Parsi cuisine is one of those cuisines that really need to be spoken about more. For, it is a warm and loving food culture, just like its people who make the world a happier place with their charming and witty demeanor. This Parsi Brown Rice is just that. It’s a humble rice dish, but is aromatic and perfectly golden with a faint sweet tinge of the caramelized onions in it.
Parsi Brown Rice, A Memoir
The first time I got a chance to get acquainted with the celebrated Parsi Brown Rice was in my cooking school. What a wonderful time that was – just cooking, learning new recipes, techniques, scoring well in tests and so much more. That was also the time when I majorly cooked in college, and occasionally at home.
I can also clearly recall our food and nutrition professor telling us that this specific rice preparation has a brown hue to it. This brown color is due to the caramelization of sugar and onions, and is a distinct feature of this dish.
Along with the Parsi Brown Rice, we were also taught the Dhansak, which makes for a wow combination along with this special rice. Since then, I had become a complete fan of this cuisine. So much that I wanted my family to have a taste of it.
I couldn’t make it possible for the longest time as my folks at home never ventured in any other cuisines. They were always contended with the regular South Indian, Goan, Maharashtrian and Punjabi fares. Until recently, where I actually got a chance to make this Parsi Brown Rice for them. And I’m glad, they liked it too.
You must’ve gotten an idea by now that this Parsi Brown Rice recipe too is an adaptation from my cooking school notes. Since I’m usually on the lookout for easier and simple cooking methods, I really consider this recipe too as a super easy and fuss-free method of making this dish.
While on the face of it you may think that the recipe is made with brown rice. But that is not the case. The recipe is so called due to the color of the rice being a light golden brown which happens due to the caramelization of sugar.
Basmati rice, whole spices, onions and sugar are mainly what you need to make this Parsi Brown Rice. The spices make this rice dish fragrant like its other counterparts Jeera Rice, Saffron Rice, Veg Pulao or Ghee Rice. However, the flavor is still different in this Brown Rice.
As mentioned earlier, the Parsi Brown Rice has sweet undertones due to the presence of sugar and onions in it. But instead of caramelizing the sugar separately, I do it with the onions itself. Saves on some more time.
The ultimate pairing is known to be of this Parsi Brown Rice and a comforting Dhansak. But I tried it with a Parsi dal as well, and that too was delightful. The mild dal goes really well with the sweet and aromatic rice.
If you are opting for this rice-dal combination, you can also add a potato roast or a spicy patio as an accompaniment to complete the meal.
Why This Recipe Works
This dish with solid Persian influences is subtle on your face, but within holds a complex flavor profile that intertwines perfectly with your palate. Just like other dishes of this versatile cuisine. You may not have tasted something so unique, yet simple, all at once.
Next, how can I not mention the ease with which this Parsi Brown Rice gets done. Whether you are a skilled cook or an amateur, there’s nothing so difficult in this recipe that you will end up racking your brains over.
You just have to make sure that the caramelization process is on point, because that is the USP of this dish. The onions should be nice and golden, and not burn!
It’s all and sundry friendly! Becomes a hit with both kids and adults alike because of its lovely flavors.
How to make Parsi Brown Rice
1. Measure all the ingredients required and keep ready for the rice.
2. Rinse 1 cup basmati rice 3 to 4 times in water.
3. Soak the basmati rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes.
4. After 20 to 30 minutes, drain all of the water from the rice and keep aside.
Make Parsi Brown Rice
5. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil in a thick-bottomed pot.
6. Add 1 inch cinnamon, 2 to 3 green cardamoms, 2 to 3 cloves and 2 to 3 whole black peppercorns. You can also add 1 tej patta.
7. Fry on low heat till the spices turn fragrant.
8. Add 1 medium-sized sliced onion – about ½ cup sliced onions.
9. Stir and sauté the onions till they turn translucent and are softened.
10. Now, add ½ teaspoon sugar.
11. Stir well to mix.
12. Continue frying the onions till they caramelize or get browned. The sugar will also caramelize. Keep stirring in between to ensure even browning.
13. When the onions are caramelized, quickly take out some onions and reserve for garnishing.
They will have a sweet taste and will be a little sticky due to the caramelization of the sugar as well.
14. Add the drained basmati rice.
15. Gently stir.
16. Pour 1.5 to 2 cups water or as required.
17. Stir and mix well.
18. Add salt as required and stir to mix.
19. Cover tightly, and cook till the rice is fully done and all the water is absorbed.
20. Check once or twice in between, when the rice is cooking.
21. If the water is all absorbed and the rice is not cooked completely, then add a few tablespoons of hot water.
22. Don’t stir as you don’t want to break the rice grains. Cover and cook the rice for 2 to 3 minutes more.
23. Lastly, gently fluff the rice and garnish with the reserved caramelized onions.
24. Serve Parsi Brown Rice with veg dhansak, patio or parsi dal.
Yes, of course you can cook this in an Instant Pot.
The best thing to do is to have it immediately and I really won’t suggest you to store it. If you have leftovers, refrigerate. But make sure to finish it in a day.
You could use any other variety of fragrant rice that is non-sticky or long grained rice. You can also use brown rice. In this case, it will more time to cook. Adjust the quantity of water too accordingly.
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Parsi Brown Rice
This Parsi Brown Rice is a flavorful rice dish made with basmati rice, whole spices, sugar and onions. It is fragrant and perfectly golden with a faint sweet tinge of the caramelized onions in it.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Soaking Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Soak the basmati rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes. After 20 to 30 minutes, drain the water from the soaked rice. Set the rice aside.
Heat oil or ghee in a thick bottomed pot. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and black pepper. You can also add 1 tej patta. Fry the whole spices on a low heat till they get fragrant.
Add the sliced onions. Stir and fry the onions till they get translucent and are softened.
Now add sugar and stir. Continue frying the onions till they caramelize or get browned.
The sugar will also caramelize. Keep on stirring in between to ensure even browning.
- When the onions have got browned, quickly remove some onions for garnishing. They will have sweet taste and will be a little sticky due to the caramelization of sugar.
Add the rice and gently stir. Pour 1.5 to 2 cups water or as required. Add salt and stir.
Cover tightly and let the rice cook till done and all the water is absorbed.
Check once or twice when the rice is cooking.
If the water is all absorbed and the rice is not cooked completely, then add a few tablespoons of hot water.
Don’t stir as you don’t want to break the rice grains. Cover and cook the rice for 2 to 3 minutes more.
Serve Parsi Brown Rice garnished with the fried onions with dhansak, patio or dal.
- You can make this recipe with any variety of non-sticky rice or even long grained rice.
- If making the recipe with brown rice, you will need to add more water.
- Easily scale the recipe to halve or double it.
Parsi Brown Rice
Amount Per Serving
Calories 289 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Vitamin A 2IU0%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 3mg4%
Vitamin E 2mg13%
Vitamin K 1µg1%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 12µg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
This Parsi Brown Rice recipe post from the blog archives first published in July 2013 has been republished and updated on 3 August 2022.