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Spiced Rice Pilaf

With cardamom and cloves, this spiced rice pilaf will have your house smelling wonderful. It is a versatile dish that can dress up your weeknight table as easily as it can a fancy weeknight dinner.


Today, I’m partnering with Grain Foods Foundation to bring you this Cardamom and Clove Spiced Rice Pilaf.

Growing up in Sri Lanka, it often seemed like rice was the center of just about every meal. For breakfast there was “kiribath“, which consisted of rice cooked in milk; for lunch and dinner, there was usually rice with curries; and birthdays and holidays were often celebrated with “yellow rice” -a highly fragrant rice, often cooked with cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, coconut milk, and saffron and served with cashews, sultanas, hard boiled eggs and peas.


To this day my mom can make “yellow rice” so fragrant, my daughter and I can smell it while we are on the elevator, before we even get to her apartment!

Often times when my cousins visit from New York and my sister flies home from Dallas, they will gladly eat my mom’s yellow rice and curry for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – saying that it is brain food!


My mom’s idea of measuring often involves “a dash of this” or “a pinch of that”…once, she actually specified “a cup of..” and I was beyond stoked – only to find out later that she was referring to the humongous cup she used for her coffee!

So no matter how many times I try to duplicate her “yellow rice”, mine never quite tastes as good.


So today, I tried something different and came up with my version of my mom’s “yellow rice”.

I started off with some onion and garlic sauteing in some olive oil to which I added rice, I also used saffron and cloves and cardamoms but replaced the coconut milk with vegetable stock; and called it simply a Spiced Rice Pilaf.

I threw some toasted black sesame seeds, some peas, and some red pepper on for garnish, leaving off the eggs and cashews and sultanas – making this rice dish a versatile and filling side dish to any #Holidaytable.

Spiced Rice Pilaff

In going over some of the articles on The Grain Foods Foundation website, I found some supporting my cousins and sisters claim that rice was indeed brain food – now I am no expert – so I would love to know what you think?
How do grains affect your physical and/or mental performance?

This post is sponsored by The Grain Foods Foundation. While I received compensation for my time, all opinions are 100% my own.

Spiced Rice Pilaff

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Shashi
With cardamom and cloves, this spiced rice pilaf will have your house smelling wonderful. It is a versatile dish that can dress up your weeknight table as easily as it can a fancy weeknight dinner.


  • 1 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-7 curry leaves
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • TO GARNISH – red pepper peas and toasted black sesame seeds


  • Heat up the cup of water and drop the saffron into it
  • Add the olive oil to a pan and saute the onion and garlic till onion is translucent
  • Add the rice and chicken stock and saffron steeped water and bring to a boil
  • Add the cardamom, cloves, curry leaves, cumin and lower heat and simmer covered for 15-18 minutes till rice is done and stock has been absorbed
  • Garnish with black sesame seeds, cooked peas and red pepper
  • Enjoy


Serving: 1g | Calories: 138kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 208mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Tag @SavorySpin or tag #savoryspin so we can share your ceation.
A big gray tray with Yellow rice with cardamom and cloves.

Looking for more rice recipes? Then check out this easy, buttery, delicious, vegan yellow rice!

5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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Recipe Rating

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  10. Lovely rice dish…I wish I could just put that bowl on my lap and enjoy it with a big spoon!

  11. Ashley says:

    haha those sound like my grandma’s measurements! I love the “cup of” that was a coffee mug! That’s amazing 🙂

    This rice looks so so good! I’m glad you made your own version to share with us! Happy weekend!

  12. This rice pilaf looks fabulous, Shashi! I love the saffron in here and can just imagine how incredible it smells cooking up! Mom’s always make the best food but I’m sure yours was pretty darn amazing too 🙂

  13. cottercrunch says:

    these simple (yet fragrant) dishes are my favorite. Love that spice woman!

  14. This looks like the perfect pilaf! Love, love peas with rice!

  15. Joanne says:

    What is it with that generation and using special cups for measuring! My grandmother and the.boy’s grandmother each have their own special cups and so you can’t make any of their recipes unless you “borrow” the cup from them! Sigh. I think your rice looks pretty great though! Love the spices.

