Is Pilau Rice Vegan?

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Pilau rice (also spelt as pilaf rice) is a popular rice dish. With pilau rice recipes, the rice is usually cooked in a stock or broth along with spices and sometimes other ingredients like vegetables or meat.

A common side dish that you might find in Indian restaurants or takeaways, pilau rice is often vegan, but not always.

In this guide, I’ll explain why pilau rice may not always be vegan and what to look out for when ordering vegan pilau rice.

pilau rice (vegan)

Is pilau rice vegan?

Indian-style pilau rice is usually vegan. However, it is sometimes cooked in butter or meat stock, so you should check before you order. Other styles of pilau rice (or rice pilaf) may contain meat or fish.

Can vegans eat rice?

Rice is a small edible seed that comes from a particular type of grass. As rice is a plant, plain rice is vegan as only water is added.

Some rice dishes are not suitable for vegans as non-vegan ingredients may be added. For example, fried rice may be cooked in animal fat and risottos may include cream or cheese.

What is the difference between pilau rice and plain rice?

Plain rice is simply rice boiled in water. Pilau rice, however, has extra ingredients added to give it more flavour. Pilau rice may be fried or baked in the oven in addition to boiling in water.

While plain rice is always vegan, pilau rice may or may not be vegan-friendly, depending on which ingredients are added.

What is pilau rice made from?

Pilau rice usually contains the following ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Butter or vegetable oil
  • Chicken or vegetable stock
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Coriander
  • Cardamom
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Mustard seeds
  • Bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Other optional ingredients include beef, lamb, chicken, fish, vegetables, almonds or raisins.

If pilau rice is cooked in vegetable oil with vegetable stock, then it will most likely be vegan. However, cooking in butter or ghee and adding chicken stock will mean that it’s not suitable for vegans.

Suggested read: Is stock vegan?

vegan pilau rice

How to know if pilau rice is vegan

Restaurant pilau rice

When ordering pilau rice from an Indian restaurant or takeaway, vegans should check if the pilau rice is suitable for vegans. Not everyone has a thorough understanding of what veganism means, so you’ll want to ask specifically if the pilau rice contains any butter, ghee or meat stock.

Supermarket pilau rice

It’s easy to know if supermarket pilau rice is vegan or not. If the rice is not labeleed as ‘suitable for vegans’, check for a vegetarian label. If the rice is labelled as suitable for vegetarians, take a look at the ingredients. Any milk or egg will be highlighted in bold, so you can quickly see at a glance whether these are included in the ingredients.

Homemade pilau rice

Vegan pilau rice is easy to make at home. Take a look at this video which shows how you can make vegan pilau rice quickly and easily in your own kitchen…

How to make vegan pilau rice

Why is it called pilau rice?

The name pilau rice is commonly used in the United Kingdom, whereas in the United States the dish is most often known as rice pilaf. Pilau and pilaf both come from the Hindi word ‘pulav’, which means ‘dish fr rice and meat’.

In the UK, pilau rice is commonly an Indian side dish that doesn’t contain meat. However, in other countries, meat is a popular ingredient in pilau rice.

In Afghanistan, ‘Kabuli palaw’ is basmati rice fried with mutton, lamb, beef or chicken. In Brazil, ‘arroz pilau’ is rice fried with shredded chicken. In Pakistan, ‘pulao’ usually contains mutton or beef. In Greece, ‘pilafi’ is rice that has been boiled in meat stock or bouillon broth.

The bottom line

Pilau rice may or may not be vegan, depending on where you order it from. In Indian takeaways and restaurants in the UK, pilau rice is almost always vegan, but it’s a good idea to double-check when ordering.

In other countries, pilau rice may be less likely to be vegan. If it isn’t, a good alternative to pilau rice is plain boiled rice.

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