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How To Cook Basmati Rice

Written by the YesChef staff

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YesChef Asma Khan Desktop
YesChef Asma Khan Desktop
Asma Khan
Teaches her Indian Cuisine
Basmati rice is one of India and Pakistan’s most important foods and is among Earth’s greatest and most versatile rice dishes. This airy and aromatic long-grain rice is a hit in curries, meats, pilafs, and more. Learn how to make basmati rice from chef Asma Khan, the Indian-born British chef and highly-successful cookbook author who will show you how to make basmati rice – and incorporate it into – her delicious Tamarind Dal and Rice dish. Below you will also learn the basics about basmati rice, including how best to cook it, some recipe ideas and suggestions on how to buy it, and how basmati rice is different from other types of rice.
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Asma Khan
Teaches her Indian Cuisine

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What is Basmati Rice?

Basmati rice is a light, fluffy, long-grain white rice used frequently in Indian, Pakistani, and Afghan cuisine. Nuttier and more aromatic than regular white cooked rice, basmati – which translates as “fragrant” in India’s Hindi language – is a superb side dish to curries and meat dishes. It’s also awesome with fresh herbs and can be cooked in olive oil or butter. Sometimes it is made simply with salt.

Where Does Basmati Rice Come From?

Basmati rice has been grown and consumed on the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Traders brought basmati rice to the Middle East, where it became a hit – and it eventually spread across the globe. Today, almost all of the world’s basmati rice is grown in India and Pakistan. India exports roughly two-thirds of the world’s supply of basmati rice. Basmati rice also is the most popular rice dish eaten in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan and India.

What is the Difference between Long, Medium, and Short-Grain Rice?

The difference between short, medium, and long-grain rice confuses many eaters and is worth a simple explanation. Long-grain rice, like basmati rice, can come in white or brown varieties. In addition to its longer grains – hence the name – long-grain rice is thin, about four to five times longer than it is wide. Long-grain cooked rice kernels tend to be lighter, fluffier, and do not stick together like medium-grain rice and short-grain rice. Jasmine rice is another common type of long-grain rice. Medium-Grain Rice is shorter, wider, and starchier than long-grain rice. It is moist and somewhat sticky when cooked. Arborio Rice, which is used to make risotto, is an example of a medium-grain rice. Short-Grain Rice, in addition to its short length, is also the stickiest and starchiest type of rice. A famous example of short grain rice is Japanese sushi rice.

What is the Difference between Basmati Rice and Plain Rice?

There are key differences between basmati rice and the plain white or brown rice varieties you will often find at the supermarket:

  • Basmati rice is a fluffier, lighter dish than regular long-grain rice.
  • Basmati rice is more fragrant, with a nuttier flavor, than plain rice.
  • Basmati rice isn’t as starchy as regular rice.

Buying Basmati Rice

Before making a dish featuring basmati rice, you may think: “What kind of basmati rice should I buy?” Here are some things you should consider when buying basmati rice:Golden or Off-White Color: The best basmati rice has aged for a few years. Check the color of the grains for a clue. Grains that have a golden or off-white hue are properly aged and higher in quality. Cloth not Plastic: Basmati rice that comes in a cloth package and says “Extra Long-Grain” is generally better than rice sold in plastic packages. Length Matters: Look for packages with longer basmati grains, which tend to be best.

How to Cook Basmati Rice

Cooking basmati rice is a simple process. Here are the steps to making a fluffy and tasty homemade basmati rice. Check for Impurities: Chef Asma Khan suggests putting your basmati rice in a bowl and studying it for impurities. Anything other than basmati rice should be removed. Rinse the Rice: To remove the starch, it is important to rinse the rice before cooking it. You can put cold water in a pot and mix the rice with your hands. Drain and repeat the process. Or, rinse the rice in a fine-mesh sieve. Soak Rice: Soaking your basmati rice isn’t as essential as washing it, but giving it a soak can make the basmati rice a bit softer. Asma recommends soaking basmati rice in water for 30 minutes to two hours. Drain Rice: Drain your cooked rice using a colander or a fine mesh strainer. Basmati Rice To Water Ratio: When making basmati rice, Asma uses a rice to water ratio of 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. Cook Rice: Cook rice in either a medium saucepan on the stove or in a rice cooker. If using a rice cooker, make sure to add the right amount of water along with salt and oil. In a rice cooker, aged, long-grain rice from India generally requires the same 1 cup rice to 2 cups water ratio as you’d need to use if cooking on the stovetop. If you’re cooking on the stovetop rather than a rice cooker: In a medium saucepan, turn the heat on and bring to a boil. Asma uses a pot and gently puts her rice into the boiling water. She adds salt. After cooking is complete, fluff with a fork and serve when ready.

