Learning how to cook Basmati Rice perfectly every single time is a fundamental kitchen skill for all the Indian food lovers. With several simple steps, tons of tips and tricks, this post teaches you everything needed to cook perfect Basmati Rice that’s fluffy, non-sticky & not broken. This post covers 2 methods to cook basmati rice on stovetop in a pot – Absorption method and drain method. I also share how to cook basmati rice for different kinds of Biryani.
In the absorption method, rice is cooked with just enough water which is fully absorbed during the cooking. To adapt this method it is essential to know the correct ratio of rice:water.
Using the drain method, you cook the rice with excess/ surplus amount of water and drain it to a colander/ strainer exactly at the point when the rice is fully cooked. This method is great if you are a beginner or do not know what kind of basmati rice you are using.
With drain method you will never go wrong and will succeed every single time! Restaurants use this method and that’s the reason their rice is always the same – not broken, fluffy, non-sticky and soft enough but not mushy.
About Basmati Rice
Cooking basmati rice correctly is very crucial to making good biryani or to enjoy it with your favorite curry. The texture, aroma and taste of basmati rice or a Biryani largely depends on the quality of basmati rice used.
Choosing good quality basmati rice is essential if you want to enjoy aromatic and fluffy grains that are separate and not mushy. Aged basmati rice is the best choice!
High quality basmati rice is aged, meaning it was harvested at least a year ago and was stored properly to let the grains age naturally. Like wine, it gets better at aroma and texture as it ages. So high quality basmati is pricey when compared to the newly harvested grains.
Using good quality basmati is not enough, but it has to be cooked right to get the correct texture & retain the flavor. The techniques explained in this post are time-tested and have never failed me in my 2 decades of cooking experience.
How to Cook Basmati Rice (Stepwise Photos)
1. Add 1 cup basmati rice to a bowl and rinse well thrice. During the first rinse, you will see the water is cloudy and white due to the excess starch.
2. Drain the water and pour fresh water. The water looks clearer at this stage. Soak the rice for a minimum of 15 minutes. If you are using newly harvested rice, do not soak.
3. Pour water to a heavy bottom pot. If you want to add salt, whole spices, oil or ghee, you may add at this stage.
For aged basmati rice use 2 cups water and for newly harvested rice start with 1½ cups water.
4. After 15 mins, drain to a colander/strainer and shake off gently to get rid of the excess water.
5. Bring the water to a rolling boil on a high heat.
6. Add the drained rice and spread it with a little spoon.
7. Increase the heat to high, to keep the rice boiling rapidly.
8. Reduce the heat to low and cook covered until the rice is al dente, slightly undercooked. This step should take you no longer than 10 to 11 minutes. Do not stir or mix at all during this stage of cooking. If you see the rice bubbling and frothing up, you may open the lid one to 2 times & cover back.
9. When the rice is almost cooked al dente, you will see little holes and the water is fully absorbed. If you find your rice, is undercooked and there is not enough water, add a few tbsps of hot water.
10. At this stage, check by inserting a rice paddle straight into the pot, from a side towards the bottom & look down. Ideally there should be no excess water at the bottom. (read troubleshooting tips below). Optionally, using the paddle, turn the rice from the bottom to the top only once to get the top layer rice down and bottom wet rice to the top. Level the rice on top. Do not over do this as the grains can break.
11. Cover the pot & turn off the stove. Let rest on the hot burner for 10 to 15 mins. Basmati rice will still be steaming in the residual heat. This helps the rice to turn fluffy and will cook completely.
12. After resting, each grain should look like biryani rice grains – long, fluffy, non-sticky and not broken.
Troubleshooting Tip: If you use the correct amount of water you won’t be left with any excess water when the rice is al dente. But if you find little excess water, simply increase the heat to medium high and cook without lid for a few minutes to evaporate the water.
The other way is to drain the rice to a colander placed inside the sink or over a large bowl. Add the rice back to the hot pot & cover it.
How to cook Biryani Basmati Rice (Stepwise Photos)
1. Always choose premium quality basmati rice that is aged and has been stored in good condition. Wash it well a few times in ample amount of water. Soak for at least 30 to 40 minutes again in apmple amount of water depending on the kind and brand. Some kinds of rice need about 60 minutes plus for the grain to absorb water. This helps the grain to expand well while cooking. Drain the rice.
2. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Usually for 1 cup rice, any where from 4 cups to 5 cups can be used. If you are not using premium quality rice, you should be using up to 5 cups water to get rid of starch completely. Add salt as needed. Taste the water, it has to be slightly salty.
3. Add in the spices along with 1 tsp to 1 tbsp oil again depending on the quality of rice. Spice like bay leaf, star anise, shahi jeera, cinnamon, cloves and mace can be used. All the spices are optional, but most commonly a bay leaf and some shahi jeera does the job of infusing flavor to the rice. If you do not like to get the whole spices in your biryani then you can also tie them in a muslin cloth and add it to the water. Discard it when the rice is drained.
4. When the water comes to a boil, allow to boil rapidly. Add the drained rice. Do not stir too much since the rice is soaked for long time it tends to break.
When to drain basmati rice
5. When to drain the rice depends on what kind of biriyani you are making.
If making kacchi mutton biriyani, basmati rice has to be half cooked i.e 50% to 60%. The rice expands completely by then, but has to be cooked further which is done during the dum process. Usually yakhni or rice cooked water is also added in small quantity to generate the steam since mutton takes longer time to cook.
If making kacchi chicken biryani, your rice has to be under cooked or 75% cooked and not al dente. Since the marinade for kacchi biryani has more moisture than the pakki biryani, it has to be under cooked. 25% will be cooked when the meat is dum cooked due to dum released during the process. But how do you identify 75% cooked basmati rice? When you bite into the rice, you will feel the slight rawness in the rice.
Cooking basmati rice for layered biryani
If making pakki biryani – veg biryani, chicken biryani, mutton biryani – Basmati rice has to be 90% cooked i.e cooked to al dente. The rice doesn’t get cooked much in this kind of biriyani since it is dum cooked for short time. Basmati rice turns slightly tender due to the short period of dum/steam.
If making only layered biryani – like egg, prawns or fish biriyani – rice has to be cooked to 90 to 100% based on the moisture and the time taken for dum cooking. Rice must be grainy but not mushy. In this kind of biriyani, the dum process does not release any moisture but instead only infuses the flavors.
It is always best to follow cooking basmati rice for making biriyani from the biryani recipe you choose to try and not follow a generic one.
Rinse the Rice: It is essential to rinse the rice before cooking to get rid of the excess surface starch which can easily make the rice sticky and lumpy.
Rinsing also washes away some of the preservatives used during storage.
Soak the Rice: High quality rice needs proper soaking and this helps in retaining the aroma and helps the grains expand to the fullest, upon cooking. You will get longer, fluffier and more aromatic rice grains.
Basmati Rice Recipe, How to Cook Basmati Rice
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup aged basmati rice
- 2 cups water reduce by ½ cup if using new rice
- ½ teaspoon oil or ghee (optional)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
- Add basmati rice to a bowl and rinse thrice. Drain the water.
- Soak the rice for a minimum of 15 minutes and drain to a colander/ strainer. Shake off gently to get rid of excess water. Avoid soaking if using new harvested rice.
- Pour water to a heavy bottom pot and add salt, ghee or oil (optional). If you want you may add whole spices like star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms and cumin seeds.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil on a high heat and then add the drained rice. You will see the temperature falls after adding rice, so let the water come back to a rolling boil on a high heat.
Basmati Rice in absorption method
- Reduce the heat to lowest and cover the pot. Cook till all of the water is absorbed, for 10 to 11 minutes.
- Do not stir while the rice is cooking. If you see the rice bubbling and frothing up, simply open the lid 1 to 2 times before it overflows and cover back.
- Insert a rice paddle to the bottom of the pot to check if all of the water is absorbed. Turn off when the water is completely absorbed and the rice is cooked through.
- Cover and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes on the hot burner (stove turned off).
How to cook Basmati rice in drain method
- Reduce the heat to medium or medium-high so the water does not over-flow. But it is important to keep the water boiling constantly until the rice is cooked through.
- Place a large pot under the colander or simply place your colander in the clean kitchen sink. When the rice is cooked al dente drain to the colander.
- Transfer the rice back to the pot and cover it immediately. Let rest on the hot burner (stove turned off) for 5 to 7 mins.
- Your fluffy and perfectly cooked basmati rice is ready.
- Heat ghee in a wide pot and add the drained rice (completely no water). Increase the heat to high and stir fry the rice occasionally for 2 to 3 mins.
- Pour water and bring it to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pot. Let cook until all of the water is absorbed.
- You have the fulffy basmati rice under 10 minutes.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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