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Quick Chickpea Pilaf | Instant Pot Chana Pulao

Chickpea Pilaf is a light, fragrant rice dish. It is a delightful combination of lightly spiced rice and protein-rich, buttery chickpeas. Serve it as a one-pot meal on a busy day or as a side dish for a more elaborate meal. The dish itself is vegan and pairs well with riatas (yogurt dip), kabobs, chutneys, or spicy curries. This instant pot, pressure cooker-friendly meal is a good reason to ditch takeout and eat more real food at home. Vegan Gluten Free

A  plate with rice and  with a bowl of raita and a silver chalice next to it.

I love the buttery chickpeas here.  The flavors are mild, each grain of rice is separate, light, and fragrant.  A side of sliced cucumbers, onions, carrots,  and raita is my favorite way to polish off this entire plate.  

What is pilaf

Pilaf or pulao or pilav is a dish where rice or wheat or other grains are cooked in a flavored broth. Often some protein is added to the dish to make it a one-pot meal. There are variations of this dish from the Caribbeans to Bangladesh to Azerbaijan to Turkey.  The spices and herbs used vary depending on the region but almost always the finished dish will have rice or other grains just cooked right and not sticking to each other.

In terms of spiciness, this chickpea pilaf is on the light and fragrant side. Each of the basmati rice grains is cooked just right and stays separate from the other. There are just enough spices to complement the rice and the garbanzo beans without overpowering them. Here is a light meal that is going to make everyone happy including the cook.

Ingredients

  • Rice:  Basmati rice is the best for this recipe and the cooking time and amount of water are based on this type of rice.
  • Chickpeas / Garbanzo Beans:  Cooked garbanzo beans are used here. You can use either the canned beans or cook them separately.  Often when I make dishes like Hummus or  Chole, I cook more beans than required for the dish.  The extra beans can be easily frozen or refrigerated for a few days without loss of flavors.  
  • Spices: Whole spices are what I use here. Whole spices gently infuse this dish with flavors. Whole spices have much more complex flavors and the aromatic oils just seep into the water as it cooks. It makes it easy to fish it out later as well.
  • Additions:  Onions are important to this recipe as much as the spices. At times I like to add a few peas or carrots (used here),  these are optional, used in moderation.
Chickpea pilaf in a white plate with slices of onions and carrots. A bowl of chutney next to it.

Making the Pilaf

Onions are as important to this recipe as the spices and this dish starts with cooking onions.  Slicing the onions thin to about the same size make them cook evenly at the same time.

Set the instant pot on saute mode and cook the onions until they begin to turn golden in the edges. If you prefer to give the rice a darker color cook the onions until they are brown.  Remember to stir often to prevent them from burning.

Add the spices, ginger and garlic to the pot. The order does not matter much. Heating the spices releases the fragrances (the essential oils), which in turn makes the pilaf very aromatic. Cooking the ginger garlic changes the flavors a little and flavors infuse the oil. Care should be taken not to burn the ingredients.

Add the chopped carrots or peas (if using)   and the washed and drained rice to the cooked onions.  Sauté the rice for 1 to 2 minutes stirring a  few times to coat all the grains with oil.  Add the water and salt. Taste the water at this point. The water should taste salty.   Cancel the sauté mode.

Close the lid with the vent sealed. Set the IP in manual mode, high pressure for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes before opening.

Open the lid and fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

Cooking on stovetop

You can make this dish in a Dutch Oven or stovetop pressure cooker as well.  If using Dutch Oven increase water to double the quantity of rice and in stovetop pressure cooker increase it to 11/2 times the quantity of rice.

Serving

Pilafs are great as a side to grilled meat or kabobs. These are great as main course as well. Usually an assorted accompaniments are served along with it when Pilaf is the star of the dining table. Sliced vegetables, chopped salad,  raita (yogurt flavors with herbs), pickles, chips, and papad are popular accompaniments.  

It tastes best when served fresh but stays fresh in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

Chickpea pilaf in a white plate with slices of onions and carrots. A bowl of chutney next to it.

Chickpea Pilaf

By Syama
Pilaf is rice cooked in a flavored broth. Chickpea pilaf is a vegan dish with buttery chickpeas in lightly flavored soft grains of Basmati rice. It can be served as a one-pot meal with a few accompaniments or along with grilled kabobs or other protein. This instant pot version only needs about 10 minutes of active cook time and makes an easy and healthy weeknight meal with little fuss.
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine Asian, Indian
Servings 6
Calories 481 kcal

Equipment

  • Instant Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Cups Basmati rice
  • 1 ½ Cups Cooked Chickpeas 15 oz can drained
  • 3 Tbsp Oil (Notes)
  • 1 Cups Onion thinly sliced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic grated or finely minced
  • 1 Inch Fresh Ginger grated or finely minced
  • 1-2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Cinnamon stick 2 inch piece
  • 3 Pods Green Cardamom
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 1 1/2 Tsp salt adjust to taste
  • 2 1/2 Cups water

Optional

  • ½ C Carrots Diced
  • 2 Tbsp Golden Raisins
  • ½ C Peas

Instructions
 

  • Wash and drain the rice. Slice the onions thin. If adding carrots chop them into small pieces. Assemble all ingredients.

Instant Pot

  • Turn on the sauté mode. Add 3 tbsp oil. Add the sliced onions and whole spices. Sauté the onions stirring often until the onions turn golden on the edges (see notes). Add the garlic and ginger.
  • Once the onions reach the desired color add the vegetables, chickpeas, salt, raisins (if using), and the drained rice. Mix and add the water. Close the lid and seal the vent. Turn on the manual mode and set the time to 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid and fluff the rice before serving.

Stove Top pressure cooker

  • Follow the recipe above but use 11/2 C water for 2 C rice. Turn off once the whistle blows. Wait for at least 5 minutes before releasing the pressure to open the lid.

Notes

  • Traditionally ghee or a mix of ghee and oil was used. Any neutral vegetable oil will work in this recipe. 
  • If you want darker color and caramel flavor to the rice let the onions cook till browned nicely. Optionally you can add a ½ tsp sugar to help with caramelization. In this case wait for the onions to begin browning before adding the spices.
  • The order of adding vegetables and whole spices does not matter much in pressure cooking. Other than caramelizing onions you can add all the other ingredients together and cook.

Nutrition

Calories: 481kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 14.6g | Fat: 10.5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 602mg | Potassium: 566mg | Fiber: 10.4g | Sugar: 6.3g | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 4mg

Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.

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