Cardamom Rice (Indian Style)

imageThis is a ridiculous recipe because it is literally SO EASY that it’s almost silly to write about.  And yet, here I go.  My husband and I love the white rice that accompanies meals at our favorite Indian restaurant and if we were Indian we would have been raised on the secret (and easy) way to prepare this deliciousness.  But, Irish and Jewish, we didn’t know what provided this rice with the extra burst of fragrant flavor, an almost flower-like aromatic among its moist grains…  and now I know 🙂

The key ingredient may be difficult to find at your local grocery store and, unfortunately, there is no substitute.  You need green cardamom seeds or pods.  I checked out all my local markets in a very diverse area of Queens and came up with zilch.  (Indian markets generally carry cardamom seeds).  Ground cardamom does not serve as an adequate substitute.  Cardamom seeds and pods are available for sale over the internet, but I was determined to get my hands on this ingredient locally in New York.  Finally I found two stores that carried them: Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods.  Good luck (but it’s worth the search).

One final note on ingredients: the quality of your rice really makes a difference.  I used the Lundberg brand of California White Basmati Rice (also a Whole Food purchase), but whatever brand you use, buy the best quality Basmati available to you.

Ingredients for 4 – 6 servings

  • 1 cup dry Basmati rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 – 2 tsp cardamom pods or seeds
  • season with salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Bring to a boil uncovered.
  3. Cover with lid, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, leave lid on, and steam for 10 minutes.
  5. Fluff with fork and thoroughly enjoy!

One Skillet Chicken with Carmelized Onions and Cardamom Rice

Full disclosure, the first time I made this recipe it didn’t come out right.  I used too much cardamom (because I made a foolish substitution) and the flavor was simply too intense.  The chicken was perfect, moist and fragrant, but the Christmas-spicy aroma of cardamom and cinnamon made my nose itch.  My husband said the dish caused him to sneeze.  He was exaggerating, but not by much.  Yet, and this is the important part, we ate all of the chicken and much of the rice– and we ate all that after I made the dish completely wrong!  Clearly this is a recipe with potential; it just needed a better cook.  I vow to try again, to follow the directions, and to master the dish.

This is time consuming, but the second half of the effort is largely hands off which makes it a good dish for company.  Prep ahead, start before the doorbell rings, and then entertain your guests while the chicken and rice simmer in the spices.

Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s wonderful cookbook Jerusalem.

Ingredients Serves about 4

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 whole chicken quartered or 2 1/4 lb chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in
  • 10 cardamom pods (Here is where I erred.  I couldn’t find cardamom pods– you can order them on the internet if necessary– and so I substituted ground cardamom.  This substitution can work, but you need only a small amount of ground cardamom , use no more than 1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, but I would suggest starting with just 1 tsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half (My husband thought there was too much cinnamon, but I didn’t.  Use your discretion and taste buds here.)
  • 1 2/3 cups basmati rice
  • 2 1/4 cup boiling water
  • approximately 1 1/2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • approximately 1/2 cup dill, chopped
  • approximately 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large skillet with available lid, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile, place the chicken in a mixing bowl and season with 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp pepper.  Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon.  Mix well.
  4. Set the onions aside, wipe out the pan if necessary, and add the chicken and spices. Sear the chicken for about 5 minutes per side (this part-cooks the chicken and is an important step). Mid step, start boiling the water in a separate pot.  Remove the seared chicken (it is okay to leave the spices and some of the oil in the pan) and set aside.
  5. Add the rice, caramelized onion, 1 tsp salt, and plenty of black pepper to the still hot pan.  Stir together and return the seared chicken to the pan, pressing it down into the rice mixture.
  6. Pour the boiling water over the rice and chicken, cover the pan, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. (Now you can start to relax and drink wine with your dinner guests.)
  7. Turn off heat, remove lid and cover pan with a clean dish towel, quickly replace lid to create a seal.  Leave dish undisturbed for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the herbs, stir, season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.