Coconut Pilau

Servings : Serves 5-6

A simple and intensely flavourful coconut rice dish that makes for a great accompaniment to my swahili chicken. It is also is great served with any seafood as coconut and fish go beautifully well together.


  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups water (or as needed)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp margarine or butter
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole black pepper
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1-2 chillies, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • salt to taste
  • chopped coriander for garnishing


Wash, rinse out and then soak the rice for about 20-30 minutes.

Add the oil, butter/margarine into a pan, once heated add the cumin seeds, whole black pepper, cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom. Allow them to begin to splutter, then add the chopped onions and fry until golden. Next, add the garlic paste, stir it in and add the chopped chillies, powdered spices and the potato cubes. Stir until everything is mixed and well coated. Then add the coconut milk and water.

I normally use 1 and a quarter cups of liquid per cup of rice for most of my recipes. For this recipe I use an extra quarter cup over the total liquid amount. You may need to adjust this amount to suit your particular brand of rice.

Sprinkle salt and stir, and give it a taste. You need to be able to taste the salt in the liquid, remember that once the rice goes in, that will need salt too. So try and add a little more than what you feel is just right so that the flavour balances out once the rice goes in.

Once the liquid comes to a boil, drain the soaked rice and add it in. Give everything a stir and allow to simmer for a bit. Then turn the heat down to medium and give everything an occasional stir.

When the liquid begins to diminish, lower the heat completely, level out the rice and then seal your pan by using a tight lid or wetting a kitchen towel and placing it over the pan then placing a lid on top of it. Allow to steam on very low heat for about 15 minutes. Switch off and serve. Garnish with some fresh chopped coriander. Serve with kachumbar and accompaniments of your choice. I have served mine with my tangy spicy Swahili chicken.

Enjoy! 🙂

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