Matar Pulao (Peas Pulao) – 20-Minute Prep!
Matar Pulao (Green Peas Pulao) is an everyday rice dish that pairs will curries, kababs, and much more. This recipe takes 20 minutes of initial prep but it’s tasty enough to serve as a main dish for guests. Includes Stovetop and Instant Pot instructions and promises fluffy rice. Tested to perfection!
Last winter’s Pakistan trip was not a business trip. It was more like a blur between minor ailments and wedding festivities, at times overlapping.
So I find it interesting that I have so many food-forward memories from it. Details I gathered passively, half-heartedly, are now proving useful for the blog.
I wasn’t in research mode when trying Manchurian or sipping Kashmiri Chai or taking note of the seasonal winter produce. I wasn’t thinking much while I ravenously ate my aunt’s Matar Pulao late one night, except “Why is this Matar Pulao better than any I’ve had in America“? (I later discovered their fresh, hand-shelled peas beat our frozen ones any day).
Little did I know that almost a year later, that particular pulao would strike my memory and prompt me to call my aunt for the recipe. And her tips would help me level up my Matar Pulao and present it to you today.
My Aunt’s Matar Pulao Tips
Straight from the source:
- Black cardamom and Cinnamon are her essential whole spices. As always, the whole spices have to bloom in the hot oil.
- Unlike Chicken Pulao, which you wouldn’t dare clutter with ground spices, Matar Pulao takes well to a light sprinkle of of garam masala and black pepper.
- Once you add the peas, try not to sauté too long or they’ll lose their vibrant color.
- If you can find them (I can’t), try to use fresh peas. I settle for the best quality frozen peas.
Matar Pulao (Peas Pulao)
Confession: I used to sprinkle peas and cumin seeds in with my plain rice and call that Matar Pulao. But after hearing from so many readers that they use my Chana Pulao recipe to make Matar Pulao, I realized I could do better.
Matar Pulao Ingredients
Matar Pulao requires simple ingredients:
- Green Peas: I use frozen regular peas but petite peas would also work. You don’t need to completely thaw them, but it helps set them out while you’re making the recipe so they’re not icy and clumpy.
- Whole spices: You’ll need coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black cardamom, bay leaf, and a cinnamon stick. As always, if you’re missing a spice or two, free to omit.
- Onion: I’ve used yellow onion here but red onion works just as well.
- Ghee & oil: As usual, I love blending both for a balance of flavor and fluidity. You can use butter in place of ghee or replace with oil to keep it dairy-free.
- Tomatoes: I use Roma for the lower water content. While I know many people prefer pulao without tomatoes, I included them here because I love how the tomatoes subtly complement the peas. Plus, my aunt adds them too. Feel free to omit if you don’t care to add them.
- Basmati Rice: I use Royal’s Chef’s Secret, aged, long-grain basmati rice. Any aged, long-grained basmati will work.
- Green chili peppers: For a little kick. Omit the pepper if you’d like, especially if you’re serving with something spicy.
- Black Pepper & Garam Masala Powder: The amount I’ve used is not strong or distracting, but you can use less or omit if you prefer not to use.
- Cilantro: Optional, for a pleasant garnish.
Variation Tip: You could very well use this recipe to make mixed vegetable pulao with carrots, green beans, corn, or other small-diced vegetables.
How to make Matar Pulao
You can make this in an Instant Pot, Stovetop, and even a rice cooker.
- Wash and soak rice before you start cooking so it has time to swell.
- Brown onions. In all pulaos, the onions will deepen the flavor and determine the color of your rice. It’s important to be patient with them, stir frequently, and deglaze the pan to help them brown evenly. You also don’t want to brown them too much before adding the garlic and ginger because they’ll continue to brown until you add the acidic ingredients like tomatoes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and green chili pepper and sauté until the oil starts to separate.
- Add the peas and water and bring to a boil.
- Drain the rice well so you’re not adding any excess water. Add to the boiling water.
- Simmer: Pulao is generally made by simmering the rice until most of the water has absorbed or evaporated, and then turning the heat down for a final steam, or dum. The key here is to keep the heat on medium or medium-high so that it simmers, but doesn’t aggressively boil.
- Partially cover with lid: This gives the long grains time to soak up the liquid as it cooks off. If water hasn’t absorbed in the time indicated, then completely uncover to allow quicker evaporation.
- Tip: While you’re bringing everything back up to a boil, this is a good time to do a final salt test, as the rice has begun to take up some of the salt.
- Steam the rice so it cooks gently and evenly to doneness.
- Garnish with cilantro and dig in to a taste of nostalgia.
How to Cook the Rice Perfectly
Here are a few tips to ensure perfect rice, every time.
