Matar pulav aur pulav masala ~ Peas pulav & Pulav spice, my recipe

Pulav (pulao or pilaf) is a one pot meal made in most Indian homes.  It is a good way for moms to make their kids eat vegetables, apart from the fact that it means less cleaning up.  For some reason my mother would make it more often when dad was on tour, or if she was not up to cooking a full meal. And for the same reason, it did not seem special enough, until one young lady made me realize that it was indeed something special and not just a dish everyone can cook well. The credit goes to Jr.H’s friend, K.

One day Jr.H told me as I was packing her lunch, “if its pulav you better pack me a larger portion than you usually do. Otherwise, I don’t really get much to eat.” I know she likes pulav but I suspected whether she could eat more than what I pack for her, which is quite a lot.  And then she said, “You know what K says about your pulav, and she does not say this about other pulavs, ok?!”  This is the part where my ears stand up.  K is Punjabi and a comment about a North Indian dish from a North-Indian girl always matters.  I was a bit apprehensive – understandably.  “Well?” I said, cautiously. “She says pulav was just pulav until she ate my pulav, and then it became – YAY! Pulav!”  That sums it up.

To say the truth, it is not at all about the pulav.  It never is.

It is about the pulav masala.  The spice blend that goes in, and the spice blend is my own concoction.  I have never used pulav masalas that come packaged.  If a blend contains too many spices, it loses its charm for me.  I like to keep my spice blends simple and uncomplicated.  I like to know what is in there.  I love to deconstruct the simple flavours as I eat my food.

I am partial to addition of cinnamon in most North Indian spice blends. In my kitchen cinnamon (dalchini) and bay leaves (tejpatta, the Indian varieties) rule the spice cupboard.  I cannot do without them.  There are others too.  Hmm….  Let’s say spices rule!

My spice blend is not heady or strong but lends a very subtle, delicate flavour that perfectly compliments basmati rice, ambemohar or even everyday rice like kolam.  I said it before in some posts and I will say it again.  You do not need to use basmati.  Pulav tastes equally good with other fragrant varieties of rice.  If you can find ‘ambemohar’ rice in your area do try making pulav or puddings with it.  Basmati is over rated and you will be convinced when you taste this variety of rice.  It is native to Maharashtra and is fast losing it original fragrance.  I am not sure whether the original strains are even available.

Another feature about my pulav that surprises most is that I always make it in a pressure cooker.  I swear by it.  It has never let me down, unless I have been watching a very interesting thriller, reading a good book or playing some word game, which ideally warrants that one lose track of time.  Even a minute more than the recommended time can ruin your pulav – not beyond repair though.  Two minutes more will definitely ruin it beyond repair.  One of my readers, Bharati tried my pressure cooking method and confirmed that the timing was perfect.  Of course the timing also depends on whether you are using an aluminium or a steel pressure cooker.  Aluminium conducts heat more uniformly which means that the chances of pulav cooks a minute or two faster than in Stainless steel.  My earlier recipes of pulav were made in an aluminium cooker but I soon switched over to steel.  The one given below is made in a stainless cooker. The time difference is hardly a minute or two.

Pulav is usually served with raita, rajma or chhole but we like it best served with kali dal. I do not add green chillies or red chilli powder because I like my pulav only fragrant, not spicy. But if you like some heat, go ahead and add 2 green chillies or a tsp. of chilli powder.

Recipe: Matar pulav ~ Green peas pulav
Serves: 3 pulav maniacs or 5 normal people

Long-grained rice or any fragrant, low starch rice like basmati, kolam or ambemohar – 1.5 cups
Oil – 1.5 tbsps.
Cumin seeds [jeera] – 1.5 tsps.
Onions, sliced thin – 2 small ones or 7-8 shallots, thinly sliced
Bay leaves [tejpatta – Indian variety] – 2
Cinnamon [dalchini] – 2, 1″ sticks
Cloves [lavang] – 4-5
Whole black pepper [sabut kali mirch] – 7-8 [optional]
Slitted green chillies – 2 [optional]
Fresh, shelled green peas [matar] – 3/4 cup [as per your liking]
Water – 3 cups [twice the amount of rice]
Pink Salt (kala namak) to taste
or red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp. [optional]
Pulav spice blend [pulav masala] – 1/2 tsp. [recipe follows]


Half an hour before making the pulav, clean and pick rice. Rinse well and pour water just enough to cover the rice. Set aside.

Prepare the pulav masala or spice blend, following the recipe below. It usually makes a little more than required. I use 1/2 tsp. and reserve the rest for later use. If you would like it more fragrant use 3/4 tsp.

Heat oil in a cooker. When hot, reduce heat to medium and add cumin seeds. When they splutter add slit green chillies, if using.

Add the whole spices, saute till the cloves fill up and then add sliced onions.

Saute continuously till the onions caramalize. At this stage you might want to keep a few spices and onion slices aside for garnish, if you plan to take a photograph. If not, just don’t bother with that extra work!

