The Perfect Pilaf (video!)

Confession: I’m a pot peeker. At least, I used to be.

For many years, my pilaf-making was hampered by my natural curiosity as well as my determination never to leave well enough alone. I couldn’t resist lifting the pot lid and stirring things up.

The result was rarely good. My pilaf was either soggy or crunchy — or both.

I don’t have to guess that a professional cook would have been appalled, because I know she was: Robyn advised me early and often to keep my hands in my pockets while the pilaf was simmering. In pilaf as in many things, I learned slowly.

But I did learn — and we’re both glad I did! It’s a simple thing, really, but it works. My pilaf is now consistent, not to mention highly digestible.

Here’s my simple method for making bulgur pilaf. The same technique and proportions apply to rice, except you have to cook it longer.(Follow directions that come with your rice of choice.) The result is never sticky, greasy or wet.

Of course, if you like your pilaf sticky, greasy or wet, adjust accordingly!

The Perfect Pilaf

Avoid soggy, crunchy pilaf with this fool-proof technique!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Servings 5 servings


  • 1 cup medium (#2) bulgur (or rice)
  • 2 cups broth or water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or two pats of butter)
  • 1 handfull pilaf noodles (or vermicelli, orzo or your noodle of choice)
  • salt and pepper to taste (ex: Aleppo red pepper)


  • Pour oil into saucepan and turn up the heat to medium-high.
  • Add the noodles and stir. Stay close and keep stirring until the noodles start to turn brown.
  • Add the bulgur and stir thoroughly. This is what makes it pilaf: coating the grains.
  • Toast the mixture like this for a minute or two, then slowly pour in the broth. Be careful to stand back, or take the pot off the heat to avoid a steam bath.
  • Add salt and pepper, stir once and bring to a boil.
  • Lower the heat to medium, put the lid tightly on the pot. Let it all simmer for five minutes.
  • Then turn off the heat but leave the lid in place. Let the pilaf sit 10 minutes longer.
  • NOW you can take the lid off. You should find perfectly cooked bulgur pilaf that's moist but shows no excess water.Fluff it with a fork and serve hot!



Who says pilaf has to be a side dish? There’s no more satisfying dinner than bulgur pilaf with a nice Armenian salad, fresh bread and cold madzoon (plain yogurt). Make it with water or vegetable broth and you have a meatless feast suitable for any time of year.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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  1. Ara April 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    To add to Doug's last comment–you can always fortify the pilaf with extras. Sliced onions (fried with the noodles) and diced tomatoes. Diced bell or chili peppers. Meat or chicken chunks. Chick peas. Pre-cooked brown lentils. Spinach or swiss chard (fried with the noodles or pre-blanched). A handful of fresh chopped basil for color and flavor. Pitted golden prunes or tart dried apricots. Some walnuts or raw peanuts (fried with the noodles). Etc. etc.

  2. Robyn April 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    So true, Ara. The possibilities are endless!

  3. Gina April 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Great video and recipe!

  4. Bonnie Gross April 9, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    I am a seasoned cook, and yet this video/recipe and Robyn's no-peek "secret" resulted in the best rice pilaf I have EVER made. Great post, guys.

  5. Robyn April 10, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Thanks, Gina and Bonnie. Your comments are much appreciated!

  6. Food Kingdom April 19, 2011 at 8:30 am
    This is excellent, finally a food portal which understands what food lovers are looking for. Best wishes and congratulations to the Food Kingdom team!

  7. Kim May 9, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I came upon this site to look up that recipe that the Kardashians made today and came upon this awesomeness. I made pilaf with my Armenian grandma many years ago and kept nodding my head as you mentioned keeping the lid on, using chicken broth, yadayada. Thanks for the smile today. I'll certainly visit this site frequently!

  8. Robyn May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Glad you found us Kim! If you have any recipe requests, let us know. We try our best to find lost Armenian recipes.

  9. Kim May 10, 2011 at 5:57 am

    Will do!

  10. Jennifer T. June 11, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Wow, you're right. It comes out perfect. So easy and delicious! Thank you!

