Chicken Pilau Rice: Pakistani Recipe

/ / / Chicken Pilau Rice: Pakistani Recipe
Chicken Pilau Rice

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Pakistani Chicken Pilau Rice

Pilau Rice is rice cooked in spiced stock, and there are different types of Pilau depending on what you make the stock with. Vegetable pilau rice, lamb pilau, beef pilau and chicken pilau are among the choices. 

And the recipe I’m sharing with you here is the one with chicken. It is based on what I learned from my extended family. So it’s kind of a secret family recipe that will no longer be a secret.  

Chicken Pilau Rice that I always have is the brown pilau rice. You can tell from the colour of the rice grains that is slightly brownish. And the way to make the colour brown is by frying the onions longer until they light golden brown. 

chicken pilau rice with overlay text

 My recipe is rooted in Pakistani style of cooking that I have learned from my sisters-in-law. But just like any other food recipes, one develops one’s own way of cooking according to one’s taste bud. 

And when it comes to cooking Pakistani rice dishes, the spices and the flavour are not the only keys. It is when you can cook the rice without making it mushy or break the shape of the grains that is an equally important key. In fact, when I cooked Pilau Rice for the first time, my extended family approved it just by looking at the rice. Just because all the rice grains looked intact in their shapes and the colour of rice was nicely brown but not too dark. And also it was not greasy and oily. I was happy and a bit proud. 

So I’m sharing with you the recipe which is a kind of secret family recipe that will no longer be a secret. And you can even learn a trick or two from me so that you get the perfect pilau right from the start. 

How to Make

It is pretty straightforward to make pilau rice. In essence, you just need to make the stock, then cook the rice in that stock. 

So first, you prepare the rice by washing, rinsing and soaking in plenty of water. Then, fry the onions and spices until the onion turns light golden brown. 

chopped onion and whole spices
browning the onion and spices

Secondly, you add in the chicken pieces and the whole onion. Continue to fry until the poultry become firm and opaque in colour. 

frying chicken pieces in spices
browning the chicken pieces and whole onion in spices

Thirdly, you put in the hot boiling water (from the kettle), then let it boil and simmer. It takes me about an hour to simmer at low heat. 

Lastly, once the stock is ready, sieve and pour it into another cooking pan. Then sieve the rice and put it into the broth. Cook it until all the liquid evaporates. Put the pan lid that is wrapped with a tea towel on and cook further at a lower heat until it steams. 

sieve the chicken stock
steaming the rice in the pan
ready cooked chicken pilau rice

Now, I think the secret of a good pilau with delicious taste lies in the proportion of each spice and the amount of stock that cooks the rice. As I mentioned above, your cooked rice should be fluffy but not broken and mushy. So make sure you put the right amount of stock. And stir the rice carefully so you will not break it. 

Top tip: to cook Basmati rice, you need 1 ½ cup of water for every 1 cup of Basmati rice. This can be basic guidelines for you to cook pilau rice as well. When you finish boiling and making the chicken stock, you can sieve it and measure it to know how much stock you get.

For this recipe, we need about 3 ¾ cups of stock. So you can add or take away the chicken stock you make if it is less or more than what you need, which is 3 ¾ cups. 

Another way to make this chicken pilau rice is by using a rice cooker. You can prepare the chicken stock and soak the rice. Then you put the rice and the chicken stock in the rice cooker and set the rice cooker according to its manual for Basmati rice.

Main and side dishes to enjoy with Chicken Pilau

Traditionally, the rice dish is served at happy occasions such as weddings, religious festivities, birthdays, family gatherings, etc. It is also a dish among the menu you spread for your guests.

You can enjoy the chicken pilau as it is without any side dish as my kids often do. But, there are typical main and side dishes that usually spread among the menu. And they are:

  • Aloo Gosht – potato and meat curry.
  • Aloo Palak – spinach and potato curry.
  • Chicken Shorba – chicken curry with runny curry sauce.
  • Lamb kofta curry – lamb meatballs curry.
  • Chicken tikka.
  • Chicken kebabs or lamb kebabs.
  • Lamb chops. 
  • Kachumber – diced cucumber, tomatoes, and onion salad.
  • Dahi Boondi – yoghurt with fried gram flour. 
  • Dahi Baray – lentil dumplings soaked in spiced yoghurt.

