Chicken Pilau Rice: Pakistani Recipe

Chicken Pilau Rice

Pakistani Chicken Pilau Rice

Chicken pilau rice is a dish of comfort and fulfilment. A dish of heartwarming flavour that tastes satisfying as a standalone menu. Yet, it complements other side dishes when put together among the feast spread.  

The whole spices cooked in the broth for the rice give an irresistible aroma. It marries well with the richness of the chicken stock. And the chicken pieces are meltingly tender. 

chicken pilau rice with overlay text

Pilau rice is a rice dish of togetherness and celebration that you often find at celebrations such as weddings, eid, birthdays or simply family get-togethers. 

It is almost always a must-have item among the menu for special occasions that every Pakistani household will definitely have to be able to cook and serve it for their loved ones. 

The rice is cooked in spiced chicken stock, and the recipe I’m sharing with you here 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. And you can even learn a trick or two from me so that you get the perfect pilau right from the start. 

Quite Simple Ingredients

You need three types of ingredients for this celebratory rice dish, i.e.: rice, chicken, and whole spices.

For the rice, it is rather imperative to use basmati rice as other types of rice such as short-grain, long-grain, Thai rice, etc. will not taste the same. They can go either mushy or hard and chewy. And there are many brands for basmati rice. I have tried numerous ones. Some are good, some are okay. But recently I’m kinda hooked with Badshah

And when it comes to chicken, I use baby chicken with bone and cut it in small pieces. Because I find it more flavoursome than the large poultry.

As for the whole spices, you will need whole black peppercorns, whole cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, whole cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, whole black cardamom, onion,  ginger root, and garlic cloves. 

Additionally, you will need a little bit of cooking oil to fry the onion. And needless to say you will need salt as well. 

How to make chicken pilau rice

Using ordinary stove

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. You can brown the onion even darker if you want your pilau rice to be browner. 

chopped onion and whole spices
browning the onion and spices

Next, you add in the chicken pieces and continue to fry until the poultry become firm and opaque in colour. Add in the whole onion and the hot boiling water (from the kettle), then let it boil and simmer for at least 40-45 minutes. It takes me about an hour to simmer at low heat.

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

Lastly, once the stock is ready, sieve and pour it into another cooking pan. You can discard the whole spices, onion, ginger, garlic, bay leaves and cinnamon away. But carefully pick the chicken pieces and put them back into the soup.

Then drain the rice and put it into the broth. Cook it until all the liquid evaporates. You can gently stir the rice every now and again to ensure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Next, wrap a tea towel over the pan lid and put the lid on the pan. Cook further at a lower heat until steam comes out of the lid.

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

Using a rice cooker or an instant pot

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.

Top Tips Of Making The Best Tasting 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.

  • You may find chicken pilau rice that looks pale in colour or slightly darker brownish looking. Both are equally good in taste. Though I personally prefer brown pilau because it smells and tastes richer due to the fried onions. The difference is that you fry the onion longer until they are golden brown. To do this, you will have to take care in frying the onion and keep stirring so it will evenly cook. 
  • 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. 
  • To cook Basmati rice, you need 1 ½ cup of water for every 1 cup of Basmati rice. These can be basic guidelines for you to cook pilau rice as well. So 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. 

  • Similar to making good broth, the longer you cook meat and bone for making stock the better the stock flavour that you get. This also applies to making the chicken stock for pilau rice. Though I say it takes approximately an hour for me to boil the broth, you’re more than welcome to do it longer. If you’re in a hurry, simmer the stock for at least 40-45 minutes.

Recipes to go with chicken pilau rice

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 (leave a reply box).  

Before you go, don’t forget to check out my other recipes that typically go with the chicken pilau rice. Promise you’ll have a full delicious food spread.

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

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 stock pot 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 in 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 and discard the ginger, garlic, bay leaves, and all the whole spices. Carefully pick the chicken pieces and put them back into the stock. 
  8. Let the stock 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.
  9. 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.

Did you try the recipe?

Share how you like the recipe in the comments below and show a picture of your creation


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

  2. Jeanne @ Cooksister says:

    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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