Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world's population. Known for its versatility, rice can be made into a myriad of dishes, pairing beautifully with meats, vegetables, and sauces. While plain white rice is delicious in its own right, it can get boring after a while. That's where flavored rice dishes come in! One such example is cumin powder rice, an aromatic and tasty rice dish popular in India.
Cumin powder, also known as ground cumin or jeera powder, adds a lovely depth of flavor and makes rice far more interesting. The earthy, nutty, and slightly peppery taste of cumin elevates this simple rice to new heights. Best of all, cumin powder rice is incredibly easy to make at home with minimal ingredients and equipment.
What is Cumin Powder Rice?
Cumin powder rice, known as jeera rice in India, is a rice dish flavored with ground cumin seeds. It is made by cooking rice - usually basmati rice - with cumin powder added for aroma and taste.
The most important ingredient is obviously cumin powder, made from ground cumin seeds. Cumin imparts a warm, earthy flavor with just a hint of pepperiness. When dry roasted and ground into a fine powder, these flavors intensify beautifully.
Cumin powder rice is the perfect accompaniment to Indian curries and stews. The nutty cumin balances out the richness of saucy dishes. It also pairs well with simply cooked meats and vegetables.
Benefits of Cumin Powder Rice
There are several benefits to cooking rice with cumin powder:
- Adds flavor - Plain rice can be bland, so cumin powder adds much-needed flavor and aroma.
- Easy to digest - According to Ayurvedic practices, cumin aids digestion. The spices help stimulate digestive enzymes.
- Nutritious - Rice delivers carbs, while cumin provides antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals like iron.
- Shelf life - Cumin powder rice stays fresh for 3-5 days in the fridge, longer than plain rice which can spoil faster.
- Versatile - Cumin rice goes well with curries, meats, vegetables, yogurt raitas, and more!
- Satisfying - The aroma of cumin is warming and appetizing. Cumin powder rice is comforting and very satisfying.
So in addition to making rice more interesting, cumin powder has some great health benefits too!
Cumin Powder vs. Cumin Seeds
Cumin powder is made from ground cumin seeds, so the flavor is ultimately the same. However, there are some differences in how they are used:
- Cumin powder has a more uniform flavor since the seeds are ground. Whole cumin seeds have varying intensities of flavor from seed to seed.
- Cumin powder mixes more easily into rice, coating the grains evenly. The tiny size disperses better than the seeds.
- Powder form is preferable for dishes like rice where you want it blended in, instead of getting random whole seeds in each bite.
- Cumin seeds add textural contrast, so they are often sprinkled on top of dishes. Use powder when you don't want the crunch.
- Cumin seeds are toasted before being used to enhance flavor. Cumin powder is already toasted and then ground, so no need to toast it again.
While whole cumin seeds work for rice too, we recommend ground cumin powder for this particular dish. The flavor permeates the rice better!
Tips for Making Cumin Powder Rice
Making delicious cumin rice is easy, but there are some tips to ensure perfect fluffy grains:
- Use basmati or long-grain rice - The long slender grains yield light, fluffy rice. Short or medium-grain rice may get sticky.
- Wash the rice - Washing removes excess starch that causes rice grains to clump together. Run rice under water in a strainer until the water runs clear.
- Use a heavy-bottomed pan - This allows the rice to cook evenly. Nonstick pans work well too. Avoid thin, lightweight pans that can burn the rice.
- Soak rice beforehand (optional) - Soaking rice for 15-30 minutes softens the grains so they cook faster and more evenly. But it's fine to skip this step.
- Use the right rice-to-water ratio - Generally 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. But see recipe instructions, as the exact ratio depends on the cooking method.
- Avoid lifting the lid while the rice is cooking. Lifting the lid releases steam and can make rice mushy.
- Fluff with a fork once done cooking. This prevents grains from clumping, and yields light, fluffy rice.
Follow these tips and you will be guaranteed deliciously fluffy cumin rice every time!
One of the best parts of cumin powder rice is that the ingredient list couldn't be simpler. Here is what you will need:
- Rice - Use basmati rice or any long-grain variety. About 1 cup of dried rice serves 3-4 people.
- Water - Use twice as much water as rice, so for 1 cup of rice use 2 cups water. This ensures the rice cooks fully.
- Oil - A neutral cooking oil like vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil. Provides richness and prevents rice grains from sticking.
- Ground cumin - 1-2 teaspoons of ground cumin powder provides plenty of flavor. Adjust to your taste preferences.
- Salt - A pinch to a teaspoon, to season and balance flavors. Go easy as cumin can be salty.
That's it - just rice, water, oil, cumin powder, and salt! For bonus flavor, you can add whole spices like cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cloves, or cumin seeds. Entirely optional though.
How to Make Cumin Powder Rice
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make easy and delicious cumin rice at home:
1. Heat oil in a saucepan
Add 1-2 tbsp oil to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat until shimmering.
2. Add cumin powder
Once the oil is hot, add the cumin powder. Fry for 30 seconds to release flavor.
3. Add rice
Next, add the dried rice and stir to coat grains with oil and cumin. Cook for 1 minute.
4. Add water and salt
Pour in the water and add a pinch of salt. Stir everything together.
5. Boil then reduce the heat
Bring the rice to a rolling boil over high heat. Then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer.
