Spring Pea Pilaf

There is a short season in Houston when fresh green peas are in season — and now is the time. Thought to have originated in the Himalayan Mountains of northwest India, the environmentally friendly humble green pea is low in calories yet filled with vast amounts of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients, which in turn provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. And best of all, they are delicious, especially when paired with the tender sugar snap peas. A pea pilaf is as common in India as mashed potatoes in the United States. We eat it with a simple dal for dinner or on its own with plain yogurt. It’s best made with white basmati rice, an unpolished aged long grain rice native to the Himalayan foothills of India.

makes ~4 servings


1 cup white basmati rice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup white onion, diced fine

1 teaspoon salt

1 cinnamon stick

Zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon minced serrano pepper

1 cup fresh green peas

1 cup sugar snap peas, cut diagonally

¼ cup mint, chopped

1 tablespoon pistachios, crushed



  1. Rinse the rice in lukewarm tap water 2-3 times. Soak in more water for an hour and up to 4 hours.

  2. Heat olive oil in a stockpot; just before it starts to smoke, toss in the cumin seeds, then immediately add the onion. Turn the heat down to medium and let the onion soften and slightly caramelize — this should take 10-15 minutes.

  3. Add rice, 1½ cups water, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest.Let the water come to a boil, then put a lid on the stockpot and turn the heat down. Cook for another 5-6 minutes until rice is almost done and add serrano, green peas, sugar snap peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

  4. Turn the heat off and let the pilaf rest for 5-10 minutes. Fluff the rice and garnish with mint and pistachios.

ideas / variations

  • True basmati rice with a depth of flavor and complexity comes from India — there are plenty of imposter brands, so beware.

  • You may substitute frozen green peas for fresh.