Steamed Basmati Rice

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Basmati rice is an aromatic long-grain rice that originated in the Himalaya mountain foothills. It carries a lower glycemic index than short-grain rice, thus having less of an effect on insulin and blood sugar levels than most other forms of rice. Its non-sticky texture also goes well with certain dishes, especially curries.

Before we move on, I’d like to address the fact that white rice even exists on a Paleo-friendly website, since one of the main points of the Paleo diet is avoiding grains. Rice has the lowest toxicity of all cereal grains, and most of rice’s toxins (phytates, trypsin inhibitor, and haemagglutinin-lectin) exist in the rice bran – which is found in brown rice – hence my white rice preference. In fact, white rice has less phytic acid than many foods considered completely safe by Paleo standards, including coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, almonds, and brazil nuts. Additionally, most of the remaining toxins are destroyed in the cooking process. So, rice is low in toxins, but not necessarily nutritious when compared to meats and veggies. My Paleo hero, Paul Jaminet, suggests a 10% dietary calorie limit on rice, which suits our tastes perfectly. Additionally, when eating rice at the house, we tend to use it as a vehicle for other nutrients: cooking the rice in broth instead of water, or steaming with butter/turmeric/coconut milk as in today’s recipe.

Okay, enough nutrition talk. Let’s make some delicious, guilt-free basmati rice. I should note that this recipe in particular is modeled after the Indonesian rice dish Nasi Kuning, but with less coconut milk and turmeric that what is usually used.

You’ll Need:
2 cups basmati rice
1-2 white or sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4″ slices
1 tsp coconut oil
2 tbsp butter or ghee
2 dashes turmeric (1/4 tsp)
2 tbsp coconut milk (optional)

Measure out your rice, then soak in cold water for at least an hour, but up to six hours. Rinse after soaking. This step isn’t totally necessary, but makes for fluffier rice. Fill the pot with water and boil gently for about seven minutes, until the rice starts to float a little.

Strain your rice and set aside.

In the still-hot pot, add the coconut oil and slices of potato, so that the potato lines most of the pot.

Scoop the rice into the pot so that it makes a cone/mountain shape. Do your best not to bump the pot so that the mound doesn’t flatten.

Microwave the butter/ghee until melted, then stir in the turmeric (and coconut milk if you’re using it).

Evenly pour the butter mixture on top.

Line your pot lid with a cloth towel, then cover and secure. Steam on medium heat for 7 minutes, then reduce heat to low, steaming for another 45 minutes.

That’s it! Mix your rice together a little bit (to help the turmeric spread), then serve. You can dig out the potatoes (which will be nicely browned on one side) and serve them as well.

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26 thoughts on “Steamed Basmati Rice

  1. I have a question :) When I eat regular white rice, my lower abdomen gets bloated. Do you know of a reason for that? I changed the rice I have and it doesn’t happen any more… but I am curious.


  2. At my house everyone always fights over the crispy potatoes at the bottom this rice is great with so many dishes. I didn’t know basmati rice was lower on the glycemic index than short grain rice, good to know!


  3. now to master that tasty gorgeous orangey yellow saffron rice that Middle Eastern people put on top. I used to work with a lady from Afghanistan and she gave me her recipe and a saffron packet. I seem to have misplaced it somewhere over the years. She also used to have me soak the rice and rinse it multiple times before i would cook it. It always turned out SO DELICIOUS… i can’t wait to make some, it’s actually cold-ish here in So Cal this morning and my fall food ideas are a flowin’


  4. Thanks for the short tangent on rice nutrition, Russ! I’m paleo and from Hawaii, so I appreciate your taking the time to delve into the science behind justifying rice in one’s diet. My wife’s gonna be so happy to read and learn from what you wrote here. Looks like we can start firing up the rice cooker again! :)


    1. Happy to be of service! I do have to caution that rice is basically pure starch, and individual results (with respect to weight loss) will vary – but that’s isn’t to say that it doesn’t have a place in a well-balanced diet :) We still use our rice cooker fairly often, probably 3x a week, although we often fill the pot with broth instead of water to get a few extra nutrients!


  5. Seconding the thanks for nutrition talk. I didn’t know basmati rice was was lower GI. Basmati was always my favorite, fragrant rice, but I haven’t bought it in a very long time. Makes the house smell so nice. I’ll feel better about the occasional pot of rice now :)


  6. Delicious! I will make this often. The sweet potato got more than nicely browned, more like unappealingly dark, burnt. It could have been my pot, but I think I will add a little water under the sweet potatoes next time to keep them from burning. Any other suggestions?


    1. Cathryn, that’s an easy fix. When you start steaming the rice, just steam it at medium heat for less than 7 minutes. That step of the process is just to ensure that you get a nice crust on the potato – but it worked a little too well for you! Try 3 minutes next time, and see how it turns out.


  7. Sounds tasty. Remember that rice is usually full of high levels of inorganic arsenic (a #1 carcinogen), and potatoes have chiton-binding lectin, which causes break down of all mucosal barriers (including leaky gut). Check before you venture beyond pure paleo….


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