    My dad always made pilaf with Uncle Ben's Converted Rice; it tasted good, but when I think of the nutritional loss from substituting processed rice for bulghur — oh, no! I wonder if there was a period when my grandparents couldn't find bulghur and adapted, or if they were trying to Americanize their pilaf? I'll have to ask my dad about this.

    I'd also add that plain bulghur is delicious with yogurt and honey on it for breakfast!

  11. Robyn June 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Jennifer, my mom used Uncle Ben's, too. It must have been a generational thing. It was really good, but bulgur is so much better!

  12. Funkyknuckles July 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Thank you! I brought 2kg of lovely Turkish coarse bulgur home and was having no luck at all with it – this recipe is perfect!

  13. hyechica February 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    i have seen a lot of pilaf recipes that call for uncle bens converted rice. my mom makes it the traditional way. me i have tried to make pilaf many times and it comes out hard crunchy wet sticky or looks like white rice. i am going to try this recipe and see if if it works

  14. Serena February 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks for this recipe. I have only had Armenian rice pilaf once when my cousin made it, and it was wonderful! I tried to make it to no avail. I too am a lifter of the lid 🙂 Thanks for the tips….also, hopefully there is more flavor this time when i try it!

    1. RosiePosie88 March 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      Serena, taste a teaspoonful of the broth right after you add it to the rice and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Now cover the pot and don't peek. If the broth is flavorful, your pilaf will be delicious. Trust me; it works.

  15. Ed Bechirian March 23, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks for a great site! Fantastic recipes….please add some spicy fish stuff….

    1. Robyn March 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      Much appreciated, Ed! I'll look into spicy fish recipes just for you.

  16. kyriakos April 12, 2012 at 3:12 am

    Thanks so much for you time on these great recipes. I'm half Armenian and half Greek and lost my mother and this food brings back good memories. Godbless You

  17. Mary Khagerian May 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Just came across this fantastic sit when i was looking for a homemade marzipan recipe….and going through your site I totally forgot what I was looking for. I am a Guruntsi Armenian from Aleppo and live in Kuwait and crossing your way really made me very proud Vartskernit gadar yev tserkernout talar

  18. Mary khagerian May 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    By the way…there is nothing better than Armenian madagh pilaf

  19. Lady D January 10, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Please, someone tell me technique for boiling the whole chicken to make stock! I know it sounds silly but my grammy just boiled the chicken and all I remember being in the pot with the chicken is water! No onion, no celery…just a whole chicken! Any suggestions or is my memory failing me at an early age?

    1. Robyn January 10, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      If you want a very plain chicken stock, follow your Grammy's recipe. To boost the flavor, add carrots, celery, onion, peppercorns, bay leaves, some salt. After cooking the chicken in the stock, remove chicken allowing it to cool.Remove the meat from the bones. Refrigerate chicken until ready to use. In the meantime, strain the veggie solids, whole seasonings, etc. Place stock in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Next day remove and discard layer of chicken fat. Stock will be ready to use.

  20. Tara Kouyoumdjian April 5, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Absolutely Delicious!!! Thank you so much for posting this and other recipes.

    1. Robyn Kalajian April 12, 2015 at 2:05 am

      So glad you liked it!

  21. Trish April 20, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Dearest Robyn, I hope you're still out there; you are truly a SWEETHEART! I've trudged through many a site for a bulgur recipe and NEVER has the author and host of a site been so diligent and responsive- about so many different suvjects. Bless you! I am going to read more of your recipes later. The only hint I can leave is one I gave my Mum just before she passed away…To keep .homemade chicken broth/soup from looking like dirty dishwater, add a bit of tumereric.. All the Best, Trish

    1. Robyn Kalajian April 20, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Trish, I'm still here! Thank you for your kind words and the tip regarding the turmeric – that's something I didn't know.

  22. Natalie Torosyan September 8, 2020 at 3:41 am

    Thank you for this! Would this recipe work using #1 grade bulgur?

    1. Robyn Kalajian September 9, 2020 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Natalie, It should work, but the cooking time and amount of liquid might vary. In this case, #1 bulgur would probably need a little less liquid, and cook faster than #2. I hope this helps.


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