Savory Coconut Rice

Make this Indian-style coconut rice with three kinds of coconut: shredded coconut, coconut oil, and coconut water. Serve with your favorite curry.

Coconut rice in a round bowl
Elise Bauer

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 keep eating the rice and coming up with excuses to make more.

Coconut rice made with coconut, coconut water, and coconut oil in a round bowl
Elise Bauer

Flexible Coconut Rice Recipe

I've made several versions of this coconut rice recipe — with clarified butter, with plain butter, with coconut oil. My favorite is clarified butter but the coconut oil version is really good too! Ghee would also work well.

If you don't have coconut water, you can make your own by simmering a cup of grated unsweetened coconut with 4 cups of water. Once the water simmers, cover and remove from heat, let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain.

Looking for even more flavor? Add some herbs in with the coconut water and rice, for example, cilantro, basil, or mint.

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

What to Serve With Coconut Rice

Savory Coconut Rice

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 60 mins
Servings 6 servings

You can use either coconut oil, ghee, or clarified butter for this recipe. Clarified butter or ghee 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.)

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.



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


  1. Cook chopped onions, add garlic, cayenne, salt:

    Melt coconut oil, ghee, 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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  2. Add the rice:

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

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  3. Add coconut, coconut water, water, spices, simmer and cover:

    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.

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