Steamed Rice With Cumin and Potatoes 6.000

Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post

Nov 5, 2018

This is surprisingly easy to make, deeply fragrant and satisfying.

It is traditional to mound the rice in the shape of a cone, as noted in Batmanglij's new cookbook. But the more significant presentation will include some of the crust from the bottom of the pot -- a culinary treasure.

To read the accompanying story, see: Najmieh Batmanglij is the grande dame of Iranian cooking. It’s time you knew her name.

Where to Buy: Black cumin seeds are available at some Walmart stores, online spice shops and in Middle Eastern markets.

6 - 8

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6-8 servings

  • 2 cups dried white basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or ghee
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons black cumin seeds (see headnote)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric or 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron
  • 4 cups no-salt-added chicken broth, or water


Place the rice in a fine-mesh colander or strainer in the sink. Rinse with lukewarm water, swishing it gently with your hand, then drain. Repeat four or five times, until the water is mostly clear. Drain a final time.

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil or ghee in a large nonstick pot or enameled Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onions and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown, stirring as needed. Add the potatoes, black cumin seed, salt (to taste) and turmeric or saffron; cook for 2 minutes.

Add the drained rice and all the broth or water; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, gently stirring a few times. Then reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed.

Uncover and drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of oil or ghee evenly over the rice-potato mixture. Reduce the heat to low; wrap a clean dish towel around the lid of the pot before re-covering the pot. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove from the heat, placing the covered pot on a damp towel to rest for 5 minutes.

Uncover; transfer ladlefuls of rice to a platter, topping them with crust from the bottom of the pot. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from "Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes and Kitchen Secrets," by Najmieh Batmanglij (Mage, 2018).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at