Chicken Pilaf

Cook Eat WorldEuropeanChicken Pilaf

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: February 22, 2021

One-pot dishes are my favourite! None is more delicious than this Chicken Pilaf – fluffy rice is cooked with chicken pieces with warm, fragrant spices to create a flavourful one-stop meal.

A bowl of rice with chicken (chicken Pilaf)

I love one-stop meals - one pan creating all the magic, so that all you need is a spoon and some elasticated clothing. For my pilaf with chicken, I take inspiration from Iran and the Middle East. Warm spices create a wonderfully fragrant dish that marries perfectly with the soft chicken pieces and fluffy basmati rice.

What is Chicken Pilaf?

Rice pilaf, often called Chicken Pilau, Pilav, Pulao, Palaw, Plov and Polao, are popular across Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Iran and the Middle East. They come in a mind-boggling array of varieties and can feature meat, vegetables and fruit and grains other than rice, like bulgur, freekeh, barley and more. The dish is said to have originated in Persia, rising to amazing heights of rice-making magic.

The key to a good pilaf

The key to creating a flavourful pilaf with chicken is the use of stock/broth. It can be made with water, but cooking the rice in stock creates a much fuller flavour. Store-bought chicken stock/broth is fine, but for an even more superior chicken flavour - homemade broth creates even more flavour. My chicken pilaf recipe takes advantage of a whole chicken, including the carcass, which creates the flavourful stock.

Why it works

One pan says it all! I love that an entire delicious ready-to-go dish can come from one pan. You don’t even need to take it out of the pan to serve! Chicken rice pilaf is so easy and satisfying - a spiced (not spicy) combination of flavour, colour, and textures.

Stuff you'll need

Making this delicious chicken rice pilaf couldn’t be easier. See for yourself just what you’ll need.

 

  • 1 whole chicken (or 8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on)
  • Onion, garlic and tomato
  • Chicken stock (store bought or homemade chicken stock)
  • Baharat spice (there’s a recipe below on how to make your own at home or you can also use store-bought Baharat spice.
  • Coriander powder, turmeric, salt & pepper
  • Basmati rice
  • Pistachio nuts for garnish
A bowl of rice with chicken (chicken Pilaf)

Step by Step

Here’s how the magic happens… as you’ll see it’s so easy.

  1. Step 1 - Jointing the chicken

    We separate the chicken into 8 pieces (2 x drumstick, 2 x thighs, 2 x wing/half breasts, 2 half breasts) We're left with the carcass and wingtips - they'll be used to make the stock/broth for this dish. Learn how to make the fresh chicken stock here. Alternatively, you can use 8 chicken thighs and store-bought chicken stock.

  2. Step 2 - Part cooking the chicken

    Now it's a simple case of cooking the chicken a little in our Baharat spice mix (see mini-recipe below) with onion and a little tomato. We partially cook the chicken so that the rice and chicken are fully cooked at the same time - it also gives a little colour.

  3. Step 3 - Cooking the rice

    We now add the pre-soaked rice to the meat and then add the stock. My rice to liquid ratio is 1:2 - 1 part rice, 2 part liquid. Once bubbling, it's a very light simmer for 25-30 minutes until all the liquid is gone. And we NEVER stir the rice. This will create excess starch which will create stodgy rice and overall sadness to yourself.

  4. Step 4 - Resting the pilaf

    The next step is to remove the chicken pilaf from the heat, remove the lid and then place over a clean tea towel. We then replace the lid and leave the pilaf for 30 minutes. The teatowel catches the excess steam and helps create a fluffy texture to the golden rice.

Chicken jointed for chicken pilaf

While the chicken pilaf is cooking I like to fry some nuts in butter. Typically pistachios, but often almonds, walnuts, pine nuts or even hazelnuts. I'll sprinkle them generously over the pan later.

