Pilau: Beginners Luck??

I love cooking and venturing into the deep when trying out recipes but there are a few recipes that I even tremble at the thought of trying them. Some of you may wonder how one can get scared of cooking pilau, but trust me, it was a real fear. Fear, mainly because I don’t want to fail. Perfectionist much?

Anyway, thanks to my dear friend Nixx and the many bridal showers I have attended, I can say I felt confident enough to make pilau this past Sunday. You may question the relation between pilau and bridal showers. Well, in the past two bridal showers we’ve held for our friends we decided to cook food instead of the usual bitings and on these occasions I got chance to see how to prepare pilau.

Enough with my stories and onto the recipe.


1 1/2 cups of rice

3 cups of hot water

1/4 kg of meat – boneless is preferred

1 medium sized white onion chopped

An inch of ginger root finely chopped/grated

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Pilau Masala;

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp cinnamon sticks

1 tbsp cloves

About 7 cardamon pods

1 tsp black pepper powder

pilau masala...

I didn’t have the store bought, already mixed pilau masala but since I had whole spices in my spice rack, I decided to make my own masala.

Side Note: Masala – a combination of various spices.

There are various ways of making the masala mixture but I chose the easiest. I’ll take time and write a detailed post on spices and making masala. I put all the spices in my little grinder. For the cardamon I removed the seeds from the pods first. Grind till you get an almost fine powder then add the black pepper and set aside.

white onions and ginger
white onions and ginger

Heat the vegetable oil in a sufuria. Add the onions and the ginger.

Let the onions brown, this will aid in giving the rich colour in pilau.

Once browned, add the tomato paste and salt.

tomato paste
tomato paste

Add the meat and mix.


Cover and let the meat cook. Keep stirring to prevent it from sticking onto the pan. (I should invest in non-stick sufurias)

Once the meat is cooked add the rice and the masala.

Mt. Ricemore
Mt. Ricemore

Mix it all up.

the mixture
the mixture

Add in the hot water and slightly cover the sufuria.

Let the rice simmer till almost all the water evarporates. Turn off the heat and cover the sufuria for about five minutes then serve.


Serve with chilled kachumbari.


I was extremely proud of myself. Thank you Nixx.

It’s safe to say, I will be making pilau more often.

PS: Garlic is also used but I had ran out of garlic. You can add 3 grated cloves into the onions.


22 thoughts on “Pilau: Beginners Luck??”

  1. Well done! Looks very tasty I omit the use of tomatoes due to having grown up in Pilau land aka Mombasa where swahili pilau doesn’t call for tomatoes; one of the reasons is because the tomatoes make it go bad quicker. The only variation of pilau I make is vegetarian using peas as opposed to meat/chicken. Try making swahili pilau where the spices are very lightly ground and soaked in water and then sieved before being added to the meat/oil mixture to make it softer (they never use finely ground pilau masala) It is also cooked with meat on the bone and whole potatoes are sometimes added. The meat is boiled unless if very tender and the stock used in place of the hot water, it gives it a very nice taste. Well done on your first time I can almost smell the spices.

  2. I have never had any luck with pilau and after a few failed attempts decided it wasn’t for me. So I tried this recipe shingo upande, thought it was beginners luck, tried it again and then a third time and I couldn’t believe it! I must say this has become a favorite family meal. Thank you!

    1. Hi? I suggest working with ratios. In case you are using the already mixed pilau masala and let’s say you use 3 tablespoons for two cups of rice, when making more rice let’s say 6 cups you just triple the amount of masala. Personally I use the proportions as per the blog post.

      1. Its my first time to cook pilau after checking out your recipe.. All i can say is Wow!
        It actually worked.

  3. Hey. Thanks for this very simple recipe. And at least easily accessible ingredients! Will definitely try this out.

  4. My friends n i at school really craved for pilau so we decided to make some using this recipe since we were not familiar with the procedure,it turned out great n delicious much to our surprise,thanks for the recipe,will b coming back for more

  5. Hello, I love pilau too and yes yesterday i cooked it. I love cooking and i love your recipe. NB: Please am not trying to look a hero am just sharing bcoz i believe sharing is caring.My mum originates from coast and this is a meal we often cook and its sweet + pilipili. I don’t use tomatoes but please don’t judge me am just giving you a tip. If you don’t have tomato paste to remove your tomato skin put your whole tomatoes in some warm water for 5 minutes or so and after you peel off the skin. Another Tip; If you want you pilau to be dark brown its easy just fry you onions till dark completely the dark your onions the dark brown your pilau will be. Rice You can cook by wash then soak for 30 Minutes. When cooking if put 2Glasses or cups of rice then put 3glasses or 3cups of water. Just sharing so you can try if you want.

    1. Hi Catherine, thank you for your comment. I no longer use tomatoes in my pilau after learning how the coastal people prepare it. I should totally do an update for my readers. The darken of onions tip is one that I’ve seen, one question though isn’t there a burnt onion taste in the pilau?
      I usually let the cloves in the masala tint the rice.
      Is there a trick behind the water to rice ratio or is it dependent on the type of rice used?

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