Rice Pilaf: A Lesson in Tolerance

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Before my parents got married, their church required a counseling session with the minister. “There’s more than one way to make pilaf” was the key takeaway from that session. The meaning was both literal and proverbial: my mom’s mom made pilaf one way, while my dad’s mom made it differently. Somehow, my parents would have to learn that both methods were valid and that diversity is good. Fifty years later, “there’s more than one way to make pilaf” is a friendly reminder invoked in my own marriage during arguments about whose method is better.


Well, last week the proverb got literal as I watched Zee make her basic pilaf. She discussed at length the many variations while we were cooking. For example, some people brown their vermicelli in the oven; others brown it on the stovetop. Some use bouillon cubes; others used broth. Some use converted rice…and the list goes on.


As I see it, there are two unifying points to Armenian Pilaf. First, we all use a small portion of vermicelli along with the rice. Second, we sauté the raw rice before adding the liquid.  Beyond that, pilaf really IS a celebration of diversity (or lesson in tolerance) depending on one’s predisposition.  What follows here is Zee’s basic recipe, with more delicious variations to come!


Zee's Basic Pilaf

Zee uses the same basic technique as my family, but her ratios and ingredients are slightly different. Since both ways are delicious, I say -- vive la difference! 
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword pilaf
Servings 4


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 cup olive oil (Zee uses La Romanella Pure Olive Oil from Smart & Final for its mild taste and attractive price.)
  • 1/4 cup vermicelli
  • 1-1/4 cup long grain rice (Zee likes Jasmine and Mahatma.)
  • 1/2 large bouillon cube
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • Melt butter and oil together in a medium pan.
  • Sauté the vermicelli in the melted butter and olive oil until browned. (Watch it closely as it can easily burn.)
  • Add rice and sauté for about 30 seconds over the heat.
  • Add 2 1/4 cup water, mix in the bouillon and salt, and stir until bouillon is dissolved.
  • Bring to boil, cover and cook on “the lowest low” for 25 minutes. 


Personally, I like to finish my rice in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes because I find it cooks evenly this way and is less likely to burn on the bottom. Here is more proof that there's > 1 way to make pilaf!


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