Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds

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

Fork on a plate with basmati rice pilaf with dried fruit and almonds.

Scented with warm spices and studded with dried fruit and almonds, this golden rice pilaf, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, pairs beautifully with chicken kabobs, lamb kofta, grilled Moroccan meatballs or falafel. It is made with basmati rice, a type of rice grown in the Himalayas and Pakistan that is incredibly fragrant with a light nutty flavor. “Bas” in the Hindi language actually means “aroma” and “mati” means “full of,” so the word basmati translates to  “full of aroma.” The grains are long, slender, and fluffy compared to standard white rice.

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

rice pilaf ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by rinsing basmati rice. 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.

rinsing the basmati rice

Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl and let drain.

draining basmati rice

Melt the butter in a medium pot.

melting the butter

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

cooking the onions

Stir in the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant.

adding garlic and spices

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

cooking the rice over dry heat

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

adding the water and seasoning

Cover and simmer over low heat until the rice is cooked, about 15 minutes.

cooked basmati rice pilafSprinkle the dried fruit over top, then cover loosely and let sit for about 10 minutes. (I use a combination of currants and chopped apricots, but feel free to use whatever you like.)

adding the dried fruit

Finally, add the almonds.

adding the toasted almonds

Toss the rice pilaf with a fork.

tossing the rice pilaf with a fork

Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy.

Fork on a plate with basmati rice pilaf with dried fruit and almonds.

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Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Almonds

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

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes


  • 1½ cups basmati rice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onions, from one small onion
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2¼ cups water
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup dried fruit, such as currants, raisins or finely chopped dried apricots
  • ¼ cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted in a small dry skillet over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes


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

Nutrition Information

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  • 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, 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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  • Hi! The approach sounds similar to the Mexican rice (5 stars there!) But I don’t see anything about make ahead approach. Could I just reheat later and add the fruit and nuts at the last minute? Thanks!

    • — Jen on June 29, 2024
    • Reply
    • Sure, Jen, that’s fine!

      • — Jenn on July 1, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn – I’m preparing this dish to serve 12 adults. Should I triple the recipe ingredients? I’ve prepared before (yum) but for 4 people.

    • — Tess Medley on June 28, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Tess, you’d need to triple the ingredients, but 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 everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on June 28, 2024
      • Reply
  • I tried this last night and it turned out perfect. The best rice I’ve ever made – I’ll be doing it this way from now on.

    • — Dave on June 18, 2024
    • Reply
  • This was great. It came out perfect and was really a hit with my kids. Served it with the tandori chicken and some steamed green beans.

    • — Neil on June 5, 2024
    • Reply
  • Can this be made wholly or partially the day before serving?

    • — SEB on May 18, 2024
    • Reply
    • Sure, it can be made entirely ahead. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn

    Any thoughts on using chicken stock instead of water for cooking the rice? I was wondering if it would add more depth of flavor, but wasn’t sure! Thanks!

    • — Cole on May 10, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Cole, I don’t think it’s necessary with other flavors, but it won’t be problematic if you go with it. (You’ll need to cut back on the salt if you use stock.)

      • — Jenn on May 10, 2024
      • Reply
  • I made this delicious basmati rice to serve alongside pecan/panko crusted haddock. It was soooo good! We couldn’t stop picking at the leftovers! Will definitely have this on “repeat”

    • — Jackie Nordeman on April 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • I’m making your best grilled chicken and wondered if this would pair well with that? Or would you recommend a different side?

    • — Jess on February 13, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Jess, it certainly wouldn’t be bad, but I think of that rice as a bit more Moroccan or Middle Eastern. I think the chicken would pair nicely with roasted potatoes and/or this roasted red pepper salad. Hope you enjoy whatever you make!

      • — Jenn on February 13, 2024
      • Reply
      • Thanks for these suggestions! Our family LOVES your recipes!!

        • — Jess on February 13, 2024
        • Reply
  • I made this with your tandoori chicken and minted cucumber salad, it was a fabulous dinner! Each item was great but the synergy of the 3 together was awesome. Your instructions are so clear and helpful, thank you ! I can see making the rice with other dishes, from fish to lamb.

    • — Amy on February 10, 2024
    • Reply
    • I made this tonight! Oh my was it delicious!!! Another great recipe from you. I love to cook and feed my family great food. Your recipes are a go to for me when I need inspiration. You do not disappoint!

      • — Josephine on March 19, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hello Jenn,
    I plan to make this rice pilaf for an event. Will this pair well with spicy chicken teriyaki?
    Blessings for 2024!

    • — Marie C. on January 4, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Marie, While I don’t think it will be bad, this has flavors that are more reminiscent of North African cuisine. If you’d like another suggestion, I think this would be a good option. Hope you enjoy whatever you make!

