Aromatic Coconut Rice

Do you like curry? I love curry of all sorts, served of course with a side of long grain basmati rice. Usually we pay more attention to the curry than we do the rice. But the rice can be a star all on its own.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with coconut rice, not the sweet dessert rice that accompanies mango slices, but the savory type, more like a pilaf, cooked with grated coconut and aromatic spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. If you like coconut (hello dad!) this one is for you.

I’ve made several versions of this recipe, with clarified butter, with plain butter, with coconut oil. My favorite is clarified butter but the coconut oil version is really good too! I keep eating it and coming up with excuses to make more.

This recipe is loosely adapted from a recipe in a cookbook from the 60s, called A Taste of India, by Mary Atwood.

Aromatic Coconut Rice Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6.

You can use either coconut oil or clarified butter for this recipe. Clarified butter will add a wonderful buttery flavor to the rice if you use it and is more traditional for this Indian style rice. Use coconut oil for vegan option.

To make clarified butter, take 4 Tbsp of unsalted butter and melt in a saucepan on medium low heat. Skim the foam. Strain through cheesecloth into a bowl, straining out the solids. (If pressed for time, you can skip the straining step for this recipe, and just skim the foam.)

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil (for vegan option) or clarified butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups basmati long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup grated, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut water*
  • 1 3/4 cups plain water
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon

* If you don't have access to packaged coconut water, add 1 cup of grated coconut to 4 cups of water, bring to a simmer, cover and remove from heat, let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain. Use in place of the coconut water and plain water for this recipe.

Method

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1 Melt coconut oil or clarified butter in a medium sauté pan (that has a cover) on medium low heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne, and salt, and cook a minute more.

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2 Stir the rice into the onion mixture to coat with the oil or butter and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

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3 Add the grated coconut to the rice onion mixture and stir in the  coconut water and the water. Stir in the cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon. Increase heat to bring the rice mixture to a simmer. Lower the heat the low, cover, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

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4 Remove from heat and let the rice steam in the residual heat, covered, for 10 more minutes. Remove lid and remove cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon. Fluff with a fork.

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32 Comments

  1. Mark

    This sounds like such a great idea. Normally, we would just cook plain rice, but now I’m looking forward to trying to add some flavour.

  2. Gabrielle

    Is it at all possible to substitute ground cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom in this recipe?

    • Elise

      You could try it with a small pinch of cinnamon and cardamom, and a very very very small pinch of cloves. Sort of depends on how fresh your ground spices are.

  3. Elizabeth

    Would jasmine rice be a good substitute for basmati rice in this recipe? I may have bought an absolutely enormous bag of jasmine…

    Also, if I use the substitute for coconut water as listed above, can I reuse the strained coconut to replace the coconut that is called for, or do I need to add in new coconut?

    Thanks for all the great recipes and stories – I have been using your site for several years and love it!

  4. Sue/the view from great island

    I’ve discovered how great plain old rice can be through Yotem Ottolenghi’s recipes…this one sounds fantastic!

  5. Diane

    Oh, yum! We love curry & rice; this is just the thing to shake it up a bit. Thanks!

  6. Helen

    I’ve made coconut rice with plain long grain rice and a can of coconut milk before but I think the addition of onion, garlic and those lovely spices will be delicious.

  7. Tereza

    Definitely am craving curry now!!

    http://lifeandcity.tumblr.com

  8. Joshua Hampton

    This is awesome. I have Asian friends who consider rice as the main dish and not just a side. They do wonderful things to their rice dishes, and this recipe reminds me of them.

  9. Elizabeth

    This looks very good. A nice rice pilau turns an ordinary curry and trimmings into dinner party material.

  10. M

    You have to try using chicken fat , like HaiNam chicken rice.
    It was so good.

  11. Laura

    Any chance you might develop a cauliflower rice version of this? I was really disappointed with the nomnompaleo coconut cauliflower rice from her cookbook and would love to find a good cauliflower rice version!

  12. Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today

    Thank you for this recipe, will try it out tonight.

  13. Preeta

    I’m not sure if there are several kinds of clarified butter, but the kind Indian cooks make at home (ghee) involves a slightly longer cooking time: you melt unsalted butter over medium heat and leave it to cook (it should be bubbling but not spattering) for a while, stirring frequently. You’ll see the butter go through several stages (first foam, then small white particles, etc.). When you see *reddish* particles form, the ghee is ready to strain and decant into a glass jar. Leave it to cool and then close the jar (no need to seal as for jam — just close it). No need to refrigerate. It never goes rancid, and is fabulous with all Indian food :-) .