Tip 1: Know your rice
- Rice to water ratio: To cook 1 cup of basmati rice, most people use anywhere between 1.5 to 2 cups of water. 1.5 cups of my rice (Royal Chef’s Secret Extra Long) needs 3 cups to cook on the stovetop, but for this recipe I use 2 3/4 cups to accomodate for the extra moisture from the other ingredients.
- If you cook rice often, use your usual ratio. So if you normally use 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of rice, use 2 1/4 cup broth for 1.5 cups of rice.
Tip 2: Do Not Disturb
- Avoid stirring while cooking: Once the rice starts cooking, just let it be. Stirring runs the risk of breaking the rice kernels and interfering with the buildup of heat.
- Let it rest even after steaming: Keep the lid on even after you’ve turned off the heat. This final rest helps the rice absorb any remaining moisture and prevents the rice kernels from sticking together.
- Don’t stir even after cooking: The only reason to stir cooked rice is because resting the rice too long can make it clumpy or stick to the bottom. Use a rice paddle (not a fork) to fluff gently.
Tip 3: Steam to Perfection
- How to know it’s ready to steam: When most of the water from the surface has absorbed or evaporated and you begin to see something like potholes forming in the top layer of the rice (see video!), it’s ready for a final steam.
- Cover the lid with a cloth: I use old kitchen linens or a cotton cloth. The goal is to contain the steam while absorbing any extra moisture that could otherwise lead to soggy rice.
- Lastly, relax: Remember, if you’ve given your rice enough time to cook, even if you steam a little too soon or a little too late, you’ll be fine. There’s plenty of give with the steaming with cloth + resting method.
What to Serve with Matar Pulao
Though Chicken Pulao and even Chana Pulao can be stand-alone meals with a side of cucumber raita, mint raita, kachumber, or yogurt, Matar Pulao is more complete with a substantial side. Serving ideas:
- Aloo ki Tikki for a quick vegetarian weeknight meal.
- Kababs such as Chapli Kabab, , Shami Kabab, or Seekh Kabab.
- A classic Chicken Curry.
- Aloo Keema or other keema recipe.
- Any meaty traditional curry such as Kofta Curry, Aloo Gosht, etc.
- This list is getting long, but I really could go on…
How to Double the Recipe
With all pulao recipes, to double:
- Double all the ingredients, including whole spices and water.
- Use a larger pot (8-10.5 qt).
- Increase the sauté and simmer times by 2-3 minutes.
More Rice Recipes
- Chicken Biryani
- Instant Pot Chicken Pulao
- Instant Pot Chana Pulao
- Chicken Pulao (Yakhni method)
- How to Cook Basmati Rice in a Rice Cooker
- Zarda (Sweet Rice)
Tried this recipe? If you have a minute, please consider leaving a comment & star rating telling me how it was! If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I truly love hearing from you! Thank you!
Matar Pulao (Peas Pulao) – 20-Minute Prep!
- 1 1/2 cups (~275 g) aged, long-grain basmati rice
- 2 tbsp neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
- 1 tbsp ghee or butter, or sub more oil
- 1 small (~150 g) yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed or very finely chopped
- 3/4 inch fresh ginger, crushed or very finely chopped
- 1 small dried bay leaf
- 1 tsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed using a mortar & pestle
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 black cardamom
- 1- inch cinnamon stick
- 1 small (~100 g) tomato (I use Roma), finely chopped or roughly pureed in food processor
- 1 small green chili pepper (such as Serrano or Thai chili), optional
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup (~140 g) frozen green peas
- 2 3/4 cups water
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Non-stick Dutch Oven (5.5 qt)
- Wash rice: Place the rice in a small bowl and gently wash the rice until the water runs mostly clear. Soak in water while you proceed with the recipe.
- Heat oil and ghee in a nonstick Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring often, until golden brown (~10 minutes). The onions will determine the color of the pulao so you want them deeply and evenly golden-brown. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup water. Once the water dries up, add all the garlic, ginger, and whole spices and sauté for a minute, until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and green chili pepper (if using) and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the oil starts separating.
- Add garam masala, ground black pepper, salt, and frozen peas and stir. Pour in the water.
- Raise the heat to high and cover to bring to a boil. Meanwhile, drain the rice thoroughly. Once the water comes to a boil, add the drained rice and stir gently to mix. Taste the broth. It should taste saltier than you prefer because it’ll mellow out once rice is cooked. If it's not, add a bit more salt.
- Cover to bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to medium. Cover partially with the lid. Allow to simmer, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. The water level will reduce and the rice will rise to the surface.
- Layer the lid with a kitchen cloth or tea towel and seal tightly. Allow the pulao to develop steam for a few seconds. You’ll be able to feel the steam escaping from the sides of the pan.
- Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to rest for another 10-15 minutes. (Do not peek or stir throughout this process.)