A delicious vegetable pulao is a one-pot aromatic dish made of rice, vegetables, essential whole spices and herbs. This vegan and gluten-free rice dish is perfect for a weeknight meal or to serve guests at a party.
Vegetable pulao is also termed pilau, pilaf and has various versions such as my methi pulao, tomato pulao, pudina pulao and peas pulao. The preparation and use of spices differ from region to region in India. This one-pot vegetable rice is a basic version that doesn’t involve any complicated multiple processes or grinding. A few spices, rice and vegetables are all that is required to make it. Don’t worry if you don’t have uncommon spices such as black cardamom, black stone flower or star anise in your pantry, You don’t need to do a shopping trip just to buy these spices. You can still make this delicious vegan rice without them and trust me there won’t be any compromise in texture or taste. These spices infuse extra flavour that’s it!
This vegetable rice pilaf makes a perfect weeknight dinner with cucumber raita or with plain curry sauce such as my plain salna and a simple salad cucumber kosambari. Vegetable pulao is the most preferred dish on special occasions and great in potlucks as well.
Vegetable pulao is an ideal party dish that appeals to everyone as spice lovers could pair it with spicy curries such as my vegetable chettinad, kadai paneer or paneer jalfrezi. People who are not used to Indian food or those who prefer mild food, could pair it with creamy and mild curries such as my paneer makhani, methi malai paneer.
- Liquid: oil to fry spices and cook vegetables. Water to cook rice.
- Vegetables: onion, green chilies, ginger, garlic, carrot, potato, beans, green peas and coriander. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand.
- Whole and dry Spices: bay leaves, cassia, cloves, green cardamom, black cardamom, star anise, black stone flower, cumin and garam masala. It's not necessary to use all these spices. Just use whatever you have in your pantry.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Using a deep-bottomed bowl, wash the rice under cold tap water 2-3 times or until water runs clear.
Add fresh water and soak the rice for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, get the chopped vegetables and the rest of the ingredients ready.
Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the whole spices - bay leaves, green cardamom, black cardamom, cassia, cloves, black stone flower and star anise.
Fry the spices for a few seconds and then add cumin. Fry cumin for a minute and let it sizzle and release the aroma.
Now add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until they turn soft and translucent.
Add the ginger, garlic and green chilies, stir and cook for a couple of minutes.
Now add the potatoes, carrots, and beans. Slightly increase the heat, stir and close the pot with the lid and cook for 5 minutes or just until the vegetables are half cooked.
Meanwhile, drain the water from the soaked rice and let the rice sit in a colander to remove any excess water.
Take the lid off the pot. Add peas, salt and garam masala.
Add water and stir well. Slightly increase the heat and bring it to a boil.
Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Once the water starts boiling reduce the heat and carefully add the soaked rice and gently stir once.
Add the coriander leaves and close the pot with a lid.
Simmer for 12-15 minutes.
Turn the heat off once done. Take the lid off the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Fluff the rice and then serve this one pot vegetable pulao rice with plain poppadom/ masala papad and any side dish of your choice.
Ginger-Garlic Paste: Feel free to use pre-made ginger garlic paste instead of freshly chopped ones.
Vegetable Stock: Water could be replaced with vegetable stock for added flavour and taste.
Coconut Milk: Try adding coconut milk to enhance the taste of pulao. You could either use half of each coconut milk and water or substitute just 1 cup of water with coconut milk if you are not a fan of coconut and feel it overpowers the pulao rice.
Vegetables: Add any vegetables of your choice - cauliflower, corn, spinach, babycorn.
Mint: It adds a lovely flavour to vegetable pulao.
Cashews: they make a fabulous addition. Fry a handful of them along with spices at the beginning.
Tips and Tricks
Rinse and wash the rice at least 3-4 times or until the water is clear.
Use vegetables that require the same cooking time.
Rice to water ratio might vary depending on the type of rice you use. So use water as per instructions on the packet.
Soaking the rice for 15 minutes reduces cooking time. However, I wouldn't suggest soaking the rice for more than 30 minutes. If you do so then you need to reduce water and cooking time.
I would suggest removing a few whole spices - cassia, black cardamom and star anise just before serving as the strong taste may not be pleasing to everyone. The whole spices are used to infuse aroma and flavour. However, these spices leave you with an unpleasant aftertaste when you chew them.
Vegetable rice stays fresh for 2-3 days in the fridge when stored properly in an airtight container. Let the rice cool down completely and then transfer it to a container.
This vegetable pilau freezes well. Go for the freezing option for longer shelf life. It's a perfect storage solution if you plan to cook this one-pot vegan rice in large quantities and store it for future use.
A simple curry such as tomato kurma or potato mushroom curry and vegetable pulao makes a great weeknight meal. Try to make this vegan pulao instead of white rice if you have time when you crave something special yet easy to make.
