Pulao, also known as rice pilaf, is comfort food at its best. I make this Veg Pulao recipe when I want to cook something quick, easy and satisfying. This easy one-pot mildly flavored and fragrant vegetarian dish is bursting with deliciously spiced rice and vegetables, and is great on its own or paired with raita (an Indian yogurt dish), pickle and roasted papad (a crispy thin Indian snack).
What is Pulao
Called by various names such as pilaf or pulav, Vegetable Pulao is one of the most common rice dishes in India, the other being Veg Biryani.
A Veg Pulao is basically an easy rice based dish made with spices, herbs and vegetables in a pot. Additionally there are non-vegetarian versions of pulao too.
You will find many different vegetarian pulao recipes on the blog including Peas Pulao, Kashmiri Pulao, Tawa Pulao, Paneer Pulao and more. However the recipe I’m sharing now is my absolute favorite and how I almost always end up making it.
What I like best about making this veg pulao recipe, is that it comes together quickly. Use a food processor for chopping the veggies and it will come together super quickly.
In fact, you only need about 15 minutes of prep time and 25 minutes of cook time to get this cozy dinner on the table!
About My Recipe
My pulao recipe uses whole spices, rather than adding any pre-made ground pulao or biryani masala. This creates a richer aroma that can be tasted throughout the dish.
I usually like the texture of rice to be a little soft in this dish, rather than being al dente, which is the way it is typically served in restaurants.
I also mostly add vegetables like carrots, green peas, french beans and cauliflower. But a veg pulao can be made with various other vegetables. Broccoli, beets, capsicum, spinach, cabbage, baby corn are some veggies that you can consider.
Usually pulao is made with the finest fragrant basmati rice. I prefer to use aged basmati rice to make vegetable pulao. Other fragrant varieties of rice which are non-sticky also work well.
Pulao recipe can be made in a pan on the stovetop, a pressure cooker or the Instant Pot. I like the rice grains to be fluffy and separate. So I cook the pulao in a pan on the stovetop.
If short of time you can consider making it in a stovetop pressure cooker or the Instant pot.
Do read on below in the tips section my helpful suggestions on making the perfect veg pulao for any occasion.
How To Make Veg Pulao
If you love eating pulao, you’re going to fall head over heels for this super easy recipe. Here’s how it’s made:
1. Begin by rinsing 1.5 cups basmati rice in water until it runs clear of starch. Next, soak the rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. After 20 to 30 minutes strain the rice of all the water and keep aside.
3. While the rice is soaking, prep the veggies. Rinse and chop them. Make sure to chop the vegetables into small cubes.
For cauliflower, chop them in small to medium-sized florets. Peel, rinse, and thinly slice 1 large onion.
4. Keep all the whole spices aside. From the below list of spices, you can skip black peppercorns, black cardamom, star anise and mace.
5. Add chopped ginger (1 to 1.5 inches), garlic (4 to 5 small to medium garlic cloves, peeled) and 1 to 2 green chilies (green peppers) in a mortar-pestle.
6. Crush to a paste. You can also use a small grinder for crushing these. Add a bit of water as required if grinding in a small grinder or mixer.
Fry Spices & Sauté Onions
7. Heat 3 tablespoons ghee or oil in a deep thick bottomed pot or pan.
8. Once the ghee has melted and become hot, add all whole spices and fry for a few seconds until they become fragrant.
The spices will also splutter while frying. The ghee should not smoke or become too hot.
9. Add 1 cup of thinly sliced onions.
10. Mix the onions with the ghee and begin to sauté them.
11. Sauté the onions on a low to medium-low heat. First, the onions will become light golden. Continue to sauté while stirring often.
12. Sauté onions until golden.
Sauté Tomatoes, Veggies and Herbs
13. Once the onions become golden, add the prepared, crushed ginger + garlic + green chili (chili pepper) paste.
14. Stir and sauté for some seconds until the raw aroma of the ginger & garlic goes away.
15. Add ½ cup chopped tomatoes.
16. Mix and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on a low heat.
17. Now add all the chopped veggies. You will need about 1 to 1.5 cups of mixed chopped vegetables.
18. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves (cilantro). At this step, you can also add 2 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves.
