Serves a Crowd

Tomato Rice (Tamatar Biryani)

October 27, 2021
15 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

We made this rice for Raghavan Iyer—Cookbook Author, Magazine Writer, Culinary Educator—and I'm thanking him for writing this recipe. —pauljoseph

Test Kitchen Notes

We are simply in love with this savory tomato rice recipe—it's loaded with aromatics and layers of heat but so easily made for a simple side or lunch. Family and friends will love it and ask you for the recipe whenever you make it. With these precise instructions, the rice comes out perfectly cooked and soaked through with the flavorful tomato broth. Slow and steady wins here, especially cooking the rice over super-low heat at the very end. Featuring ghee, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and fresh chiles, this tomato rice dish is unforgettable, comforting, and warming. Throw in some chicken or ground beef and you've got yourself a delicious entrée. You can vary the spice with the type of chiles you choose (for example, Thai are much spicier than serrano), and whether you remove the seeds and heat-packed white ribs. Bear in mind that the spice will continue to build as you eat, and you can taste as you go. If you can't find whole mace, you can substitute 1/8 tsp ground mace or even skip it altogether and let the other spices carry the dish.

Yes, rinsing and soaking the rice seems time-consuming, but your patience will be rewarded and you'll end up with the best flavor and texture. All that's left to do is sauté the spices and aromatics, stir in the tomatoes, then let the rice simmer in all of that goodness. Your kitchen will smell delightful, and you'll forever love this combination of textures and ingredients.
—The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Tomato Rice (Tamatar Biryani)
  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
  • 6 green or white cardamom pods
  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 2 blades mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut lengthwise into thin strips (do not remove the seeds)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon shredded fresh ginger
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
  1. In a medium bowl, place the rice. Fill the bowl halfway with water to cover the rice. Gently rub the grains through your fingers, without breaking them, to wash off any dust or light foreign objects (like loose husks), which will float to the surface. The water will become cloudy. Drain and repeat this process three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain again. Fill the bowl halfway with cold water and let it sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes, until the kernels soften. Drain one more time.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the ghee. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, mace, and cloves. Cook, stirring, for 15 to 30 seconds, until they sizzle, crackle, and smell aromatic. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes, until light brown around the edges.
  3. Mix in the chiles, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. (You don't want the garlic to brown because its nutlike crunch is important to the rice's texture.) Stir in the tomatoes, with their juices, and the salt and turmeric. Simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the tomatoes soften.
  4. Add the drained rice and toss gently to coat with the tomato sauce. Pour in 1½ cups water and stir once to incorporate. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the water has evaporated from the surface and craters are starting to appear in the rice. Then (and not until then) stir once to bring the partially cooked layer from the bottom of the pan to the surface. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes (10 minutes for a gas burner). Turn off the heat and let the pan sit on that burner, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and sprinkle with the cilantro. (Remove the cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks before you serve, or just remind folks to eat around them.)
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131 Reviews

Nina February 25, 2024
Not very delicious. Too gummy
Dariusz January 7, 2024
This was waaay too spicy for me, it was burning my mouth. Should cut down on chiles and garlic.
Cindy Y. April 27, 2022
I've made this Tomato Rice dish so many times and each time to raves from guests and family alike. Very easy prep and makes an awesome side dish with a protein or a delightfully light vegetarian entree served with some sauteed spinach and garlic. This recipe is definitely in our regular meal rotation!
arun October 14, 2021
nice one.
arun October 14, 2021
nice recipe..
arun October 14, 2021
arun October 14, 2021
arun October 14, 2021
So S. March 20, 2021

I didn't see the description that said to ad 1/8th tsp of mace to replace the whole mace
so I googled it, which told me to sub 2 tsp ground instead. It was delicious in the end nonetheless.

I used canned crushed tomatoes as that's all I had, and I think the rice turned out a tad too liquidy, maybe will cut to 1.25 cups water if I use canned tomatoes next time
So S. March 20, 2021
Would also say that I having made the whole recipe and served it with nothing but 2 fried eggs on top, I don't feel it's a 6 person serving recipe unless you have a nice hearty main to go with it. I would say it could feed 3 people with an appropriate vegetable side or something

and 2.5 with nothing else
Kate B. June 4, 2019
I made it to the recipe only substituting dried instead of fresh mace which I've never seen in any speciality grocer. Delicious!!! My husband had seconds and thirds. The left overs will be superb as a side to tomorrow's fish
Regine September 11, 2018
Let me also add that for me this recipe, at least in my "rice lover" household, cannot be 6 servings but at the most 3. :D)
Regine September 11, 2018
I made this last night but used only dashes of (actually, several of each) powdered clove, cardamom and cinnamon because this is what I had on hand. My rice came out exactly like in the 2nd picture. It is quite tasty but I had to add a bit more salt to the liquids (which I tasted after I added the rice). It also took me 20 not 10 minutes on my gas oven (with the tight fitting lid) for the rice to be fully cooked. I do agree with Cowpscowper; raita would be good with this rice. Thanks for the recipe.
SoInconvenient June 28, 2018
We made this tonight and were so thrilled with the result. We didn't have any mace, so we subbed in a few dashes of nutmeg. We made a side of Nigel Slater's spinach with ginger, garlic and garam masala (whole recipe is in the title) and are so content and full and happy.
Brenda May 14, 2015
I cannot give enough praise to this recipe. It is so yummy...I made it last night and i am still thinking about it. I added broccoli to this dish, but would like to try adding tofu next time as well. :)
Cowpscowper April 14, 2015
This one's a keeper! I will continue to make this throughout my life: it's that tasty. Aromatic and flavorful. Spicy and sweet. I threw in some chicken. And made some raita on the side. Thanks for the wonderful recipe! :)
Bluejade November 24, 2014
This is pretty good. I used ground spices instead of the whole spices because I just don't buy them. I did not use the spicy peppers. I substituted with chopping up fresh red bell pepper and a small amount of red pepper flakes. That was fine for us. This recipe, as is, must be really hot. Altho the recipe is not tedious and it came together within according to the directions, it is not exactly simple. Worth trying.
sevenfaces September 6, 2014
This was great. I'm a big fan of spanish rice - rice cooked in tomatoes - so I knew I would like this too. I counted the number of cloves and cardamom pods I put in so I knew when I had picked them all out and could serve it at the table with confidence!
kimberly.godwin March 23, 2014
I made this last weekend. Quite good. I used 2 Serrano chilies, but think I should have used 3. (I like a bit more kick.) I even found mace! I did run out of turmeric so I had to do without. I will definitely make this again, and make sure I have turmeric on hand next go round.
Angel January 26, 2014
This was very good!! Will make again for sure. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your achievement!
Ham July 20, 2013
This turned out fantastic. I made it with three serrano chiles and fearfully removed about 3/4 of the seeds. Not necessary! The heat was extremely mild, so next time I will keep the seeds in at least two of the chiles. I also threw 1/4 cup of peas in just after the "crater" step which I thought worked well. I will absolutely make this again.