Beef Pilau Recipe – How to Make Beef Pilau

Beef pilau is a very popular dish among the Swahili people who live along the Kenyan coast. It is served in all their social gatherings. Over-time it spread through out the country and has continued to increase in popularity over the years.  Variations of the popular pilau dish include chicken, vegetable or even fish. The pilau rice is cooked in lots of spices and a very well flavoured broth.

Jikoni Magic’s tips for a successful pilau recipe:

  • Use long grain basmati rice for the best results.
  • I prefer to season my pilau twice. Once just immediately after adding the beef broth with beef cubes and the second time is after it has simmered for a few minutes because the rice tends to absorb the initial salt.
  • Do not let the pilau dry out completely, leave a little amount of moisture because that is as where all the flavour is.
  • I prefer adding cardamom powder towards the end because I have realized that the flavour remains very potent if done this way.
  • Beef broth is always more flavourful than plain water. Make your own broth by boiling your meat in enough water for about 30 minutes (depending on the cut).

The results of your pilau dish in Kenya is used to determine just how good of a cook you are. Woe unto you if it comes out with the rice grains clumped together like ugali! Pilau should be spicy, well seasoned and the rice grains should be separate. Another dish that is used to gauge the type of cook you are is chapati.  Expectations are always high that they will come out soft, fluffy and full of layers, not forgetting melt-in-your-mouth amazing!

Some people prefer to just pound the whole spices very gently in a pestle and mortar just to make it easy for the spices to release their natural flavours while cooking. I prefer to grind them into a powder because I always cringe and feel like a jolt of electricity passes through my body every time I bite into a whole black peppercorn! I mean, that is just so not nice. Or, biting into a whole clove or cardamom pod… a complete turn off for me.

So, let us have a look at our list of ingredients that we will require for our pilau and the directions on how to make it.


Whole Spices

  • 2 medium sized bay leaves
  • 2″ cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • Pinch of fernugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Pinch of black peppercorns
  • 1/4 nutmeg
  • Mace (Outer covering of nutmeg)
  • 2 Bay leaves

Rest of the ingredients:

  • 2-3 Tbs of sunflower oil (or any vegetable oil of your choice)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2″ ginger
  • 1 large onion
  • 3″ fresh turmeric
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs cardamom powder
  • 2 beef cubes
  • 500g beef
  • 1 cup long grain basmati rice (400g)
  • 2 cups beef stock (or water)
  • Salt to taste
  • Bunch of coriander leaves


  1. Start by roasting the dry spices for 10 to 15 seconds in a pan on medium heat to release the oils and also intensify the flavours.
  2. Grind them in a spice grinder (or you can use a pestle and mortar) until they become a fine powder
  3. Prep the other ingredients as follows; slice the onion, finely dice the ginger and garlic, grate the turmeric, puree the tomatoes or finely dice them.
  4. Preheat your oil in a sauce pan until it comes to temperature and then add your ground spices and cook them for a few seconds.
  5. Add onions and cook for five minutes or until they turn a golden brown colour before adding the ginger, garlic and turmeric. Cook them off for about a minute until fragrant.
  6. Add the pureed tomatoes and allow to cook for about five minutes until the mixture reduces and the raw taste of tomatoes disappears.
  7. Add the beef at this point and let it simmer for 5 minutes to absorb the flavours in the sauce pan.
  8. At this point add the rice and leave it to cook for five minutes to absorb the flavours in the pan and then add the cardamom powder.
  9. Add the beef stock and make sure to mix all the contents of the sauce pan in order for them to be distributed evenly.
  10. Season by adding beef  cubes and salt to taste.
  11. Leave to simmer gently until some of the stock evaporates and for the rice to start showing at the top.
  12. Gently, using your wooden ladle, lift the rice at the bottom of the pan to come to the top and for the rice at the top to go to the bottom.
  13. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible and cover. Leave to simmer for five minutes or until the stock to dry
  14. Add coriander leaves and mix them gently into the pilau to prevent the rice grains from breaking up.
  15. Serve.



  1. Super

  2. becky njeri

    Fantastic! I love it

  3. Good recipe& Delicious meal .personally as achef,I prefer it.

  4. Love it!

    I feel like a have a phd now in cooking.
    Thank for this website

  5. the whole spices! where do you get them really? have never heard abput them haa.

    • Hi Shih, you can get the whole spices from the supermarkets. The one that might be hard to find is fenugreek seeds but if you go into Indian shops like Ngara, Chandarana or Diamond plaza if you are in Nairobi you’ll definitely be sorted.

  6. Wow this awesome.. Am in love with it.. So awesome

  7. Thanks so much am in Levanon right now ready to make that delicious pilau

  8. jackline tongi

    this is what i have been looking for …great recipe ..very awesome

  9. Mutanu Bacia

    This I must try,,,,, I actually didn’t know that you put the spices before the onions, have always done the opposite,,, You’ve passed knowledge God bless you abundantly.

    • Hi Mutanu, I prefer it this way because it helps in blooming of the spices and intensifying of their flavours. Try it out this way and tell me how you like it. Making it the other way is not wrong either, it’s just a different way of killing the same rat known as pilau, 😀


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *