This Rice Pilaf is a classic side dish that goes well with nearly any meal. It’s simple, fluffy, and flavorful.

A lot of times people think of rice as a boring side dish, but you can create quite a different experience depending on how you cook it.

Rice Pilaf - In a White Bowl with Slotted Spoon

This rice pilaf is about as minimal as it gets when it comes to ingredients, but still has wonderful flavor and texture.

It’s perfectly fluffy and steamed, with separated, tender grains that aren’t sticky.

This method is adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook I received for Christmas many years ago, called The Science of Good Cooking (affiliate).

I was quite intrigued by their chapter on rice and have since experimented with several methods, as well as many different kinds of rice. This is my favorite way to make pilaf!

How to Make Rice Pilaf:

Start by combining butter, shallots, and salt in a nonstick pan:

Butter and Shallot in a Nonstick Pan

Let that cook for about 5 minutes, until the shallots soften.

While the shallots cook, prepare the rice.

What Kind of Rice to use for Rice Pilaf:

My recommendations are to use Jasmine or Basmati rice. They are both quite different from each other, so try both to see which you like better.

I personally prefer Jasmine a bit more, but will do Basmati if I’m making a more Indian-themed meal.

You may also use the generic “long grain rice” from the store, but keep in mind that quality ranges quite a bit.

Place the rice in a strainer, and rinse for 2 minutes.

Rinsing Jasmine Rice in a Fine Mesh Strainer

This will rid the rice of outer starch and give you nicely separated grains in the final dish.

No soaking is necessary. Cook’s Illustrated did tests and discovered that it can make the rice bloated and overcooked.

When the shallots are properly softened, they should like this:

Softened Shallots Cooked in Butter in Pan

Add the rinsed rice to the pan, and stir:

Jasmine Rice Pilaf - In Nonstick Pan with Green Spatula

Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until the rice looks chalky and opaque. You can see how different the rice looks in the photo below.

Then add chicken stock and a little extra salt to the pan:

Pouring Chicken Stock Into the Rice Pilaf Recipe Batch

For rice pilaf, we do a 2 cups rice to 3 cups liquid ratio.

The rice to water ratio for rice pilaf is different than regular steamed rice. You don’t need as much liquid when you’re toasting the rice beforehand in oil.

Bring the rice to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and put the lid on. After 18-20 minutes, the liquid will be absorbed:

Cooked Rice Pilaf in Pan Without Lid

Fluff the rice and give it a good stir, as it can get drier on the bottom than the top.

Then replace the lid and let the rice sit for 10 more minutes.

Fully Cooked Rice Pilaf with Lid to Trap Heat

This gives the water more time to redistribute, and gives the rice a lighter texture.

One Batch of Rice Pilaf Recipe in White Bowl with Serving Spoon

Serve with dishes like Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Pork Tenderloin.

Mexican Rice and Fried Rice are some of my other favorite rice dishes. Enjoy!

Tips and FAQ:

Can Rice Pilaf be frozen? Yes, it freezes well for up to two months. I wouldn’t keep it longer than that, because rice gets freezer burn pretty easily.

Can it be made in a rice cooker? Cooking the rice in the oil is essential, so a rice cooker won’t work well. An Instant Pot (affiliate) is a better option.

How to Reheat: Reheat in the microwave, always with a lid or some sort of cover to trap the steam in, otherwise the rice will dry out.

Is this recipe Gluten Free? Yes.

How to Make Vegan: Use olive oil and vegetable stock instead of butter and chicken stock.

A bowl of rice pilaf with spoon

Rice Pilaf

This Rice Pilaf is simple, fluffy, and flavorful, and a good side dish for Chicken, Beef, Pork, and more.

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  • 2 cups long grain white rice (I think jasmine and basmati are best)
  • 2 tbsp butter (or olive oil*)
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/4 + 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups chicken stock


  • Place the rice in a strainer, and rinse well for 2 minutes.
  • Add the butter, shallots, and 1/4 tsp salt to a nonstick pan (use one that has a lid), and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly softened.
  • Add the rinsed rice and toast for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until the rice turns chalky and opaque.
  • Add the chicken stock and remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and increase the heat to high. Once the liquid reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer (low heat), and cover the pan with the lid**.
  • Cook for 18-20 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Stir and fluff the rice, as the bottom tends to get drier than the top, replace the lid, and let the rice sit for 10 more minutes. Serve and enjoy!


*To make this dairy free, you can use olive oil. It's still good, but know that it won't have that classic pilaf flavor.
**A tight-fitting lid is important, one that was designed for the pan, and not a makeshift lid.


Calories: 302kcal, Carbohydrates: 53g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 13mg, Sodium: 208mg, Potassium: 196mg, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 120IU, Vitamin C: 0.2mg, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 0.7mg

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

Post updated in August 2020. Originally published November 2018.