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How To Make Different Types Of Pilau

That will leave your tastebuds buzzing!

BY Agnes Amondi

Sep 22, 2022, 09:04 AM

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Which wedding, graduation, funeral, or any event for that matter, have you been to and pilau didn’t make it to the menu? Please decline the invitation next time if it was missing. Simply put, pilau is the signature celebratory dish. 

Even so, we also prepare pilau in our homes - we don’t just sit around ticking off our calendars waiting for events to come around, just to feast on pilau, you know. My kitchen has, on numerous occasions, been filled with the aroma of this delicacy. 

What I love is the blend of spicy flavours and perhaps its brownness, which denotes that I’m not just chewing on the old plain white rice. Plus, it makes for pleasant viewing. 

Despite its many variations, nine times out of ten, I have found myself preparing plain pilau or at best, pilau with meat. Recently, I decided to broaden my pilau-making experience. I came across easy-to-cook recipes that I feel so generous to share with you. But first, here are the must-haves.

Common Ingredients

Pilau Ingredients @Sarena_Products
Rice (basmati is highly recommended), salt, red onions, pilau masala, tomato paste, cooking oil, water, garlic and ginger. 

Keep in mind, the type of pilau recipe you are using will dictate the kind of ingredients you need.

Plus, you can either buy already grounded pilau masala or make yours. All you require is coriander seeds, black pepper, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom and cumin seeds. 

How To Cook Swahili Pilau

With Swahili pilau, you have options to cook with potatoes as well as cook your pilau rice with meat. Thus, add meat - beef, poultry, lamb - whichever you prefer to the ingredients list. If you cannot imagine Swahili Pilau without potatoes, be sure to incorporate them, whole or diced. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Boil the meat to soften it. Add ginger and garlic paste, salt to taste and water. Ensure to cover the meat for it to cook evenly.

As that happens, start cooking the rice. Pour in the chopped red onions after the oil is well heated. Let them fry till they brown. If you are using potatoes, add them in and stir for them to coat with the caramelised onions then let them simmer. Add the crushed garlic cloves and ginger. Use these spices in grounded form or whole. Stir properly and let them sit for some 3 minutes. 
Note: You can add the crushed garlic cloves after the onions brown. In this case, we put them in with the potatoes for them to absorb the heat and allow the garlic to cook and not burn. 
The steamed meat will follow when the potatoes are nicely cooked. Incorporate the pilau masala spices. Pour little water so that the mixture does not stick to the pan. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes so that the meat can absorb all the flavours. 

Prepare to add the rice and water. Measure water in proportion to the amount of rice you are cooking. Gently mix the rice with the ingredients in the pan until it firmly blends. Cover and let it sit until most of the water is drained. Reduce the heat gradually as the pilau cooks. 

When most of the water is drained, cover it with aluminium foil or a lid. Place it in the oven or charcoal stove (depending on what you are using) for a few minutes. 

Get ready to serve your Swahili pilau. 

How To Cook Beef Pilau

For this recipe, we shall retain all the other ingredients and add beef (dah!). Here’s how you make a heavenly plate of beef pilau.

Prepare the beef. Dice it into sizeable portions. Oil your pan on medium heat, add the beef and turn it occasionally until it is golden brown. Dip in pilau spices to add flavour. 

Clear the pan by moving the meat to another pan or placing them in a bowl. Add oil into the same pan and deep in your red chopped onions. Give them time to brown as you turn them from time to time. When done, add some tomato paste, pilau masala spices, garlic and ginger - plus other spices you fancy cooking with like chilli. Give all these a good stir. 

After that, add rice to the mixture. Gently stir the rice to soak the contents in the pan. After that, put in stock from the pre-cooked meat or water - choose either, it’s about your preference but stock is highly advised as it adds flavour to the dish. Always remember, the amount of water or stock you add should match the amount of rice, the ratio used is 1:2 rice to water. Dip your nicely browned beef in and cover the pan. 

Use low heat. The rice will take 15 to 20 minutes to cook (depending on the rice used). Check back. By now, most of the water should have drained. Cover it again and give it a few minutes to rest.

If you can hold on for a few more minutes, decorate your plate with some coriander for an aesthetically pleasing plate. Plus, if you want an Instagram-perfect pic, why not? 

You must be drowning in the aroma of the pilau and salivating really hard. Prepare some salad. Have a drink (whatever pleases you) and dig in.

How To Cook Plain Pilau

Plain pilau is the option you have if you want to cook a simple pilau recipe. This means that you want to cook pilau without meat or without any other additions like potatoes. 

In a heated pot of oil, pour in the chopped red onions. Turn them time and again until they brown. To this, add the garlic and ginger paste. Turn often as the paste tends to stick on the pan. Follow this with tomato paste (you can use diced tomatoes) and continue stirring. 

Get ready to add pilau masala and still, stir. A pinch or two of salt will suffice. When this is ready, add water. Again, according to the amount of rice you are cooking. Usually, the rice to water ratio is 1:2. Pour in the rice, stir and cover the pan. Use medium heat. It’ll take a maximum of 20 minutes to be ready.

Your plain pilau should be ready to serve. Accompany it with some salad.

How To Cook Pilau With Minced Meat

By now, you will have gotten the hang of making basic pilau which means the addition of minced meat doesn’t drastically change the procedure. The only question is where does it come in?

Grease the pan with some oil on medium heat. Add the onion and let them cook till they brown properly. Add the garlic, ginger paste along with the pilau masala spices. Stir them until they become firm

That done, this is the stage where you put in the minced meat. Sprinkle some salt, put in some water and let it cook until the water drains. Wait for 10 minutes and then pour the rice with your pre-boiled water. 

It’s that easy.

How To Cook Pilau Biryani

This recipe might look and sound complicated but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become second nature. A few procedures here and there but you’ll get through it before you know it. Potatoes and meat will be on the ingredients list. 

As with all the other types, have some oil in the pan to which you will deep fry the onions. Give them time to brown and be crispy. This is what adds to the flavour of the final dish. When done, set them aside. You want to use the same pan to prepare the potatoes. You can dress them with a yellow colouring before deep-frying them. You want them golden and nicely crisped. 

Grab your meat. It’s time to prepare them as the potatoes get ready. Get another pan from which you will caramelize the meat. Add in some of the spices - pilau masala, tomato paste, salt, and yoghurt to tenderise the meat and other flavours you have. Let them blend in properly with the beef.

By now, the potatoes will be ready. Together with the caramelised onions you made, dip them in the beef stew that’s cooking. Let them sit for 20 minutes under medium heat. The stew will be heavy and thick.

As that goes on, prepare the rice. Have some oil in the pan into which you will pour your rice. Add some water - remember the ratio of rice to water here, 1:2. Add salt. Flavour the rice with some colouring to give it a nice yellow colour. Cover the rice to boil.
You can choose to layer the rice over the meat-potato stew to cook together, but you can also do it separately. Choose what suits you. The dish is ready. 

This might feel like a tedious process but for what it’s worth, the tastiness will make you forget about it. Serve with anything that you like to have with your pilau biryani. Enjoy! 

Your interaction with pilau doesn’t have to be limited to events anymore. With these five different pilau recipes, you have free reign to make a plate for yourself whenever you so wish.

Take-outs are also a thing of the past as well as asking friends how you can cook delicious pilau. All you need to do is follow these amazing recipes as outlined and you are on your way to becoming the pilau cooking aficionado.