Vegetable pulao is a great dish to pack in a lunchbox along with a simple salad or semi-dry side dishes such as my jeera aloo or bombay aloo. If you are not a fan of potato dishes then try my kohlrabi curry, aloo gobi or drumstick leaves curry.
It is great to have on a party menu as it is an ideal dish that appeals to every palette from spicy food lovers to those who prefer medium-spiced food. Include sweet drinks such as my mango lassi or rose lassi on the menu just in case! It’s for kids and for those who might still feel the food is spicy.
The main differences between the two are the cooking technique, time consumption and the list of ingredients used.
1. Pulao is cooked in one pot using the absorption method - rice, vegetables and spices are sauteed and cooked together and the liquid is completely absorbed while cooking. So it is essential to have the correct rice to liquid (water/stock/coconut milk) ratio. Incorrect ratio results in either uncooked rice or overcooked!
Biryani is cooked using a draining method - rice is parboiled in one pot and vegetables are cooked along with spices and yogurt separately in a second pot. Later both parboiled rice and cooked vegetables are arranged in layers and cooked on a slow flame until done.
2. Veg pulao takes less time to prepare than the biryani. Pulao is a very easy and straightforward process whereas the biryani is a complicated process and beginners might feel it daunting.
3. The spices used in biryani are significantly higher than the pulao rice.
Veg pulao paired with any paneer curry is a favourite combination for any special occasion for Indians.
Absolutely. Without onion and garlic pulao tastes delicious and tasty. You could add a tiny pinch of asafoetida while frying spices to mimic the garlic taste.
More Rice Recipes
One Pot Vegetable Pulao
1 cup = 250ml ; 1 Tablespoon = 15ml ; 1 Teaspoon = 5ml
- 2 Teaspoon Oil
- 2 Bay leaves
- small piece Cassia
- 4 Cloves
- 2 Green Cardamom
- 1 Black Cardamom
- 1 Star Anise
- small piece Black Stone Flower/Kalpasi
- 1 Teaspoon Cumin
- 135 gms (or) 2 Medium (or) ¾ Cup Onion thinly sliced
- 1 inch (or) 1 Teaspoon Ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves (or) ½ Tablespoon Garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 4 Green Chillies slit lengthwise
- 293 gms (or) 2 Medium (or) 1 Cup Potato peeled and diced into cubes
- 106 gms (or) 2 Medium (or) ½ Cup Carrot peeled and diced into cubes
- 106 gms (or) ¾ Cup or 20 Green Beans trim edges and cut into 2 inch long pieces
- 86 gms (or) ½ Cup Frozen green peas thawed (defrosted in cold water)
- Salt as required
- 1 Teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
- 2 Cups Water
- 350 gms (or) 1.5 Cups Basmati Rice
- handful Fresh Coriander Leaves chopped
- Using a deep-bottomed bowl, wash the rice under cold tap water 2-3 times or until water runs clear.350 gms (or) 1.5 Cups Basmati Rice
- Add fresh water and soak the rice for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, get the chopped vegetables and the rest of the ingredients ready.
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low heat.2 Teaspoon Oil
- Once the oil is hot, add the whole spices - bay leaves, green cardamom, black cardamom, cassia, cloves, black stone flower and star anise.2 Bay leaves, small piece Cassia, 2 Green Cardamom, 1 Black Cardamom, 1 Star Anise, small piece Black Stone Flower/Kalpasi, 4 Cloves
- Fry the spices for a few seconds and then add cumin. Fry cumin for a minute and let it sizzle and release the aroma.1 Teaspoon Cumin
- Now add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until they turn soft and translucent.135 gms (or) 2 Medium (or) ¾ Cup Onion
- Add the ginger, garlic and green chilies, stir and cook for a couple of minutes.1 inch (or) 1 Teaspoon Ginger, 2 cloves (or) ½ Tablespoon Garlic, 4 Green Chillies
- Now add the potatoes, carrots, and beans. Stir and close the pot with the lid and cook for 5 minutes.293 gms (or) 2 Medium (or) 1 Cup Potato, 106 gms (or) 2 Medium (or) ½ Cup Carrot, 106 gms (or) ¾ Cup or 20 Green Beans
- Meanwhile, drain the water from the soaked rice and let the rice sit in a colander to remove any excess water.
- Take the lid off the pot. Add peas, salt and garam masala.86 gms (or) ½ Cup Frozen green peas, Salt, 1 Teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
- Add water and stir well. Slightly increase the heat and bring it to a boil.2 Cups Water
- Taste and add more salt if necessary.
- Once the water starts boiling reduce the heat and carefully add the soaked rice and gently stir once.350 gms (or) 1.5 Cups Basmati Rice
- Add the coriander leaves and close the pot with a lid.handful Fresh Coriander Leaves
- Simmer for 12-15 minutes.
- Turn the heat off once done. Take the lid off the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Fluff the rice and then serve it with plain poppadom/ masala papad and any side dish of your choice.
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