Kenyan Beef Pilau (A Step by Step Guide To Making The Best Pilau)

Howdy friends? How is the New Year proceeding thus far? I hope it is bringing lots of joy. Talking of joy, today’s recipe, Beef Pilau

Pilau(Rice Pilaf) in a white plateHowdy friends? How is the New Year proceeding thus far? I hope it is bringing lots of joy.
Talking of joy, today’s recipe, Beef Pilau is sure to bring even much more joy. I will also be sharing tips to making the best Pilau every time. So sit tight by the end of this post you will be an unmatched Pilau guru.
About a week ago I posted a recipe to Nigerian Jollof rice. A number of you (mostly from East Africa) were quick to compare it to Kenyan Beef Pilau. Well, despite both being one pot rice dishes, there are a number of differences between Nigerian Jollof Rice and Kenyan Pilau.

Beef Pilau origin and popularity

If you are like me then you probably fancy knowing a meal’s origin as you enjoy it. Pilau originated from Persia, modern day Iran, with the first known recipe dating back to the 10th Century.
See also: Shakshuka/North African Poached Eggs
Today, the meal has spread to various parts of the world and is popular in East Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. It goes by various names including Pilaf, Pulao, Pulaav, Palaw, Palov among others.
Must Read: Forget These 3 Healthy Eating Resolutions and Try These Instead

How to Prepare Beef Pilau

Pilau mainly comprises of rice, meat, vegetables and at times dried fruit. The meal mainly derives its distinct flavor from the spices used; black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, cumin seeds, cardamom and ginger. In Kenya and largely East Africa, food companies produce, ground Pilau Masala, a blend of all these spices.

However, I find Pilau cooked with Pilau Masala not as good as such. The secret is to use whole spices. You are probably scratching your head wondering where you’ll get the spices. They can easily be found in the spices section at your local store. Next time you are shopping, include these spices in your shopping list.

  • Whole Black Peppercorns (Pilipili Manga)
  • Cinnamon Sticks (Mdalasini)
  • Whole Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
  • Whole Cardamom Pods (Iliki)
  • Cloves

Alternatively, you can get Pilau Masala Whole Spices (pictured below) also available in major stores near you.

Pilau Whole Spices
Pilau Whole Spices

When preparing your pilau, you won’t use the spices in their whole state. You will have to crush and grind them using a blender or going traditional like I normally do with a pestle and mortar pictured below. If you only have Pilau Masala on hand or don’t have time to prepare your spices refer to this post, Kenyan Beef Pilau Prepared Using Pilau Masala

African Wooden pestle and mortar
Pestle and mortar

Tips to Making the best Pilau

  1. Always use long grain brown or white rice. A good practice is to soak the rice for 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Saute onions till dark and caramelized (looks kind of burnt). This gives your Pilau a darker color.
  3. Tomatoes are a no no when it comes to Pilau.
  4. For an even richer taste, serve with Yogurt. Thank me later

Below is the recipe lets get pounding, shall we? Be sure to drop your questions, comments and insight on this recipe in the comments section below. If you like this post, why not share it? Click on any of the share buttons below. Sharing is caring, they say.

Kenyan Beef Pilau
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: East African
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
Delicious East African Rice Pilaf cooked with whole spices and bursting with rich flavors
  • 500 g goat, mutton or beef cubes
  • 500 g, 3 Cups Long Grain Rice
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 9 cardamom pods
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 inch whole ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 6 cups hot water for cooking rice
  • Salt to taste
  1. Boil the beef in salted boiling water until tender, 45 mins to 1 hour depending on the beef. Set aside
  2. Meanwhile, grind the cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and 2 tablespoons water in a pestle and mortar or in a blender.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil and saute onions till dark and caramelized
  4. Add the cooked beef and keep stirring till dark too about 5 minutes, the beef and onions may look burnt but that is fine.
  5. Mix in the crushed spices together with ginger and garlic. Stir fry for 30 Seconds.
  6. Add in the rice, mix thoroughly then add the hot water.
  7. Add salt, cover and let cook till ready. About 30-45 mins
  8. Garnish with coriander and serve.

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