Indian Style Rice

The blessing of a well stocked pantry is that so many more dishes are available to you at the spur of the moment. There are a few ingredients in this classic Indian style rice that you may not have in your cupboard, but I suggest that they would be excellent additions if you don’t already have them. Cardamom pods are expensive, but they pretty much last forever. Ground cardamom will get flat after a year or so, but the cardamom seeds seem to keep for years within the pods. Mustard seeds are tiny, but they pack a punch. I have an Indian friend who used to make dinner for me when I lived in San Francisco; he would often toss a few mustard seeds into whatever he was making to give it a lift. (Try adding some to lentils.) Most of us have ground cumin, but as with other ground spices, ground cumin will go flat. The whole seeds last longer. Besides, cumin is better when the seeds are toasted first. Turmeric is what gives this rice its vibrant yellow color. Not only does turmeric have plenty of health benefits, it’s the primary ingredient in yellow curry powder.

Now, about the rice. Please make it. This rice was one of those OMG food epiphanies for me. As in, “this is so easy and so incredibly good, why haven’t I been making it my whole life?” Seriously. We made this for an upcoming chicken dish and thank goodness we made a big batch. The technique for making the rice is different from how I usually make rice. In this case you boil the rice in more water than the rice can absorb, and then drain the water from the rice when it’s done. The rice is boiled with the cinnamon stick, cardamom, and cloves, so it soaks up those flavors while it’s cooking. Then it is tossed with sautéed spices and onions.

Indian Style Rice Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

If you don't have whole cardamom pods or stick cinnamon, add a pinch of each ground in with the cumin in step 4.



  • 2 cups long-grain rice, preferably Basmati
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • One 2-inch piece of cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil (or ghee if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric


1 Place rice in a sieve and run cool water through it to rinse it until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in cool water for 30 minutes. Drain.

2 Bring 8 cups of water and the salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice and stir. Add the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste the rice, and test if it is done to your taste; rice can take more or less time to cook depending on how old it is. If still too firm, cook a few minutes longer.

3 When the rice is cooked to your liking, drain the rice into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop if from cooking. Remove the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and discard. Set the rice aside to drain.

4 In a pan large enough to hold the rice, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and the chile flakes. Cook until the mustard seeds start popping, then add the onion. Sauté until the onion begins to brown, about 5-7 minutes.

5 Add the garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and mix well. Sprinkle the turmeric over the rice and mix well. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

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Showing 4 of 28 Comments

  • Sanjeeta kk

    Wow! This looks really nice. You can try the same recipe in Rice cooker, it will be faster and you don’t have to drain the water as well (more health benefits). But reduce the quantity of water when using rice cooker.

    Nice to visit your site. Enjoy your readings on food and love the recipes of course.
    Best wishes.

  • Tracy

    I usually cook my rice in plenty of salted water. “As though you were cooking pasta” as I once explained it to a friend. I find it much nicer – doesn’t stick and is less starchy.

    The only time I don’t cook rice like this is if I am doing a ‘rice dish’ such as risotto, paella, rice & lentils, or something.

  • Nalanda

    Perfect recipe Elise. Just one thing you could try though — instead of adding the turmeric towards the end, add it right after the mustard, cumin seeds and the chilli flakes. This ensures that it is “cooked” as well. Raw turmeric downplays the rest of the flavours and smells. Also, once it is cooked with the spices, it’ll gel well with the onions and then the rice, coloring and flavouring equally. Besides, the antiseptic qualities of turmeric, that it is so famous for, work well when its cooked.

    Hope you get to try this and let us all know how it turned out! Cheers!

    Thanks for the tip! ~Elise

  • Julie

    Would you serve this with something overtop, or just on the side of say tandoori chicken?

    I think either way. ~Elise

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