Indian Rice Pilaf With Tomato-Onion Raita & Crispy Papad

November 19, 2018
7 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 3 to 5
Author Notes

I tried this rice pilaf and tomato-onion raita when I went over to my boyfriend's parents' house for dinner for the first time, and of all the food we had that evening, this dish was easily my favorite. After six years, I finally got the recipe and found that it's as simple to make as it is delicious and satisfying. The tangy, cooling yogurt raita (which can also be made with raw onion and tomato), vegetable rice pilaf, and crispy papad (a super-thin flatbread you can pan-fry or microwave) all comes together in well under an hour and the leftovers can happily be enjoyed for days on end.

You start by forming the pilaf’s spice base: Gently melt some ghee in a large skillet and heat up the spices until they are aromatic; careful not to let them burn (I accidentally did the first time I made it). Then, you slowly build from there: Stir in minced garlic and ginger, and finely chopped green chiles (they are small, but don’t underestimate their spice); add the peas, carrots, and green beans and sauté until tender but still firm. For a sweet, crunchy touch without which this dish would be incomplete, golden raisins and cashews are toasted and bathed in ghee. Oh, and don't forget about the mint and cilantro—it's a bright, fresh element that keeps me craving this recipe from summer to winter. —Erin Alexander

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in the story, The Indian Rice Pilaf That Closed the Gap Between Your Family & Mine. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Tomato-onion raita
  • 1 cup Indian-style yogurt, whisked (or plain whole-milk yogurt, just not Greek yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus 1 teaspoon, divided (don’t use olive oil)
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (or more, if you like)
  • 2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 1 dash salt, to taste
  • 1 Indian green chile, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • Vegetable pilaf
  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 whole green cardamom pods
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole clove
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Indian green chile, finely chopped (less or more, depending on your spice)
  • 1 handful carrots, julienned
  • 1 handful peas (if frozen, thawed)
  • 1 handful green beans, chopped
  • 1 dash salt, to taste
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 1 big handful cashews
  • 1 big handful golden raisins
  • 1 bunch cilantro, torn
  • Small to medium-sized Indian papad, pan-fried or microwaved, for serving
  1. Tomato-onion raita
  2. In a pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and tomato for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add dash of salt. Switch off flame and transfer to a bowl.
  3. When it cools, add the onion and tomato mixture to the yogurt. Mix in the cilantro leaves.
  4. In the same sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil and add green chile and mustard seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds start popping.
  5. Add the green chile and mustard seed mixture on top of the yogurt and serve.
  1. Vegetable pilaf
  2. Wash the rice and drain water completely. Cook rice in a rice cooker or over the stove-top, using a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. (The rice should be light and fluffy—not be mushy.)
  3. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoon ghee over medium-low heat. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, clove, bay leaves, star anise, and cumin seeds and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes to release the oils of the spices; this is the base.
  4. Bump the heat up to medium, add onions and sauté until they turn transparent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and green chile and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until aromatic.
  5. Add the carrots, green beans, and peas and cook for 5 to 10 minutes (until the carrots and green beans are tender, but not mushy). Add dash of salt, to taste.
  6. Turn off the heat. Add mint leaves to the vegetable and spice mixture. Then add the cooked rice and mix until the flavors marry together.
  7. In a separate small skillet, heat 2 tablespoon ghee over medium heat and toast the cashews and raisins together, about 2 to 4 minutes; make sure not to burn them. Stir the cashews and raisins into the rice mixture. Add another dash of salt, to taste. Sprinkle coriander leaves as garnish.
  8. Pan-fry some papad; it acts as the perfect crunch with the yogurt-based raita. Serve the rice alongside a big scoop of the yogurt raita and 2 or 3 papad.

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