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How to Make Delicious Pilau; a Popular Dish among the Swahili and Asian Communities

Delicious beef pilau served with kachumbari

Delicious beef pilau served with kachumbari

Pilau is a rice dish popular among the Swahili and Asian communities. There are a number of recipes for both vegetarian and meat Pilau. The major ingredients are rice, meat or green peas and natural herbs. The secret to preparing a delicious Pilau dish however depends on the type of ingredients used, their proportions and the preparation method used. Below is a detailed Pilau recipe that will guarantee great results.

How to Make Beef Pilau


  • Beef 1kg
  • Cooking oil
  • 3 medium onions
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • I medium Tomato
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Pilau masala powder
  • 3 tablespoon whole Pilau masala – cloves, black pepper, cumin seeds and cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 cups rice
  • 8 cups water
  • Salt

Preparation Method

  1. Boil the meat with 1 table spoon of ginger and garlic paste until it is 50% cooked. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Soak the whole Pilau spices in hot water till the water turns brown. This kills the bitterness.
  3. Heat your oil in a clean pan until you see it smoking a bit. This helps the onions to cook faster.
  4. Add onions and cook till they turn golden brown. For brown Pilau, cook the onions till they are slightly darker.
  5. Put a little water to stop the onions from cooking further.
  6. Add garlic and ginger paste and allow it to cook until you smell the aroma.
  7. Add the powdered masala to the mixture and stir well.
  8. Rinse the whole masala that you had soaked, add to the mixture and cook for 3 minutes.
  9. Add the meat and chopped tomatoes and fry under low heat.
  10. Cook the tomato till soft then add your quartered potatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
  11. Next add water and salt to taste.
  12. Allow the mixture to cook to a boiling point then add washed rice – do not soak your rice.
  13. Let it cook until the water has gone down (same level as the rice) then cover and reduce the heat.
  14. Allow to cook on low heat until dry.
  15. Serve with a vegetable stew or salad!

Special instructions

  • Use enough oil, less oil makes Pilau dry and it tastes bad.
  • For a darker Pilau, add more onions, double the amount.
  • Cook your onions till darker for a better taste.
  • You can substitute your beef with mutton and chicken.

Health Benefits of the Herbs Used in Preparing Pilau

Other than the great aroma and taste they add to Pilau, the natural herbs have more health benefits to the human body.

  • Ginger contains gingerol, a bioactive substance that inhibits the growth of bacteria and works against oral bacterial that causes gum infections.
  • Black pepper helps in aiding digestion and also relieves gas, heart burn, and soothes upset stomach.
  • Garlic contains Allicin which has medicinal properties. If taken regularly, garlic can help boost the immune system. The sulphur components in garlic act as detoxifiers and can help combat metal toxins in the body and in turn prevent organ damage.
  • Cinnamon contains antioxidants that protect the body from toxins. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help combat inflammation in the body.

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