Pulao or pilaf is plain food and I make it when I want to cook something easy, quick, and satisfying. This all-in-one rice and vegetable dish has added spices and herbs, giving it a sweet aromatic flavor.
This special recipe is my mom’s and it’s my favorite recipe for making veg pulao. The dish is also vegetarian and is excellent on its own or paired with raita (a dish of Indian yogurt), pickle, and roasted papad (a thin and crispy Indian snack).
Called by various names such as pilaf or pulav, one of the most common rice dishes in India is veg pulao, the other being Veg Biryani.
A pulao is a dish of rice and vegetables in one pot or a protein cooked with aromatics (garlic, ginger, etc.), herbs and spices. There are many variations of how to make a pulao.
However, the recipe I’m sharing here is my favorite and how I almost always end up making it.
What I love about making veg pulao is that it cooks quickly. Use a food processor to chop the veggies and they’ll come together really quickly.
Why this recipe works
- Spices: This recipe uses whole garam masala spices, rather than adding pulao or biryani masala. Thus, the aroma of the spices is clearly felt in the dish.
- Rice: I generally like that the texture of the rice is a bit soft in the pulao, rather than being al dente, which is the way it’s typically served in restaurants. So you’ll love this recipe if you’re like me. Read below for tips on making the perfect rice for your pulao.
Also Read: Veg Biryani | Veg Dum Biryani Recipe
How to make Veg Pulao
1. Start by rinsing 1.5 cups of basmati rice in water until it is starch free. For 30 minutes, soak the rice in enough water.
2. After 30 minutes, filter the rice from all the water and set it aside.
3. While the rice is soaking, prepare the vegetables. Rinse them and chop them. Make sure you chop the vegetables into small cubes. For the cauliflower, chop them into medium-sized florets. Peel, rinse and thinly slice 1 large onion.
4. Keep all the whole spices aside. From the spice list below, you can skip black pepper, black cardamom, star anise, and mace.
5. Add the chopped ginger (1-1.5 inch), garlic (4-5 small to medium garlic cloves, peeled) and 1-2 green peppers (green peppers) in a mortar and pestle.
6. Crush into a paste. You can also use a small grinder to crush them. Add a little water if necessary while grinding in a small grinder or blender.
Fry spices and onions
7. Heat 3 tablespoons of ghee or oil in a heavy, deep-bottomed saucepan or saucepan.
8. Once the ghee has melted and become hot, add all the whole spices and fry them for a few seconds until they become fragrant. The spices will also stutter during frying. The ghee should not smoke or get too hot.
9. Add 1 cup of chopped onions.
10. Combine the onions with the ghee and start to sauté them.
11. Sauté the onions over low to medium-low heat. First, the onions will turn lightly browned. While stirring, continue to sauté often.
12. Sauté the onions until golden brown.
13. Once the onions are golden, add the crushed ginger + garlic + green chili paste (red chili).
14. Stir and sauté for a few seconds until the raw aroma of ginger and garlic is gone.
15. Add ½ cup of chopped tomatoes.
16. Mix and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes over low heat.
17. Now add all the chopped vegetables. You will need about 1 to 1.5 cups of mixed vegetables (chopped).
18. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of coriander leaves (chopped). You can also add 2 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves at this step.
19. Mix and cook for 2 to 3 minutes over low heat.
20. Add the rice.
21. Gently mix the rice with the rest of the ingredients.
22. For 1 to 2 minutes, sauté the rice gently over low to medium-low heat, so that the rice is well coated with oil or ghee.
23. Pour 2.5 to 3 cups of water into the pot. I added 3 cups of water. Depending on the quality of the rice you used, you can add less or more water. You can replace the water with vegetable broth.
24. Add ¼ teaspoon of lemon juice.
25. Season with salt. Mix very well. To know if you’ve added the right amount of salt, check the taste of the water. You should smell some salt in the water. This means that the amount of salt added is correct. If the water doesn’t look salty, you need to add a little more salt.
Cooking in a pan
26. Stir and cover the saucepan or saucepan tightly with its lid.
27. Cover and cook the rice until all the water is soaked. Cook over low to medium heat. Usually at first I cook over medium-low or medium heat, then halfway through I lower the flame. Check several times during cooking to make sure there is enough water. Depending on the quality of the rice, you may need to add more water. You can also gently stir the rice with a fork without breaking the rice grains.
28. Once the rice grains are cooked, fluff them and let the rice rest for 5 minutes, covered with the lid.
29. Serve the pulao garnished with coriander leaves (cilantro), mint leaves or fried cashews and fried onions.
I recommend serving veggie pulao with the following:
- Raita (an Indian yogurt dish): Different variations that I recommend include boondi raita, cucumber raita
- Curry or Korma: Choose any spicy or slightly spicy vegetable curry or korma.
- With Papad and Pickle: If you don’t have the time or ingredients to make korma or raita, simply serve with fried or roasted papad (an Indian flatbread) and pickle
- Plain curd (yogurt)
- A few sliced onions and lime or lemon
- A simple Kadhi (a dish of thick chickpea flour sauce with vegetable fritters)