Preserving the Art of Central Valley Armenian Home Cooking

Rice Pilaf: A Lesson in Tolerance

Rice Pilaf:                          A Lesson in Tolerance

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!


6 thoughts on “Rice Pilaf: A Lesson in Tolerance”

  • Pilaf – I’ve never made it before and sounds like something I’d like to try. Have you ever made it with brown rice before? Always thinking about the healthy angle. 🙂

  • Finish in the oven? Sounds fantastic and have never contemplated that before! Have been making pilaf my whole “adult” life, you learn something new everyday! Thank you! Looking forward to giving it a try!

  • Hi Wendy, thanks for your comment. The healthy angle on pilaf is to make it with bulgher, or cracked wheat. I will post that in the very near future! There is also a version with lentils that will be coming out in the fall. Stay tuned!

  • Hi Kim, thanks for your comment. Truth be told, I learned about finishing pilaf in the oven from a Rick Bayless cookbook. I find it works every time…cooking evenly without any rice lost to the bottom of the pan! Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy the newest posts.

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