19. Mix and sauté again for 2 to 3 minutes on a low heat.
20. Add the rice.
21. Mix rice gently with the rest of the ingredients.
22. Sauté rice gently for 1 to 2 minutes on a low to medium-low heat, so that the rice gets well coated with the oil or ghee.
23. Pour 2.5 to 3 cups water into the pan. I added 3 cups of water. Depending on the quality of rice you have used, you can add less or more water.
You can also replace water with vegetable stock if you prefer.
24. Add ¼ teaspoon lemon juice.
25. Season with salt. Mix very well. To figure out if you have added the right amount of salt, check the taste of the water. You should feel some saltiness in the water.
This means the amount of salt added is right. If the water does not feel salty, then you need to add some more salt.
26. Stir and tightly cover the pot or pan with its lid.
27. Cover and cook the rice until all the water is absorbed. Cook on a low to medium heat. Usually, in the beginning, I cook on a medium-low or medium heat and then halfway through, I lower the heat.
Check a few times during cooking to ensure there is enough water. Depending on the quality of rice, you may need to add more water. With a fork, you can also gently stir the rice without breaking the rice grains.
16. Once the rice grains are cooked, fluff them and let the rice stand for 5 minutes covered with the lid.
17. Serve Veg Pulao garnished with coriander leaves (cilantro), mint leaves or fried onions and fried cashews or fried raisins.
I recommend serving vegetable pulao with the following:
- Raita (an Indian yogurt dish): Different variations I recommend include Onion Raita, Boondi Raita or Cucumber Raita.
- Curry or Korma: Choose any spicy or lightly spiced curries or gravies like this flavorful Soya Chunks Curry, or this tasty Kurma or our favorite Paneer Butter Masala or even a plain simple Kadhi (without pakora).
- With pickle and papad: If you do not have time or ingredients to make any curry, korma or raita, then just serve with some robust Indian pickles and roasted or fried Papad (an Indian flatbread).
- Vegetable pulav also pairs well with Curd (yogurt).
- You could also pair it with some sliced onions and lime or lemon.
The most important thing in a pulao dish is that the rice grains are cooked perfectly without sticking or becoming mushy. The rice grains should be separate and non-sticky after being cooked.
Below you will find some expert tips and suggestions to help you prepare the perfect rice for your pulao recipe.
Type and Quality of Rice
- Basmati rice is usually used to make pulao. The basmati rice should be fragrant and long-grained to get good results. Aged basmati rice will give you the best results.
- You can also use other types of long-grained rice and short-grained Indian rice varieties like seeraga samba, sona masuri or ambe mohar. These rice varieties can often be purchased on Amazon.
- In some parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala (Southern Indian states), seeraga samba rice is widely used to make pulao and biryani recipes.
- Even parboiled basmati rice (sella basmati) can be used to make this recipe.
How to ensure you end up with fluffy rice
Now that you have the correct rice, follow these steps to ensure you have fluffy separate rice grains in your pulao:
- Soak the rice – It is always better to soak your rice for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Soaking rice grains gives them a better texture when they are cooked. If you do not have time to soak them, then just rinse the rice before adding it.
Note that if you only rinse the rice, you will need to add some more water as presoaked rice grains require less water for cooking as compared to rice grains which are not soaked.
- Add the right amount of water – Be sure that you do not add too much water, especially if you have presoaked your rice as recommended above.
- Sauté the rice – After adding the rice grains to your pan, sauté them for 1 to 2 minutes on a low to medium heat, so that they are coated with fat (oil or ghee).
The rice grains have to be separate & and yet well cooked in a pulao or biryani. Adding lemon juice also helps make the rice grains fluffier.
Rice to Water Ratio
For most rice varieties, the rice to water ratio is generally 1:2. However, this ratio can vary depending on the particular type of rice used or the cooking method used:
- Example 1 – Organic basmati rice requires more water while cooking and parboiled basmati rice will need more water as compared to regular basmati rice. For this reason, I recommend that you use a rice you’re familiar with when cooking pulao. This way you will already know how much water to add.
- Example 2 – When cooking pulao in a pressure cooker, generally less water is added. The steam generated in the cooker helps in cooking the rice grains. However, the amount of water to be added will depend upon the size of the cooker. For example, in larger cookers, more water has to be added.