6. Cook covered for 15 minutes
Let the rice cook on low heat for 15 minutes, with the lid on the entire time.
7. Remove from heat and rest
After 15 minutes, remove the pan from heat. Let rice rest, covered, for 5 more minutes.
8. Fluff and serve
Uncover, fluff rice with a fork, and serve! Enjoy the aromatic cumin rice.
That's all it takes to make a batch of cumin powder rice at home. The hands-on cooking time is under 10 minutes - most of the time is inactive simmering and resting.
Once you master the easy basic cumin rice recipe, there are lots of flavor variations you can try:
- For jeera pulao, use ghee instead of vegetable oil for a richer flavor. Also, add whole cumin seeds and other whole spices.
- For vegetable cumin rice, stir in some frozen peas in the last 2 minutes of cooking.
- For turmeric cumin rice, add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder along with the cumin, for beautiful golden-hued rice.
- For coconut cumin rice, use coconut oil for a richer flavor. Stir in some shredded coconut at the end.
- For lemon cumin rice, add 2 tsp lemon juice just before serving. The tangy citrus cuts through the earthy cumin.
- For coriander cumin rice, scatter some chopped cilantro on top. Fresh herb flavor pairs perfectly with cumin.
Get creative with mix-ins and spices! The basic cumin rice recipe is your canvas for endless variations.
While we use the stovetop to make cumin rice, you can easily adapt the recipe for other cooking appliances:
- Rice cooker - Use the standard 1:2 rice-to-water ratio. Pour rice, water, and seasonings into the rice cooker pot. Press cook and it will automatically turn off once done.
- Instant Pot - Use a 1:1 rice-to-water ratio, as the pressure cooking method reduces evaporation. Cook for 4 minutes then natural release for 10 minutes.
- Slow cooker - Combine 2 cups rice, 4 cups water, oil, cumin, and salt in the stoneware insert. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Then let stand 10 minutes before fluffing.
- Oven - Bake in a covered casserole dish at 375F for about 30 minutes. Same ratio of 1 cup rice to 2 cups water.
The cooking time may vary slightly depending on the appliance, but the method remains the same. Cumin rice turns out tasty no matter what!
Cumin rice is extremely versatile and pairs well with a variety of dishes:
- Complement spicy curries like chana masala, dal makhani, or chicken tikka masala.
- Serve as a bed for saucy stir fries with chicken, tofu, or veggies.
- Stuff into peppers, tomatoes, or squash along with beans, corn, and cheese for stuffed veggie bakes.
- Toss with nuts, dried fruits, and greens for rice bowls or salad.
- Enjoy cumin rice as a simple side to lean proteins like grilled fish, chicken, or steak.
- Top with a fried egg for an easy rice bowl meal.
- For breakfast, stir in some veggies and pack into burrito wraps with salsa and cheese.
With its warm, earthy aroma and pleasant nuttiness, cumin rice pairs particularly well with Indian foods. But it can go with just about anything!
Like plain rice, cumin rice is best eaten fresh the day it is made. But you can store leftovers in the fridge:
- Allow rice to cool completely before packing it into an airtight container.
- Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. The rice will dry out as it keeps.
- Reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals until hot, adding a splash of water to refresh.
- Or reheat in a saucepan over medium-low heat with a bit of water or oil, stirring frequently.
- You can also use leftover cumin rice to make fried rice. Just stir-fry with eggs, peas, carrots, and soy sauce.
With proper storage, cumin powder rice keeps well for several days in the fridge. The cumin flavor will start to fade over time.
Can I use ground coriander instead of cumin?
You could, but the flavor will be quite different. Coriander is citrusy and slightly sweet versus cumin's warm, earthy flavor. Use ground coriander if you want a rice with an Indian profile but don't like cumin.
Is cumin rice gluten free?
Yes, cumin rice made according to our recipe contains no gluten. Be sure to use certified gluten-free rice and double-check your cumin powder brand. As long as you avoid wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and malt, cumin rice can be gluten-free.
Should I use white or brown rice?
Either works! White rice yields soft, fluffy grains. Brown rice takes a little longer to cook but provides more nutrients. We recommend long-grain brown basmati rice for the most flavor.
Can I use a rice cooker or Instant Pot?
Absolutely! See the cooking methods above for the rice cooker and Instant Pot instructions. The same ingredients and method apply, just adjust the cooking time and rice-to-water ratio as needed.
How long does cumin rice last in the fridge?
Properly stored in an airtight container, cumin rice will be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. The flavor will start to fade with time. Reheat with a bit of water or oil to refresh.
Is cumin rice vegan?
It can be! Simply swap out the oil for vegan oil like avocado, coconut, or olive oil. Our recipe is vegan by default. But if cooked in ghee (clarified butter), it would no longer be vegan.
Cumin powder rice beautifully showcases how just a simple addition like ground cumin can utterly transform an everyday food like rice.
This dish is truly greater than the sum of its parts. With its appetizing nutty aroma and earthy flavor, cumin rice is sure to become a staple at your dinner table.
Cumin Powder Rice
- 1 cup rice
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin powder and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add rice and stir to coat with oil and cumin. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add water and salt. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 more minutes.
- Fluff rice with a fork before serving. Enjoy!