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How To Make Rice Pilaf

Dairy-Free  |  Published on Oct 29, 2019  |  Last modified on May 13, 2020

What is rice pilaf?

Rice Pilaf is commonly cooked in chicken broth or wine for more flavor than just water and it pairs deliciously wish protein such as steak bites or Greek yogurt baked chicken.

Rice pilaf also involves aromatics such as onion, garlic, fennel or carrots. In this recipe I show you how to make it with onion, garlic and butter over medium high heat.

Clearly rice pilaf does not have to be a boring or bland side dish that many people typically think it is. This rice pilaf is fluffy, fragrant and much more than your standard white rice.

This recipe for rice pilaf is prepared in a sauté pan (or you can use a saucepan) on the stove top, but you can also make baked rice pilaf by placing it in a covered casserole dish and baking in the oven.

step by step photos of how rice pilaf is made from melting butter to toasting the rice

The best type of rice for making rice pilaf

There are several rice varietals that are divided into categories based on grain length, color, aroma, thickness, etc. But which is the best for a delicious rice pilaf?

I prefer basmati white rice. Through research the best choice is long-grain white rice. The individual grains are long and slender, and they contain a type of starch that is more apt to let the grains stay separate and fluffy as they cook.

How to make rice pilaf

Melt butter & stir in aromatics: First you will melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Toast the vermicelli and then add in the aromatics such as onions and garlic. This deepens the flavor in your pilaf immensely.

Toast the rice: This is a standard step yet I have made it without toasting it as well. (*Note if you watch the video I made I skipped the toasting rice step).

When toasting with, toast it with the vermicelli and toast the rice not until it browns but just briefly to help separate the rice (it helps to avoid mushy pilaf).

rice pilaf freshly made in a saute pan with a wooden spoon scooping some out

Add in the liquid and seasonings: Broth is the most preferred liquid for flavor purposes but if you don’t have any water will be OK. Some people I’ve learned also enjoy adding a little juice or wine into the broth for even more of an intense flavor.

Simmer and cook: Let the rice and liquid come to a small boil, place the lid on and turn to low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Fluff the rice: Why and how? Use a fork’s narrow tines to gently separate the grains without breaking them to help preserve the perfect texture of the rice you’ve worked so hard to get!

rice pilaf in a white bowl topped with chopped parsley

Tips for making the best rice pilaf

We all want our pilaf fragrant and to taste flavorful. Pilaf also should have a light, fluffy texture and the individual grains of rice should be separated, not mushy and stuck together. Here are some tips to make it perfect every time.

  • Toast the rice in the butter, onion and vermicelli until each grain is well coated and translucent.
  • Rinse the rice before you begin! This will rid the rice of outer starch and give you nicely separated grains in the final dish.
  • Use less liquid than usual and simmer gently: The rice to broth/water ratio for rice pilaf is different than what the bag may say.
  • Use aromatics for a more in depth flavor: Onion, garlic, fennel or carrots are common. In this recipe I show you how to make it with onion, garlic and butter.
  • Cooking time: Before you put the lid on, give the rice only one quick stir after you bring it to a simmer. Cook it covered on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Let it rest for another 10 minutes and then fluff with your fork!

More rice recipes you will love

Cilantro Lime Rice

Sausage, Peppers and Rice Skillet

One Pan Mediterranean Chicken and Rice

Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowls

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Cups

Freekeh Pilaf

Do you love white rice or brown rice more?

How to Make Rice Pilaf

Pilaf should have a light, fluffy texture and the individual grains of rice should be separated, not mushy and stuck together. Here are some tips to make it perfect every time!
5 from 4 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
resting time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 192kcal


  • Spoon


  • 2 Tbsp. butter, unsalted
  • 1/3 cup vermicelli
  • 1/2 cup white onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup long grain white rice (Basmati)
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  • Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add in the vermicelli and toast it gently, stirring often to prevent burning. Then add in the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat to soften, about 1 minute.
  • Add rice and stir it into the onion/butter until the salt grains look translucent. Then add in the broth and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and garnish with parsley.



Rice will last in your fridge for 2-3 days. 
Add in ground spices such coriander, cumin, or cinnamon. Just a little bit, don’t go overboard!
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Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 192kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.1g | Protein: 4.2g

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  1. This recipe is so handy! Rice pilaf is such a versatile ingredient and I can see from your post the various ways of serving it which is fantastic. I will try it with the steak bites. Cheers!

  2. I love a good tutorial and this one for rice pilaf is perfect. I never make it because, even though it’s a simple dish, it seemed complicated. Now I have an easy go-to recipe!!

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