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


  • 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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  • This was delicious- I served it with your Middle Eastern chicken kabobs. My only comment is that I chose to use Kosher salt for both recipes- if I had used regular salt it would have been too salty.

    • — Teri P. on July 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was so good and tasty. The rice was fluffy and with the addition of dried fruit and almonds, let’s just say, I had to have another helping. Thank you.

    • — Diane P. on June 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn i am making this tonight with the kebabs for the first time! I just realized i only have jasmine rice, will that work instead of basmati?
    THanks so much

    • — Melissa Pickard on May 27, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, Jasmine rice is fine here, although it won’t be as light and fluffy (jasmine rice is stickier than basmati rice). Just follow the cooking directions on the packaging as it may be slightly different than the basmati. (I think I’m weighing in too late to help, so hope it came out okay!):)

      • — Jenn on May 30, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Do you think I can use pine nuts instead of almonds?

    • — Linda on May 26, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yep definitely 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 26, 2022
      • Reply
  • This was delicious. Your spice combination and amounts was perfect. There was no overwhelming flavor. They blended perfectly. Thanks for a stellar recipe.

    • — Diane on May 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is better than I even anticipated and quick to make. Will definitely be making it again.

    • — Ana on March 8, 2022
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  • I made this rice last night paired with the Middle Eastern styled kabobs. This rice is absolutely delicious and very easy to make. For the dried fruits I used cranberries and apricots. Amazing! I could eat the rice just by itself. This will definitely be in my top 5 rotations of food that I make regularly.

    • — Erica on February 17, 2022
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  • I love this simple recipe, it’s my “go to” rice recipe when I am making a Middle Eastern dish! Turns out perfectly every time and is a winner when served with spiced roasted lamb and a greek salad.

    • — Pauline February on February 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Doubled this recipe in one pot with no adjustments, and it turned out beautifully!!! Pairs well with your cucumber mint salad and tandoori chicken. I frequently serve these 3 dishes to guests. Thanks for helping me prepare delicious meals that wow them every time!!!!

    • — Joyce C on November 11, 2021
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  • Love this! Served with your chicken kabobs last time, but was wondering if this would pair well with the Chicken Tangine?

    • — Stephanie on September 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Definitely 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • First time trying out this recipe and it’s a GEM!

    • — Peggy on September 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • This rice is delicious. I made this for dinner tonight and I will definitely be serving this when I have company. It is easy and so, so tasty. Every recipe I have used from Once Upon A Chef has been spectacular.

    • — Ann Cameron on July 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was so easy and so delicious. I served it with the zucchini fritters. Great combination.

    • — Judy Z. on July 22, 2021
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  • This was delicious! I followed the recipe exactly but used only dried apricots for the fruit. I served it with “Middle Eastern-Style Grilled Chicken Kabobs,” which is where I found the link to this recipe. Both were great! This was so much easier than I thought it would be, and came out perfect. I will be using this recipe again & again. Thanks!

    • — Dorothy on July 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can I substitute regular white rice or is basmati a must?

    • — kelly on June 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, White rice is fine here too but you may need to adjust cooking time; I’d follow the directions on the packaging. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on June 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    how would this dish pair with Chicken with Cashews please?


    • — Michele on June 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Michele, I think the flavors would compete with each other so this would honestly not be my first choice for cashew chicken. I’d probably just go with plain basmati rice.

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Do you think this rice dish would taste ok cold? Or, can I make it in advance and reheat it?

    • — Angela Pauline Wolf on June 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes and yes. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 22, 2021
      • Reply
      • It can be in advance snd reheated??? Music to my ears! Low heat? Add water?

        • — Diana on July 14, 2021
        • Reply
        • Hi Diana, I would reheat it in the microwave (and I don’t think you’ll need to add water). Also, I’d wait to toss in the almonds until after you reheat. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on July 14, 2021
          • Reply
  • OH MY GOODNESS! This is the most delicious rice dish I have ever made! I used half raisins, half Turkish apricots and slivered almonds. I cannot say enough about how FRAGRANT and DELICIOUS this rice is. The recipe came out perfectly as written the first time I made it. I made it for a graduation celebration dinner with folks of all ages …everyone went crazy over it and asked me for the recipe! Jenn…you are about to get even more followers – THANK YOU JENN for the joy you continue to bring and inspire. I am such a fan, and now my family members (even the millennials looking to impress their dates) are too. I made this with your chicken kabobs, lamb kofta, israeli cucumber salad, whipped feta, hummus and baba ganoush for the celebration (first time for all recipes) and WOW! Everyone invited themselves back for a repeat!

    • — S from DC on June 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this once to the letter, just made it again w/ double the spices. Love the extra spices. I also used, dried cranberries, raisins, apricots, and prunes, prob 2/3 cup at least.

    • — Nannette Smith on June 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can this rice dish also be served cold? Looks delicious!

    • — Wendy Hughes Hurst on June 1, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on June 2, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Any chance I can freeze the leftover rice?
    I started following you quite a few years ago and have gifted all of my cousins, east to west coast, your cookbook. We talk of you like we know you personally. And when the news broke you were going to be publishing another cookbook our group texts went wild!
    Thank Jenn!

