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.

Scented with warm spices and studded with dried fruit and almonds, this golden rice pilaf, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, pairs beautifully with grilled chicken kabobs, lamb kofta, grilled Moroccan-style 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.

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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

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 ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground 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 in a small dry skillet over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes

Instructions

  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

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

  • My very favorite rice pilaf! I omit almonds and toast pecans instead, because of allergies, and it still turns out amazing. I love serving it with grilled Moroccan Chicken and a fresh salad.

    • — Emilia Mcguffey on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • We made this along with the grilled chicken kabob recipe, and it was delicious! This was my first time making Batsami rice and I can’t wait to use this recipe over and over again.

    • — Ellie Dix on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I ended up making this twice last week because it was so good! The first time I made it I forgot to toast the almonds and the recipe was delicious. However, when I made it the second time WITH the toasted almonds, it was over the top amazing! Don’t skip that step! The recipe easily doubled with no modifications. Thanks for another great recipe, Jen!

    • — Robyn on January 28, 2021
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  • I’ve made this recipe a number of times recently, and it’s been a huge hit each time! We double the recipe and don’t worry so much about whether or not we have dried currants or apricots on hand. Dates and dried cherries have both served as stand-ins and complement the rice beautifully.

    Thank you, Jenn, for another delicious recipe!

    • — Erin Kirchhoff on January 28, 2021
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  • This turned out to be a big hit with my family. Unique blend of flavors and truly easy to make. I will add to our list of SIDES to make often.

    • — Shelley on January 25, 2021
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  • Can this be doubled or tripled and made in a rice maker or pressure cooker?

    • — Katie Robinson on January 22, 2021
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    • I would guess that it could be but I don’t have any experience with a rice maker or pressure cooker so I don’t know if you’ll need to make any adjustments. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it.

      • — Jenn on January 25, 2021
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  • 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
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  • 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
    • Reply
    • Yep 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 30, 2020
      • Reply
      • 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
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on August 28, 2020
      • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
    • 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
      • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • Hello,
    Can I use whole wheat basmati rice for this?

    • — nimra on July 11, 2020
    • Reply
    • 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
      • Reply
    • 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
      • Reply
    • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
    • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
      • Reply
      • 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
        • Reply
        • Hi I found when I used brown basmati rice it too took a long time. It got very mushy and we didn’t like it. I will only make the original recipe because it is delicious. Family and friends favorite rice dish.

          • — Willette on June 5, 2021
          • Reply
  • Fragrant, delicious! Used apricots and salted cashews. Excellent with the chicken kebabs. One of my family’s new favourites.

    • — HG on June 4, 2020
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • I agree. It was bland, although my spices were fresh from ethnic grocery store. Next time I will definitively make the dish using a cinnamon stick, and add more cummin and turmeric.

      • — Maariki on April 24, 2021
      • 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!

  • can you make this dish ahead , in part or entirely and then reheat?

    • Sure, M, I think it would be fine to make the dish ahead and reheat. Enjoy!

      • 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?

    • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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!

      • 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…

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