How to Cook Pilau

Today we will learn how to cook pilau and not Pilau Njeri. Pilau is second of Kenyan’s favourite meal after Ugali. However, despite it being simple to prepare, most Kenyans often end up making it the wrong way.

How exactly does one the prepare the real pilau, with its smell and taste?

It’s important to note the origins of this meal. Pilau is a staple food for people from the Coastal region of Kenya. Most of the time, this meal is either accompanied by Kachumbari.

How to cook real pilau

You will need a few ingredients based on the number of people that you are preparing for. For this particular recipe, we will be serving five people.

Pilau Ingredients

500 grams of Cubed beef – Should be without bones
Three tablespoons Oil
2 cups hot water for cooking the meat
3 Medium Onions chopped
A pinch of ground pepper – Black
2 cups Pishori/Basmati rice, washed and rinsed
4 cups of hot water to cook the rice
Two bulbs of garlic, peeled and grounded too
Salt enough to taste
Two tablespoons of pilau masala
Coriander leaves/powder – Dhania
Cumin powder
Three medium carrots grated
One tablespoon chilli – Optional
One clean Sufuria

Instructions – Estimated cooking time is 1 hour 50 minutes

  1. In the cooking pot, add the three tablespoons of oil and heat it. Do not let the fuel to overheat, add the meat. The main reason for doing this is to have the meat browning. Make sure that you stir the pot to ensure the meat browns on all sides. Cook for 5 minutes.
  2. After the beef has browned on all sides, add the onions and ground garlic then let them cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the spices mentioned in the ingredients. You could start with salt, then ground pepper, cumin powder, the pilau masala, and then carrots. Cook until the carrots have softened.
  4. Remember the 2 cups of water mentioned above to cook the meat, add it. Cover the pot and let the meat cook for about 45 – 50 minutes.
  5. After the 50 minutes, add the 4 cups of hot water that was to be used for cooking the rice. Then add the rice and cover it — Cook for about 11 minutes.
  6. Once the rice is done, sprinkle the coriander powder. Additionally, make sure that you cover it and minimise the heat. Let it cook for the next 14 minutes
  7. Serve the pilau while still hot.

What To Serve the Pilau With

Most of the times, Pilau is served with Kachumbari. Kachumbari is freshly cut tomatoes and onions with coriander leaves.


Pilau is a must to try out while in Kenya before leaving the country if you were visiting. It’s so delicious that you can add it to your bucket list if you have never yet tried it out.

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Mary is one of the leading writers on Urban Kenyans. She is knowledgable on matters Kenya and has been able to educate many Kenyans on this platform.

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