Vegetable Pulao Variations
There are many variations that can be made in a pulao recipe. From adding different vegetables to using a vegetable stock or spicing with unique spices. See the points mentioned below.
Various types of vegetables can be added in a pulao recipe, either alone or in a combination of two to three or more, depending on what you and your family like and prefer. Usually, a vegetable pulav is made with veggies like green peas, cauliflower, french beans, carrots, and potatoes.
Apart from these vegetables, you can also add broccoli, capsicum (bell peppers), cabbage, beetroot (beets), tomatoes and even edible mushrooms. The flavors and taste of pulao will vary with the type of vegetables added to it.
Masala and Spice Pastes
There are many pulao varieties made in the Indian cuisine with a mix of various masala or spice pastes and ingredients including:
- Curd or yogurt
- Coconut milk: for example Coconut milk pulao or Brinji rice
- Green Masala Paste: Green pulao includes a green masala paste made from coriander leaves (cilantro), mint leaves, green chilies (chili pepper), ginger and garlic. Some fresh coconut can also be added. Green pulao is similar to chutney pulao.
- Red Masala Paste: Used in making red pulao and similar to green masala paste, however tomatoes are used as one of the major flavor and taste contributors.
- Pulao or Biryani Masala: A ground spice blend used instead of whole spices.
- Vegetable Stock: Some pulav recipes are cooked in vegetable stock instead of water. Pulao made in a vegetable stock has a different taste and color.
- Spices and Herbs: You can always alter the amount of spices and herbs as per your taste. If you like spicy veg pulao then you can add more green chilies (chili pepper) and include some spice powders like garam masala powder or red chili powder. You can also reduce the whole spices in the recipe (except cumin) if you want a less aromatic and milder veg pulao.
Making Restaurant Style Veg Pulao
A vegetable pulao can be made more delicious and similar to a restaurant-style dish by incorporating the following methods:
- Add some crisp golden fried onions (birista) as a garnish on the vegetable pulao. Fried caramelized onions not only taste good but also give a nice crunch in the soft textured pulao.
- Add some fried dry fruits & nuts like cashews, almonds and raisins.
- You can even add some saffron strands while cooking pulao. This will impart the lovely saffron aroma and flavor in the pulao. Even rose water or kewra water can be added.
Methods of Cooking Pulav
Veg Pulao can be cooked in five ways:
- In a pan or pot (as shown in this recipe post)
- In a Pressure Cooker
- Using an Instant Pot
- In an electric cooker
- In a microwave oven
You can use any of the above methods for cooking pulao, but just remember to add the correct amount of water. For example, in an electric cooker, you will need to add more water and in a pressure cooker you will need to add less water.
It honestly depends on the type and quality of the rice you’re using. For most types of rice, 1 part rice to 2 parts water is a good starting point. However, some types of rice are better with a ratio of 1:1.5 or 1:2.5.
Factors that will affect the amount of water used are: age (the older it is, the more water it will need), quality, and whether or not you soaked it (soaked rice requires less water).
I suggest experimenting with whatever rice you cook with most often; once you know the proper ratio for your brand, you should be able to translate that into this recipe.
Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of red chili powder and a green chili for each cup of rice you use.
Just continue cooking the pulao for a few more minutes, adding water as needed.
If you prefer al dente rice, wait for 2 whistles. If you prefer softer rice like me, wait for 3 whistles.
Please be sure to rate the recipe in the recipe card or leave a comment below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Veg Pulao Recipe (Mix Vegetable Pulav)
For soaking rice
- 1.5 cups basmati rice – 300 grams, rinsed & soaked for 20 to 30 minutes
- water – as required for soaking
- ½ to ¾ cup cauliflower – chopped
- ½ to ¾ cup potatoes – chopped
- ¼ cup carrots – chopped
- ⅓ cup green peas – fresh or frozen
- ¼ cup green beans (french beans) – chopped
- ¼ cup green bell pepper (capsicum) – chopped, optional
- ¼ cup baby corn – sliced or chopped, optional
- 3 tablespoons Ghee or oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced onions or 1 large onion, sliced
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes or 1 medium-sized tomato, chopped
- 1 to 1.5 inches ginger – crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle
- 4 to 5 garlic cloves (small to medium sized) – crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle
- 1 to 2 green chillies or 1 teaspoon chopped green chili pepper – crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle
- 3 tablespoons coriander leaves (cilantro) – chopped
- 2 tablespoons mint leaves – chopped, optional
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice – optional
- 2.5 to 3 cups water or vegetable stock *check notes below for details. I added 3 cups of water
- salt as required
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (shahi jeera)
- 5 to 6 whole black pepper – optional
- 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
- 4 cloves
- 3 to 4 green cardamoms
- 1 black cardamom – optional
- 1 small piece of mace – optional
- 1 small-sized star anise – optional
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 1 small piece of stone flower (dagad phool or patthar ke phool) – optional
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves or mint leaves
- Rinse rice till the water runs clear of starch and become transparent while rinsing.
