Chestnut Mushroom Pulao – Perfectly fragrant Indian Rice

Chestnut Mushroom and Cashew Pulao Rice in a balti dish

Mushroom Pulao is an incredibly easy mid-week dinner that’s full of subtle aromatic flavour without much effort! Chestnut mushrooms offer a deep, rich sense of woody meatiness which pairs beautifully with the rich nuttiness from cashews. Cumin seeds flecked through the dish give an understated warm and bitter bite while the cardamon and cloves offer an intensely sweet and aromatic over-note. Then comes the surprise of the fresh citrus from fennel and coriander seeds – just the barest minimum to contrast with the earthy, sweet flavours of the other spices. Overall, I’ve kept the dish low on whole spices so as to let the main flavours of mushroom and garlic shine through.

The rice itself is perfectly fluffy and separated without being dry. The natural juiciness of the mushrooms really helps this dish feel robust and succulent. There’s really no need to serve it with anything else because the rice is glossy and flavourful enough by itself! Finish it off with some fresh herbs – coriander, mint and chives all work well here – and you have yourself a fresh, healthy, hearty meal.

You can adjust the heat to your own preference – I’ve used 6 green finger chillis, which is a comfortable level of heat for us. At this level it’s neither too mild nor too fiery, but do feel free to adjust it to your personal spice tolerance.

Pulao is one of the most simple and one of the most delicious rice dishes you can learn to make.

How can I make this recipe Vegan?

Mushroom Pulao is naturally vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free. Adjusting the recipe to be vegan and nut free is incredibly simple.

  • To make the recipe vegan, simply exchange butter ghee for this vegetable ghee – or this one which is also palm-oil free – coconut oil, or a good plant based butter. It’s as simple as that!
  • To make the recipe nut free, just omit the cashews entirely. If you want, you can replace them with some toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds to give an extra dose of nutrition and a great crunch.

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What’s the difference between Pulao, Pilaf, and Pilau?

Nothing! You might be wondering why I’ve spelt it ‘Pulao’, but you’re likely to see different spelling for all sorts of Indian dishes. It’s usually because there are many regional languages in India with different names for things – and even then, it’s hard to translate the name using the English alphabet. This is why you’ll find lots of different variations of spellings. Pulao is the most widely accepted transliteration, so that’s what I chose to use. You’ll usually see ‘pilaf’ in reference to more Persian rice dishes, and pilau is generally used by British Indian Restaurants or takeaways. Use whichever word you’re more familiar or comfortable with.

Which rice is best to use for Pulao?

Any long grain rice will be a good choice here. The traditional option is basmati, a long and slender grained aromatic rice. There are a large variations of brands depending on where you’re based, but in general I recommend opting for a good quality aged basmati directly from Pakistan or India with extra-long grains.

However, a good quality brown basmati rice is a great option for a more health conscious meal. Brown rice has a more pronounced nutty earthiness which will pair particularly well with the mushrooms in this case.

The most important thing with rice is to make sure you cook it properly. The first step should always be to soak basmati – this makes the rice swell slightly and decreases the cooking time. Next and most importantly is to wash the rice until the water runs clear. This is vital as it washes off the starch layer which will make your rice stick together. As long as you follow the recipe properly you are sure to have perfectly cooked separated grains of rice!

What is the difference between Mushroom Pulao and Biryani?

There is a common misconception that vegetarian variations of pulao and biryani are actually the same dish. This is definitely not the case, and it’s useful to know the differences. If you’re interested in a Biryani recipe, I have a delicious, highly spiced and aromatic Paneer Biryani recipe which is always a hit in our house!

  • The method of cooking pulao is different. As you’ll see in this recipe, pulao is a one-pot dish in which the vegetables, whole spices and rice are all cooked together using the absorption method (meaning no draining of the rice is required). On the other hand, the rice portion of biryani is cooked separately to the spiced curry, and then the two are layered together to finish the dish.
  • Biryani uses more complex spicing. Biryani is full of aromatic spices, from cloves to black cardamon and star anise. It is also often features either rose-water or kewra water, as well as a saffron infused milk. Conversely, pulao is much more simple and homely, with only basic aromatic spices.  
  • There is a ‘curry’ element to Biryani. Only vegetables, whole spices and nuts are added to Pulao. However, in Biryani there is an element of a ‘curry’ and a moistness in the dish. This is because to make the layers of a biryani, you cook a tadka or ‘curry base’, from onions, tomatoes, whole spices and powdered spices. Further, yoghurt is added to give a moistness to the dish. This is not present in pulao.

