Fluffy. Fragrant. Aromatic. This veg pulao sure is one of those Indian rice dishes that is easy to make and all done in one pot. It is also an Indian style pilaf that is also healthy and a real crowd pleaser.
Why You’ll Love This Side Dish
A traditional veg pulao is a truly satisfying Indian rice recipe. The rice is delicate, the vegetables are hearty and tender, and the spices and aromatics are gloriously pungent. It’s so good that you just may not have it as a side dish and eat it on its own!
This rice side dish is a one pot dish. Something we all love when we’re simply too busy to be doing anything else more complicated. It’s also a great Indian side dish if you have a ton of leftover vegetables in the fridge you want to try and get rid of.
What Is Veg Pulao?
Pulao is a one pot Indian rice recipe typically made with basmati rice or long grain rice cooked with quintessential Indian spices that are aromatic and fresh herbs such as coriander and mint leaves.
A veg pulao is a pulao recipe that has vegetables added to the recipe. They are usually small chopped vegetables such as peas, beans, potatoes, onions and many other possibilities. It can either be cooked in water or a vegetable broth.
This is a popular Indian side dish as it’s easy to make and a fantastic accompaniment for other Indian dishes, especially ones with a lot of sauces. In fact, it’s so versatile you can enjoy eating vegetable pulao on its own or serve up in your Diwali feast!
What Is Pulao Called in English?
Pulao is well known by many variations but probably most popularly called pilaf or pilaff (US version) or pilau (UK version).
You may have also seen it called pilao, pulav or pilaw, but they all amount to the same one pot rice dish that is flavoured with gorgeous spices.
Difference Between Veg Pulao and Veg Biryani?
On the surface, both veg pulao and veg biryani look like very similar Indian rice recipes. They are, however, quite different. In fact, biryani is usually made with meat, and it doesn’t even originate from India! Biryani is Persian and is called beryan. Here are some of the differences between the two:
Cooking method: Pulao is made through the absorption method. Spices are tempered, vegetables are sautéed, and then the uncooked basmati rice is stirred through in the pot. Water or vegetable stock is then added and is absorbed by the rice and vegetables.
Biryani, however, is made using the draining method and is always prepared in layers. The rice is par-boiled and then drained. In the meantime, the vegetables are cooked and form the first layer. The rice then goes on next, followed by fried onions.
Spices: The number of spices used in biryani is much more potent and aromatic compared to pulao. It gives the biryani a richer flavour, and therefore it doesn’t always make the best accompaniment for masalas.
Time: Dum cooked (method of cooking on slow fire) veg biryani is much more time consuming compared to the veg pulao. The layering factor and the low fire cooking method just adds another element to the process. Hence the popularity of veg pulao as a midweek alternative.
Is Veg Pulao Healthy?
Veg pulao is a relatively healthy side dish. The basmati is a low GI rice, and it’s filled with fantastic fresh vegetables cooked with some wonderful spices.
Just as healthy and cooked with basmati rice is our Turmeric Rice or yellow rice as many are familiar with. This recipe is great if you didn’t want to add all the vegetables in.
Flavour/Texture: Fluffy is the first word that comes to mind when eating this veg pulao. The basmati rice is cooked to perfection. The vegetables are perfectly softened and are mixed well throughout the rice.
The spices are, of course, so aromatic. When you temper the likes of garam masala, cumin seeds and cardamom pods in ghee, your sense of smell goes into overdrive. Adding garlic, ginger and chilli makes it even more pungent!
Ease: As with a lot of Indian recipes, the list of ingredients seems daunting. But most of them are just spices of which they can be found in the spice section of the supermarket. Of course, the first shop is always the biggest, but once you have these in your pantry, you’ll always be able to use them.
Do follow all the instructions properly to ensure that you get fluffy rice. Otherwise, this is a pretty easy one pot side dish.
Time: There is a 30-minute soaking time, so it’s best to prepare everything else during that time and start working on anything else you’re preparing for dinner.
