Best Basmati Rice Pilaf

basmati rice pilaf in a bowl garnished with parsley

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!





  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.


*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.

Keywords: rice pilaf, basmati rice, side dish, rice

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