How to Cook Basmati Rice

 I’ve been making Basmati rice for many, many years although the first time I made it is a time I look back on and have to laugh just a bit. I had never seen rice other than white grain or wheat bran rice, let alone cooked with it. I found it a common rice, sometimes the only type of rice offered up in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean grocery stores in the ethnic neighborhoods around Columbus, Ohio. It was the closest place to travel- 45 minutes outside of my college town of Athens, Ohio where I could find international foods. Just opening up the bag to the noticeably different aroma made me interested in making it.  Here’s the funny part- the first time I made it, I never rinsed it. Well, we never had to rinse packets of rice or bags of rice at home so why would you have to rinse rice? Well, because this was not processed rice in the same sense that the grocery store rice I was used to had been. It had also most likely been in store houses and the packaging wasn’t as ‘secure’ as other boxes so it had to be cleaned to get rid of any loose stones, dirt or maybe any ‘buggers’. Uck!  And I cooked it the first time without cleaning it.  No one ate it, of course.  I re-made the rice, washing it about seven times. Soak, swoosh, rinse. Repeat. Soak, swoosh, rinse. Repeat. And so on… Today, I still do that. Just thinking back- thank goodness I was stopped from eating that real definition of dirty rice, I guess you could have called it. Alhamdullialh. So, first step is to cover the suggested amount of rice in a bowl. Add water- doesn’t matter the amount, just enough to cover and allow you to swoosh it around. This also helps to remove some of the starch (once you rinse it). soak Basmati rice  Once you’re done swooshing it around with clean hands, you’ll be able to see any impurities come to the surface. This bowl seems to look pretty clean, although there’s a lot of starch in there as you can tell from the cloudy surface. 

soaking basmati 

You can either drain the water out, but repeat the process several times, or you can rinse it by putting the rice in a colander with small holes so that the grains don’t fall through. I like the bowl method the best. 

drain water

Now here’s where I don’t have photos to show so you’ll just hopefully take my word for it in terms of cooking.

I like to add onions to my ‘plain’ Basmati rice, but you can certainly skip this method. I use a medium-large deep bottom sauce pan, depending upon how large the amount you want to make. I sauté the onions in butter or ghee then add the rice that has been fully drained of any water. I sauté the rice for just a minute or so, just to blend it in with the butter or oil and the onions. It almost smells like popcorn when it’s cooking, it’s so aromatic. 

I then add water just to cover the rice (exact measurements in the recipe below), although when I first learned how to make it I learned how to eyeball it. 

Once the water covers the rice, bring it to a boil, then immediately turn the heat to low and cover the pot.

Here’s the best way to cover the pot (sorry about not having a photo): Use a cotton towel to cover the pot first, then add the appropriate lid. I’ve seen some people use aluminum foil instead of a towel, but I not only think the towel works best but I also don’t like the thought of aluminum anything near my food. The overall purpose of all of this is to collect moisture in the pot.

The other important thing to remember is to never, ever, never peek into the pot to see if it’s done. When you do that, you waste valuable steam which really does affect how the rice cooks.

The effect you want is a fluffy, well-cooked rice that separates nicely with a fork.

Basmati Rice with a fork

Although I always eat mine with a spoon.

plate of basmati rice

 What about you? Do you cook Basmati rice often? How do you do it? Have you ever tasted it at all?

How to Cook Basmati Rice
Serves 2
Make perfect Basmati rice every time with this simple, well-tested method.
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 1.5 cups Basmati rice
  2. 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
  3. 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  4. 1/3 cup yellow onion, diced
  5. 1.5 cups water
  6. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  1. Rinse the rice several times or put it in a bowl first, then swish it around to bring any impurities to the top. Drain the water out and rinse the rice a couple of times.
  2. In a deep bottom sauté pan, heat the butter and oil. Add the onion and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add the rice and sauté slightly, then add the water and salt.
  4. Bring to a boil then immediately lower the heat. Place a clean cotton towel over the top, but be careful that no edges are anywhere near the flame or heat. Place the lid onto the pan, too.
  5. Keep heat on low and cook this way for 20 minutes without opening until the very end.
  6. Once opened, remove the lid and let the remaining steam out.
  7. Serve immediately, as desired.
My Halal Kitchen by Yvonne Maffei

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  1. My heavens finally someone to talk to about rice! And you use the same rice we do, the ONLY rice I can’t seem to cook regular rice that’s pre-washed it was blah. I even went out and bought a non stick pan just for my rice. I’ve been trying to make Persian rice with the crunchy on top but it has alluded me.
    But about the Basmati I have found if you give it an hour of soaking the rice won’t break down if you have leftovers. I like to make fried rice with mine. We have a friend that has a card to one of those shopping warehouses and we had him get 40 pounds so we wouldn’t run low. So here’s my method of making rice:

    1 cup Basmati
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 T butter or olive oil
    salt to taste
    anything you want to add

    Put rice in cold water and let sit for at least one hour. Rinse rice and repeat till your rice doesn’t have as much starch covering get out as much of the water as you can.
    I use a non stick saucepan on medium to low heat add the butter or olive oil and coat the rice, add any spices and salt.
    Bring the heat up and add 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover the lid with a cloth (I use cloth napkins) cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes. Check to see there’s no liquid left, put the lid back on for 5 minutes with no heat.



  2. 1.5 cup water for 1.5 cup rice? isn’t that too little?

    as per the common practice in our home the quantity of water should be 1.5 to 2 times the amount of rice depending on how long it was soaked. (if soaked less; use 2 cups water for 1 cup rice, if soaked for 30 min or so use 1.5 cup water for 1 cup rice)

    also old rice require more water and new rice require less water

    plus if you are cooking on electric stove you use water 2 times the quantity of rice; 1 cup rice will require 2 cups of water.

  3. How we make Basmati rice in our house is much faster, and the natural flavour of the rice goes well with almost anything (I personally LOVE it with Dhal (split pea soup)), its also awesome in Byriani xD
    1. wash rice until water runs clear
    2. cover rice with cold/room temperature water and let sit for 15-30 mins (optional)
    3. bring a pot of salted water to boil (at least 1.5-2 times amount of water to rice eg. 3 cups of water minimum to 1.5 cups of rice)
    4. when water has come to a boil, add 3-4 tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil, we sometimes use coconut oil)
    5. drain water from rice
    6. add rice to boiling water
    7. let boil for 10-15 mins (depending on how soft/hard you like your rice)
    8. drain, serve enjoy

  4. This is a good recipe and nearly exactly the way my Abuela from Zihuatanejo causes it to be I’m excited to try out some of the additional recipes Kristin! I really like your answers how everyone has gaps in their own kitchen and that you aren’t scared to step outside the box. Keep this up! For your”women” who bashed; pity you! What happened to others!

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