The Ultimate Guide To Cooking Basmati Rice Perfectly Every Time

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Cooking basmati rice should be easy peasy. This ultimate guide will show you how to cook basmati rice perfectly every time in various methods

a bowl of basmati rice garnished with coriander leaves with a white napkin under the bowl and some raw rice grains near the bowl

Fluffy Basmati Rice

Fluffy Basmati rice with all the grains separate from each other and NOT sticking to one another is a good sign of perfectly-cooked-Basmati rice. 

cooked basmati rice garnished with coriander leaves in a blue patterned bowl with a white napkin underneath the bowl and some sprinkles of rice grains around

For a long time, I didn’t get this idea. 

You see, I’m a native Indonesian and the Indonesian rice has a totally different texture from Basmati rice. Hence, the way Indonesians cook rice is completely different from the way my extended-family (who is native Kashmiri-Pakistani) does it.

There are arguably numerous suggestions on how to cook Basmati rice out there. Honestly, every one of them is right to their own perception and taste. Don’t forget, when it comes to food it is very subjective and personal, isn’t it?

However, after trying so many methods I think I owe to share what I know here in this blog. With a hope that perhaps this guide will ultimately answer all your questions related to cooking white Basmati rice

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Why we should eat more Basmati rice

Before we go on cooking this rice, allow me to remind you of why we should eat more Basmati rice.

You see, this long-grain type of rice is quite unique. It tastes slightly nutty with a distinct fragrance and feels light to enjoy with any rich curries like aloo gosht, lamb kofta, etc. 

But most of all, this rice has so many health benefits for us. That it is recommended to have as one of the staple choices for people who have health issues. You can check the article by WebMD here that can give you useful insights. 

The most notable one is that Basmati rice has a pretty low Glycemic Index but with a significant content of fibre. This alone makes Basmati rice superior to other rice grains.

Tips on how to cook Basmati rice

Wash and rinse the rice

Please wash and rinse your rice properly until the water runs clear. You can use a sieve, a strainer or a colander to do it. Rub and stir the rice carefully, not to break the grains, as the tap water runs. It’s so easy and doesn’t take time.

I was once surprised at how many cooks and chefs give advice that there is no need to wash and rinse the rice before cooking. But now I can understand why.

If you buy locally-processed Basmati rice that is not aged, you may get away with not washing the rice. Especially when you use the rice that claims to have added vitamins or minerals. So you don’t want to wash them off. 

But if you buy properly-aged Basmati rice (like the ones from Himalaya), I suggest you wash it before cooking. Because of the milling process that the rice goes through, Basmati rice might have talc-like dust on its surface that can be considered as debris or chemical excess. So you want to get rid of it. 

You may not see much difference in the look of the ready cooked rice. But you’ll definitely taste the difference between unwashed rice and washed rice. 

Another benefit of washing the rice is that it stays good for a longer time. Perhaps the dirt on the rice surface causes the rice to go off quicker. 

Soak the rice 

Again, we’re talking about good quality aged Basmati rice here. 

So you need to soak it in freshwater for at least half an hour after you wash and rinse the rice. 

This way, the grains will plump up nicely and don’t go soft easily. And it takes less time to cook as well. 

You can see the grains become bigger and opaque whiter in colour. 

Basmati rice to water ratio

This is the MOST IMPORTANT thing for cooking Basmati rice perfectly. 

The ratio between Basmati rice and water has to be 1:1.5 precisely. 

Always use the same equipment or measuring method for both rice and water. For example, use the same cup for both. Or use the metric measurement for both. If you want to cook 1 litre of rice, then the water has to be 1.5 litres. And if you cook 200gr of rice, you must put in 300ml water. 

So always 1:1.5 ratio. Period. 

Add a little bit of salt

A little salt in your rice will add flavour. It doesn’t have to taste obviously salty, but enough to make the rice more flavourful. 

I usually add ½ teaspoon of salt for 1 cup of Basmati rice. It is definitely optional, but worth a try. So please try.

How to prepare the rice before cooking

Wash and rinse the rice until the water runs clear. You can do so by using a strainer/ sieve or a colander. Leave the tap water run as you stir and swirl the rice carefully. You will see the cloudy white water coming out of the strainer. 

The water will be clearer when the rice is clean. Then, leave it to soak in freshwater for about half an hour. 

Using the strainer/ sieve or colander, drain the rice before you’re ready to cook it. 

How to cook Basmati rice in cooker/ on the stove

This is by far the cheapest way of cooking basmati rice. Because you don’t need extra equipment than what you already have. And of course, it’s the method that is close to the original.

Timing-wise, it takes approximately 10 minutes to cook 1 cup of rice in a cooker using the following methods. 

There are 2 ways of cooking Basmati rice in a cooker or a stove. 

Without draining the water

To cook Basmati rice in a cooker or on a stove, you only need a deep cooking pan/ pot. 

Prepare the rice as mentioned above, then boil the water in the cooking pan/ pot. 

When it reaches boiling point, drain the rice using a strainer, a sieve or a colander until all water is gone. Place the rice in the boiling water and boil the rice at medium heat.

You can cover the pan with its lid until the water reaches boiling point again. 

Once the water reboils, take the lid off and give the rice a stir. Carefully. Just to ensure the bottom doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 

When the water evaporates, turn the heat down and cover the inner side of the lid with a kitchen towel or tea towel. Put the lid on the pan and continue cooking at low heat until the steam comes out of the pan. 

