Fragrant Vegetable Rice Pilaf (Subzee ka Pulao)


By Shubhra Ramineni

A pilaf is a rice dish in which the rice is first lightly browned by cooking in oil or butter and with onions to impart a brownish color. Traditionally in India, this dish uses clarified butter (ghee), but I use vegetable oil instead since it is healthier and easily available. You could describe this dish as the Indian version of vegetarian fried rice. Since this rice dish is made with aromatic Basmati rice that is infused with fragrant spices and lots of vegetables, it can be eaten as a complete meal along with a side of Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Spiced Yogurt (raita) or plain yogurt and a small piece of Mango Pickle.

Serves 4 as a side dish

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes + 5 minutes to rest

Refrigerator life: 3 days

Freezer life: 1 month

Reheating method: Place the refrigerated or defrosted rice in a microwave, sprinkle a few drops of water on it and stir periodically. Or, place the rice in a saucepan, sprinkle a few drops of water on it and warm over medium-low heat, stirring periodically.


1 cup (180 g) uncooked white Basmati rice

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced into half-moons

3 cloves

5 black peppercorns

One 1-inch (2.5-cm) piece cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 bay leaf

3 whole green cardamom pods

½ cup (60 g) frozen green peas

1 cup (100 g) fresh or frozen bite-size cauliflower florets (no need to defrost the frozen ones)

1 medium russet potato (about ½ lb/250 g), peeled and cubed into ½-in (1.25-cm) or smaller cubes

1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

2 cups (500 ml) water

1½ teaspoons salt


1. Place the rice in a small bowl. Rinse three or four times by repeatedly filling the bowl with cold water and carefully draining off the water. It is okay if the water is not completely clear, but try to get it as clear as you can. Pour the rice in a sieve to drain.

2. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and place it over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the onion, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and bay leaf. Open the cardamom pods and add the seeds and the pods. Sauté the onion until it is browned and the edges just start to crisp, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the peas, cauliflower florets, potato and carrot. Cover the saucepan. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the rice. Stir thoroughly until all of the rice is coated with the oil. Add the water and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat.

5. Reduce the heat to low and stir. Cover the saucepan. Simmer undisturbed until the water is completely absorbed and you do not see any more water on the bottom of the saucepan if you insert a spoon through the rice, about 8 minutes.

6. Turn off the heat. Let rest, covered, for 5 minutes on the warm stove. Keep covered until ready to serve or let cool to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze for later. Before serving, gently fluff the rice with a fork to mix the vegetables. You may leave the whole spices in for presentation. Enjoy!


Recipe courtesy of Shubhra Ramineni from her Indian cookbook,

“Entice with Spice – Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People” Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2012 Shubhra Ramineni. All rights reserved.

For Shubhra’s upcoming classes and events, please visit Readers may contact her from her website for any cooking questions they have for her.  Fans can “like” her “Entice with Spice” Facebook page and post pictures of the recipes they have made.

You can follow Shubhra on Twitter @shubhraramineni.

The award-winning cookbook, Entice with Spice, Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People, is available worldwide at major bookstores such as Barnes & Nobles, Om Bookshop in Delhi, India, and on  It is also available in independent bookstores in Houston, as well as at Central Market and Williams-Sonoma and will soon be at Whole Foods Markets.

Shubhra is currently working on her next cookbook, which will be about healthy eating using fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables and tofu.


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