Savory Coconut Rice

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.)

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


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

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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.

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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.

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  • Usnea

    Followed to a T and it was bomb!


  • Mattie

    I made this, and it was delicious. I made my own “coconut water” with one cup of flaked coconut and three cups of hot water in the blender, then strained it, so it was more like milk (I used 1/2 cup of the coconut I strained out as the coconut in the recipe). I was worried because I’ve used coconut milk in the past, and the rice didn’t absorb it. I did have to let it simmer about five minutes longer, but it worked.The spices were subtle, but there and a great compliment to my roasted chicken and veggies. I have plenty of leftover and can’t wait to eat it!


  • Lori Erokan

    Elise, where can I find “grated, unsweetened coconut”? Do I need to go to a specialty grocery? Thanks!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Lori, the brand Bob’s Red Mill offers it if you have a store that carries Bob’s. You can also find it online.

  • Nancy Marsden

    The coconut water was a great addition, instead of the canned coconut milk I have used in the past, which was a bit too greasy. Since I was serving this with a Thai style salmon, I substituted chopped cilantro and green onion instead of the Indian spices. Since I had so many other dishes to cook, I made it easier, cooked it in the rice cooker. Slightly different proportions…for 2 cups white basmati, 2 cups of unsweetened coconut water and just under a cup of plain water. While It was cooking, sautéed the garlic, cilantro and green onions lightly in the butter and stirred the mixture into the fluffed rice at the end. Everyone loved it! Thank you for inspiring me!

  • Yelena

    Is 1 to 1 proprtion of liquid and rice enough? I’m worried it may be undercooked since regular rice is cooked with 1 part rice and 2 parts liquid..

    • Elise Bauer

      Hello Yelena, there’s also 1 3/4 cups of plain water, in addition to the coconut water. So it’s not a 1:1 proportion, but much closer to 1:2.

  • 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 Bauer

      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.

  • 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!


  • 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.


  • Alexander

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

  • 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 Bauer

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

      • Bob

        I order unsweetened coconut online at along with many hard to find ingredients in the low carb section.

    • 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).

  • 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:

    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

  • 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!

    • Elise Bauer

      Not likely. But if you experiment with idea, please let us know how it turns out for you!

  • M

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Gabrielle

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

    • Elise Bauer

      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.