Indian Jeera Chawal

Cumin Seed Rice


Although we lived in India for three months, we rarely ventured out of the large state of Rajasthan, in the northwest of India. While rice is the staple grain in the south, wheat reigns in the north, so we ate most of our meals with chapatti, India’s version of a whole wheat tortilla. This actually proved to be a convenient accompaniment, since we made like locals and ate with our hands. Chapatti is a convenient tool for transferring saucy lentils from plate to mouth and also serves well for grabbing last bits of food and wiping your plate clean. We would get a craving for rice occasionally, though, especially with richer, saucier food. On those occasions, I’d make a pot of steaming hot basmati rice. With an abundance of spices on hand, I learned the local trick of sprucing up plain rice by adding fried whole cumin seeds. I learned to love the flavor; this simple addition transforms rice to a stand-alone dish.



·       1 T. peanut oil

·       1 t. whole cumin seeds

·       2 c. basmati rices

·       ¼ t. salt

·       2 ½ c. boiling water

·       2 T. ghee or butter



1.     Wash the rice in cold running water until it runs clear, and then drain.

2.     Heat the oil in a pot with tight-fitting lid, and in a smaller pot bring the water to a boil.

3.     Add cumin seeds and sauté for a few seconds, they should sizzle and become fragrant, but be careful not to overcook or burn them.

4.     Add rice and salt and stir to coat rice completely in oil.

5.     Pour in boiling water and ghee or butter. Stir.

6.     Cover the pot and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. When done, the grains should be tender and water totally absorbed.

7.     Serve hot with your favorite Indian dish, or as a stand-alone snack.