Ingredients you’ll need to make this Indian rice dish; veg pulao.
Basmati rice: This low GI long grain rice is imperative for making veg pulao. Because it has a low starch level, it allows for this Indian rice dish to be particularly fluffy. Be sure to read the instructions carefully for how to prepare the basmati rice.
Vegetable: Onion, tomato, cauliflower, potatoes, peas, carrots, green beans. Slice and chop as required. You can also change up the vegetables. See variations below for some ideas.
Coriander: Can’t have an Indian rice dish and not have some coriander! Great for garnish and flavour.
Paste: The veg pulao needs an aromatic paste before all the spices get added. This includes garlic, green chilli and ginger. You can use a food processor or do it in a mortar and pestle.
Ghee: Use traditional Indian ghee (clarified butter) for this recipe. It’s fantastic for tempering all the spices and adds to the flavour. You’ll be able to find them in your supermarket or your local Indian grocer. You can use regular oil if you wish.
Spices: We use a whole heap of fragrant and aromatic spices in this recipe, and when tempered in ghee, the smells are out of this world! For this veg pulao recipe, we’re using black peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, star anise, cumin seeds, garam masala and red chilli powder.
Water: Required for cooking the basmati rice. The ratio is 1: 1.5 rice to water. This ratio works too if you’re cooking plain basmati rice in a rice cooker.
Salt: To taste.
Step by step instructions for making veg pulao.
Wash the basmati rice a few times until the water runs clear to remove all the starch. Soak it in water for a further 30 minutes.
Slice and chop all the vegetables and coriander leaves.
In a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, green chilli and ginger to make a paste.
In a heavy bottom pot or pan, add the ghee and all the spices and fry until fragrant.
Reduce heat to a medium to low flame and add onion slices and sauté until translucent.
Add the chilli, garlic and ginger paste and continue to fry until it is all well mixed.
Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté for about 2 minutes.
Add all the other chopped vegetables and sauté for another 3 minutes.
Add the rice and sauté the rice (drained) until it is well coated with all the ingredients.
Add 3 cups of water, season with salt, bring it to a boil.
Then cover the pot, bring it down to a low flame and let it cook for about 15 minutes. You can check if the rice is cooked, but don’t lift the entire lid.
Once it’s cooked, turn the flame off and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow it to steam.
Then fluff it up with a fork, remove the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and star anise.
Garnish with coriander and serve.
Variations and Substitutions
Vegetables: You can add almost any vegetable you may like for this veg pulao recipe. Great way to clear out the fridge! Some other ideas include; bell peppers, baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage and if you happen to have a bag of frozen mixed vegetables.
Spices: Like most Indian rice dishes, there is a myriad of different spices you can add or remove, depending on your personal tastes. Some other possible spices you can add to this veg pulao include; caraway seeds, mace, nutmeg, fennel seeds, stone flower, turmeric powder, poppy seeds and black cardamom.
Adding mint: In addition to coriander leaves, you can also add mint leaves to give it a sprightly flavour.
Vegetable stock: If you want a truly flavoursome veg pulao, you can use vegetable stock or broth instead of water to cook the basmati rice.
Non-spicy version: Remove the green chilli and red chilli powder if you don’t want a spicy veg pulao.
What Goes with Veg Pulao?
Here are some great recipes to have with veg pulao.
Instant pot vegetable korma: Vegetable korma is a mildly spiced medley of vegetables in a creamy masala base. Flavourful, hearty, and deliciously healthy, this veg korma has a silky and luscious sauce made with cashew and coconut milk. Made in an Instant Pot, this vegan curry is ready in less than 30 minutes and pairs perfectly with this veg pulao recipe.
Chicken rogan josh: This chicken rogan josh is a delicious adaptation of the authentic Kashmir rogan josh, using more accessible ingredients and made in half the time. This chicken rogan josh still packs that big punch of spiced flavours and takes just 1 hour to make. The veg pulao rice dish will work so well with the saucy chicken korma.
