How to Make Restaurant Perfect Basmati Rice at Home

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A bowl of basmati rice with some yellow saffron rice for color

Puja taught me how to cook basmati rice many years ago but I was never completely happy with it because whenever we would go out to a restaurant the rice seemed so much better to me. It was a problem that lingered with me for years until I finally decided to sit down and figure out how to cook basmati perfectly, no matter how many batches I would have to go through to get it right.

First off, I had to figure out what makes restaurant rice different than my usual home cooked stuff. In contrast to east asian rices, Basmati rice is a low-starch rice. It should not be sticky or gooey at all. Each grain should be well-defined, long and have bite.

Long grains of cooked basmati rice

With that in mind, I read over dozens of recipes online. And I learned the one thing I had been doing wrong for so long, and it turned out to be so simple.

Whenever I cook, I have to remind myself to be patient. So often the trick to cooking something right as opposed to just throwing something together has to do with slowing down and accepting that this will take a little longer. And basmati rice is the perfect example. Because the secret to making that perfect pot of rice is so simple. You just have to presoak it for 30 minutes.

For years, I had been doing everything else right, but it was taking this one shortcut that made such a difference. When you let the rice soak the grains expand, blooming almost like a flower. The difference is all texture. And I’m not even sure I feel the difference in my mouth, but we eat first with our eyes. I also think when you prepare the rice correctly it will absorb gravy better, which is all important when you eat some of my favorite dishes, like butter chicken, or paneer makhani.

Close up of cooked basmati rice grains

In addition to cooking the rice just right, another thing you can do to make your rice seem like it came from a restaurant is add some color. Many places will mix in some yellow rice just to give it a finishing touch. This is easy to do. Mix a little turmeric or saffron in a bowl with some water or milk, then stir in a handful of cooked rice. Then add that rice back to your final dish of rice. Most people use saffron, which is so prized for its aroma. But I don’t always want the strong aroma of saffron in my rice, so I often use turmeric which is much more subtle in flavor.

Truth be told, I don’t always pre-soak my rice. I might skip it if I’m just making a quick bowl of rice for lunch or a hurried dinner. I know I’m sacrificing texture, which is why when I’m serving to guests or any kind of gathering where I want it to be right, that rice is going to soak.

Please trust me, take the full hour to prepare your rice instead of half, it’s worth it!

Vertical picture of a bowl of rice

Frequently Asked Questions

This post has been around awhile and has been one of our most popular. Here are some of the questions that have come up over the years:

  1. My rice came out mushy, what can I do to save it?

    Let me start by saying it’s probably not your fault and you can fix it. This recipe has worked perfectly for me for years and I’ve been pleased by the feedback from readers since it seems to be working as well for many of them too. But occasionally I hear from people who didn’t get it to work. It turns out there are a lot of factors that you might have to adjust for.

    First off, I would emphasize this recipe is strictly for basmati rice. Basmati rice is very different from East Asian varieties. It has much less starch. Starch is basically a sponge that absorbs water, so the rice is going to act very different when cooked in water.

    It could be that your rice is very young. Quality basmati rice is aged for at least a year before it reaches the store. During that time, the very dry rice becomes even drier, and when cooked makes it firmer. But don’t worry, we can fix this.

    Another reason your rice may come out wet and mushy even following this recipe could just be from variations in your pan. Maybe yours is a better insulator than mine or you have a better seal with your lid so it held onto its water better. A little trial and error will help you find the exact ratio that works with you and your pan. Try reducing the cooking time to as little as 12 minutes or the total amount of water to 1.5 cups per cup of rice.

    In either case, if you open the lid to your rice and it looks too wet you can still save it. Just take the lid off and let it continue to cook for a minute or two to boil off some of that excess water. If you are doing this and you notice a toasty smell coming from your rice get it off the burner right away, you’ve cooked off enough water and it is about to burn.

    If there is way too much water you can also drain it by pouring it out over a strainer, but if you’ve followed

  2. Does this work for brown basmati rice?

    Not quite. Brown basmati rice still has the bran and germ layers around it. These end up protecting the grain from the water you are trying to cook it with. For this reason, brown basmati rice should be cooked for much longer, about 40 minutes.

