I've made this buttered basmati rice countless times and it never disappoints. Just follow the steps exactly as I've shared and you're guaranteed fluffy, aromatic grains every time.
No fancy ingredients, just plain white rice – but at its absolute buttery best. And you don't need a rice cooker.
And if you're looking for a hearty rice-centered meal, check out my zereshk polo ba morgh (barberry rice with chicken) recipe. This Persian dish is all kinds of awesome.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Foolproof technique – by washing away excess starch, precisely timing the steaming and adhering to the recommended steps, you'll get perfect results every single time.
- Rich flavor – the combo of unsalted butter and aged basmati creates a mouthfeel that's both rich and aromatic.
- Pairs with everything – this buttery rice is a super versatile side that can be paired with just about any main dish.
- Very simple ingredients – nothing fancy here. You just need some simple stuff to create a bowlful of comfort and joy.
Here are some helpful notes on ingredients you'll need. See the recipe card below for exact quantities.
- White basmati rice – it's best to use rice that is long-grained and has been aged for 2 years. If available, I'd even go for the extra-long grain options. When cooked, these long, aged grains become longer, fluffier and don’t stick together. I usually get mine from Indian or Pakistani grocery stores.
- Water – plain, simple water for cooking process.
- Salt – the right level of saltiness is important to bring out the best taste.
- Unsalted butter – needs to be softened so it melts quickly, especially when you put it in just before the steaming step. Unsalted butter allows you control over the sodium content. If using salted butter, decrease the amount of added salt.
How to make buttered basmati rice
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to prepare basmati rice with butter. Check out recipe card below for a printable version that has quantities, instructions and notes in one place.
Step 1: Put the rice in a bowl, fill with water, gently swirl with hands then drain using a strainer. Repeat this process until the water runs clear. Soak the washed rice in room temperature water for 30 minutes. Then drain again.
Step 2: Put water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, add the drained rice plus 1 tablespoon butter.
Step 3: Cover the saucepan with lid. Continue cooking on high heat until about 30% of water is left (4 to 7 minutes). If foam or bubbles begin to overflow, remove the lid for few seconds, then put it back on.
Step 4: To check if it's time for next step, take the lid off and look for a super thin layer of water bubbling on surface. Then add the remaining butter, give a gentle mix, cover again and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Let it steam for exactly 10 minutes.
Step 5: Next, turn off the heat, remove the saucepan from the burner but don't remove the lid. Let it rest covered for 10 minutes. Don't open the lid during steaming or resting time.
Step 6: Once the resting time is up, remove the lid, spoon out the rice, garnish with some chopped parsley (optional) and serve.
- Too sticky or clumped together – insufficient washing of rice often leads to this, so getting rid of that sticky starch is important. Also, do not go with the recommended water quantity mentioned on the bag. Stick to the 1:1.5 ratio of rice to water that I've mentioned in this recipe.
- Undercooked or hard – skipping or shortening the soak time or using less water can cause this. Also very important is to not open the lid during steaming or resting durations. That'll cause a loss of steam/moisture.
- Burnt rice at the bottom – not turning down the heat to the lowest setting quickly enough during steaming can cause burning at the bottom.
- Too salty – a problem you'll face when using salted butter. Use unsalted one, and if you must use salted, reduce or omit the quantity of added salt.
- Too wet – adding more water than mentioned in recipe or not allowing enough water to evaporate before steaming seems like the problem here.
- Less butteriness – all butter is not made equal. The flavor varies based on the brand, region and production method. European-style butter usually has higher fat content and distinct creamy flavor which will give a proper buttery touch.
- Uneven cooking – a pot that’s too large can cause water to evaporate too quickly, while too small a pot/saucepan will not allow the rice enough space to expand and cook uniformly. So it has to be the right size.
- Not fluffy after steaming – resting the basmati rice after steaming is super important. It allows the rice to finish cooking gently and helps to get that fluffy texture.
Substitutions and variations
- Flavored water – using vegetable or chicken broth instead of water can add an extra layer of flavor. But when doing so, be mindful of the salt content in broth and reduce the quantity of added salt.
- Herb garnish – when serving the rice, sprinkle some freshly chopped herbs like cilantro, parsley or dill for a fresh touch.
- Spice additions - add a small bay leaf, a couple of cloves and a tiny piece of cinnamon to the saucepan along with the water. Remove these before serving.
- Lemon or lime zest - add some on top just before serving.
Storage and reheating
- Storage: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Reheating: Place leftovers in a microwave-safe dish, lightly drizzle some water on top, and heat in 1 minute intervals. Give a gentle mix after each minute to ensure even heating.
Just so you know
- Basmati is native to the Indian subcontinent and is loved for its aroma and long grains. The word 'Basmati' itself is derived from Sanskrit word 'Vasmati' which means 'fragrant'.
- Improper cooking of rice is a common kitchen mishap. The key is some patience and some gentle heat, especially towards the end of the cooking process.
- When you cook basmati rice it typically triples in volume. So 1 cup uncooked basmati will yield about 3 cups of cooked rice.
- 1 cup (185 g) basmati rice - preferably long grain and aged (Note A)
- 1.5 cups (355 ml) water
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter - softened (Note B)
- some chopped fresh parsley - optional, for garnishing
- Put the basmati rice in a big bowl, fill with water, gently swirl with hands and then drain using a fine mesh strainer. Repeat this until the water runs clear (around 3 times). Don't skip – this step is crucial for getting rid of excess starch.
- Soak the washed rice in room temperature water for 30 minutes. Then drain again using a fine mesh strainer.
- Combine water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, add the drained rice plus 1 tablespoon butter.
- Cover the saucepan with a lid. Continue cooking on high heat until about 30% of water is left (roughly 4 to 7 minutes, depending on the rice quantity). If foam or bubbles begin to overflow, remove the lid for few seconds, then put it back.
- To check if it's time for next step, take off the lid and look for a super thin layer of water bubbling on surface.
- Then add your remaining butter, mix very gently, cover again and reduce the heat to the lowest setting on your stovetop. Let the rice steam 10 minutes (setting a timer is important).
- Next, turn off the heat, remove the saucepan from the burner but don't remove the lid. Let the rice rest covered for 10 minutes (not more). Don't be tempted to open the lid during steaming and resting time.
- Once the resting time is up, remove the lid, spoon out the basmati rice, garnish with some chopped parsley (optional) and serve. Tip: No need to fluff the rice with a fork or spoon – it'll already be fluffy and you don't want those pretty grains to break.
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