Yellow Basmati Rice

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This fragrant and flavorful yellow basmati rice is studded with plump sweet raisins and roasted cashews for a a beautiful side dish for all your curries, kabobs, and so much more.

A serving bowl of yellow rice with raisins and cashews with a serving spoon in it.

If you have been on social media for a while, you would know about the time when everyone went crazy for butter chicken. This creamy, dreamy Indian curry took social media by storm – and everyone at this point has tried it.

And while butter chicken is great – there is so much more to Indian cuisine than that. it’s a wonderful, rich, and varied cuisine that is so worth exploring!

And I truly believe that a great basmati side dish like this yellow basmati rice is the perfect buddy to bring along on your Indian food adventures. It is an easy and flavorful side dish that goes perfectly well with all types of Indian curries (including my fave chicken and potato curry), as well as your favorite kabobs or roasted or grilled meats. Not to mention your butter chicken, of course 😉

If you’re used to eating plain rice with your curries, I guarantee this delicious recipe will bring them to new heights!

Why is it called “Yellow Rice”?

Yellow basmati rice gets its name from the yellow color which comes from the use of ground turmeric – an earthy, aromatic spice used in South Asia. It’s used both in its fresh root form and as a dried, powdered spice.

a dish of yellow basmati rice in a spoon

Turmeric is essential in creating the complex flavor profiles that Indian cuisine is famous for. It’s a key ingredient in spice blends like garam masala and curry powder. But that’s not all. This spice is also famous for its role in traditional medicine for thousands of years.

Health benefits of Turmeric

Beyond the kitchen, turmeric holds a special place in Ayurveda, India’s ancient system of medicine. It’s been used for over 4,000 years for its medicinal properties, which include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiseptic qualities. Ayurvedic texts recommend turmeric for a variety of conditions, from colds and digestion issues to wounds and skin conditions.

Turmeric’s healing properties are largely attributed to curcumin, the compound that gives the spice its characteristic color. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that can combat oxidative stress and inflammation, two factors linked to numerous chronic diseases.

Yellow Rice Variations

Yellow rice, with its vibrant color, is a popular dish around the world, with each country adding its own special touch.

yellow basmati rice served in a plate with a curry

In addition to Indian yellow rice, variations from around the world include

  • Indonesian versions made with turmeric and coconut milk.
  • Spanish Arroz Amarillo, colored with saffron (the base for paella and other Spanish dishes)
  • Middle Eastern saffron rice
  • Caribbean yellow rice which gets its yellow color from annatto seed
  • South African geerlys colored with turmeric, and sometimes flavored with sugar or cinnamon.
  • Cuban Azzoz Amarillo which gets its color from annatto oil and may include peas or olives.

This yellow rice recipe is inspired by Indian cuisine, but goes well with many Mediterranean mains as well, like simple marinated grilled chicken breasts. It is a super easy recipe that requires minimal cooking time and turns out great!

Ingredient Notes

ingredients used to make yellow basmati rice

Olive oil

Olive oil is a healthy choice for sautéing the onion and toasting the rice, but you can also use coconut oil, any vegetable oil, or ghee.

Yellow Onion

The onion adds sweetness and depth to the yellow basmati rice. Red onion can be used as a substitute, though it have a slightly different taste.

Basmati Rice

For a fluffy yellow rice, white basmati rice is the best choice. This is a long grain rice used in Indian cuisine. You can also use Jasmine rice, but it has a different texture and scent.

Brown rice, including brown basmati rice, takes quite a bit longer to cook it. You can use it, but follow the package instructions and add the raisins about 15 minutes before the end of cooking.

Curry Powder

Curry powder is a Westernized version of traditional Indian blends of aromatic spices known as masalas. A little curry powder adds a warm, complex, and toasty flavor to your yellow basmati rice, so that it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of turmeric. One easy-to-find curry powder that I enjoy is McCormick’s.

There are also many homemade versions of curry powder that you can find online, using spices you may already have on hand. Grinding whole spices will give you a whole new level of flavor.


