Best Basmati Rice Pilaf

One of my favorite side dishes of all time, this easy homemade basmati rice pilaf has flavors like garlic, onion and tomatoes. Paired best with fish and chicken!

basmati rice pilaf in a bowl garnished with parsley

taste and texture

This rice is fluffy and fragrant, not gummy or sticky, and shines with flavors of garlic, onion, tomato and thyme. Using bouillon and bay leaves in our simmering liquid makes the rice soak up all that flavor as well.

What results is a perfectly aromatic, flavorful rice with a fantastic mouthfeel.

basmati rice pilaf in a bowl garnished with scallions

why rice pilaf is better than steamed rice

So what makes a rice pilaf so much better than plain steamed rice? The aromatics. We start by quickly sautéing the thyme in oil, just until fragrant, and add onion, garlic and scallions. Then we add bay leaves and rice to the mixture in order to coat each grain with oil.

This process, similar to the method used for mexican rice, means the finished rice wont stick together and form clumps. Instead, we have perfectly fluffy rice that is neither too sticky or oily.

The final distinction lies in the cooking broth. Rather than using salted water, in addition to our aromatics, rice pilaf cooks in a flavorful broth. I like using chicken bouillon (Maggi is better than Knorr in my opinion), but vegetable bouillon also works really well in this recipe.

basmati rice pilaf being cooked in a large green stock pot on a stove

what to pair with rice pilaf

I traditionally serve this with fish. Rice pilaf makes a perfect bed for recipes like my Pan Seared Salmon (with a creamy sauce) and Cedar Plank Blackened Salmon.

However, with flavors similar to Rice-a-Roni, this side dish can also be served along something like Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Chicken, or seasoned and grilled chicken can be chopped up and added to make this a full meal.

The possibilities are endless, and I’m sure you’ll find this quickly moving into your weekly rotation!

until next time. x

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basmati rice pilaf in a bowl with a spoon sticking out
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basmati rice pilaf in a bowl garnished with parsley

Best Basmati Rice Pilaf

One of my favorite side dishes of all time, this basmati rice pilaf has flavors like garlic, onion and tomatoes. Paired best with fish and chicken!

  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 cups cooked rice 1x


  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed, soaked & drained*
  • 14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 large cube bouillon
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • salt to taste
  • Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • sliced scallions, for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large stockpot set to medium low, heat the oil until it shimmers (look for waves). Add dried thyme and stir quickly for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  2. Add diced onion and scallions to the pot and sauté 3 minutes, then add the minced garlic, bay leaves and drained rice and cook for another 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently so each grain gets coated in oil.
  3. Pour in the drained diced tomatoes, boiling water and bouillon cube and stir to dissolve. Season with salt to taste. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and cover 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork and discard the bay leaves. Serve warm, garnished with parsley or scallions (optional), with fish or chicken.



  • 6 qt stock pot or dutch oven with lid**
  • large mixing bowl
  • mesh strainer

*Do not skip draining and soaking the basmati rice – it will change the texture of the finished recipe. Place the dry rice in a large mixing bowl and fill with water roughly 2 inches above the rice. Agitate the rice with your fingers so the water gets cloudy, then pour the excess off, using a mesh strainer to catch any escapees. Repeat this at least 10 times, until the water runs clear, then soak the rice for 20 minutes. Drain it again in a mesh strainer before adding to the recipe.

** A 6qt or larger Instant Pot can be used instead of the stove in this recipe. Just follow recipe as directed, using the sauté function on the pot: high to boil, low to simmer. The Instant Pot will not allow the lid to twist closed while using the sauté setting. If you don’t have the (separately sold) clear cover, just rest the lid on top of the pot – it still works.

  • Author: Sarah | AwayFromTheBox
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: rice pilaf, basmati rice, rice

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One Comment

  1. This recipe is so delicious! I made this tonight for my husband and daughter. They loved it. I did it a little different. I used fresh thyme and tomatoes as I had them growing in the backyard (I was out of canned tomatoes). Other than that, I followed the recipe.

    I served it with broccoli and sautéed chicken tenderloins marinated in Dijon mustard, honey, lemon, and garlic.

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