Although it may seem to have few ingredients and a simple preparation, making rice pilaf is a recipe that requires true mastery.

The Turkish people do not feel satisfied with a meal without bread or rice. With every meal, rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf is invariably prepared. In this section, I will share basic information about rice pilaf and then provide you with my simplest rice pilaf recipe.

Pilav holds great significance in Turkish cuisine, and its history is deeply rooted in the cultural and culinary traditions of the region. Here's a brief overview of the history and importance of the pilav dish in Turkish cuisine.

Historical significance

Ancient origins: the tradition of cooking rice dates back thousands of years in the Middle East and Anatolia. Pilav likely has ancient roots, and variations of rice dishes have been consumed in the region for centuries.

Ottoman influence: the Ottoman Empire, which spanned from the 14th to the early 20th century, played a crucial role in shaping Turkish cuisine. Pilav was a staple in Ottoman kitchens, and various recipes evolved during this time.

Culinary importance

Versatility: pilav is an incredibly versatile dish that can be adapted to various ingredients and flavors. It can be a simple side dish or a more elaborate main course, making it suitable for a wide range of meals and occasions.

Complementing main courses: pilav often serves as an accompaniment to main dishes, such as grilled meats, stews, or vegetable-based dishes. Its neutral flavor and varied preparations make it an excellent pairing for a diverse array of entrees.

Cultural symbolism: pilav is deeply embedded in Turkish culture and is often associated with hospitality and sharing. It is a common dish in celebratory feasts, weddings, and other special occasions, symbolizing abundance and togetherness.

Regional variations: different regions in Turkey have their own unique pilav recipes, incorporating local ingredients and reflecting the culinary traditions of that area. This diversity showcases the richness of Turkish cuisine.

Comfort food: pilav is a comfort food for many Turks. Its simple yet satisfying nature makes it a go-to choice for everyday meals and family gatherings. It is often prepared with care and love, contributing to its special place in Turkish homes.

Rituals and customs: pilav is often part of religious and cultural celebrations. For example, it is a common dish during the holy month of Ramadan and is served at festive events like weddings and circumcision ceremonies.

Nutritional value: pilav is a good source of carbohydrates and provides essential energy. Depending on the ingredients used, it can also contribute protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it a nutritious part of the Turkish diet.

In summary, pilav is not just a dish in Turkish cuisine; it is a symbol of tradition, hospitality, and shared moments. Its adaptability and historical roots have allowed it to become a beloved and integral part of Turkish culinary identity.

Turkish cuisine features a variety of delicious pilav (pilaf) dishes, each with its own unique flavors and preparation methods. Pilav is a staple in Turkish meals and is often served as a side dish to complement main courses. Here are some popular types of Turkish pilav:

  • Plain pilaf (Sade pilav ): this is the basic and most commonly prepared pilav in Turkish cuisine. It typically consists of rice sautéed in butter or oil and then cooked with water or broth until tender. It's a versatile dish that can be served with various meat, vegetable, or legume-based main courses. To add variety to plain rice pilaf, you can optionally include vermicelli or small pasta such as orzo.

  • Chickpea pilaf (Nohutlu pilav): in this pilaf, rice is cooked with chickpeas, creating a hearty and nutritious dish. It's often seasoned with onions, garlic, and various spices to enhance the flavor.

  • Vegetable pilaf (Sebzeli pilav): this pilaf is made by combining rice with a variety of sautéed vegetables such as carrots, peas, and bell peppers. It's a colorful and flavorful dish that can be served on its own or alongside grilled meats.

  • Lamb pilaf (Kuzu etli pilav): this pilaf is made with lamb, which is typically sautéed before adding rice and liquid. The lamb imparts a rich and savory flavor to the pilaf, making it a favorite among meat lovers.

  • Chestnut pilaf (Kestaneli pilav): chestnuts are a popular ingredient in Turkish cuisine, and in this pilaf, they are combined with rice to create a nutty and sweet flavor profile. This dish is especially popular during the fall and winter months.

  • Lentil pilaf (Mercimekli pilav): lentils are a staple in Turkish cuisine, and this pilaf combines rice with red lentils, creating a protein-rich and flavorful dish. It's commonly seasoned with onions, garlic, and spices.

These are just a few examples of the diverse pilav dishes you can find in Turkish cuisine. Each region may have its own variations and specialties, but pilav remains a fundamental and beloved part of Turkish meals.

Ingredients for Rice pilaf recipe

  • 1 cup rice (soaked in warm water, drained).
  • 1.5 cups hot water (preferably chicken broth).
  • 2 tablespoons butter.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  • 1 teaspoon salt.


  • In a suitable rice pot, add butter and olive oil.
  • Once the butter has melted, add the rice and start sautéing. Sauté the rice for about 5 minutes until the grains become separate and start to brown.
  • Add the hot water (or broth)and salt.
  • Stir once, cover the pot, and cook over low heat.
  • Place a cloth over the rice, allowing it to rest and steam after the liquid has been absorbed.

Important note: the amount of water needed may vary depending on the type of rice used. Adjust accordingly.