Indian Style Rice

Aromatic basmati rice, cooked with onions and flavored with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, mustard seed, chili and turmeric.

Indian Style Rice
Elise Bauer

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.

Indian Rice
Elise Bauer

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 a little different from how I usually make rice.

For this recipe 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

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Rice soaking 30 mins
Total Time 60 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

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


  • 2 cups long-grain basmati rice

  • 8 cups water

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 cloves

  • 2 green cardamom pods

  • One 2-inch piece cinnamon

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or ghee if you have it)

  • 1/2 teaspoon dark mustard seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 3 chopped garlic cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric


  1. Rinse and soak rice:

    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.

    Elise Bauer
  2. Boil rice with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon:

    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 8 to 10 minutes.

    Note that not all of the water will be absorbed!

    After 8 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. Drain rice and rinse with cold water, remove spices:

    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. Sauté mustard seeds, cumin, chili flakes, then onion:

    In a pan large enough to hold the rice, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and the chili flakes.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    Cook until the mustard seeds start popping, then add the chopped onion. Cook until the onions begin to brown, about 5-7 minutes.

  5. Add garlic, then rice and turmeric:

    Add the garlic and cook 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.

    Elise Bauer


Savory Coconut Rice here on Simply Recipes

Saffron Rice Pilaf here on Simply Recipes

More Indian-cuisine recipes!

Indian Style Rice
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
140 Calories
7g Fat
17g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 140
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 719mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 25mg 2%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 61mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.