    • — Maryellen Dee on May 31, 2021
    • Reply
    • Your sweet note made my day! 🙂
      And, yes, the leftover rice will freeze nicely.

      • — Jenn on June 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was great, though next time I would add more herbs, fruit, and nuts.

    • — Linda on May 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • Just made this rice and it was delicious. Served it with bbq chicken and a salad and my family loved it. Really nice balance of spices.

    • — Michele on May 23, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’m on a diet that requires brown rice not white, what do you think about this substitution? I know the brown will take longer to cook otherwise what are your thoughts?

    • — Susan D on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Susan, that should be fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi,
    I have been a fan of yours since discovering you a few years back. This chicken kabob recipe (with the rice pilaf) is one of my absolute favorites! It just popped up again on my email and reminded me of summer coming and this dinner on the table! Thank you so much for your recipes!

    • — Laura on May 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • I found this recipe last night to go with some Honey, Lime Sriracha chicken. I didn’t have apricots but I did have some dried cranberries. This meal was amazing and all the grandkids loved the rice dish. It was flavorful, crunchy and popped with the fruit. This will be a family favorite. Thanks and I can’t wait to try something else new that you post.

    • — Angela Massey on May 19, 2021
    • Reply
  • Excellent, my favourite rice dish. I eat it on its own!

    • — Sabrina on May 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • My darling wife likes all sorts of Indian, Bengali and similar dishes. I made this for her to accompany a tandoori chicken. It turned out to be one of her favorite rice recipes. Thank you.

    • — Docmike5 on April 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • So tasty! Perfect recipe. Easy as well.
    I used macadamia instead of almond, worked out great!

    • — Deb on April 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this last night, delicious. I sautéed all three fruits – chopped apricots, currants, and sultana raisins, just after the onion and garlic, before adding the rice. The fruit added a nice plump sweetness to balance the pungent flavours of the spices. Rave reviews at our house, I’ll make again.

    • — Patrice on April 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • Would this be good served cold?

    • — B A on March 30, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on March 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can you make the rice ahead and then reheat and add almonds and fruit? If so how?

    • — Penny White on March 10, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Penny, this would reheat nicely in the microwave. I’d add the fruit when you cook the rice but wait to toss in the almonds until after you reheat. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 10, 2021
      • Reply
  • We make this recipe all the time, I add twice the dried fruit. However, last night it became a castiorn oven dish with bonless chicken thighs. Good eats.

    • — Dwight on February 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I added a piece of cinnamon bark instead of the ground cinnamon for an aromatic element.

    • — Zoe Campbell on February 27, 2021
    • Reply
  • Fantastic. My kids scarfed it up. I am making a double batch next time. Combine it with Jenn’s Grilled Moroccan Chicken. Make extra for leftovers. So delicious.

    • — Anne on February 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • Jenn, do you think this would be good made with chicken broth instead of water, or would that overpower the other delicate flavors?

    • — Tiina on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Tina, I think it would be fine but I’d cut back on the added salt a bit. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 4, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thanks!

        • — Tiina on February 5, 2021
        • Reply
      • Hi Jen, Awesome recipe I was just wondering if I could forego using butter and instead use oil since I’m dairy free? And if so what kind of oil would you suggest.

        • — ari on March 4, 2021
        • Reply
        • Sure, Ari, you could use olive oil in place of the butter. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on March 4, 2021
          • Reply
  • It’s is my “go to” side dish for ANY Mediterranean entree. I especially like it using brown basmati rice. In a pinch I’ve even used pre-cooked microwave rice in a pouch (heat, add a few tablespoons of water and add to the onions) – the flavor isn’t as good, but so much better than a standard rice pilaf. I love it with dates and apricots as the dried fruit.

    • — Susan Miller on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this yesterday to go with the Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs. The two make a great pair. I am always looking for different things to do with rice to spice it up. I should have read a bit ahead as I mixed my cranberries and almonds but next time I will know. The family enjoyed the rice.

    • — Ericka on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is absolutely delicious! Made it for dinner but kept on taking bites before the meal because I couldn’t help myself. The apricots and nuts complement the flavor of the rice so well – I am usually skeptical about fruit in savory dishes but this combo was perfect!

    • — Jess K on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • All my guests loved this wonderful rice dish. Looks and tastes gorgeous.
    I made it exactly as written using currants and apricots, as well as adding pistachio nuts in with the toasted almonds.
    Beautiful colourful rice dish, perfect with Turkish kebabs, seasoned with Urfa pepper flakes and sumac, cacik sauce and Greek salad.
    As usual everything in the rice recipe was thought out perfectly.

    Thank you Jenn for another wonderful recipe.

    • — Elaina on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • This rice is SO good and easy to make. My picky husband often requests this because it is super delicious!

    • — Karise on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • So delicious! We use currants AND diced apricots. One tip…check your fluid to rice ratio on your basmati rice package, as well as cooking time…we’ve had crunchy rice when I changed rice brands. But it is really yummy with the Middle Eastern Kebabs!

    • — Jodi on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Such an easy and delicious way to prepare rice that’s a bit more special. I served this pilaf as a side to the Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs. The two dishes really worked well together. In fact, the meal was such a big hit that my husband asked me to add it to our dinner rotation.

    • — Lisa on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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