Gives the rice its characteristic yellow color and earthy flavor. You can also use a pinch of saffron as an alternative for the yellow color, or simply double the curry powder, which contains turmeric.

Vegetable or Chicken Broth

Both vegetable and chicken stock or broth work great in this recipe. If you are making this Indian yellow rice to accompany your vegetarian meals, you can use vegetable broth in this.

You can also just use water as the liquid, although broth is more flavorful!

Golden or Sultana Raisins

Raisins add little pops of sweetness and a nice texture. You can also use dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots as alternatives. Adding them with the liquid and cooking them with the rice makes them plump and tender.


Use roasted unsalted cashews for a nutty flavor and crunchy texture in your yellow basmati rice.

Cilantro or Parsley

Add fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish. If cilantro’s strong flavor isn’t to your liking, parsley is a milder alternative.

Don’t forget to watch the video!

Most of my recipes include a short step-by-step video tutorial. Just scroll down to the recipe card, or use the “Jump to Video” button at the top of the post!

Step by Step Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized pot, warm up the olive oil on medium heat. Toss in the onion and sauté until it becomes soft, which should take roughly 3 to 4 minutes.
onions being cooked in a pot
  1. Next, mix in the basmati rice, curry powder, turmeric, and salt, and sauté the rice for about 1 to 2 minutes, making sure to stir it often.
basmati rice, curry powder, turmeric, and salt added to the pot
yellow toasted rice in the pot
  1. Pour in the broth and add the raisins. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
broth and raisins added to the pot
  1. Cover the pot and let it cook for about 12 minutes (check the package), or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
rice being cooked with the lid on
  1. Allow the rice to sit covered for 5 minutes. Then, fold in the cashews and, if using, cilantro or parsley, fluffing it all together with a fork.
cashews and cilantro added to the rice pot

This is such an easy side dish and is perfect for soaking up your favorite curries.

fluffed up cooked rice in a pot

Recipe Tips

  • Before cooking, rinse your rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This removes excess starch and ensures you don’t end up with mushy rice.
  • Generally, the water-to-rice ratio is crucial. A common ratio is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice, but this can vary depending on the rice type. Basmati rice usually does well with a little less water to keep the grains separate and fluffy.
yellow rice served in a plate with a curry
  • If you’re cooking your rice in water instead of broth, add spices like bay leaves, cardamom pods, or cinnamon stick to the cooking water for extra flavor.
  • Resist the urge to stir the rice while it’s cooking. Stirring can release more starch and make the rice gummy.
  • Whether you’re cooking in an Instant Pot, rice cooker, or a pot on the stove, keeping the lid on during cooking is crucial. It traps steam and ensures even cooking.

Storage Instructions

To properly store cooked yellow basmati rice, let it cool down to room temperature first, but avoid leaving it out for more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth.

a dish of yellow basmati rice in a dish with a spoon in it

Once cooled, transfer the rice into an airtight container to keep it from drying out and absorbing unwanted odors from the refrigerator. The rice can be refrigerated safely for up to five days. If you need to store it for a longer period, place the rice in a freezer-safe airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag; it will keep for up to two months when frozen.

Tell me what you think!

If you try this recipe, l’d be so grateful if you’d leave a comment and a rating in the recipe card. I love to hear your feedback, and your tips can help other readers too!

A bowl of yellow rice with raisins and cashews in a bowl with a wooden spoon showing a spoonful.

Yellow Basmati Rice

This fragrant and flavorful yellow basmati rice is studded with plump sweet raisins and roasted cashews for a a beautiful side dish for all your curries, kabobs, and so much more.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Side, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 366kcal
Author: Ann Otis


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion finely diced
  • 1 cup basmati rice rinsed and drained
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¾ cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • ½ cup golden or sultana raisins
  • ½ cup roasted unsalted cashews coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley optional


  • In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the basmati rice, curry powder, turmeric, and salt and toast the rice for about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in the broth and raisins. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook 15 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
  • Let the rice stand for 5 minutes. Add the cashews and optional cilantro or parsley and stir with the fork to combine.



Calories: 366kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 302mg | Potassium: 337mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 2mg
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