Vegetable Pulao (Indian Rice & Vegetables) with Tomato Raita ♥

Vegetable Pulao (Indian Rice & Vegetables) with Tomato Raita ♥ Fresh & Flexible. Perfect for Meatless Monday. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian. Gluten Free.
A traditional Indian rice dish made with a mix of on-hand vegetables and served with a tomato-yogurt sauce called raita. It starts off on the stove, then finishes in the microwave.

Fresh & Flexible. A Great Way to Use Up Vegetables. Perfect for Meatless Monday. Year-Round Kitchen Staple. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian. Naturally Gluten Free.

Breaking the Rules.

Lots of rule-breaking here. In order to adhere to The Starch Rule, I managed to break The Leftover Rule and yes, sadly, The Chili Rule.
  • The Starch Rule = Reverse the proportion of starch:vegetables from the typical 4:1 to 1:4.
  • The Leftover Rule = Never ever-ever-ever end up with more leftovers than started off with.
  • The Chili Rule = Just because the cook's unaccustomed to (and wary about) prolific use of chilies doesn't mean she shouldn't just seize the day and figure them out, especially when a delicious-looking recipe calls for a bunch!

All that said, this Vegetable Pulao – cooked first on the stove and then finished in the microwave – is an absolute winner, a complete keeper. I especially loved the hot rice and vegetables paired with the cool tomato/yogurt sauce called raita.

What, Exactly, Is Pulao?

Many thanks to the effervescent Shammi from Food, in the Main for her pulao inspiration and coaching! Here's what she taught and I was happy to learn!

  • The word pulao (also spelled pilau, pilao, pilaf, etc) is derived from a Sanskrit word, pilaaka. Sanskrit is the Indian equivalent of Latin, being basically a dead language kept alive and spoken by a determined few and taught in some schools.
  • Pilaaka means bowl of rice.
  • Pulao is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, that is, a short pu (as in pull) followed by lau (pretty much as in loud).
  • Adding one green chile, de-seeded and chopped very fine, or slit 3/4 of the way to the stem end, will give a bit of heat to the pulao without killing your tastebuds with spiciness.

And my friend Nupur from One Hot Stove added this: "Pulao is pronounced exactly as you think poo-lou and the word simply means flavored rice. Pulao is the same as pilaf as it is known in Middle Eastern cuisine. Pulaos can contain a wide variety of vegetables and meats. Some typical pulaos are vegetable pulao, egg pulao and meatball pulao. It can be served as an entree or a side dish."

Pulao (say it twice now, accent on the second syllable!) is a terrific way to use up bits of leftover vegetables. This vegetable version made for a very satisfying vegetarian supper.

Just updated. First published way back in 2005!


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes a generous 4 cups rice plus 3/4 cup raita

1/2 cup (100g) basmati rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Hot water to cover

1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 small red chile, seeds and membranes removed, cut in thin rings
1/2 small green chile, seeds and membranes removed, minced
4 cups (about 400g) chopped fresh vegetables (here, zucchini, cauliflower, radish, celery)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
Sprinkle of cayenne

Soaked Rice, Drained
2-1/4 cups water
Salt to taste

1 small tomato
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Garam masala to taste
Salt to taste

Tomato Raita, alongside
Chopped cilantro, tomato & avocado

RICE Rinse the rice for a minute or two under running water through a fine-meshed strainer. In a large microwave safe bowl, soak the rice, salt and hot water. Let rest for about 30 minutes.

VEGETABLES Prep all the ingredients before beginning to cook. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil on medium high until shimmery. Stir in the garlic, ginger and chiles; cook for about 5 minutes, just until beginning to soften. Stir in the 4 cups vegetables, cumin, garam masala and cayenne. Cook for about 5 minutes, just until heated through and beginning to cook.

COMBINE Drain the rice, then return to the microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the partially cooked Vegetables and water. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Taste after 15 minutes and add salt to taste.

TOMATO RAITA While the rice and vegetables cook, mix the raita ingredients in a mini food processor. No food processor? Just grate the tomato (or even chop it) into the yogurt and season.

Could you use leftover cooked rice? Absolutely. Just cook the vegetables completely in the skillet (no need to use the microwave) and then stir in about 1-3/4 cups cooked rice.

Could you use brown rice? I think so. Brown rice does take longer to cook. I'd start it off by itself in the microwave for 10 or 15 minutes before stirring in the vegetables from the skillet. Or use cooked brown rice, either Oven-Baked Brown Rice or Perfect Stovetop Brown Rice.

This is such a good way to use up leftover cooked vegetables or odd bits of random vegetables in the vegetable bin.

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Looking for healthy new ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of super-organized quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables. Join "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg to explore the exciting world of common and not-so-common vegetables, seasonal to staples, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, simple to special.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2005 & 2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I just tried your roasted kale recipe and loved it. Look forward to trying out more, I already see so much I'd like to try.
    Minor correction: The language is Marathi but the state is Maharashtra, though the cuisine could be called Maharashtrian or Marathi :)


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna