How To Make Savory Rice

If you’re looking for a versatile and delicious side dish, savory rice is the perfect choice. This South African favorite is a flavorful combination of rice, herbs, and spices that can be served alongside a variety of dishes. Whether you’re hosting a braai (barbecue) or simply preparing a weeknight meal, savory rice is sure to be a hit. In this article, we will share a step-by-step guide on how to make savory rice that is both tasty and satisfying.


Before we dive into the cooking process, let’s gather all the ingredients you’ll need to make savory rice:

  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)


Step 1: Prepare the Rice

Start by rinsing the rice under cold water to remove any excess starch. In a medium-sized pot, add the rice and cover it with water. Let it soak for about 15 minutes, then drain well. This step helps create fluffy and separated rice grains.

Step 2: Sauté the Onion and Garlic

In the same pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and sauté until they become translucent and fragrant. This usually takes around 3-4 minutes.

How To Make Savory Rice

Step 3: Add the Spices

Add the ground cumin, turmeric, and paprika to the pot. Stir well to coat the onions and garlic with the aromatic spices. Let them cook for another minute to enhance the flavors.

Step 4: Cook the Rice

Add the drained rice to the pot and sauté it with the onion and spice mixture for a couple of minutes. This helps the rice absorb all the flavors. Next, pour in the chicken or vegetable broth and add the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 5: Simmer and Steam

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes or until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Avoid lifting the lid or stirring the rice during this process to ensure perfectly cooked grains.

Step 6: Fluff and Serve

Once the rice is cooked, remove the pot from heat and let it sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. This allows the rice to steam and become even more fluffy. Finally, use a fork to fluff the rice and remove the bay leaf. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley, if desired, before serving.


While the basic recipe for savory rice is already delicious on its own, you can also add additional ingredients to customize it to your taste. Here are a few popular variations:

1. Vegetable Savory Rice

You can make a vegetarian version by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and adding a variety of chopped vegetables such as carrots, peas, and bell peppers. Sauté the vegetables along with the onion and garlic in step 2.

2. Spicy Savory Rice

If you prefer a bit of heat, add a finely chopped chili pepper or a pinch of chili flakes to the sautéed onion and garlic in step 2. This will give your savory rice a spicy kick.

3. Nutty Savory Rice

To add a unique flavor and texture, you can stir in a handful of toasted nuts, such as almonds or cashews, during step 6 when you fluff the rice. The nuts will provide a delightful crunch.


Savory rice is a delightful side dish that is easy to prepare and pairs well with a wide range of main courses. With the simple steps outlined in this article, you can confidently whip up a batch of flavorful and fragrant rice that will impress your family and friends. Feel free to experiment with variations to create your own signature savory rice recipe. Enjoy your homemade creation!