi on August 28, 2020
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    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on August 28, 2020
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  • Really really really good! I made it to go w/ Jenn’s Middle Eastern Chicken kabobs on the charcoal grill. We loved it! During this period with so many of our restaurants closed or having to cook at home…..this was a welcome treat from our usual stuck in a rut cooking. And it’s light enough for summer eating. Too bad we can’t have our friends over for cocktails & dinner. But I will be sharing both recipes w/ praise and a cocktail.
    Thank you Jenn!

    • — Riggs on August 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Jenn, any feedback or opportunities to make the rice dishes leveraging a rice cooker? Appreciate the insights from my #1 go to personal chef!!

    • — Jason Anderson on August 9, 2020
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    • Thanks Jason!! Unfortunatley, I don’t have any experience with a rice cooker so don’t have any wisdom to share – sorry! You may find these tips useful, though.

      • — Jenn on August 9, 2020
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  • I am not the greatest in the kitchen and I usually butcher recipes but the rice pilaf alongside the Middle Eastern shish kebab are super simple, and my family and guests just loved them. I couldn’t believe how delicious they turned out! Thank you for the amazing and simple recipes.

    • — Farah on July 28, 2020
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  • Hello,
    Can I use whole wheat basmati rice for this?

    • — nimra on July 11, 2020
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    • Sure, that should work; just adjust the cooking time for the rice if the package of rice specifies something different than the recipe.

      • — Jenn on July 12, 2020
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    • Oh my goodness-this was fantastic! It was so easy, so flavorful, and such a nice change from your typical rice dishes. I used dates for the dried fruit, and it was absolutely perfect. I will be making this dish again and again. Thanks for sharing!

      • — Mary on October 26, 2020
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    • How can rice be whole *wheat*?
      Do you mean brown rice?

      • — Barbara on January 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • My family loved this and could not stop talking about it!

    • — Jenny G on June 27, 2020
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    • Can I use vege broth instead of water to cook the rice?

      • — Ruth Brandt on August 8, 2020
      • Reply
      • Sure, but you’ll want to cut back on the added salt so that the finished dish isn’t too salty. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on August 9, 2020
        • Reply
  • Had this with chicken and beef kabobs on Father’s Day. Everyone LOVED the rice. Making more today.

    • — Beth on June 23, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn, I’ve been enjoying a lot your recipes for some time and even purchased your cookbook, I cannot ever remember purchasing a cookbook for myself as I prefer to browse the web. Point is, I wanted to support you because I am so thankful that you share your amazing recipes online. I love to cook for my family and your emails inspire me to make dishes I would have never considered. This dish is one of them! I am forever grateful, this is just amazing! I have made it multiple times in the past month and have paired it with your kofta recipe and Mediterranean kebabs. Thank you!

    • — Christy on June 18, 2020
    • Reply
    • You’re so welcome! (And thank you for your support with the cookbook!) ❤️

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2020
      • Reply
  • I want to triple this recipe. Will the water ratio be accurate?

    • — Leesa on June 13, 2020
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    • Hi Leesa, because rice can be a bit finicky, I’d probably make 1-1/2 times the recipe and divide it into two separate pots. And you’ll need to increase the water accordingly. Just keep a close eye on it. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 15, 2020
      • Reply
  • Jenn this was so amazing and so simple! I paired it with your Persian kebabs recipe and it was to die for. Everyone, from adults to kids and even our toddler gobbled up this rice. You made a novice cook look like a pro. Thank you so much! I have since ordered your book and can’t wait for what ‘we’ make next!

    Thanks again.

    • — Aman on June 8, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn I made the Kofta loved how the veges were pulsed to be added to the lamb mince very different and the Rice Pilaf both very flavoursome and have made the rice dish again
    I sent the recipe to my dtr who is living in Japan and she is keen to make it
    I will try the Chicken Kebabs next. I love your recipes. I am Australian living on the North Coast of NSW and some time ago I accidently bought these lovely coloured spoons to discover they were American measurements however they have been well used. I also made the Lemon Pound cake which was very well received and a favourite

    • — Elizabeth Birch on June 8, 2020
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  • Jenn, I made this last night for my husband. It was delicious! We had alot of rice and was wondering if you ever made a salad with the left overs and if so what was the recipe?

    • — Terri Pannell on June 7, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Terri, Glad you enjoyed it! I haven’t made this into a rice salad, but certainly think it would work. You could toss it with some cooked shrimp and or cannellini beans for a little protein.

