Culinary Arts

How to Cook the Perfect Basmati Rice

Written by MasterClass

Sep 12, 2018 • 3 min read

A steaming, fluffy pile of perfect basmati rice stirs the imagination and conjures faraway places. Basmati is an integral part of Indian cuisine; the word “basmati” literally means “fragrant” in Hindi, the most prominent language in India, where approximately 70% of the world’s basmati rice is grown.




What Is Basmati Rice?

Basmati is an aromatic long-grain white rice common in Indian cooking. Long-grain rice refers to rice that is about four times as long as it is wide. Basmati grains have a unique, nutty aroma and the rice has a light, airy texture when cooked. It is gluten-free.

Basmati rice is extraordinarily versatile and can be prepared with butter or olive oil and fresh herbs as an accompaniment or side dish to curries and braised meats, as well as pilaf dishes.

What Is the Difference Between Long, Medium, and Short Grain Rice?

There are some key differences between these three types of rice.

What Is the Difference Between Basmati Rice and Plain Rice?

Just like plain rice, basmati rice comes in both white and brown varieties. There are a few key differences between basmati rice and plain rice:

  • Basmati rice is lighter and fluffier than plain long-grain rice
  • It has a slightly nutty flavor and fragrant, rich aroma
  • Basmati rice has less starch than plain white rice

What Is the Best Basmati Rice to Water Ratio?

One cup basmati rice needs one and a half cups water.

How to Buy Basmati Rice

When buying basmati rice, look for:

  • A grain that is slightly off-white or golden, which means that it has been aged a few years.
  • If possible, buy basmati rice that is packaged in a cloth bag labeled “extra long-grain” rather than rice in a plastic bag.

How to Cook Basmati Rice in 4 Steps

Cooking basmati rice is easy and requires minimal preparation.

  1. Wash. Washing basmati before cooking is essential to ensure that the starch is removed. You do not need to wash the rice until the water runs clear, like sushi rice, but you should wash it a couple of times either in a fine-mesh sieve or filling a pot with cold water, stirring the rice with your hands, then draining and repeating.
  2. Soak. Soaking the rice can produce softer rice, though it is not necessary.
  3. Add water. Remember, for every cup of basmati rice, add a cup and a half of water.
  4. Cook. To cook rice, use a rice cooker or a heavy-bottomed pot over the stove.
Cooked basmati rice in wooden bowl


Stovetop White Basmati Rice Recipe

1 cup
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
Cook Time
30 min
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt (to taste)
  1. Rinse the rice using a fine-mesh sieve or strainer and cold running water. You can also try an alternative to this rinsing method: measure the rice into a heavy bottom pot and cover with cold running water. Stir, drain, and repeat.
  2. Soak the rice for up to an hour (optional).
  3. Pour water into the pot, add salt, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil on medium heat.
  4. Immediately turn down boiling water to a low simmer and let simmer, covered and undisturbed, for 15 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat and let steam for 5 minutes.
  6. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

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