Can you store Pulao?

I doubt that you’ll have any mushroom pulao leftover as the result is so delicious! However, this recipe is easy to store for later. As a note of caution, you should always be careful when storing and reheating rice as if done incorrectly it can give you trouble with food poisoning.

The key is to cool the rice as quickly as possible and then keep it covered and airtight in the fridge. It should be fine for up to 2 days, but preferably should be eaten within 1 day. My preference is to re-heat rice on the hob – I break it up to separate the grains, add it to a deep kadai or wok, and stir fry on a low-medium heat until piping hot. It’s vital that the rice is heated through thoroughly. You can also use a microwave – just place the rice in a microwave safe bowl or plate, sprinkle with water and heat for 4 minutes.

Make sure that you only reheat the rice once.

This Mushroom Pulao is:

  • Quick – rice gets cooked in just 10 minutes!
  • Perfect for when you don’t have much in the fridge
  • Nutty, earthy, spicy and aromatic
  • Healthy
  • Gluten Free
  • Dairy Free
  • Easily adaptable to be vegan and nut free

If you’re interested in more Indian main courses, do check out my opulent Paneer Biryani, a comforting lentil soup of Maa ki Dal, or the iron-rich and mildly spiced Patta Gobi Sabji or Palak Saag. To find all my other Indian recipes and more from other cuisines, do check out my Recipe Index. Okay, now onto the recipe!

A bowl of mushroom and cashew nut pulao rice

Chestnut Mushroom Pulao - Perfectly fragrant Indian Rice

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes



  1. Begin by soaking the rice. Add your rice to a medium sized pot and cover with 400ml of water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. To begin cooking the pulao, add ghee to a large, deep saucepan. Place this saucepan on the smallest ring on your hob and set the flame to medium high. Once the ghee has melted, add the whole spices – cumin seeds, tej patta, green cardamon, cloves, coriander seeds and fennel seeds. As soon as they start smelling aromatic, also add the sliced garlic and cashews. Cook for around 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the golden and cashews are a gentle golden brown – be careful not to burn.
  3. Next add your onions, chopped chillis and mushrooms. Stir and cook for around 2 minutes, then add salt and cook for another 3 minutes, or until the mushrooms are just soft and slightly golden.
  4. Rinse your rice. Next, drain the soaked rice of water and rinse it at least 5-10 times, or until the water runs clear. This is important for non-sticky, separated rice. Once the rice is wash, drain once again.
  5. Put the pulao to cook. Add the drained rice to the pulao and mix together. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, to mix everything together nicely. Now add 375ml water to the pot and cover. Cook for 10-11 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave undisturbed for around 3-5 minutes. After this time gently fluff with a fork to separate the grains.
  6. Serve with raita and papad.


*For a vegan substitution, use a good vegan butter or coconut oil.

**You can use a mix of any mushrooms. Ideas are: button mushrooms, ceps, chestnut mushrooms, girolleswild mushrooms, porcini, king oyster, shiitake, portobello, chanterellesetc.

***You can use vegetable stock instead of water to cook your pulao for a more intense flavour. Similarly, you can use a dried porcini or shiitake mushroom broth to add more mushroom flavour. You can find details about this broth in my recipe for Mushroom Arancini. If you use this method, do make sure to still use the same total amount of liquid for cooking the rice – 375ml. Otherwise it will overcook.

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How to Serve this Mushroom Pulao?

Mushroom Pulao is usually served as a main course without any side dishes! However, it’s almost obligatory to serve a little pot of raita on the side and some crispy papad to dip into it.

Raita is a dip made with yoghurt, spices and additional herbs or vegetables of your choice. It’s very cooling and adds another layer of flavour to your plate while also subduing the spice a little for those who prefer a milder dish. For this recipe, I recommend serving a mint raita, carrot raita or tomato raita.

You can also a simple salad alongside – think an Indian Kachumber – onions, tomatoes and cucumbers tossed with lemon juice, herbs, and even simple spices like cumin powder.

If you cook this recipe, let me know!

As always, if you have any questions please leave them in the comments down below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

If you give this recipe a try I would love to know what you think. Please take a photo and tag @ohmyvegofficial on Instagram or send it to any of my personal media accounts!

CategoriesFood Lunch Main

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