Now add the water. When the water comes to a boil add drained rice and peas, followed by pulav masala (spice blend) salt to taste and red chilli powder (if using).

Cover the cooker with a lid and place the weight (whistle).

After one whistle, reduce the heat to sim. Let the rice cook on low heat for three minutes. Put off fire. Let the pressure fall naturally.

When cooled (about 15 minutes), open the lid and let the extra steam escape for another five minutes. Use a fork or a slotted spoon to gently cut through the rice in shallow scoops. If the grains stick, wait for another five to ten minutes and then scoop.

Serve with a side dish such as aloo-gobi rasedar, kali dal [mixed lentil stew], rajma, chhole or vegan raita.

I know what you will think when you read this recipe. So simple? Yes. That simple! But it makes a difference.

Recipe: Pulav masala [Pulav spice blend]
Yield: A tablespoon or so


Star anise [badiyan] – 2 petals
Mace [Javitri] – Tear off two or three thin strands, a little is a lot
Cinnamon [dalchini] – 1/2 inch, broken into smaller pieces
Green cardamom [chhoti elaichi] – 5
Bay leaf – 1/2 a leaf


Grind in a spice grinder for a minute. It does not grind very fine because of the bay leaf.

Sieve and use as desired.

I use the remaining portion after sifting in cakes.  Just blend along with sugar or flour.


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Seema

    Lovely pulao..Tried it today, turned out to be awesome..last morsel was hard to find..everyone fighting over it..Thank you very much for this lovely receipe. It was the quickest pulao I have ever made from scratch. I will love to impress my guests with this pulao.

    Question: Can I make twice the measurements of the spice mix and store the ground powder for future use?Also, if I have to make it for double the quantity what would you suggest?


    • Harini

      Thank you, Seema! I am so glad you loved the recipe and the spice mix. You can make enough to last two or three uses. The fragrance lasts well for over three weeks. Shake well before you use it again and double the measurements exactly for twice the quantity for the pulao. Add 1.5 times the spice mix for double the quantity of pulao. Spices tend to pervade the dish well even if you do not double the quantity.

      • Seema

        Thank you for your quick reply Harini. You have been my inspiration since I have given up dairy and discuss your recipes with my mom. I hope to completely convert myelf into a vegan one day. Thanks to your unconditional love in the form of blog and sharing lovely recipes..God bless you and your family..

        • Harini

          My pleasure, Seema! I am so glad you are inspired to become vegan, and that you are discussing the recipes with your mom. If she has any suggestions, I would love to know them. And thank you so much for your kind wishes. I am blessed to have readers like you! 🙂

  • Sarah Naveen

    Hey Harini..
    I tried this twice already -one with peas and next with mixed vegetables and both times it came out really good..that spice mix really did the magic ..I was never sure of how to make pulao in pressure cooker all this time ..Thank you so much for this simply awesome recipe…

    • Harini

      Great Sarah! I am glad you found it so good. Making in cooker is lot easier than the open cooking method, I think. Thanks for trying it out!

  • Bharathi

    made the pulao yesterday for my children’s lunch and the lunch box came back empty- that says it all!!! mixie jar was smelling awesome after the spice grinding, this even though I did not have mace.I was tempted to keep for two whistles, then I decided against it, thankfully.
    is this spice blend only for peas pulao. btw any hints on how to reheat the pulao to use for the next day(after refrigerating it)

    • Harini

      Wow! That’s great, Bharathi! An empty lunch box is the best evidence to Mommy’s good cooking skills.:) Yes, this blend is simple but leaves a lingering fragrance. Two whistles would have made the rice grains sticky. I use this for all pulaos as well as tomato rice. I advise steaming leftover pulao as the best way to re-heat. It ensures minimal loss of nutrients, and will not render the grains sticky.

  • chinmayie @ love food eat

    Hi Harini! Made this pulav yesterday and everybody loved how different it tastes.
    I made it with Cauliflower instead of peas as that’s what I had on hand. Will try with per next time. Thanks you for a fabulous spice powder. It’s a combination of spices I had never tried before.

    • Harini

      I am so glad you tried and that all of you loved it! I like cauliflower in pulao too, though it always makes an appearance along with other veggies.

  • Madhu

    I tried out your spice mix today. The smell was heavenly and the pulav turned out great. I dry roasted the spices for a few minutes and then grinded them. It turned out to be very fine powder and I didnt have to sieve.

    • Harini

      So glad that you liked the aromas of this blend. I like that you did not sieve as it is not essential.

  • Anisha

    I tried this recipe yesterday, I followed it to the T and we all gorged on the yummy pulao. Thanks!

    • Harini

      Yay! That felt good to read.:) Thanks, Anisha!

  • Rajani@eatwritethink

    i use star anise for biryani masala and for pulav 2 versions one with jeera, dalchini and chotti elaichi, and the other with dalchini, clove, badi elaichi. depends on the kind of veggies I plan to use. For biryani, combination of these plus star anise, minus cloves!!! does that make any sense?

