Nasi Kuning Recipe: Indonesian Yellow Rice In Fragrant Coconut Milk And Turmeric

Nasi Kuning is the Indonesian yellow rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk with turmeric. It’s a rice dish that often enjoyed on happy occasions and celebrations. But you can have this delicious vibrant looking rice any time.

A plate of Nasi Kuning - the Indonesian yellow rice surrounded with chicken, fritters, slices of omelettes and cucumber

Nasi Kuning

It’s the rice dish of celebration. It often appears on happy occasions to celebrate graduation, birthdays, newborn babies, weddings, work achievements, business launching, etc. So whenever one feels happy and likes to celebrate it, one would make (or buy) this Nasi Kuning to share with their family and friends.

the Indonesian yellow rice - Nasi Kuning

Traditionally, people mold the rice into a cone shape placed in a big food tray with all the side dishes and food trimmings surrounding the rice. And one will cut the tip of the cone as a part of their celebration. 

This way of serving Nasi Kuning is called Nasi Tumpeng.

Nowadays, this yellow rice is enjoyed anytime without any particular reason for celebrating something. 

Because the rice is so addictively yummy. It’s delicately fragranced with all those lovely tropical herbs. And the coconut milk makes the rice taste delicious.

Unique ingredients

You don’t need a million things to cook this celebratory yellow rice. You just need rice, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, salam leaves, lemongrass, turmeric, lime juice and salt

Generally, there are two types of rice in Indonesia, Beras Pulen and Beras Pera. The latter one has a similar texture as Basmati rice. The grains don’t stick together when you cook. Unless you cook it with extra water or for a longer time. This Beras Pera is more suitable for cooking rice dishes like Nasi Uduk. And when you’re outside Indonesia, Basmati rice is the best substitute for this rice.

The other rice type, Beras Pulen, has a sticky texture. It’s close to the texture of Thai rice. Hence, Thai rice is the ideal substitute when you’re away from Indonesia. And this rice is a good choice for Nasi Kuning. But if you can not obtain this rice, you can also use long-grain rice.

Of all the ingredients, I feel that Salam Leaves are probably the most challenging for you to obtain. Because you cannot easily get this type of herb outside Indonesia. At least,  I’ve never seen any grocery sellers selling Salam leaf in the UK. The only option is online shopping. 

If you can’t get Salam Leaf, I find the best substitute is the mix of curry leaves and bay leaves. For this recipe, 3 curry leaves and 1 bay leaf will be sufficient. 

But please don’t just use bay leaves. Because the fragrance will be totally different from how it should be. Bay leaves will remind you of Mediterranean food, not South-East Asian food.

The traditional way of making Indonesian yellow rice

The traditional way of making Nasi Kuning is by boiling and steaming the rice.

I must admit that this old-fashioned way can be time-consuming. But the end result is far superior quality. 

a photo collage of how to cook Nasi Kuning

So before you boil the rice in the coconut milk, firstly, you have to cook it with the herbs until it’s shiny and has some oil separated from the edges. 

At the same time, you also need to wash the rice and then steam it. This way, the rice grains won’t go hard when you cook them in the coconut milk

After you prepare the rice and coconut milk, cook them together until all the coconut milk evaporates. Ensure you keep stirring every now and again to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

Once the milk has evaporated, put the rice back into the steamer at medium-high heat and steam it until it’s fully cooked. It takes me about 15-20 minutes. 

Cooking Nasi Kuning in a rice cooker or instant pot

If you want, you can cook Nasi Kuning in a rice cooker or an Instant Pot. This method is, needless to say, very practical and doesn’t need much effort.

Wash the rice until the water runs clear, and drain it. Put the washed rice and the coconut milk with all the herbs in the bowl of your rice cooker or Instant Pot. Set your appliance to cook the rice according to its manual instructions. And let your kitchen gadget do the job.

A regular rice cooker takes approximately 25-35 minutes and 10-15 minutes for an Instant Pot to cook this yellow rice. And you don’t have to do much really.  

Storing matter

Like any rice dish, you can keep your nasi kuning in the fridge/ refrigerator for 4-5 days. Provided you store it in a tight-lidded food container.

You can also freeze it; it keeps well for about 6-8 weeks in the freezer. Just make sure you let it thaw in the fridge overnight before you serve or eat it. 

And reheat the rice by steaming it. This way, it will stay moist and fluffy.

Side Dishes To Have With Nasi Kuning

There is no limit to what you can enjoy alongside this delicious Nasi Kuning. You can have it with pretty much anything you fancy, really.

As a rule of thumb, you want to choose some dried stuff without too much gravy. Because any gravy may take away the flavor of your Nasi Kuning. 

