My Recipe Box

Rice Pilaf with Spiced Caramelized Onions, Orange, Cherry & Pistachio


Serves six to eight.

The flavors of this pilaf are wonderful with curries and with full-flavored fish like salmon.

  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 medium onions: 2 sliced (about 3 cups); 1 small diced (about 1-1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt; more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange, zest finely grated (about 2-1/2 tsp.) and juiced (about 6 Tbs.)
  • 3/4 cup sweetened dried tart cherries
  • 1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3/4 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped (3.5 oz.)

In a 12-inch heavy-based skillet, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the sliced onions, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the allspice, cinnamon, and cloves, and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and cook another 5 min., stirring occasionally, to allow the onion to absorb the flavors of the spices and caramelize a bit more. Season with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.

Pour the orange juice over the cherries in a small bowl to hydrate them, if necessary adding enough water to cover completely.

In a heavy-based 3-qt. saucepan with a tight lid, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the diced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and the remaining 1 tsp. salt and stir well to coat each grain with butter. Toast for a full 5 minutes, stirring regularly to keep the grains separated and to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of  the pan (the rice may turn opaque before 5 minutes is up, but keep going). Reduce the heat to low if there are any signs of scorching.


Fluff the rice by slipping the tines of a fork down into the rice alongside the edge of the pan. Gently lift and toss the rice toward the center of the pan. Continue this process as you work your way around the perimeter. Then add your finishing-touch ingredients and gently fold them in with the fork, using a similar gentle fluffing motion.

Add 2-1/2 cups water, stir once, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let the pilaf sit, still covered, for 5 minutes.

Once the pilaf has rested, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Strain the cherries and discard the orange juice. Using the fork, gently fold in the cherries, caramelized onions, pistachios, and orange zest. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on eight servings, Calories (kcal): 320, Fat (kcal): 12, Fat Calories (g): 100, Saturated Fat (g): 4.5, Protein (g): 7, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4.5, Carbohydrates (mg): 49, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 2, Sodium (g): 210, Cholesterol (g): 15, Fiber (g): 3,

Photo: Scott Phillips

So delicious. You could toss it with some left over rotisserie chicken and that would be a very tasty meal. Also great with pork tenderloin.

This was delicious. I made it mostly as written. Used basmati rice and substituted almonds since they were in the cupboard. Will definitely make this again and again.

Wow, so delicious! I prepared the caramelized onions in advance of my dinner party and let sit in the pan until I finished the dish with the rest of the dinner. Pre-measured everything else and had it all ready to go so it was super easy to finish. I made as indicated but substituted dried cranberries with great results, also used Jasmine rice as that is what I had on hand. I found the shelled raw pistachios in the bulk isle at the store and toasted and chopped them earlier in the day. This recipe is a winner!

This was so... delicious!! I substituted dried cranberries and almonds since that is what I am able to find where I live. I used 1/2 cup white rice, 1/2 cup brown rice, and 1/2 cup wild rice. I brought this dish to a potluck dinner and it got rave reviews. Will definitely make this dish over and over again!!!

I loved this rice dish. It's simple, but fancy enough for company. I didn't have any pistachio nuts, so I used pine nuts which added a great nutty flavour. I'll definitely make this again.

I've never been a fan of rice pilaf, but this has made me a believer! I've made this over and over again, sometimes using cranberries instead of cherries or omitting the pistachios (depending upon what I have on hand). My family can't get enough!

This is my go-to recipe for dinner parties. The ingredients are pricey (dried cherries and shelled pistachios) but the result is absolutely fabulous and memorable. Never fails to get compliments.

We love this recipe! I don't ever want to lose it! I often add wild rice to it.

Very good and quite pretty.

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