    • Harini

      He he! Smells nice here but it left me confused! Probably its time you made a post. 😀


    harini…. i am visiting and commenting on your blog after a long long time.

    loved your pics and the pulao spice blend. i am going to try this blend. at home we love pulaos and have to make it in a week. generally when making pulao, i usually add the whole garam masala.

    i agree with what you say about ambemohar rice. i have made pulaos with ambemohar, kolam and sona masuri too and loved it with these rice varieties.

    • Harini

      Hello dassana, welcome back. 🙂

      Thanks. If you try it please give me a feedback. Glad to see that you too hold the same views about ambemohar and other indigenous variants of rice.

  • sukanya ramkumar

    Perfect looking bowl of recipe. Looks so good. Nice clicks and beautiful presentation… YUM!!

  • Smita

    Gorgeous pics as always …. i love the green color of ur new background board 🙂 pairs so v well with ur recipe . Wud love to share an age old tip – try putting a pinch of sugar in the ghee & lightly caramelize it before putting onions & proceed as usual . i’m sure u’d love the flavor that it adds.

    • Harini

      Thanks Smita. I am vegan, and don’t use ghee or any other milk product, but yes, I could use that tip still. Thanks.

  • jayanthi

    lovely, simple recipe Harini..i will try this v.soon. my boys r fed up with the taste of the routine pulav masala.

    • Harini

      I would like to receive a feedback from them through you. 🙂

  • rupa

    Nice recipe harini i like pulavs very much especially chicke pulav.I will try this recipe and surprise my family

  • Bharathi

    You know what I am going to say : Yay Spice blend! :)…not everyone will share their spice blend Harini…give yourself a pat. And the photos are a treat, esp the one with the peas (drool-some) and the one with the white plate and spices (pristine). thanks for the step by step photos.

    btw I loved that comment by your daughter’s friend- Just two words but says everything right!

  • PG

    Never knew about ambemohar. Good you wrote about it. I checked in wiki and found that apparently it is a low yielding variety.
    Also, I’ve never used ground masala for pulav. Have to try it your way. A couple of years back I made plain rice with nothing but fresh bay leaves (not Indian but the meditarranian one) and was totally amazed by its fragrance. I am hooked since then.
    And that’s the good thing about Indian pressure cookers, you can open them easily without having to wait.

    • Harini

      Are pressure cookers abroad different, PG?

  • Geethanjali

    Looks fab-sinating!! I also use a couple of cloves and gently heat them to realease flavours before i blend. Am a fan Harini!!

    • Harini

      Hi Geethanjali, thank you so much for your kind words, and the very nice adjective. 😀

  • chinmayie @ love food eat

    I am huge pulav lover. I usually make mine with very very little spice and lots of (almost too much) veggies. I know it’s not really the way to make it but I think everybody has their own favourite way to make pulav. I have a dozen different recipes mostly from different family members but I believe I can never have too many pulav recipes. I am definitely trying your recipe asap. Will let you know how my family likes it 🙂

    • Harini

      Chinmayie, I too make with lot of veggies and never only matar, except that today Jr.P himself asked for ‘only matar waala’ pulav. My son simply loves peas these days, and this is a kid who hated them till last year! I think adding loads of vegetables to pulav ensures that vegetables get eaten up. 🙂

      • Radhika @ Just Home Made

        Beautiful! Harini as usual..
        I agree with Chin, one can never have too many pulav recipes..
        I’m like your Jr. P – peas lover to the core.. Gotto have peas in the freezer all the time.. Any dish I make has a healthy (over)dose 🙂 of peas!
        Needless to say, Looove Peas pulav..

  • prathibha

    I make my own garam masala wid only few ingredients..and in matar pulav I add only whole masalas as you said even I like mild flavored pulavs otherwise the taste would b spoilt…the addition of kala namak is interesting..never tried wid it

    • Harini

      But this mild masala makes a difference. Better than just adding whole ones.

  • VeganReader

    Harini, Simple and well presented recipe. Beautiful clicks. I want to suggest one small correction. Star anise is not Dagad phool. Refer below link.

  • Priyanka

    One of my fav pulav….great recipe.

  • Manisha

    I can smell the fragrance! But I have a question. Did you use star anise or did you use dagad phool? They are not the same. Star anise is a dried fruit that is also called badyan in Marathi. Dagad phool (flower that grows on rocks) is a lichen.

    • Harini

      Manisha, I think I got the name wrong in Marathi! I used star anise or badiyan, not dagad phool. Thanks, I will make the corrections. 🙂

  • Ambika

    Hi Harini! I also make a very similar pulao masala, I just add in a black cardamom too…But the interesting thing about your pulao is kala namak! I never though of using kala namak in pulao, sounds very interesting. Will try this soon! And gorgeous photos as always 🙂

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