      • — Jenn on January 5, 2024
      • Reply
  • This is my go to recipe if I want a flavourful rice to accompany Middle Eastern style dishes. Easy to make, delicious and freezes well too! I follow the recipe exactly and it works perfectly every time!

    • — Pauline February on December 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • I have Tanzanian roots and let me tell you all, this recipe is amazing! Hints of my mother’s rice pilaf all in it! Great pairing with some of our families fav African dishes or any other culture / spicy dishes you are whipping up! -Eat Well !

    • — Masha on November 19, 2023
    • Reply
  • Oh my goodness! This is insanely delicious. Thank you for the recipe. I definitely will make again and again. Yum!

    • — Shannon on August 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hello, I wish I had time to look through all the comments for an answer to my question 😔 has anyone adapted this for the Instant Pot? Thanks in advance

    • — Leigh on July 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Leigh, I don’t have any experience with an Instant Pot, but one reader commented “I made it in the instant pot and adjusted to high pressure 10 minutes with natural release 5 minutes.” Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on July 8, 2023
      • Reply
  • This has been my go to Pilaf rice dish for years. It’s always a hit when I serve it. Do you think it would work with brown rice?

    • — Simon Oakshott on June 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like it! Yes, it will work with brown rice but keep in mind that brown rice likely takes longer to cook. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on June 26, 2023
      • Reply
  • This is lovely. Made it twice in two days. Paired with your Mediterranean Yogurt Chicken Skewers. I don’t have a rice cooker but made it in my 2 qt. enameled cast iron saucepan. Perfect every time. I used chopped raisins, apricots and sliced almonds.

    • — Christina Gibson on June 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is my “go to” rice pilaf recipe. Easy to make, versatile in that it pairs with so many dishes, but particularly, Yoghurt, lemon and spice Marinated Chicken Skewered Kebabs grilled over the fire pit! A winner every time…Thanks for sharing

    • — Rhys McFadden on May 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • Can this be made with couscous instead of basmati rice?

    • — Annita on April 23, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yes, it can but the cooking method/time will be different – follow the instructions on the package. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 24, 2023
      • Reply
  • Excellent! I made it with craisins and did it in my rice maker. I always destroy my rice on the stovetop. I don’t know what it is, but I have a mental block when cooking rice on the stovetop. I can never seem to get it right. My husband and I both loved it.

    • — Judy on February 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • I have made this several times. It’s delicious and easy to make. This is my go to rice recipe when I make Mediterranean food. @onceuponachef

    • — Yancy on February 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I made it in the instant pot and adjusted to high pressure 10 minutes with natural release 5 minutes. Only had raisins and chopped almonds but still delicious! I paired it with a smoked harissa chicken for a knockout pita plate!

    • — Gaby on January 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • This rice is very yummy and has been family favorite for a while. Thank you, Jen!

    • — Nataliya on January 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • Thanks so much for this post. I love making rice dishes, and I found your tricks and tips and explanations very helpful.

    • — Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man! on January 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • We just love this rice

    • — Annie George on January 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe last night to go along with the kebabs. Instead of using basmati rice I used a bag of seasoned yellow rice. I added all the spices according to the recipe. I used dried apricots and almonds and I forgot to add the onion but that’s OK it’s still came out delicious

    • — Heidi on December 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is one of our favorite side dishes, it is always a hit! I have someone coming for dinner who has a dairy allergy, can I substitute the butter for oil? How much and should I use olive oil or vegetable?

    • — Tracy on December 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Tracy, Glad you like it! Yes, you can use oil here (3 Tbsp); I’d go with olive oil. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 12, 2022
      • Reply
  • Love this recipe — totally delish. It also works with olive oil or vegan butter (I have one vegan daughter) and with pistachios instead of almonds. So flavorful and really easy! A great way to make guests think you spent hours slaving over a hot stove 🙂

    • — Holly PDX on November 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe! It captures the delicious flavors of rice pilaf from our favorite restaurant. I’ve changed up adding different dried fruits, and cook my basmati rice in my rice cooker, then add it to the skillet aromatics. Shared this with my friends and family who enjoy it as well!

    • — Shannon on November 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Absolutely amazing recipe. easy to follow and tastes delicious. best rice I’ve ever cooked. I cook this rice once a week with kebabs. Fabulous

    • — Julia Dorrington on November 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delicious! Another winning, “keeper” of a recipe! Thank you, Jenn.

    • — Stefanie on October 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made per the instructions exactly and ended up with rock hard, undercooked rice. I tried adding water and cooking longer to try to make it edible after which I still had hard grains of rice in an oatmeal like base. This result is why I always make rice in a rice cooker – perfect results every time. The dish was also surprisingly bland considering the great spices – it tasted mostly of salt and I used less than a teaspoon. Needless to say I won’t be making this again but I will experiment with adding similar spices to basmati that I prepare in my rice cooker.

    • — Jean G on October 24, 2022
    • Reply

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