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Easy rice pilaf

Rice pilaf, easy to make in 20 minutes, makes a perfect side dish for anything off the grill.

Now that my husband Ted and I have moved back to Boston, we miss more than ever the long-closed Cedars Restaurant that used to live at the end of our street. Cedars served Middle Eastern food in a space that reminded you of your favorite aunt's kitchen, with formica tables and frilly curtains, and velvet paintings on the walls. We almost always ordered the garlic chicken on skewers, and it always came with a mound of rice pilaf on the side. If you have access to a Middle Eastern market, you can buy authentic chayrere, the thin vermicelli-like noodles, or look for fine egg noodles in the supermarket. Or, buy the thinnest vermicelli pasta you can find, and break it into two-inch pieces. The remaining ingredients come straight from your pantry. Make a pot of this rice ahead of time, and reheat in the microwave. It's the perfect side dish for anything you throw on the grill.

Serve rice pilaf on the side, with anything you're cooking on the grill.

Easy rice pilaf

From the pantry, you'll need: butter, kosher salt, long-grain white rice, ground cinnamon.

Updated from the original October 2006 post. Serves 6-8.


3/4 cup pilaf noodles, fine egg noodles, or angel-hair or vermicelli pasta broken into 2-inch pieces
6 Tbsp butter
2 cups long grain rice, washed
1 tsp salt
4 cups boiling water
1/2 tsp cinnamon for garnish (optional)


In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, melt the butter. Sauté the noodles, stirring constantly, until they are light brown (4-5 minutes).

Add rice and salt. Stir until all butter is absorbed by the rice.

Carefully pour in the boiling water. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot tightly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked but not mushy (check and stir often after 10 minutes of cooking, as the rice might stick to the pot).

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes or until all water is absorbed.

Sprinkle with cinnamon, if you wish, and serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More dishes for your Middle Eastern menu:
Chickpea falafel, from The Perfect Pantry
Shakshuka, from The Perfect Pantry
Roasted chickpeas with garlic, cumin and paprika, from The Perfect Pantry
Middle Eastern tomato salad (salad shirazi), from Kalyn's Kitchen
Middle Eastern pita sandwich, from The Lemon Bowl

Rice pilaf easy enough to make every day, with ingredients from your pantry!

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I've never had pilaf like this with vermicelli noodles but I bet I can find it in Turkey!

Kalyn, I'm sure you'll find it in Turkey! Love it with just a touch of cinnamon sprinkled on top, though that is optional if it doesn't go with the rest of your meal.

Lydia, I don't usually wash rice unless the package specifies it. Why is this step important? Should all types of rice be washed prior to cooking?

Lorna, great question. In this case, you want to remove some of the excess starch from the rice, and that's why it's washed. Often, in older recipes, they call for washing rice, to remove impurities, but the rice we buy these days is usually quite clean. Whenever I don't want the rice to stick together, I give it a rinse before cooking.

I am also super fond of rice pilaf - it's the kind of small modification that turns a simple recipe into something special

it is a favorite with hubby too... he always opens a huge smile when I make "special rice"


Sally, my husband is a huge fan, too. He thinks it's so hard to make!

My daughter's best friend calls it "fancy rice" and she requests it when she comes by. I like to saute diced onions and cardamom seeds before adding the rice. Not proper pilaf, I know, but is sure is good. I sometimes use coconut oil in place of butter.

LOVE pilaf and so does the fam; we'd rather have rice pilaf over spuds LOL...i buy the cello pkgs of vermicelli in the mexican food section at the grocery store; the size/length is just right; just recently, i started rinsing my rice before cooking, to cut down on some of the starch factor, and i don't notice any change in texture or taste as i've heard some people say ;0)

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