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!
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
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.

View Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

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

  • 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!

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