Vegan Pilav

Pilavs are a traditional Ottoman rice dish, favoured in modern day Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans. They were a staple of the Turkic peoples and the Ottoman army, and extremely rich pilavs (laden with butter, saffron and nuts) were served at the Ottoman court.

Often meat is added to make a pilav more substantial, but my vegan pilav recipe is based on a traditional aubergine pilav. This recipe serves two (unless you are very hungry… :wink: )

1 Aubergine, or other veg (see notes)
Salt and Pepper
45g (a large dollop) of vegan spread or margarine (make sure it is suitable for frying)
Sunflower Oil
1 Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic (or 2tsp garlic powder)
100g Rice, rinsed
1/2 tsp white Sugar
1/2 tsp dried Coriander
1 Clove
1/2 stick Cinnamon
1 tsp Paprika
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
1/2 litre Vegetable Stock


  1. Slice the aubergine, and cut into quarters, so that you have bite-sized pieces. Rinse in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Leave to one side.

  2. Melt the spread in a pan, and gently fry the garlic and onion for about 10 mins.

  3. Rinse the rice, and add to the pan, stirring to coat each grain with fat. Add the spices and tomato puree, and a generous dose of salt and pepper, and stir well again.

  4. Add the vegetable stock, stir, and leave to simmer for 10-12mins.

  5. Meanwhile, heat some sunflower oil in another frying pan until spitting. Rinse the salt off the aubergine and shake dry. Fry it in two batches, so that all the aubergine pieces are in adequate contact with the oil.

  6. When the rice is ready, add the fried aubergine pieces and stir well. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a cloth. Leave for ten minues: the rice will absorb extra moisture and the sauce will thicken.

  7. Fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.

In summer, fresh cherries are sometimes used instead of the aubergine. Alternatively, you can experiment with using other vegetables: fried mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes work well. Instead of frying them separately, you can fry them along with the onion in step 2) - making a quick one-pan dish :slight_smile: Or just add some shredded fresh spinach in place of the aubergine.

I have read that you should soak the rice in water for 30mins before use, and be careful not to stir the rice while it is boiling. Basmati rice is recommended. Personally, I don’t bother with the soaking, and long grain rice works too. In parts of Turkey, Bulghar Wheat is used instead of rice.

Although it is a meal in itself, you could serve it hot with roasted stuffed vegetables. Or you could serve it tepid, with a spread of flatbreads, vegetable kebabs, stuffed vine leaves and salads.