Mediterranean Rice Pilaf

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Mediterranean rice pilaf is a vibrant, flavorful side dish made with turmeric and toasted pine nuts. It will make any meal just a little bit tastier, and it’s so easy to make!

I’ve been making this golden rice pilaf for as long as I’ve been married… maybe longer. The secret to the “golden” part of the rice recipe is turmeric.

Golden Mediterranean Rice Pilaf in a white bowl with a spoon in it.

Secret Ingredient to this Middle Eastern Rice Pilaf

While saffron is traditionally used in Mediterranean pilaf, turmeric is often used as a saffron substitute, as they both give the rice a beautiful golden color. Using turmeric in place of saffron yields a similar result at a fraction of the price. 

Plus, turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory and has quite a few additional health benefits

What You’ll Need

This Mediterranean rice pilaf recipe is made with basic ingredients that you probably have on hand. It’s also easily adaptable!

Ingredients for rice pilaf in bowls on a table.
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, more to taste
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley for garnish

How to Make Mediterranean Yellow Rice

Begin by sautéing the onions in a pot over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Sauteed onions in a pan with a wooden spoon.

Next, add turmeric, rice, and garlic, and stir until it is well mixed, about another 2 minutes.

Onions, turmeric and rice in a sauce pan.

Add broth and bring to a boil. 

Add 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and reduce heat to the lowest temperature. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. I like to use a saucepan with a glass lid so I can check on rice without lifting the lid. 

Uncooked rice pilaf being mixed in a pan with a wooden spoon.

When the liquid is absorbed, turn off the heat and let the rice sit covered for 5 minutes. 

Add toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley if desired. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Toasted pine nuts in a frying pan.

Mediterranean Rice Pilaf Substitutions

You can easily substitute brown rice in place of the white rice, just be sure you adjust the cooking time. Because the bran is intact, brown rice can take almost twice as long as white rice to cook. 

I use chicken broth for the liquid, but you can substitute vegetable broth for a vegetarian or vegan side dish. And this dish is naturally gluten free.

Pine nuts add a bit of texture and protein, but you can also use slivered almonds or dried fruit. You can even add peas for color. Sometimes I add a handful of grated parmesan cheese… just because!  

I often serve this with a Mediterranean Burger, Rosemary Shrimp or Lamb Sliders. Enjoy!

Golden rice pilaf in white bowl.

Mediterranean Rice Pilaf

This golden Mediterranean Rice Pilaf is the prefect side dish for American, Greek or Middle Eastern dishes. Makes 3 cups cooked rice.
5 from 46 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 6
Calories 260 kcal


  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper more to taste
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley for garnish.


  • Heat oil and butter in a sauce pan over a medium heat. Add onions, and sauté 2-3 minutes, Add rice, turmeric and garlic, and continue stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let garlic burn
  • Add rice, turmeric and garlic, and continue stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let garlic burn
  • Add broth and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to low, cover and cook rice until tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-18 minutes.
  • Lightly toast pine nuts until golden brown
  • Stir in toasted pine nuts or almonds and adjust seasoning to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 260kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 4gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 694mgPotassium: 200mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 60IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 19mgIron: 1.2mg
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  1. 5 stars
    We cook all our rice in our Instant Pot, and this was so easily adapted for that. We used 2 TBS of ghee instead of the 3 TBS of fat, and turned the pot to sauté and added the onions. We then added the turmeric and garlic, and then added well-rinsed basmati rice. Admittedly we didn’t sauté the rice very long because it wet (and if you opt to sauté the rice for the 2-3 minutes, maybe toss in that extra TBS of fat). We added only 1 cup of low sodium broth (instant pot rice is usually a 1:1 ratio) and cut the salt back to about 1/4 of a tsp. We did 7 minutes for the rice (5-7 minutes for basmati seems to be a good window for us) with 10 minute natural release, and added the toasted pine nuts after. It was so freaking good! Thank you for the easy-to-follow recipe—it made it that much easier to adapt it to our preferred cooking method!

  2. 5 stars
    Excellent and simple recipe! I added a bit of lemon zest at the end and might try some green olives next time!

  3. 5 stars
    This is FANTASTIC. We couldn’t stop eating it. I tend to mess with recipes after I make as written, but this is going to be made (and made and made and made!) exactly as written every time.

  4. 5 stars
    Thank you for the recipe. Added it to a dinner party menu of Mediterranean food….it was a huge hit. Will definitely make it again,


  5. 5 stars
    Thus looks like a delicious dish. Mediterranean rice recipe is easy to follow and versatile so can be served with any dish!

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