Simple ghee rice is richly aromatic with ghee and a few spices. It is so much more flavorful than you would expect and it works well as the center of a meal, or as a side to a curry or roast.

Flavorful Ghee Rice

Every home cook has a go-to dish in their back pocket when we are pressed for time, and they need something to fill out the meal. South Indian cooks, especially in Kerala, serve a simple ghee rice with curries, dal or sambar, or a lentil and vegetable stew. It is also simple but irresistible weeknight accompaniment to a quick roast chicken or even a steak. Don’t be put off by ghee in the name. It has a modest amount of ghee but because the rice is mildly flavored, it allows the rich, nutty flavor of ghee to shine through. It’s easy to make your own ghee too.

Soak or Not?

It may be controversial but I don’t find soaking a good quality basmati rice necessary. The soaking process is supposed to make the rice grains significantly longer and help prevent the rice from breaking. But I don’t find this step necessary. Though please feel free to soak your rice. Rinsing the rice thoroughly, however, is a must. If you are in an especially big hurry, and aren’t cooking for guests, you can skip the garnishes. Or use fried onions or shallots that you can get at almost any grocery store.

Basmati or Seera Rice

I typically use basmati for simple ghee rice because it is easy to find, and it is the rice I always have on hand. If you happen to have kaima or seera samba rice grown in Kerala, that would be perfect. Use the same amount of rice, and even if you are a rice soaker, there is no need to soak this variety as it is short-grained.

Properly cooked basmati is light and fluffy with an aromatic nuttiness. There are several simple tricks to ensure that the grains are separate. Rinse the rice thoroughly, and sauté it in the onion mixture for a few minutes to coat each grain with ghee or oil. Stirring in just a bit of lemon juice when adding the water, and lastly, allowing the rice to rest for 5 minutes are all good habits. These steps will all ensure that you have light, fluffy, aromatic rice.

Happy cooking!

~ Alonna

See the Notes below before you cook.

Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - Ghee rice beautifully garnished with cashews, raisins, birista (browned onions) and a flutter of cilantro.

Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru)

Simple ghee rice is richly aromatic with ghee and a few spices. It is so much more flavorful than you would expect and it works well as the center of a meal, or as a side to a curry or roast.
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: dairy free, Egg-free, Entertaining, Freezer Friendly, Ghee, Gluten-free, Instant Pot, make ahead, Quick, Rice, South Indian, stovetop, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 13 minutes
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 28 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 272kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup basmati rice ~ Or kaima/seeraga samba/jeerakasamba rice
  • 2 tablespoons ghee ~ Or coconut oil, or oil of your choice
  • 12 whole cashews
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins ~ Or dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup onion ~ Slice thinly, divided in half
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Twice the amount of kosher salt; about.
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick ~ Or 1 1/2-inch piece of cassia
  • 3 whole green cardamom pods
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup water ~ 1 1/2 cup water if cooking on the stovetop
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro ~ Optional, for garnishing. Parsley works too.

Instructions

  • Gather all your ingredients.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - All the ingredients gathered.
  • Place the rice in a medium-size bowl and cover with water. Rub the grains of rice gently between your fingers, removing the starch. Pour off the water. I use a strainer, but that isn't necessary. Rinse the rice at least 2 more times until the water is almost clear. If you prefer to soak your rice, cover with cold water and allow to soak for 20 minutes. Or drain and set aside.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • In the Instant Pot on the sauté function add the ghee or coconut oil. When the pot is hot add the cashews and when they have a few brown spots, add the raisins. Sauté until they are both nicely browned and the raisins have puffed up. Remove the cashews and raisins with a slotted spoon and set aside.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - The garnishes of cashews and raisins browned.
  • If you are making fried onions for garnish, add 1/2 the onions and sauté till they turn crisp and golden. Remove the onions from the pot with a slotted spoon; set aside.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - Browning onions for garnishing.
  • Add another tablespoon ghee or oil and toast the whole spices for a minute or two until they are fragrant. Add the other half of the onions, or if you didn’t make fried onions for a garnish, all the whole 1/2 cup of sliced onions. Add the salt. Cook the onions until they start to get golden along the edges. Turn off sauté mode.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - Cooking more onions for the foundation of the rice.
  • Drain excess water from the rice if soaking it, and add to the onions. Stir for several minutes to coat the rice. Add in the teaspoon of lemon juice and water and give it a good stir.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - The rice and flavorings ready to be cooked.
  • Turn the valve to the sealing position, close the Instant Pot lid, and turn the cook setting to high pressure for 4 minutes.
  • Allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes. Then carefully release the rest of the steam and allow the rice to rest for 5 minutes.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - The rice in the Instant Pot finished cooking.
  • With a fork, gently fluff the rice and spoon into a serving bowl. Garnish with cashews, raisins, fried onions if using, and a dusting of cilantro.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - Ghee rice beautifully garnished with cashews, raisins, birista (browned onions) and a flutter of cilantro.
  • Serve with raita, a curry or masala, dal, sambar (lentil and vegetable stew) or even a roast.

Stovetop Method

  • In a medium-sized pan add 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the cashews. When the nuts have a few brown spots, stir in the raisins. This step will only take a couple of minutes so watch closely and stir frequently. Sauté until the cashews and raisins are both nicely browned and the raisins have puffed up. Remove them with a slotted spoon; set aside.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - The garnishes of cashews and raisins browned.
  • If you are making fried onions for garnish, add 1/2 the sliced onions (1/4 cup) and cook them until they turn crisp and dark brown. Remove the onions from the pot with a slotted spoon; set aside.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - Browning onions for garnishing.
  • Add another tablespoon ghee or oil to the pan and sauté the whole spices for a minute or two until they are fragrant. Add the other half of the onions, or if you didn’t make fried onions for a garnish, add the whole 1/2 cup of sliced onions. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over the onions and cook them until they start to get golden along the edges. This will take between 3 to 5 minutes. Keep a container of water by the stove to add in tablespoon increments if you have any sticking to the bottom of the pan.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - Cooking more onions for the foundation of the rice.
  • Drain excess water from the rice and add to the onions. Stir for several minutes to coat the rice, adding a bit more ghee or water if the rice is sticking. Stir in the teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 1/2 cups of water.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - The rice and flavorings ready to be cooked.
  • Still over medium-high heat, bring the rice to a hard boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook the rice undisturbed for 13 to 15 minutes until there are craters on the surface, and the water has evaporated. Check by tilting the pan to see if the bottom of the pan to almost dry. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to rest still covered for 10 minutes.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - The rice in the Instant Pot finished cooking.
  • With a fork, gently fluff the rice and spoon into a serving bowl. Garnish with cashews, raisins, fried onions if using, and a dusting of cilantro.
    Simple Ghee Rice (Nei Choru) - Ghee rice beautifully garnished with cashews, raisins, birista (browned onions) and a flutter of cilantro.
  • Serve with raita, a curry or masala, dal, sambar (lentil and vegetable stew) or even a roast.

Notes

  1. Shortcut: buy fried onions or shallots for an optional garnish.
  2. Soaking the rice will make the grains of rice expand and get longer, but this step is optional.
  3. If you want to add a bit more heat to simple ghee rice, slice 1 or more small Indian green chilis in half, keeping the top attached. A Serrano chili is another good choice and remove the seeds of the chilis to reduce the heat if you prefer. Add the chilis when the onions are starting to brown, so they cook for a minute or two.

Nutrition

Calories: 272kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 8mg | Potassium: 130mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 1mg