Easy Foolproof Chicken Pilau

For some reason, during this lockdown, I seem to have less time on my hands than I did before. Working from home is never easy, plus throw in the constant running after the little dude, cleaning up his mess, mopping the kitchen floor after his meal times – it’s a war zone here at my house right now. Come dinner time and both Abbas and myself are too tired to make anything that requires work. 

So what dish do you make that requires no special ingredients, takes little time to put together, and is kid friendly? Chicken pilau, of course! 

This is a classic East African style chicken pilau and with a few shortcuts here and there, you can have it ready in 30 minutes. 

You’ll want to marinate your chicken in ginger, garlic, garam masala, and coriander and chilli paste, but don’t add in the salt yet. This will be for later. 

Whilst the chicken is marinating, fry your spices, chillies, cumin seeds, tomatoes and fried onions in hot oil in the pan. Throw in the chicken, potatoes, water, and some salt, and leave for 15-20 minutes until the rice absorbs the water. Done and ready to serve! 

The shortcuts? Swap out the real onions for fried onions which saves you a lot of time! Using pastes instead of fresh garlic, ginger, coriander etc. 

Thankfully, before lockdown, mum bought me a rice cooker. It is a cute little thing that fits into any kitchen cupboard and all you have to do is press “on”. Heck, I just made the pilau in the rice cooker pan which cut down my washing massively. You can buy a similar one here (*affiliate link). 

I do know that an instant pot basically cuts your cooking time in half but I could never nail down cooking pilau in an instant pot. It would either be dry or too mushy. Sigh, I’ll find the perfect balance one day. 

Notes: I put in one chilli because Aadam would be eating with us but feel free to throw in lots more if you like it hot. You can make this baby weaning friendly by cutting the amount of salt and putting more water in so the rice becomes mushy. I used to use jasmine rice instead of basmati so that Aadam could eat it when he was little. 



2 chicken breasts, chopped – using pieces is completely fine too!

1 heaped tsp ginger paste 

1 heaped tsp garlic paste 

1 heaped tsp coriander paste 

1 tsp garam masala 


1 cinnamon stick 

3 cardamom pods

3 cloves

7 peppercorns 

Green chilli (adjust to your spice liking) 

1 tbsp cumin seeds 

1 salad tomato, chopped 

2 tbsp fried onions 

1/2 large potato, diced 


1 cup rice, soaked for 15 minutes

1 + 3/4 cups water (adjust for the amount of rice you used. For 1 cup rice, I use just under 2 cups of water) 


  1. Wash rice thoroughly and leave to soak for 15 minutes 
  2. Marinate chicken in ginger paste, garlic paste, coriander paste, and garam masala. 
  3. In a pan or a rice cooker pan, heat up oil and fry your spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorn) 
  4. Once the spices are popping in the oil, add in the green chilli and cumin seeds 
  5. Add in the chopped tomato and fried onions and fry until slightly darkened. 
  6. Add in 1 tsp of coriander paste. Then add in the chicken and potatoes, and stir. 
  7. Add water to the pan with salt
  8. Once boiling, add in the soaked rice (make sure you drain the rice first!)
  9. Place a lid on the pan and leave to cook. Alternatively, place the pan in a rice cooker and set to cook.
  10. Once the water has been absorbed or the rice cooker switches off (10-15 minutes), the pilau is ready to eat. 
  11. Serve with chopped coriander, Kachumber, and yoghurt. 
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