Our Turkish Rice Recipe

Turkish rice (şehriyeli pilav) – definitely one of the most famous dishes in Turkey! If you’re familiar with Turkish food, you’ll know that rice features quite heavily in the eating process. A lot of Turkish recipes end with, ‘serve with rice’. If you go to a lokanta (a type of Turkish restaurant), whichever dish you choose from the bain marie, it’s highly likely that you’ll be asked whether you would like a side serving of rice to go with it. The rice is never on the same plate; pilav is a dish in itself and is served separately. As soon as we moved to Turkey, we were keen to get our hands on a Turkish rice recipe!

Turkish Rice

A staple Turkish food – side serving of rice


Thankfully, Turkish rice is very tasty. It’s rich and buttery and is indeed delicious on its own…with a good bowl of natural yoghurt on the side, too. Whenever our friends come to Fethiye to visit us, they always say, ‘I can’t wait to have some Turkish rice’. It’s a staple side serving in most restaurants so it’s a dish holidaymakers become familiar with straight away.

One of our Turkish friends is an amazing cook (and loves to cook) but her husband says he’s happy just eating Turkish rice with yoghurt. Whilst this makes her mad, it’s surely a good example of how rice is much-loved by many in Turkey (even if it does drive our friend round the bend!)

So, it was becoming increasingly difficult to live in Fethiye and not be able to produce a good bowl of Turkish rice for the table whenever we had friends round for dinner. One night, when we were round at another friend’s house for food we stood watch in the kitchen as she prepared different dishes…and we studied her method for how to make Turkish rice. Since that time we’ve followed and adapted her methods to make our own Turkish rice recipe work for us.

Our Turkish Rice Recipe

So, this is a quicker version to the completely traditional method of making şehriyeli pilav but we’ll explain more about that at the end. This is a method that works well for us, and, from lots of feedback over the years, this recipe works for others, too. Let’s make Turkish rice…

Our Turkish Rice Recipe
Recipe type: Pilav
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 4
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A quick and easy recipe for Turkish rice (şehriyeli pilav) which makes a tasty side serving for many Turkish dishes.
  • 1 cup of rice (we use a standard tea/coffee mug)
  • 2 tbsp şehriye (orzo or vermicelli)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups hot water or stock
  1. Heat your butter in a deep saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Now add your şehriye (orzo) to the pan and stir around for a few minutes until you see it start to change colour.
  3. As soon as you notice the orzo start to go brown, add your cup of rice and continue to stir. Remember to keep the pan over a low heat and keep stirring, otherwise your rice and orzo will burn.
  4. After 3-4 minutes, add the water or stock.
  5. There will be a big sizzle and the liquid will bubble up. Turn up the heat and bring the rice to the boil, fully.
  6. Once the rice is boiling, give it a couple of stirs around, put a lid on the pan, leaving a small gap, and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  7. Leave your rice to simmer for 8-10 minutes until the water or stock has absorbed.
  8. Now remove from the heat, put the lid firmly on the pan and leave your Turkish rice to stand for 5 minutes.
  9. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and fork through your rice.
If you find the butter too rich in your Turkish rice, we sometimes just use a glug of olive oil. This is not traditional and does change the flavour slightly but it makes or an occasional, tasty variation.
Whatever size cup you use for your rice, make sure you use the same for your water or stock.
Calories are approximate and are calculated on using butter and water as opposed to stock.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 122

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Turkish Rice – About The Ingredients

Before moving to Turkey, we had no idea what şehriye was. And, when we were in restaurants, eating meals, we always wondered what those ‘brown bits’ were in our servings of Turkish rice. Well, those ‘brown bits’ are orzo (şehriye) and are a type of pasta, as you can see in the photo below. Some Turkish rice recipes will use vermicelli, instead. Both are quite common.

Turkish Şehriye - Orzo

Şehriye (Orzo) is used in servings of Turkish rice

When you are sauteeing your orzo, it’s important that you keep a close eye on it, as, once it starts to brown, it can burn very quickly and will ruin the flavour of your pilav dish. If you are using vermicelli, it will brown quicker. Add your rice immediately after you notice the change in colour and keep stirring.

Gently fry the Turkish rice and şehriye

The rice and şehriye is sauteed for a few minutes

Baldo Pirinç

If you are in Turkey and you want to make Turkish rice, there are different varieties of rice you can buy to suit different purposes. The best type to buy for şehriyeli pilav is a rice with grains of medium length, called Baldo Pirinç.

Turkish Rice - Şehriyeli Pilav

Our Turkish rice is now ready to serve

This recipe for Turkish rice makes enough pilav to serve as a side dish for four people. However much you decide to make, the easy thing to remember is you just use twice as much water as rice and it should cook perfectly.