Pro Tips to make your life easier

  • Washing the rice – rinsing the excess starch from the rice will ensure you get nicely separated rice that doesn’t stick together. Just place the rice in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Gently toss the rice around and then drain. Do this 3-4 times until the water is mostly clear. Drain and you’re good to go.
  • Making fresh stock – is so easy. You can learn how to make top-quality homemade chicken stock here. It’ll add a wonderful flavour that store-bought often can’t replicate.
  • Make in advance – chicken pilaf will stay nice and warm for a good hour or so undisturbed on the stove-top. If you do need to warm it up a little, place the whole pan (be sure to use an ovenproof pan) in a hot oven for 10 minutes with the lid on.
  • Change up the spices – Baharat mix is great, but there are other spice mixes that you could try too. Try Sharwarma spice mix, Berbere spice mix or even a Cajun spice mix.
A bowl of rice with chicken (chicken Pilaf)

Serving and storing suggestions

  • One pot one table. Serving the chicken couldn't be easier. I generally use all my strength (this pot + chicken + rice is a tonne weight) and pop it on a trivet in the centre of the table and then fire a starter-gun to allow the wolves to begin their feast! I like to serve mine with some lemon wedges to squeeze over. It's a pot luck to see which cut of chicken you get - personally I love the thighs and will usually insist on getting one, removing it from someone else's plate if necessary.
  • Salad side. A good pilaf with chicken is completely fine on its own - that's the point really - but I do like to serve a bit of greenery with my food, so I'll generally pop a salad on the side. A great salad to serve is the Lebanese Fattoush salad - lots of green, lots of texture and a wonderfully sour, zingy dressing. Perfection! You could also serve an Iranian Shrirazi Salad.
  • Yoghurt sauce. A simple herb yoghurt sauce is perfect alongside this pilaf. Blend 1 cup plain yoghurt with 1 cup fresh mint, the juice of ½ lemon and a little salt & pepper until smooth.
  • Storage for the Fridge. Chicken pilaf will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. Keep in the pan with the lid on or portion into airtight containers.
  • Storage for the Freezer. The pilaf can be frozen in portioned sized airtight containers. You can reheat in the microwave from frozen (I like to add 1-2 tablespoons of water to avoid anything drying out. Alternatively, you can defrost the pilaf completely before reheating in the microwave for slightly better results.

Ready to get cooking?

What’s not to celebrate about a one-pan of juicy chicken with fluffy, fragrant rice? Once you’ve sampled the delights of my Chicken Pilav you’ll be sure to add it to your regular roster of easy dishes to make at home that everyone will love!

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about my Chicken Rice Pilaf recipe? Let me know in the comments.

What makes a pilaf?

The term pilaf or pilau generally refers to a one-pan dish featuring rice or grains cooked in liquid, together with a protein like meat, poultry or fish or vegetable until the liquid has been absorbed.

Why is it called pilaf?

Pilaf and Pilau is derived from the Turkish word for rice “sade pilav”.

What dishes is PIlav similar to?

Pilaf or Pilau is similar to other dishes around the world that use a similar cooking technique. Cooking rice in broth is common in Spain (Paella), Italy (risotto), India (Biryani). Pilaf is eaten (using different variation on the name in Turkey, The Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia, South America and The Carribbean.

What is Baharat Spice Mix?

Baharat is a popular spice blend used throughout the Middle East. It's especially used around the Gulf States of Arabia. Recipes and ingredients vary from place to place. But typically the mix contains to varying amounts allspice, fenugreek, chili peppers, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, dried rose petals and black pepper.

You can buy baharat online but if you have all the whole or ground ingredients, making your own at home is easy. Simply dry fry the whole spices and then using a spice grinder or pestle & mortar, grind them into a fine powder. Combine with any ground spices and that's it.