When is Basmati Rice Ready?

When is your basmati rice done cooking? Asma gives the following advice: “Until the rice grain is dancing,” she says of rice, “it’s not ready.” By “dancing” she means the rice is moving up and down in the boiling pot. When the dancing begins, she says, stir in one direction – and the rice will flatten and begin changing color. Next: you want to wait until almost all of the water has evaporated. Watch it closely. If you get distracted or leave the scene while cooking rice, you could take it out too late. Be patient – and you’ll be rewarded with a perfectly-cooked basmati rice bowl. When it’s done, remove from heat, cover your rice in the pot with a tight fitting lid and leave it alone for 10 minutes. Now you don’t have to watch it anymore.

Is Basmati Rice Healthy?

Yes. If you are looking for healthy rice to make, basmati is a smart choice – brown basmati rice in particular. For one thing, brown basmati rice has a lower glycemic index than most other types of rice. Brown basmati rice, as a whole grain, helps reduce cholesterol and is good for the heart and for reducing the risk of some cancers. But even long-grain white rice of the basmati variety is extremely nutritious; 1 cup of rice contains no sugar, only .5 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, and lots of fiber and vitamins.

Common Basmati Rice Recipes

If you are asking: “What to eat with basmati rice?” here are some solutions. Basmati rice is frequently prepared as a side dish for curries and rice pilaf. It is central to the classic biryani dish of India and Pakistan, and it can be served either alone or with saffron or turmeric. Basmati is terrific as part of a vegetarian or vegan dish – or it can be served with roasted or braised meats. Basmati rice is also used to make tahdig, a crispy Persian dish that is popular in Iran.What other ingredients go with basmati rice? You can pair basmati rice with green herbs like cilantro, mint, and basil and with spices like saffron; with dairy products like milk and cream and yogurt; with nuts and seeds from pistachios and almonds to fennel seeds. And basmati rice goes excellently with fruits and vegetables like green or red onions. Whatever you eat it with, enjoy!

Tamarind Dal & Rice

Serves: 4
Hands-on: 5 min
Total: 20 min


  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • Water
  • 2 cups boiled water
  • 1 teaspoon salt



  • Bowl
  • Colander
  • Pot
    with lid.
  • Wooden spoon
  • Fork



  • Measure one cup of rice.
  • Spread the rice out in a tray and check for any impurities.
  • Then, put the dry rice in a large bowl.
  • Pour water into the bowl from a jug from the side so you do not have water falling with pressure on rice grains.
  • Wash gently moving your hand in one direction only (this is to stop the tips from breaking if you were swirling in both directions as rice would be banging against each other).
  • Throw out the water, keep replacing it with fresh water and continue to wash the rice.
  • Wash until the water runs clear, about 3 to 4 times.
  • Soak rice for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Put 2 cups of water in a pot with a lid and bring to a boil.
  • Drain rice in a colander.
  • Once the water in the pot starts to boil, carefully add the rice and stir gently once or twice as the rice starts to boil again.
  • When it’s boiling, add salt, stir in one direction.
  • When almost all the water has been absorbed or evaporated, put on the lid, and set to a simmer.
  • After 10 to 15 minutes check to see if all the water has been absorbed.
  • Cook for a bit longer if it has not.
  • Turn the heat off and cover the pan with a clean kitchen cloth and leave undisturbed for 10 more minutes.
  • Use a fork to gently separate grains before serving.
YesChef Asma Khan Desktop
YesChef Asma Khan Desktop

Asma Khan

Asma Khan, owner of famed London eatery Darjeeling Express and bestselling cookbook author of “Asma’s Indian Kitchen” teaches her favorite family recipes, inspired by her childhood in Kolkata, India. The chef, restaurateur, and activist is the first UK-based chef to be featured on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated Chef’s Table and, in 2019, was listed number 1 on Business Insider’s ranking of “100 Coolest People in Food and Drink”. Join Asma on a nostalgic culinary journey to explore the smells, flavors, and ingredients of her ancestral Bengali roots.

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