Nohutlu pilav – There’s something special about stumbling across street food in Turkey when you’re wandering the streets and exploring somewhere new.
If you’re someone who loves trying different foods, the great thing about Turkish street food is you can be pretty confident you’re going to really enjoy it. And, more often than not, you’re only going to have to part with a minimal amount of lira for the reward of that foodie experience.
This is a tale about how nohutlu pilav entered our lives – and why, as result, we’ve been using our own nohutlu pilav recipe ever since.
Nohutlu Pilav – Rice And Chickpeas With Chicken
Chickpeas with rice is a classic Turkish street food. It is also perfect for people like us who travel on a strict budget. When we were in Izmir, we made a determined effort to climb the ridiculously steep streets to the castle on the hill, Kadifekale.
Satisfying Rice With Chickpeas
Breath caught, mission accomplished and photos taken, we started to make our way back down to sea level. On the way we spotted a street food trader selling nohutlu pilav by the side of the road. Lunch time announced itself and nohutlu pilav was to be the food to satisfy rumbling tummies!
Our trader was an amiable chap (Izmir is very much like that) and waffled away to us while we did our best to keep up with the gist of what he was saying.
We ordered two portions of nohutlu pilav and the rice and chickpeas were scooped and packed into plastic tubs. How much rice can you squeeze into one tub? Next, one of the roasted chicken crowns was taken and bits were shredded off with a fork and placed over the top.
“Turşu ister misiniz?” (Do you want pickles?)
Well, you can guess our answer to that question. Of course we wanted pickles – especially of the chilli variety! We’d had our eye on the pickled chillies all the time we were queueing. “Lütfen.” (Please).
A look of friendly concern fell over the man’s face as he stressed, “Acı, acı.” This is the routine we have to go through almost every time we try to purchase street food in Turkey. The trader feels the need to warn the unsuspecting foreigner that chillies are hot. Are you really sure you want them?
Polite smiles and a resolute yes. The pickled chillies were reluctantly placed atop the chicken, rice and chickpeas.
Where this fear of serving chillies to foreigners has come from, we have no idea. It happens almost everywhere we go in Turkey.
Sometimes it gets to a point where we have to be really insistent that we’re fully aware of the heat factor in chillies and please just give them to us. Anyway, on this occasion we succeeded in our mission to get turşu on top of our nohutlu pilav.
A Meal With A View
We wandered further along the road to a breezy clearing at the top of the hill and found a vandalised bench amongst swirling bits of litter. We were immediately joined by a scraggy street cat. Our bench overlooked much of Izmir and the bay and the sun was shining.
Armed with plastic forks, we tucked into our nohutlu pilav, treating the cat to occasional tiny bits of chicken. It wasn’t a high end restaurant, it wasn’t gourmet cuisine…but we had a fantastic view and a tub of comfort to eat as reward for our efforts of climbing to Kadifekale. Memorable bliss!
Nohutlu Pilav Recipe – Turkish Rice Pilaf With Chickpeas
So, ever since that day, we have been making our own nohutlu pilav at home. As with many recipes, it’s become tweaked a bit over the years with a couple of extra additions but it still takes us back to that bench in Izmir each time it’s on the menu – and it’s on the menu, often!
This dish is so easy, cheap to make, fantastically filling and really tasty. We make it with the leftovers from when we buy kömürde piliç (barbecued chicken) and it helps our chicken go much further.
How To Make Nohutlu Pilav (Turkish Chickpeas With Rice)
- 1 cup long grain rice approx 200g
- 400 g tinned chickpeas drained & rinsed
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 small green capsicum finely chopped
- 2 cups hot water or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp olive oil for cooking
- salt & pepper to season
- shredded or pulled chicken to serve (optional)
- pickled chilli peppers to serve (optional)
- Gently sauté your onion and capsicum in the olive oil in a saucepan.
- When the onion starts to sweat, add your rice and stir around for 3-4 minutes.
- Now add your chickpeas and salt & pepper to season.
- Using the same sized cup as you did for your rice, add two cups of hot water or chicken stock to your rice.
- Turn the heat to high, give your mixture one stir and bring to the boil.
- Once your rice and chickpeas are at boiling point, cover with a lid and turn the heat to low (we leave a slight gap to allow some steam to escape).
- Meanwhile, if you are serving your rice and chickpeas with chicken, pull or shred a handful of cooked chicken and keep to one side.
- After 8-10 minutes, check your rice and chickpeas to see if the water has absorbed.
- Remove from the heat, place your chicken over the top of your nohutlu pilav and replace the lid.
- Leave to stand for 5 minutes with the lid on.
- To serve, you can either mix the chicken into your rice and chickpea pilaf or you can remove the chicken before stirring your pilaf. You can then serve the chicken either over the top of your nohutlu pilav or on the side.
- Top your rice and chickpeas with pickled chilli peppers.
- If you omit the chicken or chicken stock, our nohutlu pilav recipe is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
- When served with chicken, rice pilaf with chickpeas is known as tavuklu nohutlu pilav.
- To make you nohutlu pilav recipe extra rich, use butter rather than olive oil.
- The calories for our nohutlu pilav are approximate and don't include the optional serving of chicken.
And that’s how we make our Turkish rice pilaf with chickpeas – nohutlu pilav. If you want to make variations of this, some people also add orzo or vermicelli as with our Turkish rice recipe. And if rice is not your thing, you can also make a bulgur pilaf with chickpeas.
Serving Your Nohutlu Pilav
Nohutlu pilav means ‘rice pilaf with chickpeas.’ Strictly speaking, what we are serving up here is ‘tavuklu nohutlu pilav’ – chicken with rice pilaf and chickpeas. However, if you do see it as a street food in Turkey, it is often just called ‘nohutlu pilav.’
A small topping of pickled chillies really brings your nohutlu pilav alive and, even if you’re not a big fan of chillies, give this combination a try. Wherever you eat rice pilaf dishes in Turkey, there is often a bowl of pickled chillies to be seen on the table.
Nohutlu Pilav Recipe – Extra tips
- As a Turkish street food, nohutlu pilav is sold from glass-covered carts and is served lukewarm. When we make nohutlu pilav at home, we let it cool down a little as it tastes much better than when it’s piping hot.
- It goes really well with a side of süzme yoğurt (thick Turkish yoghurt) and Turkish pickles.
- If you want to make the dish richer, you can substitute the olive oil for butter. Butter is commonly used in Turkish cooking.
- To cook our rice and chickpeas, we like to make a chicken stock from the carcass of our cooked chicken. This gives it lots of added extra flavour.
- Interestingly, although nohutlu pilav is now a common street food, it was originally a meal of the Ottomans; served on Fridays at grand lunches hosted by Mehmet the Conqueror’s Grand Vizier, Mahmud Paşa.
- We have lots of other rice and chickpea recipes in our collection of Turkish recipes.