Coconut-Scented Basmati Rice

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Basmati rice is the centerpiece of Indian and Pakistani cooking. I’m fascinated by how the individual grains elongate rather than plump as they cook, helping them keep their firm-textured shape without breaking down. Basmati’s sweet, almost perfumed, floral aroma also makes it very appealing as a simple, steamed rice.


Nightly Specials

Add toasted coconut, raisins plumped in hot water, and/or crushed almonds or walnuts during the last few minutes of cooking.

Add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper while the rice is cooking.

Add a peeled, julienned large carrot while the rice is cooking

For saffron rice, add a pinch of saffron threads to the broth.

Serves4 to 6 as a side dish



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseside dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturechewy, creamy, herby, savory


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cups basmati rice, or other similar long-grained rice, picked over for stones and rinsed of excess starch
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fine sea salt
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock, low-sodium, store-bought chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water, simmering in a pot set over medium heat
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro


  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat well with the oil, then add the bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and hot broth. Season lightly with pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat, and let simmer, removing the lid occasionally to stir with a fork to prevent scorching, until the grains are fully cooked but not clumped together, 18 to 20 minutes.

  2. Use tongs to remove and discard the bay leaf. Use a fork to gently stir and separate the grains and stir in the butter; coconut milk, and cilantro.

  3. 3. Transfer the rice to a serving dish, or spoon it alongside other components, and serve at once.


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