So, what about that traditional method we mentioned earlier? Well, in Turkey, before cooking, people will rinse their rice thoroughly to get rid of all the starch so the rice doesn’t become sticky. Some people will also soak their rice in warm water before cooking. If you want to cook Turkish rice in this way, you will need to alter cooking times and also the amount of water or stock you use – it’s all down to experimenting, as you will see in some of the comments below.

And, now that you know how to make Turkish rice, why not get some ideas about all of the different sorts of Turkish dishes you can serve with it?

If you like Turkish food, then you’ll like this book…


  1. Hmmm – what a fantastic dish! Such flavorful rice.

  2. It’s lovely Belinda. A real staple. 🙂

  3. So…when you send me some pide in the mail, can you also include sehriye? That looks so delicious!

  4. As a real fan of pilav (pilav + fasulye + sis = heaven), I’d just add a couple of notes:

    1. Try to get Baldo rice, it’s so much bigger than even the biggest Italian risotto rice;

    2. You can use stock instead of water if you have any. Just make sure you’ve skimmed the fat off. Even tastier.

  5. Thanks Tony. We’re just having a conversation on the Facebook page about Baldo rice. Might add it to the post. We use stock for risotto but not for this sort of rice.

  6. @ thebockster – Mmmm, I bet pide and rice would look delicious once it’s been through the mailing system! 🙂

  7. Pilav is one of my favorites! Such a great addition to food! I also posted a recipe for pilav on my blog, but in the full Turkish style, heaping butter and all! =)

  8. I have given up trying to cook Turkish rice. Always ended up with it stuck to the bottom of the pan or really soggy. Told hubby if he wants Turkish rice to go to his mothers!

  9. Connie, I do make pilav with butter sometimes – particularly if it’s for other people but i think I must put too much in (for me anyway) because i can really taste it.

    Natalie, I’m thinking it’s been more good luck than good management with Turkish rice. I keep expecting the dreaded sticking to the pan but fingers crossed…So how often is hubby at this mother’s then? 🙂

  10. Afiyet Olsun 🙂
    Those Pilaf looks perfect

  11. Thanks. I quite like the look of the pilav in the bottom photo – don’t think it’s ever looked like that before! 🙂

  12. My husband wont eat rice unless it has şehriye in it. His favorites are the bulgur pilavs. He eats this with salad and yogurt.

  13. @ Simcha: Thanks for your comment. Is your husband Turkish? Our Turkish friend’s husband always wants to eat pilav (bulgur or rice) with yoghurt! 🙂

  14. The most important thing in the recipe is the ratio of rice and water: 1 mug of rice/1.5 mug of water. (Use the same mug!)
    From my own experiences, i can say that even 2 mug of water is too much.

  15. Interesting, Kuday. I’ve always been told by friends to use double the amount. I guess if they both work, it doesn’t matter too much. I’ve never had any problems, using 2 mugs of water. I may try your method next time to compare. 🙂

  16. Hi Julia,
    Just spent more time in Istanbul and this time we were served a delicious dish of what I can only guess was Barley created in the same way as your Pilav rice. The restaurant is an old ‘original’ near the Fish Market of Istikaal street and it seemed pretty genuine in flavour and style. Any ideas on a recipe or how to prepare the dish (I assume it is different from Pilav preparation as Barley takes so much longer? It was rich, flavourful and ‘creamy’ in a rice/barley sort of sense). Thanks! Rachel

  17. @ DubaiBee: I think the meal you’re talking about is bulgur pilav. Cracked wheat. You can have it cooked plain like the rice (prepared in exactly the same way as this rice dish) but most places serve it in a tomato sauce. We’ve got a recipe for that, too, of course. 😉 Here’s the link: http://www.turkeysforlife.com/2011/01/turkish-recipes-bulgur-wheat.html

  18. Just cooked this and it came out really delicious, just like the restaurants on Green Lanes in London.

    Turkish rice is becoming one of my favourites, currently its second only to Indian, South East Asian and Middle Eastern rice!

  19. @ Kris: Glad it worked out well for you. We love all types of rice – but the right rice must go with the right meal. 🙂 Turkish rice is great for the type of foods you eat it with.

  20. Hi Julia,
    What type of rice did you use here. It’s definitely not basmati rice. Will jasmine rice work?

  21. @ Samiah Khan: The best rice for this is called Baldo Pirinç. We’ve been cooking with jasmine rice recently but not sure if it’s not too fragrant for this type of dish.

  22. You can actually get the arpa şehriye if you look for orzo and regular şehriye as vermicelli in the Italian section of your grocery store.

