Kabuli Pulao

(Afghani Rice Pilaf)

September: National Rice Month

Our wedding godmother Dr. Natalie R. was just a little girl living with her family in Afghanistan when her diplomat father served in Kabul during the rule of the Shahs. After her father’s term ended, the family went back to France long before the wars made Afghanistan an unsafe place to live. Natalie told us how beautiful Kabul once was with its grand architecture and marvelous mosques and minarets set against majestic mountain views. She wants to remember Kabul that way instead of its crowds and congestion. Now in her 70s, the retired chemist told us about a tasty dish that she still cooks on occasion. Kabuli Pulao is a colorful rice pilaf from the capital of Afghanistan. Make this country’s national dish during National Rice Month.


(From Natalie’s Maman)


  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice
  • 4 ¾ cups water, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons butter (may substitute for ghee or oil), divided use
  • 2 carrots, julienned (or about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 ounces pistachio nuts (approximately 1/3 cup), coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon chai (tea) masala (may substitute for garam masala)


Bring 4 cups water to a boil over the stovetop. Add the rice and cook for about 5 minutes until expanded. Drain the rice in a colander. Set aside.

In a large pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir fry the carrots until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in the raisins and cook until plump (about 3 minutes). Stir in the pistachios and cook for another 2 minutes.

In an oven safe dish, layer some of the rice on the bottom. Then layer the carrot-raisin-pistachio mixture, along with the drippings, on top. Add the rest of the rice and stir. Set aside. In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil.

Add salt and saffron. Stir in the curry powder and masala.

Pour the curry-masala sauce over the rice. Mix until the colors blend. Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for half an hour, making sure the rice is cooked through and softened. Remove from the oven and stir again. Serve hot.