No Indian takeaway is complete without Pilau Rice. This takeaway style Pilau Rice is delicately flavoured with ghee and whole spices and tastes just like the rice from British Indian restaurants found in the UK. 

Takeaway style pilau rice is served in a clay kadai with a fork


Without much deliberation, you've decided on a takeaway. However, local delivery times are around 60 mins. Tbh, it's quicker and easier to just make your meal than wait for delivery.

Pilau rice - it's an often overlooked part of the takeaway and added as a last resort to our orders. However, without a good rice side dish, the meal definitely feels incomplete!

In restaurants, pilau rice is usually coloured with yellow food colouring but we have used turmeric and safflower instead.


✅easy to double up or half

✅easy to make vegan

✅easy side dish for any Indian meal

✅easy to find ingredients

What is Pilau Rice

Pilau rice or pulao is a flavoured rice dish primarily from India. White rice is boiled with whole spices for flavour and fragrance. Often, saffron is used. In restaurants, to keep costs low, they use safflower or yellow/orange food colour as an alternative.

It is best served with:

🍚Ingredients for Pilau Rice

For exact measurements and method, please see the printable recipe card ↓

ingredients for pilau rice laid on a dark wooden board

Basmati rice - best soaked for at least 20/30 mins for fluffiest rice but this isn't necessary

Whole spices - bay leaf, cinnamon, clove, fennel seeds, cardamom and cumin seeds

Ground turmeric

Safflower if not available use saffron.

Ghee for vegan version use vegetable ghee or oil.

What is Safflower?

Safflower is American or Mexican saffron, a member of a daisy family. Dried flowers from this plant impart the characteristic orange/yellow food colour with a very rich aroma more like tobacco.

Safflower is much cheaper than saffron and there is an obvious difference look, colour and flavours in both spices. Safflower is a little yellow in colour then saffron.

For any recipe, you'll need more safflower than saffron.

Circulon Style 26cm Hard Anodized Deep Chef's Casserole

circulon pan

To make the Pilau Rice, we used our Circulon Style 26cm Hard Anodized Deep Chef's Casserole. This pan provides an excellent cooking performance every single time and the hard anodized body allows for exceptional durability.

The gorgeous "Style" handles make it a stunning piece for table service. The stainless steel base is extra thick for quick, even heating and is suitable on all hob types.

The pan is covered under Circulon's lifetime guarantee.

Circulon Style 26cm Hard Anodized Deep Chef's Casserole

Can I use any other variety of rice?

This dish is an Indian take style recipe, so I prefer to use Basmati rice as this rice has a slightly nutty flavour and rich aroma. Also has less starch thus it cooks fluffier and lighter. But, if not available use other variety. 

What is the ratio of Basmati rice to water ratio?

It all depends on what quality and brand rice you are using, also rice is soaked or not take all these in consideration. But a general rule of thumb is that one cup basmati rice needs one and a half cup water (use the same cup for both measurements)

What type of water do I need to cook rice?

Tap water would work fine, for this recipe we will need warm (not boiling) water. 


This Pilau rice stays fresh in the refrigerator for a couple of days if stored in an airtight container. To freeze the pilau rice, let the rice totally cool then store in a freezer-proof container and freeze it for 4-6 weeks.

Defrost and heat thoroughly before consuming.

Best Tips to cook the fluffiest rice

Wash the rice in clean and cold water for at least 4 times or until the water comes out clear (this step will create fluffy and light rice as most of the starch is removed)

Soak the rice for minimum 20-30 minutes in cold water.

Use warm or hot water to cook the rice. 

Bring it to the first boil, then cover the lid to cook the rice.

How to make Restaurant Style Pilau Rice

Heat ghee (pic 1)

Add whole spices (pic 2)

Add soaked basmati rice (pic 3)

Add water (pic 4)

Add turmeric (pic 5)

and a pinch of salt, cover the pan and cook (pic 6)

pilau rice in the making

Rice is cooked (pic 7)

Drizzle safflower steeped in water, mix gently and serve hot (pic 8)

Takeaway style pilau rice or turmeric rice is in a ceramic container topped with whole spices and freshly chopped coriander.

Other Rice Recipes

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pilau rice, takeaway pilau rice, basmati rice, Indian takeaway rice
Side dish
Author: Hayley Dhanecha


This takeaway style Pilau Rice is delicately flavoured so easy to make. It comes together in less than 30 minutes!!
Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 10 MinTotal time: 30 Min


  • 1 cup basmati rice - 200g
  • 2 tbsp. ghee
  • 2" cinnamon bark
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. safflower soaked in warm water
  • Salt
  • Pan with lid
  • Spatula
  • Bowl
  • Colander 


  1. Wash the rice in running cold water until water runs clear to remove as much as starch as possible. 
  2. Let the rice soak in cold water for 20-30 minutes if possible.
  3. Heat ghee in a pan.
  4. Add all the whole spices, once splutter add soaked rice (discard the water)
  5. Fry the rice for a minute or so.
  6. Then add warm water.
  7. Add turmeric and salt, mix well.
  8. Let the first boil come on medium heat.
  9. Now cover the pan with the lid, lower the heat and let the rice cook.
  10. Keep an eye for water level.
  11. Once the rice is cooked, let it sit for another five minutes.
  12. Now add safflower with water, gently mix the rice.
  13. Serve HOT with your choice of curry or daal. 


Make sure to wash and soak rice in cold (not chilled) water.
For a vegan version use oil or vegetable ghee.
If safflower is not available use saffron or yellow food colour.
Do not use a sharp-edged spoon or spatula to stir the rice, it can break the rice.
The nutritional information provided is an approximation calculated by an online calculator. Please consult a professional dietitian for nutritional advice.
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