Rice Cooker Pulao
Pulao is an Indian dish of rice cooked with vegetables and a seasoned broth so every bite is full of flavor. It’s also sometimes called pilaf, but it’s not the same at all as the boxed mix of rice and orzo we had growing up. I make this version in an electric rice cooker; it’s a dump and cook kind of recipe. That’s why it’s my potluck go-to dish: it’s incredibly easy, you can make it with whatever you’ve got in the fridge, and it’s pretty impressive — especially given the low cost of ingredients.
- Basmati rice, not too much. We’re adding a bunch of other stuff, and you don’t want to overfill your rice cooker.
- Broth is tastier than water, but if you add enough spices you’re fine.
Any vegetables you have on hand. Here are some ideas:
- Classic frozen mix: carrots, peas, corn, green beans
- Chopped potatoes (aloo)
- Cauliflower (gobi)
- Bitter braising greens like tatsoi or chard
- Green pepper (the grassiness is nice)
- Diced tomato
- Cashews and peanuts aren’t veggies but they’re delicious boiled with everything
- Half a large onion (or more if you want)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 in ginger root
- Spicy chilis if you want (bird chilis are usually free, since one or two don’t weigh enough to register at the register)
Spices (here’s a baseline, go wild / with what you’ve got in the cupboard)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 star anise
- 1/2 stick of cinnamon or like 1/2 tsp ground
- 4 cloves or like 1/2 tsp ground
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp butter minimum
- Taste it to determine how much salt
Use your judgement on the amounts of everything. Your total volume needs to fit in the rice cooker, and basmati rice triples in volume when cooked.
- In the rice cooker pot, wash basmati rice until the water runs nearly clear (probably two or three times).
- Add twice the volume of water or broth as you have rice. If you are using vegetables that are very wet, you might want to reduce this amount.
- If you’re planning ahead enough, soaking the rice for maybe 30 min will make it fluffier.
- Grind up ginger, garlic, and chilis in a mortar and pestle, or just mince.
If you’re cool with dirtying a second pan, you can take these totally optional steps for slightly fancier results:
- Toast the spices in butter. Be careful not to burn them — that can happen in the blink of an eye if you’re using ground spices.
- Add your diced onion.
- When your onion is good and soft, add ginger, garlic, and chilis, and let them become aromatic.
- Add all the spices, onion, ginger, garlic, and chilis to the rice cooker pot.
- Add all your other vegetables.
- Salt the water until it just stops tasting bland. It should not taste “salty enough,” because the salt will be concentrated when the water boils. But don’t skimp: you should taste the salt.
- Plop in some butter. Butter is delicious, so don’t skimp.
- Hit “go” on your rice cooker and wait until it’s done. All the vegetables will float to the top, so it’ll be easiest to serve if you turn it out into a larger bowl.
- If you want extra points, serve with raita (yogurt mixed with raw chopped cucumber, carrot, cilantro/mint, or whatever you like)