Our Turkish Rice Recipe

We’ve been meaning to do a recipe for what we call Turkish rice for a long time now but it’s taken till last night for me to get round to actually making some.(It’s real name is şehriyeli pilav.) If you’re familiar with Turkish food, you’ll know that rice features quite heavily in many of the main meals. A lot of the Turkish recipes I follow usually end with, ‘serve with rice’ and if you go to a lokanta (a type of Turkish restaurant), whichever dish you order, it’s highly likely that you’ll be asked whether you would like a side serving of rice to go with it.

Turkish Rice

A staple Turkish food – side serving of rice

Thankfully, Turkish rice is very tasty. Whenever our friends come over to Fethiye to visit us, they always say, ‘I can’t wait to have some of that Turkish rice.’ (They must be sick of eating the ‘quick cook’ rice for sale in the British supermarkets!) 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 – surely a good example of how rice is much-loved by some 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. A couple of years ago, I asked my friend how she made it and I’ve made it this way ever since. So here is our friend’s recipe for Turkish rice – with a tiny little change by us.

Turkish Rice Recipe

  • Heat a glug of olive oil in a deep pan on a low heat. (This is the change by us. The traditional way is to melt a knob of butter but I find the butter a little too rich).
  • Next, add around 3 dessert spoonfuls of şehriye (orzo) to the pan. (I had never seen this till we came to Fethiye. It’s a type of pasta and if you’re outside Turkey and can’t find it, vermicelli can also be used).
Turkish Şehriye

Şehriye is used in servings of Turkish rice

  • Stir the şehriye and watch it carefully, as you are looking for a change of colour. As soon as you notice the slight change in colour, add a cup of rice (we use a coffee / tea mug) and keep stirring for a few minutes. (Remember to keep it on a medium to low heat or else the rice, and particularly the şehriye, will burn.)
Gently fry the Turkish rice and şehriye

The rice and şehriye is sauted for a few minutes

  • After a few minutes, add 2 mugs of water. Use the same sized coffee mug as you used for the rice.
  • There’ll be a big sizzle and the water will bubble up. Turn up the heat and bring the water to the boil, fully.
  • Give the rice a couple of stirs, cover and return the heat to medium / low.
  • Leave it to simmer for 8-10 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the pan covered for another 5 minutes.
Turkish Food - Steamed Rice

Lovely steamed Turkish rice

  • When you remove the lid, fork through the rice to make it fluffy and then serve it with whatever exciting Turkish food you have made.

(This recipe makes enough rice 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.)

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  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. Anonymous says:

    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. Anonymous says:

    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. Mustafa says:

    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. :)

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