In this fragrant, delicious Turmeric Rice, coconut and turmeric complement each other beautifully, transforming an easy and fuss-free side dish into an exquisite and memorable one.
Have you ever sputtered mustard seeds in hot coconut oil, added a few curry leaves, and then a dash of turmeric? The fragrance is so appetizing, it will make you voracious.
These are exactly the flavors that go into this rice. I used fresh, grated turmeric (see those orange, carrot-like shreds in the rice?) although I sometimes make it with ground turmeric as well, and you can too, if you don't have access to the fresh root. But I will say this: while the version with the powdered spice is delicious, this version with the fresh root is exquisite.
Why you'll love this turmeric rice
Turmeric is a known antioxidant that, studies show, can help significantly in fighting viruses, reducing inflammation and cutting down the risk of serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. I have an extensive post on cooking with turmeric where you can find more information.
This dish is also low in fat and it has heart-healthy coconut oil, making it a healthy addition to your diet.
And most important, this turmeric rice is absolutely, unequivocally delicious.
Ingredients for turmeric rice
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a great fat to use in dishes with a south Indian flair, and it goes particularly well with the turmeric in this dish.
- Black mustard seeds: Always use the black seeds in Indian cooking, not the yellow, and always wait for them to sputter when you add them to the tadka or tempering, or they will remain bitter.
- Curry leaves: A gorgeous, gorgeous flavor with coconut and turmeric. These can be harder to source, but worth finding at your local Indian grocer's or at an Asian supermarket.
- Green chili peppers like jalapeno or serrano (or use red pepper flakes)
- Fresh turmeric root (or ground turmeric): Like I said, fresh turmeric root is incomparable in this recipe. But if you can't find it, the powder works quite well.
- Water (or vegetable stock): I love using stock in rice dishes but don't use a very strongly flavored vegetable stock so you don't detract from the flavor of the turmeric. Water is a good option.
- Ground black pepper: A great flavor with rice and also piperine, a compound in black pepper, helps activate curcumin, the beneficial compound in turmeric.
- Shredded, unsweetened coconut: This adds a delicious finish to this south Indian flavored dish.
- Cilantro, for garnish.
Tips and substitutions
- Coconut oil has a unique flavor that pairs beautifully with turmeric, so try and use it here. If you can't, for any reason, use another flavorless vegetable oil. Olive oil is not an appropriate ingredient and should never be used in Indian cooking, both because its distinct flavor will not marry well with spices and also because Indian foods (especially the tadka) require higher temperatures, which olive oil, a fat with a low smoke point, cannot withstand.
- Curry leaves are amazing in this dish, but if you do not have access to them, use cilantro instead. Two tablespoons of chopped cilantro, added at the same time that the curry leaves would go into the pot, will add tons of flavor.
- If using turmeric root, use ¼th of a packed cup of grated turmeric (measured after grating) for two cups of uncooked rice. You don't need to peel the turmeric. If using ground turmeric, use no more than a teaspoon.
- Add a dash of ground black pepper to the rice. Piperine, a compound in pepper, helps enhance the effects of curcumin, the active compound in turmeric that makes this spice so good for you.
- Use a long-grained rice like basmati or jasmine. You can also use brown rice, although it will need a longer cooking time. Wash the rice, you don't need to soak it, to get the excess starch out, before adding it to the pot.
- I use water to cook the rice, although vegetable stock is a nice addition too, if you have it on hand. Add rice and water in a 1:2 proportion--in other words, for every cup of rice, add two cups of water or stock. For brown rice, add 3 cups water for each cup of rice.
- For white rice, you will need to set the timer for 15 minutes after the water and rice come to a boil. For brown rice, you will need to allow 45 minutes or more until the rice is tender.
- Always use a pot with a tight-fitting lid to cook rice. And wait at least 10 minutes, after the rice has finished cooking, to open the pot because the rice will continue to steam and cook after you turn off the heat.
- To amp up the coconut flavor, I like finishing the rice with a shower of shredded or grated coconut to the rice. Stir in some cilantro as well at this point.
- Once the rice is cooked, use a gentle touch when serving it so it won't mash. Running the tines of a fork through the rice is a great way to loosen the grains and keep them fluffy.
What to serve with the turmeric rice
Any Indian curry or a full-bodied stew is great with the turmeric rice. Here are a few of my favorites to serve this with:
- Turmeric Root Curry
- Turmeric Roasted Root Vegetables
- Mixed Beans Masala Bowl with Sweet Potatoes and Turmeric Rice
Storing and reheating
Store any leftover rice in the refrigerator in a container with a tight fitting lid. Rice is best reheated in the microwave. Spray some water on the rice, just a tiny bit, before popping it in. I'd microwave two cups of cooked rice for around a minute, or until it's warm enough to your liking.
Turmeric Rice Recipe
- Large saucepan with tight lid
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 sprigs curry leaves (roughly chopped. Use 2 tbsp cilantro as a substitute)
- 1-2 green chili peppers (like serrano or jalapeno. Deseed for less heat. Use red pepper flakes as a substitute)
- ¼ cup turmeric root (grated. Measure after grating. Alternatively, use 1 tsp turmeric powder)
- 2 cups basmati rice (or other long-grain rice, washed in running water)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp cilantro (chopped, for garnish)
- ¼ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the curry leaves and green chili peppers. Saute a few seconds. (Make sure your exhaust fan is on)
- Add the grated turneric or turmeric powder. If you are using the grated turmeric, saute a couple of minutes. If using the powder, saute for just about 30 seconds. Sauteing lightly in oil will help the turmeric bloom and take away the astringency, but any longer and the ground turmeric could burn.
- Add the washed, drained rice to the pot. Stir to mix and continue sauteing for a couple of minutes until the rice grains start to turn opaque.
- Add salt and ground black pepper to taste, then add 4 cups water. Mix well. If using brown rice, add 6 cups water.
- Let the rice cook until the water comes to a boil. Let it continue cooking until most of the water has evaporated. At this point stir the rice once more, then cover with a tight lid and let it cook over the lowest heat setting on your stove for 15 minutes. If using brown rice, cover once the water comes to a boil, turn heat to low, and cook 45 minutes or until tender.
- Let the rice stand 10 minutes at least, without uncovering, after turning off the heat. Then take the lid off and stir in the coconut and cilantro using the tines of a fork to mix them in and fluff the rice.
- Serve hot.