Savory 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.

Coconut Rice

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.

Savory 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.)



  • 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.


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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Showing 4 of 34 Comments

  • 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.

  • Gabrielle

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

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