Zanzibar Pilau (Rice Pilaf)

Serves 4-6

| Prep Time: 5 mins

| Cook Time: 25 mins

| Total Time: 30 mins

You may need: Dried Garlic Powder

Discover The Recipe

Zanzibar is an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. Located in the heart of historical ocean trade routes between Africa, the Middle East and Europe, modern Zanzibar reflects the cultural influences of its Swahili, Arab Muslim, and European predecessors. Known locally as the 'Spice Islands', the spice crops of nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and cinnamon still comprise a large part of the Zanzibari economy.

Zanzibar Pilau is a common rice pilaf dish eaten throughout East Africa tracing its roots to the Middle East. In fact, both the words Pilau and Pilaf are related to the original Persian word for a rice dish Polow. Pilau is meant to be hearty, and often contains a variety of nuts, dried fruits, vegetables, spices, and even meats. This recipe is spiced as you would find in Zanzibar: warming spices of clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon; savory spices of star anise, cardamom, cumin and coriander; and ginger and turmeric for depth and color, respectively. Try this spice in soups and stews. Or, add meat for a one-pot meal.


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped

  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded & chopped

  • handful of cashews, coarsely chopped (optional)

  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1-2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 tbsp of Piquant Post Spiced Pilaf blend

  • 2 cups of basmati rice

  • 1 cup (canned) coconut milk

  • 3 cups of low-salt broth (chicken or vegetarian)

  • salt & pepper to taste (optional)


Adding nuts and dried fruit is common in Middle Eastern and African dishes. Any nuts will work, but we prefer raw, unsalted nuts for best results. Try cashews, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pepitas (Mexican pumpkin seeds). Dried apricots, cranberries, cherries, dates, or raisins are delicious.

Keep an eye on the temperature of the pan. You want a low simmer to cook the rice but don't burn the bottom layer. Also, if you like a little crunch, don't stir the rice after the first 5 mins. The bottom layer of rice will develop a nice crunchy texture.

Optional ingredients add a little character and flavor but don’t sweat it if you don’t have them.


Prep and chop all vegetables (onion, red pepper, cashews, garlic and ginger) and set aside. Heat a large skillet on Med-High. Add oil to pan.

Once pan is hot, add the onion and red pepper and sauté for 5 mins, stirring occasionally. Add the cashews, ginger, garlic, bay leaf and Pilaf Spice. Stir to mix. Sauté for 2 mins.

Add the rice and stir the mixture. Dry fry for 1 min. Add the broth and coconut milk, stirring to mix, and bring to a low boil.

Reduce heat to Low and simmer for 15-20 mins or until the rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Serve as a side dish or top with cooked meats for a delicious meal.

Alternatives & Substitutions

  • Zanzibar Pilau and rice pilaf generally is an easy dish to customize. Add just about any veggies you like such as shredded carrot, water chestnuts, peas, spinach or other seasonal items. Softer, lighter veggies like greens should only be added in the last 10 mins.

  • To make a heartier meal, add some meat like ground pork, cooked shrimp, or shredded chicken. If cooking ground meat in a one-pot meal, sauté the meat first with the onion. Drain any excess oil before adding other ingredients. Keep an eye on the moisture of the rice and add a few extra tablespoons of water in the last 10 mins if your desire the rice to be more moist. 

  • To make this a vegan meal, use vegan broth.

  • Our Spiced Pilaf blend also works great in stews, soups, lentils, beans, and anywhere you'd like a pop of flavor from East Africa!

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