Why add Turmeric to Rice while Cooking?

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Rice is a staple food all over India. It is eaten as a main dish, with a variety of dals, curries, and is even used in a few sweet dishes. Who doesn’t like Pulao, Fried rice, Paella, or Biryani? The options are innumerable. But here’s why we Indians add turmeric to rice!

Rice is a cereal grain and a staple food item for about half of this world’s population, especially in many parts of Asia and Africa. It has been a part of people’s diet for thousands of years, and the debate as to whether Asian Rice (Oryza sativa) originated in China or India has not yet been settled because Archaeologists on both sides are claiming dibs.

The African (Oryza glaberrima) rice is a much newer species though still over 3000 years old. But as rice spread across different continents, it was the Asian Oryza Sativa rice that was cultivated and there are now over 40,000 rice varieties or rice cultivars across the planet.

Here in India, rice is a staple ingredient in our diet and we eat almost on a daily basis along with other flatbreads called chapatis or puris. But you’re probably wondering why we add turmeric to rice, aren’t you?

Why Add Turmeric To Rice?

Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. It’s said to have a lot of health benefits such as relieving arthritis, PMS symptoms, reducing cholesterol, fighting diabetes, preventing Alzheimer’s, and a lot more. Ask your nutritionist for specific information.

Over here in India, we add turmeric to almost everything we eat. We even use it as a skin rub for cleansing sometimes. Coughs and colds are treated with a special kadha tea that’s a mix of spices and turmeric. It may not be a superfood, but turmeric is very healthy. So adding it to rice just makes sense.

And another reason we add turmeric to rice is for the lovely natural yellow color it imparts. What’s pleasing to the eyes goes down better in the tummy. Haha!

Turmeric Rice is a really simple dish to cook and does have some nutritional value as well. So let’s find out how it is prepared.

What do you need to make Rice?

Other than the white rice, all you need is salt and water. Turmeric (Haldi) is a great add-on.

How to make non sticky Rice at home?

If you grow up in India, you’ll have grown up with your mom telling you to rinse and wash the white rice to remove the excess starch. This gets the fattening starch out and also helps you create perfectly separate individual grains of rice, just like the many ads for rice in India. Sticky rice, that’s a no-no over here! Chapku rice, no way! Fluffy separate grains of rice! That is perfect!

Anyways, after washing the starch out of the rice, put it in a steel vessel, add water and salt and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the rice and boil on a medium flame. And lastly, add the turmeric powder.

White rice in a pink plastic bowl.
White rice
White rice in water in a pink bowl.
Rinse the rice
Water and salt in a steel vessel.
Add salt and boil water
White rice in a steel vessel with boiling water.
Add rice to boiling water
Yellow turmeric, rice and water in a steel vessel.
Add turmeric to the boiling rice water

When do you add turmeric to rice? When the water for the rice is already boiling. Not before that!

Stir the rice a few times so that it does not stick to the bottom and it cooks equally. After about 10 to 15 mins, check on the rice and squish a few grains between 2 fingers to see if its cooked. If it still a bit hard, continue to boil it. If it is squishy, then your rice is ready.

Hand holding a piece of yellow rice above a steel spoon over a vessel of boiled rice.
Test a piece of rice
Yellow rice in a spoon above a vessel with boiled yellow rice.
Rice is cooked

Turn the stove off, cover the vessel with a lid or strainer, and drain out all of the water.

Pic of hands holding a steel vessel with kitchen cloths.
Drain the rice

And your fluffy individual grains of haldi rice aka turmeric rice are ready to be served!

Yellow rice served in a white dish with green designs.
Rice to be served
Yellow boiled rice in white dish.
Simple boiled rice
Yellow boiled rice placed in a white dish.
Rice, ready to serve
Turmeric rice garnished with coriander.
Turmeric rice garnished with coriander

What’s Perfect about this Rice Recipe?