Some ideas for you are Ayam Goreng Bumbu (spicy fried chicken), Ayam Penyet (smashed chicken with chili sambal), Perkedel Tempe (tempeh fritters), Perkedel Jagung (sweetcorn fritters), Sambal Goreng Terasi (chili with dried-shrimp paste), sliced egg omelets, some vegetables, etc.

More ideas for Indonesian food recipes

Don’t forget to check my other Indonesian food recipes that you may like. You can try lamb tongseng, sate ayam, lamb satay (sate kambing), or beef rendang

Thank you for reading this nasi kuning recipe. I hope you’re now planning to try it. It would be awesome if you could share your thoughts in the comments below (leave a reply).

Lastly, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Pinterest. To sneak a peek at what’s cooking in my kitchen. 

Take care and all the best.

Nasi Kuning Recipe

Nasi Kuning - the Indonesian yellow rice with some fritters, chicken, slices of egg omelettes, and cucumber
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5 from 1 vote

Nasi Kuning – Indonesian Yellow Rice In Fragrant Coconut Milk With Turmeric

Nasi Kuning is the Indonesian yellow rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk with turmeric. It's a rice dish that often enjoyed on happy occasions and celebrations. But you can have this delicious vibrant looking rice any time.
Author: Devy Dar
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course: Sundries
Cuisine: Indonesian
Servings: 5


  • Mixing bowl.s
  • Steamer.
  • Cooking pan with lid.


  • 1.1 pounds Jasmine rice or long-grain rice. Approximately 2½ cups.
  • 3 cups of coconut milk.
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves.
  • 2 salaam leaves see the note.
  • 1 lemongrass.
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder see the note.
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt or according to taste I use Himalayan salt.
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice.


  • Place the coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, salaam leaves (if using), lemongrass, and turmeric in a large cooking pot. Heat it to boil at moderate-high heat. Once the coconut milk reaches boiling point, leave it to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the milk is cooked and fragrant. You can see the milk looks shiny with a little bit of oil on the edges. 
  • Using the steamer on the cooker/ stove
  • At the same time, wash the rice until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and steam it for about 25 minutes until it is half cooked. Set aside.
  • Put the rice in the coconut milk and continue cooking until all the milk evaporates. 
  • Stir the rice every now and again to make sure it doesn’t stick at the bottom of the pot. 
  • Once the milk evaporates, transfer the rice to the steamer. And steam the rice for about 20-30 minutes until it’s fully cooked.
  • Serve your Nasi Kuning with all the sides that you like.
  • Using a rice cooker or an instant pot
  • Wash and drain the rice until the water runs clear.
  • Place the washed rice, the coconut milk and all the herbs in the bowl of your rice cooker/ instant pot. Set the cooker/ IP to cook the rice as per manual instruction. Typically, it takes about 25-35 minutes to cook in a rice cooker and approximately 10-15 minutes to do it in an instant pot. It can vary according to the appliance brand. 


  • Make sure you boil the coconut milk until it’s really cooked and looks shiny. The best is when a little bit of oil slightly separates from the edges. Or your rice won’t taste nice. 
  • If you don’t have salam leaf, you can substitute it with a mix of curry leaves and a bay leaf. For this recipe, 3 curry leaves with 1 bay leaf are more than enough.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 472kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 603mg | Fiber: 1g


Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.

Author: Devy Dar

Title: Food Writer, Recipe Developer, and Digital Content Creator.


Devy Dar founded So Yummy Recipes and Drizzling Flavor to share her love of food after exploring various cultures and cuisines for more than two decades. Her mission is to help others easily recreate traditional and non-traditional food with readily available ingredients. Her works have been featured in Reader’s Digest, Al Jazeera, MSN, Yahoo, Bon Appetit, and more. 

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  1. Sign me up for this! It looks so flavorful and such a great side dish with so many options!

    1. All I can say it’s worth a try. Do yourself favour by spoiling yourself with this one 🙂

  2. Cravings satisfied! Perfect pair with spicy fried chicken, Love it!

  3. This was so delicious. My family devoured it and sadly I had no leftovers. Thanks!

    1. I’m glad your family like it. Well, you can always make it again, right? 😉

    2. I’m glad your family like it. Well, you can always make it again, right? 😉

  4. Beth Sachs says:

    We eat a lot of rice and this was one of the nicest rice side dishes I’ve ever made. Delicious!

  5. Interesting recipe! I haven’t really tried Indonesian dishes. This one’s worth trying!

  6. Christina says:

    Can you elaborate how much lemongrass? It only says 1…

    1. Hi, this is for one stalk/ piece of lemongrass.

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