- Soak the rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain all the water and keep the soaked rice aside.
- Rinse, peel and chop the vegetables.
- Crush chopped ginger, garlic and green chillies to a paste in a mortar-pestle or grind them in a small mixer or grinder with a bit of water.
Frying spices and sautéing onions
- In a deep thick bottomed pot or pan, heat ghee or oil and fry all the whole spices mentioned above, till the oil becomes fragrant and the spices splutter.
- Add the onions and saute them till golden. Saute the onions on a low to medium-low heat and stir often for even browning.
- Add the ginger-garlic-green chili paste and saute for some seconds till their raw aroma goes away.
- Add the tomatoes and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on a low to medium-low heat.
- Add all the chopped veggies, green peas and sauté again for 1 to 2 minutes on a low to medium-low heat.
- Add rice and sauté gently for 1 to 2 minutes on a low or medium-low heat, so that the rice gets well coated with the oil.
- Add water and lemon juice. Mix and stir.
- Season with salt and stir again.
Making Vegetable Pulao
- Cover tightly and let the rice cook on a low heat, till the water is absorbed and the rice is well cooked.
- Check in between a few times to check if the water is enough. Depending on the quality of rice, you may need to add less or more water. With a fork too, you can gently stir the rice without breaking the rice grains.
- Once the rice grains are cooked, fluff and let the rice stand for 5 minutes.
- Serve pulao hot with some side salad, sliced onion and lemon wedges or raita. You can also garnish it with chopped coriander or mint leaves or fried cashews or fried onions.
- Type and quality of rice: Pulao is always made with Basmati rice. The basmati rice should be fragrant and long-grained to get good results. Aged basmati rice will give you the best results. Even parboiled basmati rice (sella basmati) can be used. You can also use other types of long-grained rice and short-grained rice. These Indian rice varieties can be easily purchased from Amazon.
- For separate rice grains: Follow these steps to ensure you have separate rice grains in your pulao:
- Soak the rice: It is always better to soak your rice for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Soaking rice grains gives them a better texture when they are cooked. If you do not have time to soak them, then just rinse the rice before adding it. Note that if you only rinse the rice, you will need to add some more water as presoaked rice grains require less water for cooking as compared to rice grains which are not soaked.
- Add just enough water: Be sure that you do not add too much water, especially if you have presoaked your rice as recommended above.
- Sauté the rice: After adding the rice grains to your pan, sauté them for 1 to 2 minutes on a low to medium flame, so that they are coated with fat (oil or ghee). The rice grains have to be separate & and yet well cooked in a pulao or biryani. Adding lemon juice also helps make the rice grains fluffier.
- Rice to water ratio: For most rice varieties, the rice to water ratio is generally 1:2. However, this ratio can vary depending on the particular type of rice used or the cooking method used:
- Example 1– organic basmati rice requires more water while cooking and parboiled basmati rice will need more water as compared to regular basmati rice. For this reason, I recommend when cooking pulao, to use rice which you have cooked before. This way you will already know how much water to add.
- Example 2– when cooking pulao in a pressure cooker, generally less water is added. The steam generated in the cooker helps in cooking the rice grains. However, the amount of water to be added will depend upon the size of the cooker. For example, in larger cookers, more water has to be added.
- Vegetables: You can add your favorite vegetables. Note that the vegetables add a lot of flavor to the rice. You can even add mushrooms to a give a meaty texture and umami flavor to the pulao. Button Mushrooms, morel mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms can be added.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Pulao Recipe from the archives was first published on November 2014. It has been updated and republished on July 2023.