    • Shashi says:

      Haha – I didn’t think of borrowing my mom’s cup – Joanne – and here I was wondering why mine never tasted quite like my moms – thanks lady – operation-borrow–THAT-cup is commencing! 🙂

  16. hotlyspiced says:

    I love the look of your pilaff and it must be so full of flavour. There are a lot of wonderful spices in this rice. I do love a pilaff and often enjoy it all on its own rather that using it to accompany a dish xx

  17. Hi, Shashi! You Mom seems to do a great job. The rice looks delish and colorful. I love saffron and learned to love cardamom as well. The green one is an absolute fave of mine for desserts. Grains are part of my daily diet. We consume a lot of rice. 🙂

    • Shashi says:

      Thanks so much Denise – I have had cardamoms in savory dishes, but I cannot think of one dessert that I have had that had the green whole cardamoms in it!

  18. I would eat rice over potatoes or pasta any day. Love a fragrant pilaf or pulao or whatever you would like to call it it’s delicious. Happy Thanksgiving,

  19. Okay that’s it! You’ve got my craving this rice dish before I’ve even tried it! 😛 The next time I make a curry or something that needs rice I am going to make this 🙂

  20. cheri says:

    Hi Shashi, my mom measures the same way, beautiful rice dish, love the pops of color.

  21. Kim says:

    This looks awesome!!! Don’t laugh but this might be the first recipe you have posted that I have every ingredient already!!! Definitely making this – plus it will give me a good way to use some of that super expensive Saffron I have.

    • Shashi says:

      Haha – oops sorry, you told me not to laugh – Kim -so glad to hear you have all the ingredients for this – would love to know if you liked it or even if you hated it!

  22. Francesca says:

    Love your spin on this classic side dish! Can’t wait to try.

  23. Mmmm this rice looks legit! Rice is hard to get perfect, but you totally nailed it! What a great side dish 🙂

  24. This looks wonderful and I’m cracking up at your mom’s ‘measuring’. 😉

  25. Not really a fan of white rice, but I would love this with all the spices.

  26. It’s been too long since I’ve had rice pilaf. Looks like the perfect simple side dish Shashi (with a pinch of love. ) 🙂
    Have a great day girl!

    • Shashi says:

      Melanie – that’s no surprise, you have been making all those amazing loaves of bread! 🙂
      Btw – thanks so much! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  27. spicedblog says:

    This pilaf looks amazing, Shashi! I love your Mom’s way of measuring things…you totally should have just put all of those measurements into your recipe. Just for fun. 🙂 But here’s the real question: how did your version compare to your Mom’s? I have definitely been down that road of trying to recreate family dishes…and it’s no easy feat! Either way, this pilaf looks healthy and delicious. Plus, if I eat the rice, I’ll get smarter. Now that’s a win-win!

    • Shashi says:

      Hahahaha – I have to remember to try adding a pinch of or a dash of or -ooh, my favorite- “not a pour of…but a poooouuurrrrr of” next time!
      Mine wasn’t as good as my mom’s! David – I swear I think she has some secret ingredient or ingredients – my replication of any of her dishes don’t ever turn out as good as hers do!

  28. In love! Any dish with all those spices…ah! So beautiful!

  29. I LOVE RICE PILAF. My stepdad makes a version with mushrooms and it is so, so good. I love that you used your mom’s recipe as inspiration but completely made your own version 🙂 Deeeeelish.

    • Shashi says:

      Thanks Erin – now your step dad’s with mushrooms sounds deeeeelish! I have made risotto with mushrooms but not tried them in pilaf – thanks for the inspiration!

  30. Now Sashi 😀 You know I now have to plan ANOTHER of my “curry fests” because of this recipe don’t you? 😉

  31. Dont’ you just love mom’s measuring tools? I love fragrant rices and spices in my rices and yours sounds beautiful. It makes your whole house smell wonderful. I think carbs are good brain food. Mental activity requires a lot of energy and the brain likes to get that in the form of glucose from the breakdown of carbohydrates. Chocolate cake is a carb- must have that to think. End of story! LOL Have a super day!

  32. Khushboo Thadani (@KhushbooThadani) says:

    Mmm love the sound of this- big rice fan here (but you already knew that)! I’ve really been into curried rice pilafs lately but am going to try this out next- I know it will be a nice change, especially with a side of some chicken tandoori!

    As for grains and my performance- apart from tasting so good, I definitely notice I feel a lot better both mentally and have much more energy physically! I am also much more in control of my eating (i.e. not mindlessly snacking throughout the day)!

    • Shashi says:

      Khushboo – ooh tandoori chicken with this is a FABULOUS idea! Now I want some tandoori!!!

      Also – I find that grains keep you from mindlessly snacking so interesting!

  33. Can’t begin to imagine how good your Mom’s yellow rice smells. Must be amazing. Reading your post though, I’m totally hungry for your Spiced Rice Pilaf. It looks delicious, Shashi! I should make this for Clint and I.