      • — Jenn on June 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • Looks yumm! Think I can sub brown basmati and just cook a bit longer?

    • — Julie on June 5, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, just keep a close eye on it as I’m not certain how long the rice will take to cook. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 5, 2020
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      • I’m making it now using brown basmati. It’s taking forever! I think I’ve had it simmering for more than 30 minutes and the rice is still very al dente. But great recipe – thanks!

        • — Joe on December 23, 2020
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  • Fragrant, delicious! Used apricots and salted cashews. Excellent with the chicken kebabs. One of my family’s new favourites.

    • — HG on June 4, 2020
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  • Excellent. We served it with the Middle Eastern Kebabs, but it would be good with any number of dishes. I used golden raisins because that’s what I had on hand, and they contributed delicious bites of sweetness. Apricots or raisins would be a pretty contrast to the yellow rice. Yeah for another way to get turmeric into our diet!

    • — Kay on May 30, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was easy and delicious! We eat a lot of rice in our house and I usually use the rice cooker, but I decided to branch out last night and try this. I’m glad I did. I followed the recipe exactly, except I did not rinse the rice, and instead of water I used homemade chicken bone broth to up the protein. Everyone loved it! Served it with your middle eastern chicken kabobs – yum!

    • — Jen on May 26, 2020
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  • This recipe works great for me even though I’m not good at cooking rice.

    • — Jay Verm on May 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Delicious! Thank you once again!

      • — Sabrina on July 1, 2020
      • Reply
  • Made this rice along side the Middle Eastern chicken kebabs by Jenn, cucumber and tomato salad and a mint and yogurt sauce. It was an amazing combination, and my boyfriend couldn’t get enough of the rice!

    • — Pooja Roy on May 25, 2020
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  • This rice is amazing, you could eat it on its own it is that good! Didn’t last long enough to get a photo though. Will definitely be making again and recommending to all my friends.

    • — Kelly-Jo on May 17, 2020
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  • I made this tonight & it was AWESOME! I used craisins as the dried fruit since I had that & it was fabulous. This will be going into my regular cookbook.

    • — Sally on May 14, 2020
    • Reply
  • My teenage son loved this! He is just starting to enjoy other types of foods, and has always loved chicken kabobs. This is better than what we get for take-out. I will be making this often in the future!

    • — Selene Ting on April 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • I never, ever write reviews – though I read them every time I attempt a new recipe. But this recipe moved me to write. This rice is INCREDIBLE. We paired it with the Peruvian chicken and green sauce, and it was a match made in heaven. I have a bookshelf full of cookbooks – including yours, which I love! – but for weeks now, I’ve cooked every meal from your website, to the delight of my family. Thank you!

    • — Mindy on February 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • 💗

      • — Jenn on February 13, 2020
      • Reply
  • This dish turned out great ! I used chicken stock in place of the water, therefore added less salt.

    • — Indie on February 12, 2020
    • Reply
  • This rice was fantastic! Instead of water, I used the liquid drained from the Middle Eastern Lamb Kofta recipe of yours and completed with beef broth (that’s all I had). It came out sooo good! I nice little kick! My husband and I loved it!

    • — Annie on February 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    We made this tonight for dinner. It is delicious and we want to make it again. However, It is just 2 of us and there was a lot left over. Any recommendations for halving the recipe.

    • — Meryl on January 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you liked it, Meryl! You can just cut all the ingredients in half next time you make it.

      • — Jenn on January 13, 2020
      • Reply
  • Used my leftover white rice – it was excellent! Spices were perfect and paired this with your Middle Eastern chicken kabobs.

    • — KCL on January 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • This recipe was excellent!! We recently traveled to Israel and I was anxious to imitate the rice we ate. This was it!! Such a pleasant reminder of an amazing experience! Thank you.

    • — RaeAnn D on January 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Tried this recipe to go with a spiced roast leg of lamb. Worked like a charm. So simple yet so tasty. This is now definitely on my go to list of go to recipes.

    • — Andris Svilans on December 12, 2019
    • Reply
  • THIS. WAS. THEE. BOMB!! the BOMB. DIGGETY! 🙂 Kids LOVED it as much as I did! We served it with the Middle Eastern Chicken which pairs beautifully with this Amazing rice dish! Both are fabulous dishes but I would venture to say its a must they be served together! Next time will serve with Naan bread. Mmmmm……. Gotta try this amazing rice dish, peeps!

