Here is a tried-and-true guide on how to cook basmati rice. This basmati rice recipe walks you through the stovetop, Instant Pot, and slow cooker cooking methods. Serve the rice with my paneer tikka masala or palak paneer for a complete meal.
Basmati rice is a thin, long-grain rice that is commonly used in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Meaning “fragrant,” basmati rice has a subtle nutty flavor.
India generates most of the world’s production of basmati rice. Most basmati rice that is imported to the U.S. has been aged for at least 6 months to intensify its nutty aroma. Being from Northern California, it is also common to see locally produced basmati rice, such as the ones grown by Lundberg Family Farms.
Besides its flavor, what I love most about the rice is that the grains can become incredibly long once they’re cooked, about 3/4-inches in length. In order to get this distinct shape, you need to soak the rice first and use the same water to cook the rice. It took me quite a number of tries before I got it right! Here are some tips on how to cook perfect basmati rice.
HOW TO COOK BASMATI RICE
WASH THE RICE
Rinsing the rice washes away excess starch and helps to keep the rice from clumping once cooked. When you first wash the rice, the water will look slightly milky (see photo above, left). Drain and wash the rice with fresh water 4 more times. Eventually, the water will look quite clear (see photo above, right).
SOAK THE RICE
Technically speaking, basmati rice does not need to be soaked before cooking; you’ll have fully cooked rice if you follow the directions below and omit the soaking. However, the rice will look similar to jasmine rice (see photo above, left). In other words, the grains of rice will not expand to long 3/4-inch grains unless you soak it (see photo above, right). The soaking process allows the rice to absorb moisture and relax before cooking.
COOK RICE WITH WATER USED FOR SOAKING
When testing the recipe, I compared the differences between two cooking methods: (1) cooking the rice with the same water used for soaking; and (2) draining the water used for soaking and then cooking the rice with fresh water. I was surprised that there was a noticeable difference between the two methods. The soaked rice cooked with fresh water yielded grains that were shorter!
The cooking methods explained below are very similar to the ones that I use for my jasmine rice recipe. I have outlined the methods on how to cook basmati rice on the stove and in the Instant Pot and slow cooker. No matter which cooking method you choose, you’ll still need to rinse the rice several times first.
Personally, I prefer the stovetop and Instant Pot methods because they are quicker. The texture of the cooked basmati rice from these two methods is chewier, which I like.
You may notice that the amount of liquid specified in the recipe is less than what you see in many other recipes. That’s because I believe in using only as much liquid as necessary to cook through the rice. Excess liquid leads to mushy rice.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BASMATI RICE
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) basmati rice (see note 1)
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups rice (see note 2)
- 1 3/4 cups water
Slow Cooker Method
- cooking spray
- 1 1/2 cups rice
- 1 3/4 cups water (see note 3)
WASH THE RICE
- Pour the rice in a bowl and fill it with water, enough to cover the rice by 1 to 2 inches. Use your fingers to swirl the rice around. The water will look very milky or cloudy after the first rinse. You are washing away excess starch in the rice so that it won’t clump up once cooked. Drain the water from the bowl.
- Repeat this cycle of washing the rice and draining the water four more times. The water should look quite clear during the last rinse. After the final rinse, drain the rice over a sieve or strainer.
- Transfer the rice to a saucepan. Pour 2 cups of water over the rice and let the rice soak for 30 minutes.
- Cover the saucepan with a lid. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the water to boil. This should take about 5 to 6 minutes. Watch the stove carefully to keep the water from boiling over.
- Reduce the heat to low and let the rice simmer for 10 minutes, until all the water is absorbed into the rice. I usually move the saucepan to a smaller burner for this.
- Turn off the heat, and leave the saucepan covered for 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover the saucepan and fluff the rice with a fork. The rice is now ready to serve.
INSTANT POT METHOD
- Transfer the rinsed rice to the Instant Pot. Pour 1 3/4 cups water over the rice and let the rice soak for 30 minutes.
- Fasten the lid and press the “RICE” button on the Instant Pot. This will set the Instant Pot to cook on low for 12 minutes.
- Once the timer goes off, let the rice rest in the “KEEP WARM” function for 10 to 15 minutes. The pressure should release automatically after that time. If it doesn’t, manually release any residual pressure before opening the lid.
- Fluff up the rice and serve.
SLOW COOKER METHOD
- Coat the bottom of the slow cooker with cooking spray. This prevents the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. It is particularly an issue if your slow cooker pot is made of ceramic, like mine.
- In a separate bowl, soak the rice with 1 3/4 cups of water for 30 minutes. Then, carefully transfer the soaked rice and water to the slow cooker.
- Set the slow cooker on low and cook the rice for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Fluff up the rice and serve.
- Small Batch Stovetop Method: If you want to cook a smaller batch, cook 1 cup of rice with 1 1/3 cups of water. The cooking time is the same. This yields about 4 cups of cooked rice.
- If you are using the small measuring cup that comes with the Instant Pot to measure the rice, measure 2 cups.
- In my All-Clad slow cooker, I only need 1 3/4 cups water to fully cook the soaked basmati rice. Some slow cookers might need a little more water, especially if the lid isn't tight. If you find that the rice is slightly undercooked after the cooking time, feel free to add another 1/4 cup of water and let the rice cook for another 30 minutes or so.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 cup cooked rice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 169Total Fat: 0.3gSaturated Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2.3mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 0.6gSugar: 0.1gProtein: 3.3g