  3. I want to make more rice than this recipe calls for. How much water and rice do I use?

    I wouldn’t recommend using this recipe for 20 cups or more. But for household quantities, just stick to the ratio of 2 parts water to one part rice and you should be set.

    Make

    Dry Rice

    Water

    3 cups

    1 cup

    2 cups

    4.5 cups

    1.5 cups

    3 cups

    6 cups

    2 cups

    4 cups

    10 cups

    3.5 cups

    7 cups

  4. How much water to rinse the rice with?

    I would never measure for this step… 1 gallon? 2? Just run it under the tap, fill your pot, drain out the water and repeat at least 3 times until the dust on the rice doesn’t cloud the water so much (no matter how much you do this is will cloud a little, but you should see a huge difference after just a couple of rinsings).

  5. What dishes go best with Rice?
    Puja will say the first thing she thinks of is her Grandma’s Gujarati Dal. To her, rice and dal are the classic paring, she also eats it with kadhi. But this simple rice goes with just about every Indian dish there is. I always have to have it with a rich saucey dish like Paneer Makhani. When I run out of naan I stir the sauce into the rice and gobble it down by the spoonful.


Bowl of Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice

Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: basmati rice
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Basmati Rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp ghee butter or oil (vegetable or olive oil)
  • pinch of saffron or 1/8 tsp turmeric optional

Instructions

  • Rinse the rice thoroughly with water to remove any excess starch.
  • Soak the rice with plenty of water for 30 minutes. You can do this in a separate bowl or the pot you are going to cook the rice in.
  • Drain the water.
  • Add the soaked rice to the pot. Add 2 cups water, salt to taste and a splash of oil. The oil will help prevent the water from boiling over which is caused by the starch in the rice, and some people say it also adds flavor.
  • Bring to a boil under medium-high heat, uncovered.
  • When it starts boiling, cover and lower the heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes.
  • After fifteen minutes, take the lid off. If there is any excess water, allow it to boil off. Fluff with a fork, you are done.

(Optional) You can add a bit of color by using one of the two options below:

  • Saffron: Start this option before you start cooking the rice. Warm one tablespoons of milk or water (I usually use the microwave). Crush the saffron with your fingers and add to the warm liquid. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. When the rice is ready, mix with a handful (about a 1/4 cup) of cooked rice. Then mix this colored rice back into the white rice.
  • Turmeric: Mix about an eighth teaspoon of turmeric with a tablespoon of water, then adding a handful (about 1/4 cup) of some still hot rice to your mixture. Then mix this rice back into the white rice.

Comments on "How to Make Restaurant Perfect Basmati Rice at Home"

  1. May 23, 2013
    nusrat2010:

    OMG! Thanks a billion for the useful tricks ! Your rice looks fluffy, flawless and fabulous!
    Lovely photos :)

    1. May 23, 2013
      Puja Thomas-Patel:

      Thanks Nusrat! :)

      1. December 24, 2013
        LeAnn:

        Amazing

    2. May 24, 2013
      Steve Thomas-Patel:

      Thank you Nusrat!

  2. May 24, 2013
    Eva | Adventures in Cooking:

    This is an amazing guide, thank you! I love the way basmati rice is textured at restaurants but haven't been able to get it like that in my own home, now i know what to try :)

    1. May 24, 2013
      Steve Thomas-Patel:

      Thank you Eva!

  3. May 24, 2013
    Tana:

    This is such a neat tip, I'll have to try it soon. Lovely photos on the blog too!

    1. May 24, 2013
      Steve Thomas-Patel:

      Thank you Tana!

  4. July 20, 2013
    Catherine:

    I was taught to rinse it a half dozen times first then let it soak for half hour to one hour...always perfect

  5. August 31, 2013
    ali:

    OMG the rice came out perfect. Thank you!

  6. November 17, 2013
    Emmy:

    Thank you for the amazing guide!! This will be my second time cooking the Basmati Rice!!