Related posts

I hope you are now thinking of trying the recipe. If you do so, it will be great if you could share what you think about this Chicken Pilau Rice in the comments below.

And please follow me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Pinterest to sneak a peek at what’s cooking in my kitchen. 

Before you go, don’t forget to check out my other rice dish recipes that you may love.

Thank you and all the best.

Yield: 6

Chicken Pilau Rice

Chicken pilau rice Pakistani style

Chicken Pilau Rice is delicious to enjoy as is. But you can indulge yourself more by having the rice with a few curries on the side.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes


  • 2 ½ cup/ 500 gr/ 17.64 oz Basmati rice.
  • 5 small size/ 250 gr/ 8.82 oz Onions.
  • 800 gr/ 28.22 oz chicken (equal to 1 baby chicken), cut in pieces.
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds.
  • 2 tsp whole coriander seeds.
  • 20 whole cloves.
  • 3 black cardamoms.
  • 2 bay leaves.
  • 2-inches cinnamon stick.
  • 1 ½ tsp whole black pepper.
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled.
  • 1-inch ginger, peeled.
  • 1 ½ tsp salt.
  • 1 litre/ 33.81 fl.oz water.
  • ¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 2.11 fl.oz oil.


  1. Wash and rinse the rice. Then soak it in plenty of water. Set aside.
  2. Peel the onions and chop 4 of them. In a cooking pan or a stockpot heat the oil and fry the chopped onions with the whole cumin seeds and whole coriander seeds.
  3. When the onions become translucent, add in the cloves, cardamoms, black pepper, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, and cinnamon. Cook further until the onions turn golden brown. 
  4. Then add the salt, the remaining whole onion and the chicken pieces. Give a stir and let the poultry cook until it turns opaque in colour.
  5. Pour the water into the chicken, let it boil and simmer at low heat. It takes me an hour to make the stock. 
  6. By now, the rice will have expanded a little bit and turned white opaque in colour. Drain the rice. Set aside.
  7. Sieve the stock into a large cooking pan, pick and put the chicken pieces in it. Then let the stock and chicken boil again. Once it gets to the boiling point, put the rice in it and cook at moderate-high heat until all the water evaporates. Take care throughout the process by stirring the rice every now and then. But make sure not to break the grains.
  8. Cover the pan lid with a tea towel and put it on the pan. Turn the heat down and further cook at low heat until the steam comes out. 

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 480Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 125mgSodium 739mgCarbohydrates 31gFiber 3gSugar 2gProtein 35g

The nutrition calculation you find here is just a guide provided by online nutrition calculator. You should not use to substitute advice from nutritionists or health practitioners.

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  1. I love this recipe. The combination of flavors, of spices, is just genius. Thanks for a delicious addition to my cooking repertoire!

  2. This looks delicious – like a bowl of fragrant comfort food perfect for dull January days! A friend gave me a delicious recipe for Afghani lamb pulau and I would love to try your recipe and see how they compare. So interesting that the dish stands or falls by the texture of the rice!

    1. I think you’ll love both. I do. As both have similarities with their own uniqueness.

  3. I’m always looking for new rice recipes and this looks SO delicious. Thanks!

  4. Such a great dinner staple to have at the table. It goes perfectly with so many dishes and is delicious!

  5. Kushigalu says:

    How flavorful and delicious os this pilaf recipe. I would love to make this for dinner soon . Thanks for sharing

  6. When do you put the boiled chicken in the cooked rice?
    Thank you for this recipe

    1. Hi, thank you for your reminder and apologies for the missing info. I have amended the recipe card. So, basically you put chicken in the stock together before you reboil the stock. Happy cooking.

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