Zekiye Hanim’s perfect Turkish rice

Turkish rice is heaven. Unlike rice as I knew it growing up – boiled and plain and often claggy – Turkish rice is fluffy and buttery and delicious. This is partly because the type of rice used in Turkey is different – it’s shorter and fatter, more like Arborio than skinny basmati rice – but it’s mainly because Turkish rice is cooked with butter AND oil, with generous amounts of salt. Admittedly, this converts a fairly healthy carb into a pretty unhealthy one, but when it tastes this good, I really don’t care.

Perfect rice

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for ages, ever since M got his mum, fondly referred to by us as Zekiye Hanim (Mrs Zekiye), to write down her perfect rice method. It’s only now that my own mum, who’s just been out for a visit, has fallen in love with Turkish pilav that I’m making time to post it.

To get perfect rice, here are some tips:

  1. Turkish rice is usually cooked with a pasta-like addition called şeriye – very much like orzo pasta – but if this is hard to find, you can just skip that step.
  2. The key to the perfect fluffy consistency is the water to rice ratio, which is roughly 3:1 if you haven’t soaked the rice beforehand. I usually use whatever receptacle is to hand for measuring out the rice. For reference, a tea mug serves about 4 as a side, and a small water glass makes enough for two.
  3. To soak or not to soak the rice is a debate that my soon to be in-laws frequently debate. I’ve managed to glean that, although it’s better to soak, it doesn’t really matter either way – you just need to use a little less water if you’re not soaking.
  4. Sorry to belabour the point (who knew I had so much to say about rice!), but the pan is also really important. Use too small a pan and your rice will be really deep, meaning that it won’t cook as easily. Use too wide a pan and it’s likely to burn. You want to use a medium-sized deep frying pan with a lid, so that when the rice is added, it covers the bottom in a layer only 2-3cm deep.

Without further ado, I present to you Zekyie Hanim’s perfect Turkish rice recipe.

What you need

1 dst spn butter

1 dst spn olive oil

1 tbsp şeriye (orzo pasta)

1 mug rice

1 tsp salt

3 mugs water


How to make it

  1. If you’ve got time/the forethought, soak the rice in hot water up to an hour before you want to cook it.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a medium-sized shallow frying pan with a lid (you want your rice to be about 2-3cm deep for it to cook properly).
  3. Add the şeriye and fry until it starts to turn brown.
  4. As the şeriye is cooking, rinse the rice. Whether or not you’ve soaked it, you need to give the rice a good wash before cooking to get rid of the excess starch. Either rinse it in the bowl at least three times or stick in a sieve and rinse under to tap for a couple of minutes.
  5. Once the şeriye is browned and the rice rinsed, add the rice to the pan and stir fry again until the grains are well combined.
  6. Now add the water. If you soaked your rice, you’ll only need 2 mugs of water. If you didn’t use three.
  7. Add the salt, and stir again to distribute evenly.
  8. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cover. Leave to cook for 10-12 minutes (depending on whether or not you soaked it).
  9. The rice is ready when all the water is absorbed and a fork will stand up in the dish.


A bit more rice inspiration