This Moroccan spiced rice (pilaf) with nuts, raisins and saffron is an authentic recipe perfect as a side dish for every occasion.
Forget the plain, blunt rice that needs a generous amount of turkey chili to soak up the juices and become flavorful.
This Moroccan pilaf, also known as north African rice, will reveal to you the diversity of the Mediterranean cuisine.
It is bold, aromatic, with contrasting textures and flavors from the added nuts, the dried fruit and the spices used, with saffron being the protagonist. These characteristics make it a popular choice among lovers of Moroccan cuisine.
Located in Northwestern Africa, Morocco is a North African country with many European and Middle Eastern influences.
These influences, have formed the Moroccan cuisine, mostly known for the use of spices, couscous, lamb, fruits and nuts. If you're fond of spices and dried fruits then you're going to LOVE this Moroccan baked chicken with 11 spices!
This pilaf is perfect as a side dish for every occasion, but especially during holidays and celebrations, because of the warm, sweet and spiced taste that gives it a festive character.
What is pilaf
Pilaf, also known as pilau or pulao, is a rice dish made by cooking rice with various ingredients such as meat, vegetables, and spices. It is a popular dish in many cuisines around the world, including Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Indian cuisines.
What makes a pilaf a pilaf?
Mostly the cooking method is what makes a pilaf.
This type of rice dish is typically cooked using the absorption method, where rice is cooked with the other ingredients and liquid until it becomes tender and absorbs all the flavors.
Because you don't strain the rice, the ratio of liquid to rice is important to achieve the desired texture.
What is Moroccan rice?
Moroccan rice is a side dish made with long-grain rice which gets cooked in stock or broth with spices and some other ingredients like dried fruit and nuts.
It has a nutty, slightly sweet and earthy taste which is accentuated by the combination of the spices used. Sometimes it can contain meat like chicken or lamp. You will also find it under the name Moroccan Pilaf.
This recipe for Moroccan pilaf is simple to make but turns out delicious every time. Basmati rice is cooked with almonds, raisins, dried apricots, saffron and other spices for an unforgettable experience!
To make this authentic Moroccan rice recipe you'll need the following ingredients:
- Basmati rice
- Olive oil
- Vegetable stock, chicken broth or water (you can also use chicken broth if you're not vegan)
- Roasted almonds
- Bay leaves
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Dried fruit: raisins, dried apricots, dates
- Spices: cumin, allspice, cardammom, ground cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves
Spices: Don't be alarmed by the number of spices. Even if you don't have them all, the pilaf will still be delicious.
Basmati rice: Moroccan pilaf is traditionally made with long-grain rice, which results in light, fluffy grains that don't clump together when cooked. Best options are Basmati or Jasmine rice.
To make this easy recipe for Moroccan rice pilaf, follow this simple step-by-step guide:
Step 1. Rinse the rice and drain very well (for not parboiled rice).
Step 2. Saute: Cook the spices with some olive oil over medium heat and then add the rice. Sauteing the rice will give it a nutty taste which pairs perfectly with the rest of the ingredients.
Step 3. Boil: Add the liquid (chicken broth, vegetable stock or water) and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.
Step 4. Add the nuts and the dried fruit. Add the dried fruit and the nuts and stir/fluff up gently with a fork. Cover the pot and let the pilaf rest for 10 minutes.
Variations - Substitutions
Instead of Basmati rice you can use Jasmin or another long-grain white rice. Long grain brown rice will also work.
Raisins, dates and dried apricots are used in this recipe. You can replace them with other dried fruit such as dried cranberries, dried mango or currants.
Roasted almonds can be replaced with pine nuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts.
Olive oil can be substituted with butter.
Garnishes: Fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley are often used as garnishes for Moroccan pilaf. They add a touch of freshness and brighten the flavors of the dish.
Storage - Reheating
Moroccan rice will last for 2-3 days when stored in the fridge inside an airtight container.
To reheat in the microwaves: Transfer the rice to a microwave-safe container and select the medium-high power level. Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until steamy.
To reheat in the oven: Transfer the rice to an oven-safe container, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of water and cover with aluminum foil. Gently reheat in a medium oven for 10-15 minutes.
What to serve Moroccan rice with
This pilaf recipe is a flavorful side dish that can accompany perfectly every grilled meat or any other main dish you have in mind. It is also vegan and gluten-free.
Some great pairing ideas are the following:
Want your rice to be fluffy and separated? Add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice into the pot while the rice is cooking. The acidity of the lemon juice keeps the starch inside the grains, so that the rice is not sticky when done.
A wide saucepan with a glass lid works best for this recipe, since you can always check what’s going on inside.
Dried fruit really add to this dish, but try not to overdo it because it can become too sweet.
In a word, no. Rice is most of the times cooked in water whereas, according to wikipedia pilaf is cooked in an aromatic stock or broth. Pilaf is believed to be of Persian origin and it is much more than just boiled rice, since it absorbs all the flavors and nutrients of the broth.
A Greek example of another type of pilaf is this chicken soup risotto which is usually served in Cretan weddings (the numerous rice grains symbolize abundance, fertility and good luck!).
Here are the most common reasons that your rice pilaf is mushy:
Too much liquid: Adding too much liquid to the rice will make it mushy and overcooked. For parboiled long-grain rice the usual ratio is 1 ½ cups water per 1 cup of rice.
Not the right type of rice: For an authentic pilaf, a long-grain rice variety should be used. Using risotto rice, sushi rice or another kind of rice can result in mushy, sticky rice.
Not using parboiled rice: parboiled rice has been partially boiled in the husk, a procedure which helps it remain fluffy and separated.
The rice was not rinsed before cooking: Rinsing the rice before cooking gets rid of excess starch which can cause the rice to look mushy.
Parboiled Basmati rice doesn't need rinsing because it has already been rinsed, steamed and dried.
Regular rice needs to be washed before cooking since this is something that removes any dirt but also reduces the amount of arsenic that the rice may contain.
Best Moroccan rice pilaf recipe
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves (or 2-3 whole cloves)
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom (or 5-6 cardamom pods)
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 cups Basmati rice, parboiled
- 3 cups vegetable stock or water (you can also use chicken stock if you're not vegan)
- ¼ teaspoon saffron
- 3 dates, finely chopped
- 3 dried apricots, finely chopped
- ¼ cup raisins, chopped
- ¼ cup roasted almonds, crashed
- Saute: transfer the onion and the olive oil in a large pot and sauté over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin, the allspice, the cloves, the cardamom, the cinnamon stick, the bay leaves, the black pepper and the rice and stir until the rice gets white in color, about 2-3minutes.
- Simmer: Add the stock (or water), salt and saffron, cover the pot and wait until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook covered until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 8 - 10 minutes.
- Rest: Turn off the heat, add the dried fruits and almonds and stir/fluff up gently with a fork. Cover the pot and let the pilaf rest for 10-15 minutes.
- For a more "al dente" rice, use 2 ½ cups water per 2 cups of rice.
- Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick (and cloves and cardamom pods if used whole) before serving.
- For the Basmati rice choose the type that says it needs 10-12 minutes cooking time.
- If the Basmati you choose is not parboiled, the cooking time on the packaging will be 20 minutes or longer. In that case the amount of liquid required will be more than 3 cups, and it's best to follow the packaging directions.
- A rice that is not parboiled should be rinsed before cooking: transfer it to a sieve, rinse under running water for 1 minute and let it drain well.
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