Indian Style Basmati Rice

Indian Style Basmati Rice

Prior to this year, my experience cooking Indian food has been limited and oftentimes daunting.  I was unfamiliar with a lot of the spices and I just wasn’t sure how it really was supposed to taste.  Back in Hong Kong, a friend had given me this beautiful traditional Indian spice box but I was embarrassingly terrible at remembering which spice was which without any labels!  (In the beginning, I used to confuse mint with basil… I have had a pretty awkward culinary journey.)

one of these is much easier to figure out...

Fortunately for my Indian cuisine education, I had a crash course a few months ago when the in-laws came to town.  We ended up whipping up an Indian-inspired BBQ with Chicken Tikka, Spicy Grilled ShrimpBasmati Rice, Indian-Spiced Okra, and Roasted Mini Bell Peppers.

I adore all kinds of rice dishes, but at home, I rarely go beyond steaming jasmine rice or brown rice.  It was exciting to learn how to cook Basmati rice in a traditional Indian style, and watch how so many spices can infuse to such a delicate flavor.  It clearly is a lot more work than pushing a button on a rice cooker, but the results are totally worth it!

I learned this recipe from my future mum-in-law, who had in turn learned it from her mother-in-law.  This recipe has made it through many generations and countries from India to Kenya to the US, and now :  🙂

Indian Style Basmati Rice

Yields: 4-6 servings


  • 2 C Basmati rice
  • 2 C water
  • 2 C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 x 2″ cinnamon sticks
  • 1 medium onion, diced (approximately 1 C)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • pinch of saffron in 1 T warm milk
  • salt to taste


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse the rice gently with several rounds of cold water until the water runs clear.  Drain and set aside.

In a large oven-proof pan big enough to hold the rice, heat some canola oil over medium-high heat.  Add the whole peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon stick and sauté until fragrant.  Stir in the diced onion and cook until softened.

cook the onions until soft

Add the rice and stir to coat the grains evenly with the oil and flavors.  Next, add the stock and water.

In a small bowl, pour some milk and warm it in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Add the pinch of saffron and let soak in the warm milk.  This will allow the saffron to release its golden colors and aroma.

soak saffron threads in warm milk

Add the saffron milk and turmeric to the rice and mix well.  At this time, you should taste the liquid in the pot.  According to the mum-in-law, the water needs to taste salty!  If you can’t taste the salt, keep adding it until you do.

add saffron and milk to the rice mixture

After you have adjusted the salt and water levels as needed, bring the rice mixture to a boil.  Once it begins to boil, cover the pot with the lid and then place it in the preheated oven.  Bake the rice until the liquid is fully absorbed, about 20 minutes.

bake the rice until the liquid is fully absorbed

Remove from the oven and let stand, covered, for at least 15 minutes before serving.

remove from heat, fluff and let stand


2 Responses to “Indian Style Basmati Rice”
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  1. […] Indian Style Basmati Rice […]

  2. […] We served this delicious Indian-style chicken BBQ with a side of plain yogurt, Kachumba (essentially Indian-style pico de gallo with cucumber), Spiced Okra, Spicy Grilled Shrimp, and Indian-Style Basmati Rice. […]

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