5 from 3 votes
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This is Pilau: a fragrant one-pot rice meal. The rice is cooked in a fragrant broth loaded with spices. The aroma is out of this world! Pilau is a popular Kenyan dish conspicuously present at Kenyan parties! It is also popular in other East African countries. Get your spices, some long grain rice and let’s make this East African delight!

Pilau in a pot - Rice Pilaf

You guys, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks around here! I have had so much on my plate that coming on here to type a post has been hard. But today I am determined to at least share a recipe with you guys because 1. I really enjoy cooking and inspiring others to do same and 2. it’s Black History month! And I won’t let this month past without sharing some delicious black cuisine like this Beef  Pilau.

Pilau is an East African one-pot rice dish. The rice is made with BIG and BOLD flavors and can be made with or without beef. You can use chicken too if you like.

Bowl of Beef Pilau next to a bowl of vegetables.

Pilau is to East Africa as Jollof Rice is to West Africa. Another name for Pilau is Pilaf.

To make your Pilau vegan, leave out the meat. With the quantity of spices in this rice, you won’t miss the taste meat adds. Serve your Pilau with some Kachumbari: Kenyan tomato and onion salad.

Pilau and Kachumbari on a plate

I am still trying to figure out how to be a mama of 4 with a newborn at home, a homeschooling mama, a wife plus a blogger and a YouTuber. One day I will solve this puzzle.

Enjoy, friends!

East African Pilau


5 from 3 votes
This is Pilau: a fragrant one-pot rice meal. The rice is cooked in a fragrant broth loaded with spices. The aroma is out of this world! Pilau is a popular Kenyan dish conspicuously present at Kenyan parties! It is also popular in other East African countries. Get your spices, some long grain rice and let's make this East African delight!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 2 cups long grain rice 370g
  • 1/2 pound beef - chopped into 1 inch pieces 1/4 kg
  • 2 large onions - chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves - peeled and crushed
  • Half inch ginger root - peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • Half teaspoon coriander powder
  • Half teaspoon cardamom powder
  • Half teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp of butter


  • Place butter in a pot on high heat to melt then add the chopped onions. Cook the onions in the butter while stirring from time to time until they are slightly brown (keep an eye on the onions so you do not burn them. It takes about 10 minutes for them to turn slightly brown as you stir from time to time).
  • Add the garlic and ginger to the onions and stir for about 1 minute so the spices bloom.
  • Add all the powdered spices and stir for about 1 minute. Add the beef then stir and let it cook until beef is brown and done. The beef will release some of its juices so I just let it cook in its own juices. However, if the liquid in your pot dries up fast then add half a cup of water and let it cook till done or just about done (it will cook further with the ice).
  • Add 3 cups of water to the pot. Wash the rice until the water runs clear (needs about 4 washes). Add to the pot. Add the salt, black pepper, bay leave and stir. Let everything come to a boil,
  • Once the pot comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and let it cook until the rice absorbs all the water. About 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Let the rice rest for about 4 minutes then fluff with a fork. Serve warm.


1. Other spices you could add to your Pilau include anise and cloves. You could crush them using a mortar. About half teaspoon of each of these spices will work.
2. You may have to adjust the amount of water you add depending on the kind of rice you use. I used regular long grain rice here. I find that 3 cups of water works well for 2 cups of rice. The key is to reduce your heat to low and let the rice cook slowly. If using another kind of rice, add liquid to the pot based on the cooking instructions on the packaging of the rice. Check out this post for instructions on how to get fluffy rice every time.
3. Long grain rice works best in this recipe.


Calories: 568kcal | Carbohydrates: 80g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 69mg | Sodium: 725mg | Potassium: 402mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 361IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 2mg

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: African, East African
Calories: 568
Tried this recipe?Mention @preciouscore or tag #PreciousCore!

Collage of food with text \"African Pilau Flavorful Rice and Beef Dinner.\"

About Precious

Welcome to my core! I am Precious Nkeih, the recipe developer and writer right here on my blog, Precious Core. My goal is to show you insanely delicious recipes you can replicate in your kitchen. And I love to tell stories too. Hope you find recipes here that will make cooking easier for you! Check me out on YouTube at YouTube.com/PreciousKitchen.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I keep my recipes from online organized in a folder. If I try a recipe, I’ll type a comment like “good” or “great” next to its title. Otherwise, I delete it.

    I made this a while ago and it was in my computer recipe file with a note, “try again”. I don’t remember why. Probably the meat was too chewy and not fault of recipe.

    So, I finally tried again last night. Perfection. Going for seconds is a high compliment from my son. For this recipe, he went for thirds. So, now I’m changing the comment from “try again” to “Great!”

    Thank you.

  2. Hi Precious. Thank you for making people aware that there is African food beyond jollof.
    However as a Kenyan woman over 50 who has been cooking pilau etc for decades and learnt from grand mothers. Pilau is never cooked with long grain rice or turmeric. Looking at the pictures it is the wrong consistency and colour.No whole bay leaf either. Aged basmati or pishori rice is best.Kachumbari is plain to refresh after rich flavours. Rub salt into the onion then rinse to avoid onion taste in mouth. Avocado is served sliced on side of plate.

  3. Hi Precious! Tried your recipe today and my whole family loved. Just wanted to let you know you have 2 onions listed twice in recipe list and although you have a bay leaf in instructions it’s not on the ingredients list that I see. Great recipe! Definite make again.