Cooking Tips - Brown Basmati Rice Coconut Pilaf

I like rice, a lot.  I like most starchy carbohydrates and whole grains.  The problem with liking these side dishes is that they easily become my main dish, crowding out my vegetables and proteins on my lunch and dinner plates.  At least I'm eating whole grains.  Years ago, during one of my bi-polar mania catering days (long before I was officially a certified chef) I catered a block party for a friends college graduation.  It's a long story - where I was sort of roped into cooking food for over 50 people, with the help of Liz (who I had only been dating for about a month, maybe not even that long) and my best friend and catering buddy, Rachel.  I totally made up the recipes, with a little bit of inspiration from an issue of Martha Stewart Living.  The party was a success.  The food was memorably tasty and my days as a chef/caterer were on the upswing.  The cooking must have gone well too, as Liz and I are still together after 12 years and Rachel's still my best friend (though she lives too far away to be my catering companion).  One of the most memorable dishes we made was a Cuban Coconut Rice.  That original recipe was a white rice dish loaded with full-fat coconut milk, dried pineapple, adobo seasoning, lime juice and rum.  It wasn't healthy but it sure tasted good!  I never could quite duplicate the fabulousness of the original dish and I wouldn't want to today - it's too fattening and unhealthy.  I think that I succeeded in making a healthier version of coconut rice - using Brown Basmati Rice seasoned with curry for an Indian-inspired meal.  

I pared the rice pilaf with a version of curried cauliflower and chickpea with some spinach tossed in for colour and extra vegetable oomph - it's a dish that I made back in October.  Since we had company for dinner, I also served the rice, cauliflower/chickpeas with baked Tilapia with Dijon Mustard, herbs and sliced almond crust.  There were very little left-overs, it was all that good!

Brown Basmati Coconut Rice Pilaf Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup (uncooked) Brown Basmati Rice - rinsed and drained
  • 1 Tablespoon Oil (vegetable/canola/peanut or light olive oil)
  • 1 Small Onion - small dice (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 Garlic Cloves - minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 Tablespoons Curry Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Light Coconut Milk
  • 2 1/4 Cups Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Toasted Pumpkin Seeds  or Pine Nuts (optional -  for garnish)


  1. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer or sieve.  Shake off excess water and set aside.
  2. In a 3 or 4 quart sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.  Add in the onion and garlic and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onions go from translucent to taking on a hint of golden colour.  
  3. Stir in the curry powder and the rice, stirring to coat the rice with the curry powder and to "bloom" the curry flavors - saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Next add in the coconut milk, water and salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil (it may boil almost immediately) and then lower the heat, bringing the mixture to a bare simmer.  Place the lid on the pot and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until all the liquid is nearly absorbed by the rice.  After 30 minutes, turn the heat off, keep the lid on the pot and let the rice sit for at least 10 minutes, or up to 20 minutes.  
  5. Before serving, fluff the rice with a fork and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts.
Notes - this recipe assumes that you are using a gas stove;  a sauce pot that has a heavy-bottom, and BROWN rice.  It has a hint of coconut flavor - gentle and not assertive and not very high in fat.  When cooking brown rice, the ratio of rice to water is about 1 cup rice to 2 3/4 liquid.  I'm curious if using coconut water may work instead of coconut milk.  If anyone dares to try it - let me know about your results.  Also, not all rice is the same.  Basmati is a long grain rice, fragrant and nutty.  Brown Jasmine rice would also work well.  


  1. sounds amazing! i love the texture of brown rice. :-)

  2. I am a complete carbo-holic (rice, pasta, polenta, yum!) and am always looking for new recipes, so thanks for this one, Denine.

    Recently my husband brought home black rice--absolutely delicious. I wonder--is it a "true" rice or a grain like wile "rice"?

    My problem with cooking rice on the stovetop is that it often comes out gummy and either over- or under-done. Luckily, I discovered an Oven-Baked Rice recipe in the Joy of Cooking. You can adapt it to any kind of rice by altering the water/rice proportions, as you've noted above. Comes out perfect every time.

  3. Style Maniac - black rice is a rice, not a wild grass like say, Wild Rice! It's full of iron and gets its color from anthocyan. It turns deep purple when cooked and shouldn't be very glutenous when cooked - avoiding the gummy texture! You should also look for green rice or Jade Rice - very fabulous tasting too!
    Mo Diva - thanks for the comment - brown rice's texture is great. Wish more people would try it.


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