Chole with spinach: This recipe is a convenient and quick weeknight recipe for an experienced cook and also a good starter recipe for someone who is just learning to cook Indian food. The recipe uses canned tomato sauce and canned chickpeas which minimizes the prep time. The vegetable pulao is the exact rice dish you need for this recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you should always soak rice before making pulao. In fact, if you’re using basmati rice for any Indian rice recipe, you should always soak it for 30-minutes after you have washed it. Soaking the basmati rice allows it to absorb some of the water and, in turn, becomes fluffier when cooked.
There are many different types of vegetables you can add to a vegetable pulao recipe. You can add cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, peas, potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, just to name a few.
When catering for a large number of people, always think about how much each person would consume and what other food is on offer. The easiest way to measure how much rice you need is to allow for ½ cup of uncooked rice per person. And from here you can do the maths accordingly.
½ cup rice pp = 12.5 cups of rice. At 90g per ½ cup, that is 2.25 kg of basmati rice.
⅓ cup rice pp = 8 ⅓ cups of rice. At 60g per ⅓ cup, that is 1.5 kg of basmati rice.
¼ cup rice pp = 6 ¼ cup of rice. At 45g per ¼ cup, that is 1.125 kg of basmati rice.
The veg pulao is the perfect vehicle to soak up all the lovely sauces from masalas to curries. It’s a fantastic way to up your rice game and serve up something a little different instead of just plain rice. Enjoy!
More Indian Side Dish Recipes
Easy to make at home Indian side dishes that taste just like the restaurants or street vendors!
- Paneer Butter Masala
- Kachumber Salad [Authentic Indian Salad]
- Chicken Pakora [Street Food At Home]
- Bombay Aloo [Bombay Potatoes]
- Easy Onion Bhaji Recipe
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Veg Pulao [Easy Indian Rice Dish]
Vegetables and Herbs
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tomato, chopped
- ½ cup cauliflower, chopped
- ½ cup potato, chopped
- ⅓ cup peas
- ¼ cup green beans, chopped
- ¼ cup carrot, chopped
- 1 tbsp coriander, (cilntro) chopped
- 4 garlic clove, minced
- 1 green chilli, chopped
- 1 inch ginger, grated
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Wash the basmati rice a few times until the water runs clear to remove all the starch. Soak it in water for a further 30 minutes.
- Slice and chop all the vegetables and coriander leaves.
- In a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, green chilli and ginger to make a paste.
- In a heavy bottom pot or pan, add the ghee and all the spices and fry until fragrant.
- Reduce heat to a medium to low flame and add onion slices and sauté until translucent.
- Add the chilli, garlic and ginger paste and continue to fry until it is all well mixed.
- Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté for about 2 minutes.
- Add all the other chopped vegetables and sauté for another 3 minutes.
- Add the rice and sauté the rice (drained) until it is well coated with all the ingredients.
- Add 3 cups of water, season with salt, bring it to a boil.
- Then cover the pot, bring it down to a low flame and let it cook for about 15 minutes. You can check if the rice is cooked, but don’t lift the entire lid.
- Once it’s cooked, turn the flame off and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow it to steam.
- Then fluff it up with a fork, remove the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and star anise.
- Garnish with coriander and serve.
- You can add almost any vegetable you may like to this veg pulao recipe. Great way to clear out the fridge! Some other ideas include; bell peppers, baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage and if you happen to have a bag of frozen mixed vegetables.
- Like most Indian rice dishes, there is a myriad of different spices you can add or remove, depending on your personal tastes. Some other possible spices you can add to this veg pulao include; caraway seeds, mace, nutmeg, fennel seeds, stone flower, turmeric powder, poppy seeds and black cardamom.
- In addition to coriander leaves, you can also add mint leaves to give it a sprightly flavour.
- If you want a truly flavoursome veg pulao, you can use vegetable stock or broth instead of water to cook the basmati rice.
- Remove the green chilli and red chilli powder if you don’t want a spicy veg pulao.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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