How to Make Restaurant Perfect Basmati Rice

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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.

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

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

What dishes go best with Basmati Rice?

Basmati rice goes perfectly with dal. Try one of these: Grandma’s Gujarati Dal or Moong Dal. To an Indian person, rice and dal are the classic paring. Kadhi is also a traditional pairing with rice.

This humble rice also goes with just about every Indian dish there is. I always have to have it with a rich saucy dish like Paneer Makhani. When I run out of naan I stir the sauce into the rice and gobble it down by the spoonful.

Making Different Quantities

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.

MakeDry RiceWater
3 cups1 cup2 cups
4.5 cups1.5 cups3 cups
6 cups2 cups4 cups
10 cups3.5 cups7 cups

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:

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.

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.

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 will cloud a little, but you should see a huge difference after just a couple of rinsings).

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.


Bowl of Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice

How to make basmati rice as good as the restaurants
4.83 from 40 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6
Calories 120 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Basmati Rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ 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.
    Rinse thoroughly
  • 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.
    Soak the rice
  • Drain the water.
    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.
    Add water and oil
  • Bring to a boil under medium-high heat, uncovered.
    Bring to a boil
  • When it starts boiling, cover and lower the heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes.
    Cover
  • 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.
    Remove lid

(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.
    Mix saffron in small bowl
  • 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.
    Mix yellow rice with white

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 120kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 199mgPotassium: 35mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 0.04gCalcium: 11mgIron: 0.2mg
Keyword basmati rice
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

67 comments

    1. I always use your recipe. only difference is that when its done cooking, I let it rest for 10 minutes off the burner with the lid on and then fluff. Rinsing and soaking make all the difference. Now I’ll only use Basmati Rice.

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

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

  3. 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 🙁

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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 😀

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

    1. My experimentation has proven to me to not measure the water, but rather, use too much water,cook rice to perfection (al dente) bring rice and water and 2 tbsn lemon juice and 1 tbsn salt until starting a small boil, reduce to low, cover pot, cook approx 9-10 min. Maybe even check it at 8 min. You want al dente to almost cooked perfectly then drain your rice extremely well, then…this is an important step…spread your rice out thinly allowing it to quickly dry. The rice will curl a little like elbow macaroni. Quickly removing the water from the rice is important and ensuring rice doesnt sit in some heap to clump together. after 5 min fluff with a fork to perfection

  16. 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!

  17. 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?

  18. 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?

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

  20. In my favourite indian restaurant, i always find cloves in my rice. Which other spices can i put in and when do i put them in? 🙂

  21. Do you have any experience making your basmati in an instant pot? Would the ratios change? Do you know the cooking time?

  22. I usually make a pulao, time permitting, but we were having schedule issues and needed rice in less time. I am so happy I came across this website because it provided the perfect, fluffy restaurant style rice that we love so much when we go out.

    Thank you so much for taking the time construct this and post it. I especially appreciated the tips and tricks along with personal anecdotes.

    I also added 1/8 tsp each of ground coriander and cardamom to the water, plus 1 bay leaf. The flavor was subtle, but incredible. This batch of rice was so fluffy even without the ghee. Will definitely make often!

  23. I soaked the rice for about 20 minutes after rinsing it 4 times. I added a quarter tsp of salt and a tablespoon of peanut oil directly on washed rice prior to adding boiling hot water. Used 2 parts water to 1 part rice ratio and brought to a boil. Covered with lid and dropped temperature to low. After 15 minutes it was done. Allowed it to rest 10 minutes before serving. Best basmati I have ever made. Thank you !

  24. I actually ended up soaking my rice for 50 minutes as life got in the way 🙂 and it still turned out perfect!!! Thank you so much for this information this is the first time I have made rice that turned out so good and it was hands down the best rice I have ever made, you have certainly upped my game . Thank you so much for posting this 🙂

  25. I always use your recipe. only difference is that when its done cooking, I let it rest for 10 minutes off the burner with the lid on and then fluff. Rinsing and soaking make all the difference. Now I’ll only use Basmati Rice.

  26. I’ve been cooking rice for years but it has never come out this way, thank you for the tips, I’ll never go back to my old ways of cooking less than perfect rice in my rice cooker. I was a little reluctant to change my way of cooking rice as I was having a dinner party and needed it to come out perfect and it did. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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