Turmeric Chicken Pilaf

by Mar 14, 2024

This one-pot chicken and rice dinner is perfect for weeknights, as it comes together in about half an hour. Based on our old family favorite from the daycare-years with Nahid and Saed, “Yellow Chicken.” I learned many things from that loving couple—how to appreciate the individual temperaments of children, how to celebrate, and how a little turmeric makes plain ingredients something special. edited from 2016



Turmeric Chicken Pilaf

adapted from the original by Asha Gomez, Food and Wine, September 2015

Servings 4 people


  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 3 star anise points
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with 1 tsp salt
  • teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces Use anywhere from 8-ounces to 1.5 pounds of chicken depending on who's coming for dinner
  • 1 15-ounce can chicken broth + water to equal 2¼ cups
  • cups basmati rice (uncooked)
  • ½ fresh lemon

Serving Accompaniments

  • golden raisins
  • cashews, almonds, or pistachios
  • cilantro leaves
  • additional lemon wedges


  1. In large, deep saucepan (w/lid, you'll need that later) heat the ghee over medium heat then add onion, cardamom pods, and star anise points. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic-salt mash and turmeric, cook until fragrant, 2 minutes.

  2. Add the chicken and cook until browned and coated with the aromatics, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the broth and bring to boil. Stir in the rice and return to boil, then cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook over low heat until broth is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Check the bottom layer with a fork and if you want to brown it, increase heat to medium for a few additional minutes—keep an eye on things as you don't want to burn it at this point. Remove from heat and let steam, covered, for an additional 15 minutes.

  4. Fluff the pilaf with a fork and keep an eye out for the cardamom and star anise, pick them out and discard them. Spritz with fresh lemon juice. Garnish with golden raisins, nuts, and cilantro, or set out all at the table with additional lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes / Tips

  • The lemon really makes this dish.  Go ahead and serve everyone a wedge.
  • Great served with a simple sauté of summer squash, peas, chives and tarragon



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