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Homemade Onion Rice Pilaf

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This is a simple onion rice recipe to elevate your bowl of basmati rice. This dish tastes great served alongside any kind of meat or curry.

Onion rice isn’t a traditional Indian dish. It is one I invented, but it would sit comfortably alongside any meal my grandmothers might have made. It is a simple pilaf flavored with sweet, caramelized onion and a few common spices.

It is made simply from ingredients found in a typical Indian pantry. If you don’t have some of the spices, you can easily leave them out.

A bowl of onion rice pilaf

This is an Instant Pot recipe, but if you do not have an Instant Pot (or pressure cooker), it can easily be made on the stove. Instead of cooking under pressure, cook the ingredients together as you would if making plain basmati rice]]], steaming them for 15 minutes.

Cooking Tips

  • Be sure to get the caramelization of the onions right. You want to saute them until they are golden brown and no further.
  • If using an Insant Pot, be sure to use the quick release method. When the pressure cooker phase is complete, open up your steam valve to let all of the steam out. If you don’t, the rice will continue to steam and will become mushy.
Bowl of Indian-style rice pulao


I prefer to keep this dish simple with the onions and spices listed. If you want to create a fuller, more rounded dish, you can easily add vegetables. It would go well with some carrots, peas, corn and broccoli, for example.

If you are serving this to someone who can’t (or doesn’t want to) eat nuts, the cashews can be swapped out for pepitas.

As a “Leftover Rice Recipe”

I wouldn’t hesitate to adapt this as a leftover rice recipe. To do that, I would go through all of the same steps in a pan on the stovetop. When it came time to add the rice, I would add the rice and only about a tablespoon of water, and let that steam for about 5 minutes. That should be enough time for the rice to be heated up and the flavors to come together.

A bowl of onion rice pilaf

Homemade Onion Rice Pilaf

A simple Indian-style onion rice pilaf to elevate your bowl of basmati rice. This dish tastes great served alongside any kind of meat or curry.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6
Calories 185 kcal


  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 black peppercorns whole
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ cup onion freshly chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 15 cashews split in half
  • tsp saffron optional


  • Bloom the saffron by putting it in a small bowl with an ice cube. Make sure all saffron is in contact with the ice cube. Set aside.
  • Heat ghee on saute mode of Instant Pot.
  • Add bay leaf, cardamom, peppercorns and cumin.
  • Add onions and saute 2-3 minutes until the onions are golden.
  • Add cashews and saute until cashews are golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add rice. Saute for 1 minute.
  • Add water, salt and saffron (if adding).
  • Cook on high power for 6 minutes, followed by quick release. Fluff with a fork and serve warm.



To make this as a “Leftover Rice Recipe”, follow steps 1 to r in a pan on the stovetop. Then add leftover cooked rice with one tablespoon of water. Mix well and let that heat through and cook for 5 minutes. Stir often.


Calories: 185kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 3gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 198mgPotassium: 91mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 4IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 1mg
Keyword onion rice, rice pilaf
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A spoon holding some onion rice pilaf

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