Caramel Pilaf

This technique originates from the Sindh province, where using a touch of caramel to flavor rice with spices and seasonings is fairly common. There is some use of sugar (or jaggery) in the recipe but the final product is not sweet, just a rich and nutty flavor.

makes ~4 servings


1 cup basmati rice

2 tablespoons ghee

8-10 crushed black peppercorns

2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon jaggery

2 tablespoons unpeeled grated ginger

1 teaspoon salt


  1. Rinse the rice in room temperature tap water 2-3 times. Then soak for about 2-3 hours. Drain.

  2. In a medium sized stockpot, heat up the ghee and when the ghee is just shy of smoking, add the crushed peppercorns. Then add the sugar or jaggery and lower the heat. The sugar will start to melt and burn slightly – do not be alarmed!

  3. When the sugar has reached a dark brown color, gently add 2 cups of water along with ginger and salt.

  4. When the liquid has come to a boil, add the drained rice, lower the heat and cover the stockpot. Cook for another 8-10 minutes but do not stir the rice. After the rice has rested for about 10-15 minutes, fluff it gently with a fork and serve.

ideas / variations

  • This pilaf is a side dish – to make it a main, stir in chopped vegetables (carrots, zucchini, kale or spinach), herbs (mint, cilantro or flat leaf parsley) and nuts or dried fruits at the end.

  • If you do not have whole peppercorns, add a teaspoon of ground black pepper.

  • Instead of water, add a chicken or vegetable stock.