  • It is quick and easy to make.
  • It requires just 3 main ingredients, while the rest are optional add-ons.
  • Rice does have a few health benefits.
Turmeric rice with raisins.
Turmeric rice with raisins

Cooking Tips Or Tricks

  • Rinse the rice a few times before you start cooking to remove any dirt and husks. Even if the rice is clean we still rinse it to remove the excess starch.
  • If you want plain boiled white rice, do not add the turmeric (Haldi) powder.
  • You can also add Bay leaves or Star Anise to the water while boiling for additional flavour. My mom uses both of these together too!
  • If you’re serving the yellow rice for a party, top it with a tablespoon of Indian clarified butter aka ghee. This gives it a really nutty flavor!
  • You could also sprinkle chopped fresh coriander on top.
  • When using our traditional method to rinse the rice, the salt drains with the excess water and the rice is left with a low amount of salt. 
  • Another option is this – after draining the rice, fry the rice with ghee or butter, along with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
  • You can add peas, veggies, or meats with a little oil or ghee or butter to boiled rice and turn it into a complete dish on its own.
  • You can also add raisins to the rice.
  • Or garnish with fresh coriander and serve with sliced tomatoes.
  • To make a rice pulao, add veggies like carrots, green peas, and chopped boiled potatoes.

What To Serve With Turmeric Rice?

Serve the turmeric rice with moong dal, masoor dal, mustard chicken, green chutney, corn cabbage veggies, goat trotters curry, mutton lonvas curry, or spicy tomato pickle. You can literally serve rice with almost any dish!

Rice served with coriander and tomatoes.
Rice served with tomatoes and coriander

FAQ’s About Rice

Is rice naturally white?

No, all rice is naturally brown. There is a process that removes the outer layers that makes it white.

Is white rice healthy?

White rice is not as healthy as brown rice or red rice.

Can cooked rice be reheated?

Yes, rice can be reheated, but make sure it is piping hot and do not reheat it more than once. Also, add in a little water while reheating – this makes sure the rice doesn’t get dry.

Can cooked rice be refrigerated?

Yes, plain boiled rice can be kept in a fridge for about 4 – 7 days. If the rice has other ingredients such as peas, fried onions, or boiled veggies, then not more than 2 to 3 days max.

Can cooked rice be frozen?

Yes, you can store leftover cooked rice in an airtight container if you want to eat it another time. It will stay edible for months. Reheat with a few spoons of water before serving.

Can You Add Turmeric To Cooked Rice?

No, you shouldn’t add turmeric to cooked rice after preparing it as it won’t absorb the turmeric. It’s always best to add the turmeric while cooking the rice.

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Rice served with coriander and tomatoes.

How to cook yellow (turmeric) rice perfectly?

Rice is a staple food all over India, and is eaten as a main dish with a variety of dals or curries. But yellow rice is tastier and healthier.
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Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Diet Gluten Free, Halal, Hindu, Kosher, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 153 kcal


  • 250 g White Rice
  • 2 l Water
  • .75 tbsp Salt
  • 0.5 teaspoon Turmeric Powder


  • Rinse the rice with water a few times to remove any loose husks and any dirt. Even if your rice is clean, we recommend rinsing it like we Indians do. It removes the starch from the rice.
  • In a vessel, boil the water with salt. Once boiling, add the rice.
  • Also add the turmeric powder and allow the rice to boil. Stir it every 5 mins.
  • After 10-15 mins, check if the rice is cooked by pinching a few grains between your thumb and forefinger.
  • If it's not ready, cook for a few more minutes. If cooked, drain the water from the rice and serve on a platter.

Optional Steps (Choose any one of these)

  • 1. If you're serving the rice for a party, top it with a tablespoon of Indian clarified butter aka ghee. This gives it a really nutty flavor!
  • 2. Or you could also sprinkle chopped fresh coriander on top.
  • 3. To make a rice pulao, add veggies like carrots, green peas, and chopped bioled potatoes.
  • 4. Another option is to fry the rice with ghee or butter, along with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
  • 5. If you stir fry the yellow rice with shredded chicken or meat along with oil / butter/ ghee, it can turn into a complete dish on its own.

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Nutrition (Per Serving)

Calories: 153kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 310mg | Potassium: 52mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Nutrition Information per serving is estimated by a third party software based on the ingredients used, and is for informational purposes only. It will vary from product to product, based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients. Please consult the package labels of the ingredients you use, or chat with your dietician for specific details.

Image of white rice in a pink container and yellow boiled rice on a white plate.
Picture of yellow boiled rice served in a while dish.
Pinterest image with two Images of yellow boiled rice in a white plate.
Pinterest image of variations of turmeric rice.

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