As soon as the steam comes out, turn the heat off and leave the lid on until all steam has gone. Leave the rice to continue steaming naturally for about 2-3 minutes before you take the lid off.

By draining the water

This method is probably the trickiest way of cooking basmati rice. 

After you prepare the rice as I explained above, you place it in a pot. And boil the rice with plenty of hot boiling water (I use the one from the kettle). 

Next, cook the rice until al dente. Then drain the rice using a strainer or a colander until all water is gone.

Put the rice back in the pot and steam the rice with the lid on at low heat. Once the pot is steaming, your rice is ready.

The tricky bit of this method is to decide when to drain the water and steam the rice. Because you don’t want to overcook the rice, nor you want to under-cook the rice. I think the safest way is to cook it until it’s almost done but still firm. Just like the al dente pasta. 

If you use this method, you have to make sure to put enough water in the rice. You can aim to pour water about 1.5 inches above the rice. The reason is that you don’t want the water to become starchy due to evaporation. When you drain the water off the rice, you should be able to see the grains individually and they’re not sticking to each other.

A blue patterned bowl of cooked basmati rice garnished with coriander leaves. Underneath there is a white napkin and some rice grains

How to cook Basmati rice in a microwave

Prepare the rice as explained above, then place it in a plastic bowl with the lid that can be used for a microwave like this one.

Boil some water in the kettle or on the stove. Then pour in the hot boiling water to the rice according to the ratio needed (1:1.5 for the rice to water).

Put on the bowl lid and cook the rice in the microwave at high power (800+ watts) for about 12 minutes. The water will evaporate and get soaked by the rice. Leave the rice covered for about 2-3 minutes before you take the lid off.

How to cook Basmati rice in an instant pot/ rice cooker

In essence, cooking Basmati rice in an instant pot is the same as doing it in a rice cooker. Because both have the rice cooker function.

The key to using this appliance is just the rice to water ratio. As long as you use the right ratio, your rice will be cooked perfectly.

So, prepare the rice just like I mentioned above, then place the rice in the bowl of your instant pot or rice cooker. Add in the right water ratio to the rice. If you’re cooking 1 cup of rice, you have to add 1 ½ cup of water.

Put the bowl in the instant pot/ rice cooker, and set your appliance according to the product manual for cooking the rice.

Common questions on cooking Basmati rice

Can you cook Basmati rice in a pressure cooker?

Yes, you canBut it will be a waste of effort. Because it doesn’t take much time to cook this type of rice in a regular pot/ pan. For one cup of rice, you only need about 10 minutes to boil the rice and leave it to steam.

So if you use a pressure cooker, chances are you may get mushy rice or at least the soft textured rice if you cook for the same time. 

And the best cooked Basmati rice is when it’s cooked just right that it’s fluffy with a firm texture on the outside but soft on the inside. You can feel this when you chew the rice.

Can you cook Basmati rice in an oven?

Yes, you can cook Basmati rice in the oven. I know many people who do it. Though most of the time they use this method for cooking spiced rice such as Biryani rice or pilau rice

I personally find this method of cooking Basmati rice in the oven is a waste of energy.

Because it takes longer to cook in the oven. By the time you finish preparing the rice at the same time you preheat the oven, you will still need more time to bake the rice. Plus, I find it a bit hassle to do as I don’t have much control or an easy way to check.

However, should you have to cook Basmati rice in an oven, you can put the prepared rice as explained above in an ovenproof dish or tray or bowl. Ensure the dish is big enough to fit the amount of water you need. 

Pour in hot boiling water in the dish, give the rice and water a quick stir. Then cover the dish with aluminium foil and scrimp on all the sides to make sure it’s all sealed. Put the dish in the preheated oven (gas 4/ 180° C/ 325°F) and cook the Basmati rice in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice becomes fluffy.   

Can you cook Basmati rice without soaking?

Again, yes sure you can cook Basmati rice without pre-soaking it in water. The difference is that the cooked grains will not turn as long as you pre-soak them. Because there is no water content in the grains before you cook them.

But yes you can cook your Basmati rice without soaking it if you don’t have time. I often do that as well. Because life can be so busy that you easily forget to soak the rice. 

The only thing I will still keep reminding you is to wash and rinse the rice. Do so until the water runs clear. Then drain the rice with a strainer and place it in a cooking pot/ pan. Pour in the hot boiling water from the kettle according to the ratio needed.

Cook the rice with the lid on at medium heat. Once it reaches boiling point, take the lid off and continue cooking until all water evaporates. If you want, you can give it a quick stir just to ensure there is no rice grain sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

When the water evaporates, turn the heat down and put the lid back on. If possible, cover the inner side of the lid with a kitchen towel or a tea towel. The idea is to hold the steam water in the towel and prevent it from falling to the rice. Because you don’t really need extra moisture i.e. water in the rice.

Once the steam comes out of the pan, your rice is ready.

Can you cook Basmati rice in coconut milk?

Of course, you can. I often make Indonesian Nasi Uduk which is rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk. 

The only thing I must mention here is that if you want to cook Basmati rice in coconut milk, make sure you boil the coconut milk until the oil slightly separates from the milk and then cook the rice in it. Use the same ratio of coconut milk as the ratio of water to rice. 

Cook the rice until all the coconut milk evaporates then lower the heat and steam the rice with the lid on. Don’t forget to line the inner side of the lid with a kitchen towel or a tea towel. So that the water from the steam will not drop to the rice. 

The reason is that if you cook the rice straight away in raw coconut milk, your rice won’t taste nice and it will be just greasy and fatty rice. 

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