  7. January 3, 2014
    dada:

    works, rice came out great, thx.

  8. January 11, 2014
    Reema:

    I will try it. Thank you very much it looks great

  9. January 13, 2014
    Latanya Abdussalaam:

    Omg... I just made 5 cups of rice... ugh... completely WRONG... thanks for the advice... I'll definitely be bookmarking this page.

  10. January 23, 2014
    Nor:

    Incredible rice thanks to your instructions. Do not think we will ever eat any other type of rice!

  11. January 31, 2014
    Kim Lok (@kimarie_lok):

    Fluffy indeed! just tried this recipe and I'm very happy with it..thank you!

  12. March 31, 2014
    BennyB:

    Great instructions....worked perfectly for me. Will this work with brown basmati rice?

  13. April 3, 2014
    abas:

    I cooked this rice for my wife with butter chicken and she loved it. Thank you

  14. April 6, 2014
    erin:

    i will try this method again but all i've ever gotten was broken down rice with no flavor left. i wonder if its the high altitude and lower boiling point :(

  15. June 8, 2014
    ocstace:

    Probably the most perfect rice I have ever made. Just did up two cups and I rocked it.

  16. September 4, 2014
    Kim:

    Thank you so much, I also wondered why I couldn't make my rice like restaurants do. I am going to try this right now!

  17. October 7, 2014
    Sharon:

    I have no idea what I did wrong but following your recipe exactly, I ended up with soft, mushy rice! Decided to give it a go instead of using my rice-cooker as I don't usually buy basmati rice, so thought I would look for a recipe. My son wouldn't eat it so I immediately made another batch in the rice cooker without soaking first. 20 minutes later, perfect rice! So I won't be using this method again. Thanks anyway.

  18. November 14, 2014
    catherine bailey:

    Like Sharon, I followed the instructions exactly and ended up with soft, mushy rice. We eat it, because there was nothing else! My son always starts his rice by frying finely sliced onion, garlic, etc before he adds rice and water, and it always comes out perfectly. I was trying to impress him with my rice, and what a disaster! I have no idea where I went wrong, but it was awful.

  19. January 8, 2015
    Sharlene:

    Yum, was just like at a restaurant. Thanks.

  20. June 30, 2015
    Trev. T.:

    Well like others I tried this reciepe, but cooked in a rice cooker. It came out perfect.
    I will follow this reciepe from now on.
    Thank you so much.

    1. June 30, 2015
      Trev. T.:

      So sorry spelt recipe incorrectly.....late in the day. I must be losing it!

  21. July 16, 2015
    A. Harris:

    Hello,

    For the water-to-rice ratio, is it that you double the cups of water for ever cup of rice, or is it the number of cups of rice of water + one cup water.

    In other words, if I am making 3 cups of rice, would I use 4 cups of water or 6 cups of water?

    Thank you!

    1. July 28, 2015
      Puja Thomas-Patel:

      Hello! It is double to cups of water for every cup of rice. So if you are making 3 cups of rice, I would recommend 6 cups of water.

  22. August 1, 2015
    Organic weissbacher:

    If I want double the amount of rice are ingredients just doubled

  23. September 28, 2015
    Ian Harris:

    Tried this today to go with another attempt at Chicken Madras. It worked out well. Super pleased. Madras was ok too. ;)

  24. September 30, 2015
    Syd Salmon:

    I can't wait to try this. I'm sure that soaking the rice for at least 30 minutes is the missing link to achieve perfection.

    "Perfectly cooked rice grains are like brothers, close, yet separate." —Indian proverb

    How much is "plenty of water" to rinse the rice?

  25. October 5, 2015
    malathi:

    Hi Puja, Lovely and a beautiful blog. Visit my space in your leisure time. would be feeling happy with your feedbacks

  26. October 13, 2015
    Donna:

    The picture of your basmati rice is beautiful. What is it garnished with?

