Spiced Basmati Rice Pilaf

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Basmati rice is highly regarded for its aroma and taste. It is typically used in pilafs seasoned with spices and sautéed onion. These additions heighten the already aromatic character of the rice, and the pilaf technique—sautéing the grains in oil before steaming them—produces rice with a fine, delicate texture.


  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 Tbs. minced yellow onion  
  • 1 cup basmati rice 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick  
  • 1 cardamom pod 
  • 1 slice fresh ginger, 1/8 inch thick, peeled 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped 


In a large, deep fry pan or sauté pan over low heat, warm the olive oil and onion. Cook, stirring, just until the onion is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the kernels are evenly coated with the oil and are warmed, about 3 minutes. Add the water, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, ginger slice and salt. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook without stirring, until small craters form on the surface of the rice, indicating that all the water has been absorbed, and the rice is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a small, dry fry pan and place over medium-low heat. Toast the walnuts, stirring, just until they are fragrant and have taken on color, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour onto a plate.

Carefully lift the cover of the pan so that no condensation drips into the rice. Do not stir. Gently spoon the rice into a warmed serving dish, discarding the cinnamon stick, cardamom pod and ginger slice. Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).

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