Baharat Spice Mix

My quick baharat mix:

Dry fry the whole spices then grind into a powder. Combine with powdered spices. Keep in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

 

A bowl of rice with chicken (chicken Pilaf)

Chicken Pilaf

Rate this recipe

5 from 4 votes
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Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine European, Middle Eastern
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Resting time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 8
Calories (per serving) | 526

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 whole chicken (about 2.5lb) cut into 8 pieces or 8 chicken thighs.
  • 1 onion (medium, peeled & thinly sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 tsp baharat powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped tomato
  • 2 cups basmati rice (soaked in cold water for 30 minutes)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (homemade of store-bought)
  • ½ cup pistachio nuts
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter

Instructions

  • Heat the oil over a medium heat until just hot. Add the chicken pieces in two batches and brown both sides for about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove all the chicken and set aside.
  • Add the onion to the pan and if things are sticking, a little water (¼ cup) - stir for about 4-5 minutes to soften the onion. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute before adding the baharat, coriander, turmeric, salt, black pepper and tomato. Stir to combine and let it gently fry for 1 minute or so.
    Return the chicken to the pan with about ½ cup water. Stir to coat the chicken in the sauce then pop on a lid. Turn the heat to medium/low so that it's bubbling, but not furiously.
    Cook the chicken for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain the rice and then pour into the pan with the chicken. Stir the chicken into the rice very briefly before pouring in the stock. Shake the pan to submerge everything. Try not to stir the rice. Let this come to a simmer.
  • Turn the heat down to low so that the rice is barely bubbling. Pop on the lid and leave the pan for 25-30 minutes. After that time, all the liquid should be gone.
    If it's not, make a few holes to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and let the rice cook for a few more minutes until dry.
    Remove from the heat.
  • While the rice is cooking, heat the butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the nuts for 1-2 minutes until just turning brown. Drain on paper towels and leave to cool. You can chop them or leave whole.
  • Remove the lid from the rice, then place a clean tea towel over the pan. Return the lid and wrap up the tea towel. Leave the pan for 30 minutes - this will help create the perfect fluffy texture.
  • After 30 minutes, fluff up the rice a little with a fork or spoon, sprinkle over the nuts and then serve. Serve in portions or from the pan in the centre of the table.

Notes

Cooking tips & Substitutions
  • Wash the rice – Rinse the grains in cold water 3-times until the water runs clear. This will help avoid the grains sticking together when cooking.
  • Making fresh stock – is so easy. Visit com/recipe-for-chicken-stock-broth/ for a how-to guide.
  • Make in advance – This pilaf will stay fresh for an hour or so on the stove-top.
  • Mix up the spices – Try store-bought spice mixes like Sharwarma, Berbere or even Cajun for different flavour combinations.
Serving suggestions
  • Serve from the pan. After resting, take your pot to the table and serve. No fuss, no extra washing up.
  • Salad on the side. A great salad to serve is the Lebanese Fattoush salad - lots of green, lots of texture and a wonderfully sour, zingy dressing. Perfection! You could also serve an Iranian Shrirazi Salad or a simple peppery green leaf salad like rocket or watercress.
  • Yoghurt sauce. A simple herb yoghurt sauce is perfect alongside this pilaf. Blend 1 cup plain yoghurt with 1 cup fresh mint, the juice of ½ lemon and a little salt & pepper until smooth.
Storage & reheating suggestions
  • Fridge - Chicken pilaf will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. Keep in the pan with the lid on or portion into airtight containers. Heat in the microwave or in the oven covered in a hot oven proof pan for 10 minutes,
Freezer – The pilaf can be frozen in portioned sized airtight containers. You can reheat in the microwave from frozen (I like to add 1-2 tablespoons of water to avoid anything drying out. Alternatively, you can defrost the pilaf completely before reheating in the microwave for slightly better results.

Nutrition

Calories: 526kcal (26%) | Carbohydrates: 46g (15%) | Protein: 26g (52%) | Fat: 26g (40%) | Saturated Fat: 7g (44%) | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 83mg (28%) | Sodium: 678mg (29%) | Potassium: 492mg (14%) | Fiber: 2g (8%) | Sugar: 3g (3%) | Vitamin A: 335IU (7%) | Vitamin C: 5mg (6%) | Calcium: 44mg (4%) | Iron: 2mg (11%)
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