Almost Turkish Recipes

Tomato Pilaf (Domatesli Pilav)

One of the indispensable dishes of summer time dinner tables. It goes well with any kind of grilled meat and olive oil dishes. And as a bonus, it's one of the all time kid-favorite Turkish recipes. It was MY favorite as a kid. I could live on tomato rice, meatballs, and yogurt all summer. Last night I got the best compliment for my cooking ever: A five-year old, unfortunately not mine, told me my red rice was better than ice cream. Yes, that level of compliment!

serves 6-8

2 cups of rice (I find jasmine rice the closest to Turkish rice)
1 small onion, finely chopped, ~1/2 to 1 cup
3 tbsp olive oil or butter (if you use olive oil, you can have the rice cold the next day)
3-4 juicy medium to big size tomatoes, diced (hard to believe but in Turkey most people skin the tomatoes) or 1 can of petite diced tomato (when using canned tomatoes, I always put them in the processor for 5-10 seconds to make it smoother for my picky eaters)
1 tsp salt
a pinch of sugar (1/4 tsp or a little more)
1 tsp black pepper (optional)
3 3/4 cups of water or stock (vegetable or chicken)
finely chopped parsley to garnish

-According to the traditional Turkish style of making rice pilaf, rice is soaked in warm water for at least 20 minutes and then rinsed well to wash off the starchiness. Although I have been scolded by mom and various aunts over this issue, I do not soak or wash rice for no good reason other than laziness and lack of time.
-Saute onions in a steel pot with your preferred oil until soft. Don't let them brown.
-Add the tomatoes and sugar, and cook for 4-5 minutes until they acquire that dark cooked-tomato color.
-Add rice and stir for a couple of minutes.
-Add water or stock, salt, and pepper, if you're using any. Stir once. Turn the heat down to low to medium once it starts boiling.
-Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, until it absorbs the water or stock. You might want to stir it once after 10 minutes if the water stays on top and the bottom is getting cooked.
-Once it's cooked. Take the pot off the stove and cover the top with a paper towel or a clean kitchen cloth. Do not stir it. Replace the lid. Let sit covered for at least 10 minutes.
-Now you can stir or fluff it up to distribute the oil evenly that sat on the bottom. Sprinkle chopped parsley and serve hot.


  1. This does sound perfect for the hot weather! I imagine it tastes just fine during the winter months as well.

  2. This looks simple enough for me to try, cool! thanks again for this recipe :)

  3. Very nice photos, very summer-y.

  4. lisa-it tastes just fine in winter, too yet the idea is to make it with fresh tomatoes. I had good results with organic diced tomatoes, too.

    mrs.ergul-you're right, it's very simple! btw, i like your google name.

    simona-it's already 100 degrees here, so I think I will be cooking a lot of summer-y dishes for the next couple of months.

  5. Merhaba Burcu, you mean 'Mrs Ergül'? Thanks! I'm looking forward to reading more recipes from Almost Turkish!!

  6. Anonymous9:25 PM

    Burcu, this is one of my fav Turkish pilafs. In fact there is none I don't like in your cuisine:) You are doing a great job with your blog. Hosca kal!:)

  7. Have you had any success at making this with brown rice?


  8. Burcu, thanks for this summer inspiration! I have cooked it today for light summer lunch with cacik and it was a big hit! I just wonder about the amount of water: usually its 1 cup of water to 1 cup of rice, even less here since summer tomatos are very juicy. I used 3 cups rice, 6 medium tomatoes and 5 cups water plus the paper towel trick and still thought it came out little wet.

  9. Dear Olga,
    This is not about how much water or tomatoes you use; it is the nature of tomato pilaf. it's always a little moist.