Turkish pilav (rice) is a staple side dish in Turkish cuisine. It couples well with pretty much every main dish that Turks love, whether it is kofte (meatballs), kebab, or grilled chicken. I learned how to make Turkish rice from my mother-in-law, who is an incredibly talented cook. I am going to share all of her helpful tips and preferences that I’ve developed over time.
The beauty of cooking is that you can, to a certain degree, be really creative and do different things. I’ve seen many Turkish women make rice in several different ways, but there are some essential must-do’s if you want delicious, authentic Turkish rice!
1. Clean your rice
This prevents the rice from clumping together and allows each piece of rice to detach from one another when cooked. This will remove the starches, leaving the rice clean and fresh.
2. Cover the bottom of your pot with olive oil/butter or a mixture both
My personal rule is that whatever pot I use to make rice, I generally cover the entire bottom of the pot with a thin layer of olive oil. Sometimes I combine olive oil and butter for better taste (because, butter), so in that case I would decrease my olive oil to make room for the butter. You want it to be about a quarter cup for two cups of rice, but it is alright to add a bit more.
If covering the bottom of your pot or pan feels like too much, you can use less, but be generous!
If you are using butter, melt that over medium heat before adding in your clean rice.
3. Sauté your clean rice over high heat until brown
You only need to do this for a few minutes
Use a wooden spoon. I don’t know why, and it is not scientific, but my rice always turns out better when I use a wooden spoon versus a plastic or metal one!
4. Add salt during the sauté phase
The more salt, the yummier the rice. But, know your limits. My recommendation is 1-2 teaspoons.
5. Pour in boiling water over rice
I usually boil my water in a kettle before I do anything else, so it is ready to be added quickly after I sauté my rice. If you are cooking with 2 cups of rice, then I recommend 4 cups of boiling water.
One caveat here is that sometimes people will soak their rice in boiled water for 10-20 minutes before cooking. If this is the case, then the ratio can be reduced to 1:1 (1 cup of rice, 1 cup of water). This is because the rice will absorb a lot of water while soaking and won’t need as much when it is being cooked. I personally don’t feel the need for that step, because it takes longer and I can cook just as good of rice in lesser time.
6. bring to a boil
Since the water is already hot, this will happen quickly within about 30 seconds -1 minute.
7. Cover and Reduce heat
Turn your stove to the lowest heat and cover. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before you check on it.
8. Let simmer over low heat until water evaporates (anywhere from 10-15 minutes)
If you still see little pockets of water between the pieces of rice, then it is not ready. If water is not visible at the top anymore, use your wooden spoon to peak at the bottom to see if there is any excess water. If there is none, you’re ready to turn off the heat.
Using the wooden spoon, start on the outer edge of the pot, scooping rice towards the center, and in a way that the rice on the bottom changes places with the rice on the top.
9. After the water evaporates, turn off heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes
This sitting is very important! It takes some time for the additional water to totally evaporate and it tastes much better once it is gone. It should have a look where each little piece of rice is fairly detached from one another. They shouldn’t stick to each other very tightly.
10. Scoop yourself some rice and enjoy!
Serves: 4-5 People
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
2 Cups Jasmine Rice
4 Cups Water
1-2 tsp Salt
¼ Cup Olive oil or butter (or a mixture of both)
1 Cube chicken bouillon (if using, add when you add boiling water)
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of lemon juice
(Each of these extras increase the flavor in their own way, but are not necessary. Feel free to experiment!)
- Boil water in a separate kettle so it is hot and ready for use in a few minutes
- Wash rice thoroughly in a strainer
- Pour oil/butter into pot and turn on high heat
- Pour clean rice into the pot and sauté for a few minutes until rice is golden brown
- Add the salt as you sauté the rice
- Add water and bring to a boil, stirring a little so rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
- Cover and reduce heat to low
- Allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes until water has evaporated
- Once water has evaporated, remove from heat and stir the rice from the outside of the pot towards the center
- Allow rice to sit for 5 minutes before serving