  27. October 26, 2015
    Rucha:

    Hi Puja,

    Great website and recipes though I would like to point out something. The yellow colored rice in Indian restaurants does not get its color from Turmeric. It's either because of yellow food color or Saffron mixed with warm milk and sprinkled on top of the rice. That is the correct way. I believe turmeric would unnecessarily give the rice a weird taste.

  28. November 14, 2015
    alank21:

    we use Basmati rice frequently have always get wonderful results WITHOUT any pre soaking in water. We use the standard ratio of 1 cup rice to 2 cups broth/water in a covered pot and boil slowly over a low flame. In about 15 minutes we get wonderful individual grains, not starchy at all. The rice is NOT good for puddings, but excellent in stews, soups, and beans.

  29. December 19, 2015
    Melody:

    It turned out perfectly! I've never been that successful with rice but I followed the directions precisely and it was incredibly fluffy.

  30. December 23, 2015
    Mrs. Efa:

    Thank You for the Perfect Basmati Rice Recipe, after all the years of cooking it, I only missed one
    step.

  31. January 18, 2016
    Valentine:

    Just tried it for our butter chicken, Rice is perfect!!! Thank you!!

  32. February 4, 2016
    Azam:

    Weird how I just stumbled to this site. Just the way my mum taught me to do it! My family has always cooked basmati the way you described. I agree - it is the best way to do it.

    Kudos to you - your basmati looks great. You rarely see cooked basmati properly - especially online - hell I've even seen chefs or experienced cooks mess it up!

    Next thing I can think of apart from basmati that lots of people fluff up - is dhals! People butcher that.

  33. April 22, 2016
    batman:

    saffron is recommended. Not turmeric. saffron gives a richer flavour and a much more meaningful flavor which the turmeric on rice - yuck. Good recipe though :D

  34. May 5, 2016
    Larry:

    Very nice recipe, thanks. I've made it four times. The first 2 times I followed the recipe precisely and felt it was "in the ballpark" of Kebob restaurant quality rice but not quite there. Then I made a few tweaks: 14 minutes instead of 15; 10 minutes sitting off heat, covered and undisturbed, after the 14 minutes on low heat; and saffron instead of tumeric. When I got done with those adjustments, I felt I truly had full restaurant quality rice on hand. Thanks again.

  35. July 20, 2016
    Antojando:

    WOW! what a difference it makes to soak the rice for 30 minutes. Of course is worth the time!! Thank you for sharing this!

  36. February 1, 2018
    Mike:

    Sorry, close, but no cigar; not close to restaurant quality. Fyi, when I ask cooks at Indian and Mideastern restaurants; they don't measure they boil the rice like pasta; tried that too, no luck. The only fool-proof meathod in my experience is pilaf; the oil keeps grains separate, but it's not the same; come on, this can't be rocket science!

  37. August 3, 2018
    Shandie:

    Made this yesterday exactly how directed and it turned out perfect! So glad that I found this recipe because I was getting tired of throwing out mushy basmati rice. This will definitely be my go to way of cooking it!

  38. August 6, 2018
    joes0211:

    The rice turned out perfect! The best rice I have made so far by following this recipe! Thank you.

  39. August 20, 2018
    Max:

    Luckily I only ruined two cups of basmati before finding this recipe haha.. Thank you very much.

  40. September 18, 2018
    Williemae:

    Thank you, I've just been searching for information about this subject for ages and yours is the greatest I have found out
    till now. However, what concerning the bottom line?

    Are you certain in regards to the supply?

  41. November 19, 2018
    Andy B:

    I've just followed this recipe and my rice is rather mushy, I soaked it for just over 30 minutes, is that the reason?

  42. December 9, 2018
    Nancy:

    Perfection, and I did the coloring with turmeric to brighten up a seafood dish made with rice.

  43. January 22, 2019
    true:

    Want to try this soon, but I am having trouble finding this type of rice locally. On Amazon there are a lot of brands. Do you recommend one brand over another?

  44. March 19, 2019
    Isabel Rutendo Dzvova:

    Perfect rice.. Dont think I will ever cook/eat any other rice besides this.. Thank you so so much.

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