    To the commenter who asked about using jasmine rice: this particular coconut rice recipe is Indian, so I think basmati is your better bet, but there is another kind of coconut rice, called nasi lemak in Malaysia (where I grew up), that uses Southeast Asian rice varieties (so jasmine would be wonderful). Here is a recipe for the rice and its usual accompaniments, but if you want to make *just* the rice, you can make just that part and eat it with any curry:

    http://rasamalaysia.com/recipe-nasi-lemak-coconut-milk-rice/2/

    We eat rice every day in Southeast Asia — often 3 or 4 times a day, for every meal! — so we have lots and lots of rice recipes. The chicken fat rice (Hainanese chicken rice) mentioned above by another commenter is also divine! You can find recipes for it all over the internet. It’s a bit involved but worth making at least once :-) .

    • M

      Yes! I am crazy about nasi lemak, especially the chilly paste. I am glad someone on the same page. <3

  14. Michelle

    I always have such a hard time finding unsweetened grated coconut. I only ever find the sweetened kind in the baking aisle. I live in a fairly metropolitan area with a very nice Wegmans. Am I just looking in the wrong spot?

    • Elise

      I found unsweetened coconut flakes which I pulsed a few times in a mini chopper to get to the consistency of grated coconut.

    • Alex

      Our local Wegmans carries a few of these, but not in the baking isle. Try looking in the organic section (Bob’s Red Mill and Let’s do Organic both make it) or in the frozen ethnic food section (Goya also makes one).

  15. Alexander

    I like to make coconut rice lightly scented with herbs. So far I’ve tried cilantro, basil, and mint. All delicious!

  16. vicki w

    This recipe demands that I make it TOMORROW!!
    I am so happy to be reminded of this great little recipe book, which I now feel even more fortunate to own as I fondly recall some favorites from years ago. Thanks for the inspiration to renew my acquaintance with A Taste of India!

  17. Rosa @HHR

    This looks so tasty! Coconut makes everything better. Everything!

  18. Karen

    Oh, you read my mind! This sounds delicious, and I’m much appreciative that you add vegan options! Thank you Elise!

  19. Pat

    This sounds so good as I am sure it is. I will take anything with coconut in it!

  20. Sandy S

    Elise you are on a roll with such delectable recipes lately! I can barely keep-up! Turkey mushroom meatballs with that yummy sauce, cream of celery soup and mint chimichurri are just a few of your recipes I think sound so, so good! And now, this terrific sounding aromatic coconut rice! You are making my head swim! I will have to draw a recipe out of a hat to decide which I will make this week-end. Thank you for making it fun to look-forward to doing that!

  21. Oui, Chef

    Oohhh…I’m making a beef curry later this week and think I’ll whip up a batch of this rice to serve with…yummy!

  22. Jane

    This sounds so good. I am going to try it in my rice cooker.

  23. Kate

    I just made this, exactly as written (choosing Ghee) but for the substitution of jasmine rice as that was what I had on hand. It is FABULOUS! It’s taking sheer force of will not to eat huge quantities of it straight from the pot. If sanity prevails, I’ll be trying it with your shrimp curry.

  24. Jennifer S.

    I have been very low carb paleo for awhile, so I haven’t cooked rice in a long time. Recently I added back rice and potatoes to my diet. As soon as I saw you post this, I knew I had to try it. I made it yesterday, and it was delicious! I loved the spices in this. I also made your mom’s spanish rice this weekend, and that was great as well! Thank you!

  25. Cynthia

    Hi, I followed the directions to a tee. The rice wasn’t even close to cooked or the water absorbed. I put it back on heat for another 15 mins, let it sit, still not cooked, repeated this one more time and I still have a large pot of un cooked rice. ( hard and crunchy). Suggestions as to how to get it cooked with out burning it? Has this happened to anyone else? I hate to throw away the whole thing.

    • Elise

      Hi Cynthia, hmm, that’s weird. You brought it to a simmer, covered it, cooked it for 15 minutes, let it rest covered for 10 and it wasn’t cooked? Maybe the rice you were using was old and needed to be cooked longer? Sometimes that can happen.

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