    • — Laura on December 3, 2019
    • Reply
  • Would you happen to know how long this would cook in the instant pot after sautéing first?

    • — Jen on October 28, 2019
    • Reply
    • I ended up doing 6 minutes high pressure and a 10 minute natural release. It’s delicious!

      • — Jen on October 28, 2019
      • Reply
      • Glad it worked out!

        • — Jenn on October 29, 2019
        • Reply
    • I’m sorry Jen – I don’t. I don’t have enough experience with it to tell you confidently how to convert a recipe to an instant pot. You may want to take a peek at these tips for a little guidance.

      • — Jenn on October 29, 2019
      • Reply
  • I was disappointed in this recipe. I’m not sure if it’s just my own tastebuds, or if I had too high expectations, but it was totally tasteless! I was expecting more of a middle Eastern spiced rice with hits of sweet from the fruit, but I think maybe the size of the dish requires more spice, more salt and a splash of tang…? Maybe soak the raisins in citrus or something?

    • — Tasia on October 23, 2019
    • Reply
  • This recipe has gone on our regular rotation. It tastes so close to what we get from our fave local Greek place with the added texture of the dried fruit and slivered almonds. It’s one of the many recipes that we’ve come to love from your awesome site. When I’m looking for something new to mix things up, I come to Once Upon a Chef first!

    • — EJ Ogenyi on October 19, 2019
    • Reply
  • So, so good! I thoroughly enjoyed this rice pilaf recipe. Can’t wait to have the leftovers!

    • — Darlene on September 10, 2019
    • Reply
    • Wow! Amazing! This is very reminiscent of a biryani dish to me, which is one of my favorites. I added frozen peas with the dried fruits and almonds. Just delicious.

      • — Brooke on September 30, 2019
      • Reply
  • Can I substitute olive oil or another lower fat oil for the butter?

    • — Mar on August 28, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 28, 2019
      • Reply
  • First recipe I tried from your site, and it was a huge winner. Husband said if was “restaurant quality” 🙂

    • — Inna on July 24, 2019
    • Reply
  • Absolutely gorgeous rice, simple to make , super tasty.

    • — Talia G. on July 7, 2019
    • Reply
  • Being Asian, I’ve tasted many versions of rice . This has got to be the best rice dish I’ve ever eaten! I was kind of hesitant to add the cinnamon, but it added another dimension to this! I will definitely make it again!

    • — Janice White on July 1, 2019
    • Reply
  • This recipe is so amazing! I made it along with your chicken kabobs for my family who doesn’t have an adventurous palate, and they were all in awe! Thank you so much Jenn!

    • — Tina Santos on June 23, 2019
    • Reply
  • can you make this dish ahead , in part or entirely and then reheat?

    • — M Harris on June 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, M, I think it would be fine to make the dish ahead and reheat. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 21, 2019
      • Reply
      • Omg, this rice is THE BOMB!!! I am a “conservative” eater (picky if you prefer!) and made this for my husband, who likes different tastes. I decided to taste it and… I absolutely fell in love with it!! Making it for the second time in two days. Will definitely become a classic at our place!
        I didn’t change a thing. I used frozen diced onions instead of fresh (just because I hate cutting up fresh onions). And I placed the dried fruits about 10 minutes in really warm water prior to the “adding to the rice” step, just to make sure they were really soft. Thanks!!

        • — Isa on July 15, 2019
        • Reply
  • I don’t have any basmati rice in my pantry at the moment, and I was wondering if I could use jasmine rice?

    • — Starla Beselt on June 11, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Starla; the cooking directions for the jasmine rice may be a little different, so make sure you follow the package directions for it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 11, 2019
      • Reply
  • Would this pilaf pair well with your chicken tikka masala or would plain basmati rice be better? I’m planning to serve your minted cucumber salad and naan as well! What would you suggest for dessert?

    • — Donna on May 31, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Donna, I’d probably go with the plain basmati and for dessert, maybe lemon pudding cakes, berry trifle, key lime pie ice cream or chocolate cream pie. Please LMK how everything turns out!

      • — Jenn on May 31, 2019
      • Reply
      • Thanks so much! I made your chocolate cream pie last week, and it was delish! I live in a small town and couldn’t find the chocolate wafers, so I improvised with my own chocolate and vanilla wafer crust. Love your site…

        • — Donna on June 1, 2019
        • Reply

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