  23. @ April: Thanks for that. 🙂 A lot of people in the UK have manged to find it, too.

  24. I use Orzo in the UK. It’s exactly the same 🙂

  25. @ Gina Clarke: Thanks for your comment. Yes, we’re a bit more educated these days on the different pastas you can get in the UK and orzo is the same. Glad you can find it where you are. 🙂 A lot of the restaurants here are actually starting to use vermicelli but we prefer the şehriye. 🙂

  26. A Turkish friend has made this for me several times. She uses Orzo and Basmati.

  27. @ Anonymous: Yes, orzo is the same. In Turkey, baldo is best to use and basmati is expensive here, too, but it’s probably the best rice to use elsewhere. 🙂

  28. Perfect….we are going to istanbul soon and our turkish friends from fethiye are coming to join us….”omg…what am I going to cook for them”….solved:)…just the casserole recipe to find…I know they like that as we eat it when we go to their house for dinner! Xxxx

  29. @ Anonymous: Oh in that case, hope your Turkish friends like it. They might well prefer it with butter rather than olive oil. We just use oil to try and be a *bit* more healthy. 🙂

  30. @ nikki: We love Ortaköy. Fab view of the bridge. 🙂 Enjoy.

  31. When you fry the Şehriye And rice in oil if you want your meal (pilav) to be lighter you better use coconut oil or pure vegetable oil. Olive oil will make it heavier. But the butter will be the best taste. Just adjust the amount of butter. And use salty one.
    when it comes to adding water better to use boiled water. Because if you add normal water it will take too much time to cook and rice will stick to each other and that is not a nice appearance for turkish rice.
    Any question you guys can mail me.
    [email protected]

    • Thanks, Mustafa. 🙂 We only have our rice in butter as a treat as we eat in lokantas a lot where they use butter. That’s why we use oil at home. We’ll try other oils, too. The water has always worked well for us but we’re always open to new ideas so we’ll give boiled water a try, as well. 🙂

  32. Fred Catterall says:

    It really amazes me just now many people cannot cook rice, eg “it sticks to the bottom of the pan” or “it goes all soggy” As for this method of cooking rice, my mum taught me to cook rice like this over 60 years ago, I always presumed everyone did it like this.

    • Thanks a lot for your comment, Fred Catterall. Guess the problem, at least in the UK, is everyone buys the quick cook rice or even ‘boil in the bag’ and microwave versions. Think lots of us are forgetting how to cook – we certainly only learned how to cook (Turkish) rice in this way when we moved to Turkey and yeah, it is amazing how simple it is. 🙂

      • Ahmet Talug says:

        After reading through all the comments, I feel compelled to add to them. First, Turkish rice pilav is a dish. It is NOT steamed rice. It is a recipe mainly based on rice as an ingredient. None of the quick cooking methods will come close to it. Secret to successful pilav lies in aggressively rinsing off the surface starch from the rice grains, sauteing in fat of your choice (I prefer the authentic butter but a neutral tasting oil such as canola can also be used. I personally find that use of olive oil detracts from the authentic pilav flavor, even though I love good olive oil and use it frequently in dishes that traditionally call for it. Finally, the optimum rice-to-water ratio usually hovers around 1 to 1.5-2 range. This can vary with the batch of rice you have. You need to experiment. The sticking to pot issue can be due to the amount of water, and/or level of stove top heat. So experiment. The crispy bits stuck to the bottom are considered a delicacy by some cultures, so try to scrape and taste them if you end up with them unless they are really burnt.

        • Thanks a lot for your comment, Ahmet Talug. Our Turkish rice recipe is definitely a quick version, we know. we’re going to make some additions to it so people can rinse and soak their rice if they like. And as for those burnt bits – yeah, we don’t mind a bit of crispiness in our rice dishes! 🙂

  33. Colette Yűksel says:

    I love cooking rice here. My Turkish family love my rice. I always wash my rice first to remove the starch. 2-3 rinses nornally. I always put a small amount of olive oil in the frying pan first and cook the brown rice till colour changes. Then i put my rice in and stir it all together for about 2 minutes. At this point i add a dollop of homemade butter and a stock cube. Then i just get the kettle with hot water in and cover the rice. Put the lid on and cook it on a low heat for about 15 minutes undisturbed. Once all the water has boiled away turn off the heat and leave to stand with a teatowel covering it. 5-10 minutes later serve rice as it is and fluff with fork yourself in the dish.

    • Thanks for your ideas, Colette Yüksel. You obviously have a good eye with how much water to use with your rice. A lot of our friends say they just can’t get their Turkish rice right so we offered the cup measurements. 🙂

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