Growing up, the mantra around cumin was that it was "good for you" - so jeera rice (aka zeera rice or Indian cumin rice) is a staple in most Indian households. Fluffy, discrete, and delicious. It's also a great pairing for almost any Indian dish (though I'll admit to just eating it by itself). It's also vegan and gluten-free! Just look at the picture below. 👇
The post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you're successful in your first attempt. But if you're in a rush, please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end!
💭 Why you'll love this recipe
- Quick, five ingredient, 30 minute recipe. This recipe takes no time to prepare and there's nothing like perfect, fluffy basmati rice!
- Elevates and pairs well with many Indian dishes. It's as simple as some ghee and cumin, but this jeera rice really elevates other dishes! My favorite way to eat this? With chana masala!
- Great for make ahead. Though it only takes 30 minutes to make fresh, you can also make a large batch and use it over the week.
📋 Ingredients & variations
My recipe is from a friend from Delhi and uses just five things: basmati rice, ghee, jeera (cumin seeds), green chili peppers, and cilantro. If you're vegan, you can replace the ghee with avocado oil.
Notes and Variations
- Spice combinations: Sometimes, my mom will add a cinnamon stick while she toasts the rice or shallots to make it more aromatic, or finish the rice with saffron. This recipe uses five basic ingredients. As for the rest? The world is your oyster!
- Using cooked or leftover rice: It's so simple to make jeera rice with pre-cooked basmati rice. Toast the spices separately, and pour it over cooked basmati rice and mix it well. This is a great way to re-purpose day-old rice into the perfect Indian cumin rice.
📖 How to make perfect jeera rice
Choose the right rice and rinse it thoroughly
Basmati rice works best because it's a long grain variety, and it's polished and aged. Rinsing the rice (typically three times) is really important to remove the extra starchiness (which, in turn, prevents it from clumping to each other). This way, when you cook it, it is ultra fluffy!
Fun fact: did you know that room temperature rice water can be a great way to conserve water and nourish houseplants? The starch from leftover rice is good for bacteria and adds nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.
Soak the rice and use right amount of water
Let the rice soak for about 20 minutes after rinsing to really let the rice absorb some of the room temperature water. This is key to getting that fluffy consistency, and to reduce the cooking time.
I can also literally hear my mom, "Just make sure you use 2x water for every cup of rice, Shruthi!" While that's mostly accurate, there are some variations for making the perfect, fluffy rice.
- If you're cooking rice in a standard pot, 2 cups of water for every cup of basmati rice is fine.
- If you make this in an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker, I suggest using ¼ cup of water less - too much water can make it mushy. Make sure you scale the recipe so you have a minimum of two cups of water.
Toast whole cumin seeds and rice in ghee or avocado oil
I typically use ghee since it's so aromatic, but if you're vegan, avocado oil works just as well. First, toast cumin seeds on a low to medium flame. This is one place where I suggest you try to get cumin seeds as much as possible. But Jacques Pepin has a version that works with cumin powder.
Then toss the rice in and toast the rice on a medium to high flame for about 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure you don't stir or saute too much once you add the rice - this can cause the rice to break, and use a fork instead of a spoon!
You can follow the same instructions as the recipe, but cook it in a pressure cooker. I usually cook for two whistles on high heat and then switch off the heat. Use a natural pressure release!
If you use an Instant Pot or rice cooker, you'll want to make the tadka with the chili and cumin, and set that aside. Rinse and add the rice and water, then top with the tadka and cook on high pressure for 4 or 5 minutes. Do natural pressure release for a couple of minutes and then a quick pressure release and you're done!
Yes, absolutely! In this case, just make the tadka separately and pour and mix over reheated pre-cooked rice.
I typically use long grain basmati rice since that works best for the fluffy texture you'll want.
The directions provided here have worked with a range of brands, but the amount of water rice needs depends on the type, brand, and age of rice. So you might need a bit less water than recommended. If it's super mushy, you can spread it out on a baking sheet, soak up excess water with a paper towel and then throw in the oven at 350F for 5 to 10 minutes. Works like a charm!
🥣 Serving suggestions
This jeera rice can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days. I don't recommend freezing it.
I love to eat jeera rice by itself, since it's so fragrant and delicious. But you can serve it with curries (like chana masala), simple lentils (like dal tadka!) or even mix it up with international flavors (like Ethiopian cabbage). Check out the recipes here for serving suggestions!
Check out these Indian recipes that pair well with jeera rice!
Quick Jeera Rice (Cumin Rice)
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ tablespoon ghee, or 1 tbsp of avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, if you want it more fragrant, you can add more
- 1 green chili pepper, Thai green chili preferred, finely chopped - sub with Serrano otherwise
- 2 cups water, see notes
- 1 teaspoon salt, optional (I use salted ghee)
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- First, rinse the basmati rice thoroughly - at least 3x until the rinsed water runs mostly clear. Cover the rinsed rice with fresh water and soak for at least 20 mins (and no longer than 30 mins)
- With five minutes to spare, in a medium pot that can hold the rice, heat ghee or avocado oil. On low to medium flame, when the ghee or oil is hot, add cumin seeds and wait for it to sputter (it will start to smell delicious already)
- Add chopped green chili pepper and stir a couple of times - don't let it brown, 20 seconds is good!
- Now, drain the rice and add it to the pot - don't stir too much but toast the rice for a minute or two (stirring too much can break the rice, but you don't want it to stick to the bottom)
- Transfer the toasted rice into another pot or the bowl where you soaked the rice. Add water and salt to a pot (the water will be salty to taste) and bring to a boil
- Once the water is boiling (rolling bubbles on top) - cover and cook rice for about 4 to 6 minutes. I suggest checking after 4 minutes. If it looks mostly done, turn off the heat and let it sit uncovered for another minute or two.
- The water should have evaporated by now and the rice should be ready - top and mix with chopped cilantro and serve hot!
- If using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, add slightly more water (about ¼ cup). For a pressure cooker, typically one whistle is sufficient. For Instant Pot, cook on high pressure for 5 minutes, then manual pressure release for a couple of minutes before quick releasing the pressure.
- If Thai green chili peppers are unavailable, the next best option is Serrano peppers
- If you'd like to make this a one pot rice, then I suggest adding water directly to the pot after toasting rice, but in this case, you want to start the timer right after you add the water. Then, once the water starts boiling, just turn the heat down to medium and let it finish cooking.
Note: This recipe was originally published on April 27, 2020. It was updated on 20 June, 2021 to include more tips and tricks. Actual recipe remains unchanged!