Rice with raisins and nuts is one of the most delicious Middle Eastern side dishes. The combination of sweet raisins, crunchy nuts and sweet cinnamon make this rice the perfect side dish to any grilled meat or vegetable.
Let me show you how to make Arabic rice with raisins and nuts (almonds).
What is Rice with Raisins and Nuts?
There are several types of rice to serve as a side dish. Which one is the most popular largely depends on the region. Let’s have a look at the most popular variants in the Middle East. In Lebanon (and the surrounding countries), butter rice (white rice with vermicelli noodles) is by far the most common. In the Gulf region, yellow rice (turmeric spiced rice) is by far the most common.
One more delicious Middle Eastern rice variety is rice with raisins and nuts. In fact, rice with dried fruit and nuts is popular in a huge region, ranging from Turkey, the entire Middle East, parts of North Africa all the way to India. The exact method and ingredients vary from one country to another (and even one family to another). It works with different types of raisins (even different types and dried fruit altogether) and different types of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts…).
Today, I’m going to share with you my recipe for Arabic rice with raisins and nuts the way you can find in countries like Lebanon and Jordan.
To make Arabic rice with raisins and nuts, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Rice: The preferred choice is white long-grain rice. I generally use Basmati rice as it yields the best result. You can also use Jasmine rice.
- Water: Water is needed to boil rice. The exact ratio depends on the type of rice you use. As a rule of thumb, remember that you need 1.5 – 2 times the amount of water (1.5 to 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice). If you’re unsure how much you need for your brand of rice, start with 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of rice as suggested in this recipe. You can add more water later.
- Olive oil: Olive oil or any other vegetable oil (e.g. sunflower oil) are used to fry the raisins and nuts.
- Raisins: Raisins are basically dried grapes. You may know them from baking, but they are also a popular ingredient to Middle Eastern rice dishes. Raisins come in different colors, from yellowish, purple, brown to black. For this recipe, brown raisins are the preferred choice. You can also opt for a mix of brown and yellow raisins.
- Almonds: Nuts go extremely well with rice and raisins. The combination is just gorgeous. Almonds slivers or pine nuts are traditionally used for this recipe. Pine nuts are expensive in most parts of the world (due to their labor-intensive harvest). Almonds are less expensive and readily available throughout the year. Be sure to use almond slivers (these are essentially peeled and broken almonds). If you don’t have them, you can use pre-blanched almonds (almonds soaked in water overnight and peeled the next day). Walnuts or cashews would also work well (unsalted and unroasted).
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is the main seasoning for this rice. It has a pleasant sweet taste that complements wonderfully with the raisins and nuts. You can use cinnamon powder or whole cinnamon sticks for this recipe. One cinnamon stick equals about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
- Bouillon (optional): Vegetable or chicken bouillon (broth base powder) adds to the flavor of the rice. However, it’s totally optional here. If you don’t add bouillon, add a little more cinnamon and salt to compensate.
- Salt: A pinch of salt is added to the cooking water.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make (Step-by-Step)
Ready to make Arabic rice with raisins and nuts? Yallah!
Step 1: Soak and wash the rice
Before you start, soak your rice in plenty of water for about 30 minutes. Soaking rice improves its texture and taste and slightly reduces the cooking time. If you don’t have time, you can skip this step.
Wash the rice three times until the water runs clear. This step shouldn’t be skipped (for any rice recipe), as washing the rice will remove any excess starch (your rice will be lighter and more fluffy). Set aside the washed rice.
Step 2: Sauté raisins and nuts
Heat olive oil (or any other vegetable oil) in a large saucepan on high. Once the oil is heated, add the raisins and almonds slivers to the saucepan. Sauté for about 60 seconds until the raisins start to open up and the almonds begin to darken a bit.
Note: in case you use a cinnamon stick instead of cinnamon powder, add it to the saucepan with the raisins and nuts.
Step 3: Add rice and seasonings
Add the washed rice and the powdered seasonings (bouillon, cinnamon and salt) to the saucepan and mix well. Fry for 1-2 minutes without adding any water just yet. The idea is to allow the rice to absorb the flavor of the seasonings first.
Step 4: Add water and let simmer
Now, add the water to the saucepan (ideally hot water) and stir well. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, let cook for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and close the lid. Let the rice simmer for 10-12 minutes. You don’t need to stir the rice in between (if you have a good saucepan). The rice is done once the water has been absorbed.
How to Serve
Arabic rice with raisins and nuts is slightly sweet (due to the cinnamon). It goes wonderfully to roasted and grilled dishes such as grilled chicken, kofta kebab or grilled vegetables.
Make Ahead & Storage
Generally said, rice tastes best right after cooking. Most people wouldn’t typically prepare rice ahead of time. Nevertheless, you can perfectly do so if you’d like to save some time the next day. It can be a real timesaver if you have a small family.
Let cool completely after cooking (lid closed). Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Rice can be warmed up in the microwave or in a saucepan or frying pan on the stovetop (add a little bit of oil or water).
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
Arabic Rice with Raisins and Nuts
- 400 g (2 cups) Basmati rice
- 700 ml (3 cups) water for cooking the rice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 50 g (1/3 cups) raisins
- 30 g (1/4 cups) slivered almonds
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp bouillon powder vegetable or chicken stock powder
- Pinch salt
- Soak the rice for 30 minutes (optional). Wash the rice. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil (or any other vegetable oil) in a large saucepan. Add the raisins and almonds to the hot oil. Sauté for 60 seconds until the raisins start to open up and the almonds stark to darken.
- Add the washed rice and the powdered seasonings (stock, cinnamon and salt). Don’t add the water yet. Fry for about 60 seconds to allow the flavors to combine.
- Add warm water to the saucepan. Stir well. Bring to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, cook for 1-2 minutes on high. Reduce the heat to low and close the lid. Let simmer for 10-12 minutes.
- How much water to cook rice? The ratio slightly varies depending on the type of rice. As a rule of thumb, the perfect ratio of water to white rice ratio is 1.5-2 cups water to 1 cup rice. For me, 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of washed Basmati rice works perfectly. You may need a little more or less than me. If you’re unsure, I recommend that you start with a ratio of 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. Add a little more water to the saucepan if you feel your rice is not cooked yet.
- Use white long-grain rice, such as Basmati rice. Short grain rice works less well for this recipe. Brown rice has a much longer cooking time and needs more water when compared to white rice.
- Use almond slivers (slivered almonds) for this recipe. You can find them at most Middle Eastern supermarkets, in the baking compartment of most grocery stores as well as online. You could also use pine nuts, although they are rather expensive in most countries (and you’ll need quite a lot of nuts for this recipe). A suitable alternative to almonds and pine nuts are walnuts and cashews (use unsalted, unroasted cashews).
- For this recipe, I mostly use cinnamon powder, but you can also use cinnamon sticks instead. One cinnamon stick is equal to about 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder. When using cinnamon sticks, add it to the saucepan with the raisins and almonds.
- The nutrition facts are rough estimates and can vary according to the exact weight, brand and type of ingredients used.
Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.