Jeera rice, originally from the North of Indian but enjoyed in other parts of India as well, is long-grain basmati rice cooked in ghee and rich, fragrant spices. It is perfectly fluffy and sweet-smelling to the nose and is usually served with curried meats, beans, or vegetables.
You may have seen it referred to as both “jira” and “jeera.” This is because “jeera” means cumin in Hindi, while “jira” means cumin in Punjabi. Depending on the language spoken in the household, the spelling may differ, but it essentially refers to this rice dish that features various spices, but most importantly, cumin.
Growing up Indian, jeera rice was always on the table every Sunday alongside various meat and vegetable curry dishes. I recently learned of the fascination with this rice dish and that only a few versions available were authentically depicted. So, I decided to share my family’s recipe with you.
For many Indian families, onions are optional, but, for my family, onions were essential. They add a ton of flavor, and I have withdrawals when enjoying versions without them. Our version contains onions, cumin seeds, bay leaves, a small cinnamon stick, and a few cloves.
The key to cooking good jeera rice is in the technique, from the length of time soaking the rice to blooming the spices. You will learn all the tips and tricks required to make the perfect fluffy jeera rice in the “Need-to-Know” section below.
Essential Ingredients in Jeera Rice
- Basmati Rice
- Cumin Seeds
- Ghee or Butter
Common Additions to Jeera Rice
- Cardamom Pods
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Bay Leaves
Bloom the Spices in Butter until Fragrant
Blooming the spices is an essential step in cooking Indian dishes. This simply means sautéing the spices in hot ghee or butter until fragrant.
The importance of this step is to ensure the spices release their natural oils. When spices release their natural oil, they impart more depth of flavor to the dish. Once the aroma of the spices is pronounced, then add the cooked rice to finish the dish.
How to Rinse the Rice
To separate each grain of rice, rinse the rice to remove the starch that coats each grain.
Rinse the rice by adding it to the pot, covering it with water, and moving it around the pot with your hands, which will produce cloudy white water. Then, drain the murky water from the rice. Repeat these steps 3-4 times or until the water is clear.
Still unsure of how to rinse the rice? Watch this video.
How to Achieve Separated and Unbroken Grains of Rice
You must employ few essential techniques to ensure that you end up with perfectly cooked and separated grains of rice that don’t stick together and that don’t break.
- Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes.
- Add three drops of lemon juice to the water while the rice is soaking.
- Rinse the rice 3 times to remove any remaining starch.
- Cook the rice for 8 minutes and immediately strain.
- Run cold water over the cooked rice to stop the cooking process.
What to Serve with Jeera Rice
- Curry Chicken (coming soon)
- Moong Dal (coming soon)
- Sabji (coming soon)
Reheating and Storage
Store leftover rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Reheat in the microwave for 1 minute on 70% or in a saucepan on medium heat until warm throughout.
You may also keep the rice in the freezer for up to 30 days. The best way to reheat frozen rice is by adding it to a lined baking sheet, sprinkling water over the rice, and placing it in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius) for 30 to 40 minutes.
Beware not to reheat the rice more than once as cooling and reheating it multiple times may lead to bacterial growth.
Purge your Fridge
You just finished chowing down on our jeera rice, and you are left with some leftover cilantro. Here are some tasty ways to use up the leftover fresh cilantro:
- 3 cups long-grain basmati rice
- 6 cups cold water
- 3 drops lemon juice optional
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter 3 tbsp for cooking the onions and 1 tbsp to drizzle on top of the rice
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick 3-inches
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
- 1 3/4 tsp salt 1 1/2 tsp for the rice and 1/4 tsp for seasoning the onions
- ground pepper
1. Soak and Rinse the Rice
- Add basmati rice to a mixing bowl, cover it with water and add 3 drops of lemon juice (if available). Allow the rice to soak for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, strain the rice.
- Rinse basmati rice 3 times until the water is relatively clear. Set aside.
2. Sauté Onions with Butter
- Place the saucepan on the stovetop at medium-low heat.
- Add butter and allow it to melt. Add onions.
- Sauté for 10 minutes or until onions are translucent.
3. Cook Rice
- Add rinsed rice to a pot with cold water and place it on the stovetop at high heat. Ensure the cold water generously covers the rice.
- When the water begins to boil, boil the rice for 8 minutes.
- Strain the rice using a fine sieve and run it under cold water to stop the rice from cooking.
4. Bloom Spices in Butter
- Add cumin, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick to the saucepan with the onions.
- Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until spices are fragrant to the nose.
- Season with salt and ground pepper.
- Add peas and cook for 1 minute.
5. Sauté the Rice with the Onions, Peas, and Spices
- Add cooked rice to the saucepan with the onions, peas, and spices.
- Toss the rice with the onions, peas, and spices.
6. Finish the Rice on Low Heat
- Melt butter in the microwave or on the stovetop in a small saucepan.
- Pour the melted butter and toss the rice.
- Season with additional salt to taste.
- Serve and enjoy.