Sticky, soft Romanian pilaf or rice with chicken and vegetables, this is traditional Romanian comfort food at its best!
Romanian pilaf is one of the most popular Romanian dishes. Everybody makes it and everybody loves it, especially children. Really sticky and soft, making funny, “squishy” noises when stirred; so comforting and delicious.
My family loves rice so I cook it very often. Either as a plain side for other dishes like the Hungarian Letscho, the Fricassee with Leftover Turkey, or the Pumpkin Turkey Curry. Or in the form of a Romanian pilaf - the way my grandmother used to make it.
And from all the rice dishes she ever cooked, my grandmother's specialty was this particular chicken pilaf. She made the best ever, and that was a well-known fact in our family. Even my sister, who could not get along with my grandma for even five minutes, or my cousins, who only ever got to eat her pilaf every 2 years or so, all felt certain about this matter: mama Silvia made the best chicken pilaf.
What do you need to make pilaf?
- I have tried this pilaf with long-grain rice and with brown rice; it is good, but it is not the Romanian pilaf; it has to be short-grain rice.
- Short-grain rice is something like risotto or milk rice ( I actually use the cheap and perfect for this dish Milchreis in Germany); it makes the dish creamier, stickier, it is softer, and squishier than other sorts of rice. So, make sure you get the short-grain rice.
- Keep in mind this is a pilaf, and that means that the rice will be cooked way longer than the instructions on the packet will require, much longer than you will cook rice as a side dish or for other kinds of rice dishes.
- The Romanian way of making pilaf always involves a long cooking time, and the rice is always overcooked; it is soft and definitely has less structure than regularly cooked rice. But that is exactly the beauty and the comfort of it, and the people who had any kind of Middle Eastern, Turkish, Eastern European, or Asian pilaf/ pilau/plov/palau/plaw/pilaw/rice porridge/congee, etc know what I am talking about.
- Of course, there are a thousand ways to make pilaf, and they all differ from country to country, from region to region; this is the Romanian version of pilaf, and I hope you will enjoy it.
There are two ways you could make this Romanian rice dish.
- With homemade stock: You could either start with 2 whole chicken legs (quarters) or 2 chicken breasts cooked in water with vegetables and spices and use the broth and the meat to cook the pilaf. For this version, I recommend using some chicken stock cubes as well, which will increase the flavor.
- When using stock cooked from a whole chicken or from a chicken carcass, which was cooked for a longer time, the stock cube will not be necessary; the stock will have enough flavor as it is.
- With bought stock: You could use already cooked chicken meat and buy (or make in advance) chicken stock. This version has the advantage of being quicker but not so authentic.
How to make pilaf?
- Prepare the stock, remove the meat, and discard the overcooked vegetables. You can keep the carrot, slice it, and add it to the dish together with the chopped cooked meat.
- Fill the needed amount of stock in a jug pan and keep it warm while you cook the dish; you will add it little by little.
- Cook the onions until translucent, add a little stock, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add fresh carrots, celery, and pepper in a little oil. Add some of the stock and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring often. Add more stock and let bubble away for about 5 minutes.
- Add the unwashed rice and stir for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add 2 cups stock and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add some salt.
- Continue adding the liquid little by little, stirring and keeping the pot covered with a little crack open.
- Cook for about 50 minutes or until the rice is extra soft and squishy.
- After about 30 minutes, add the chopped meat and the reserved cooked carrot. Stir well.
- If you run out of stock, use more from the pan or some hot water.
How to serve pilaf?
- The Romanian pilaf is best served immediately. It can be reheated in the pot. In this case, add some stock and reheat gently, stirring often.
- The dish is not suitable for freezing, but it keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Other rice recipes you might like
Romanian Pilaf with Chicken and Vegetable
- 2 pieces chicken breast or 2 whole chicken legs Note 1
- 1 small onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 small piece of celeriac or 2 celery sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 all-spice corns
- 1 organic chicken stock cube optional (Note 2)
- fine sea salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 onions
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 1 ½ cups short-grain rice 300 g
- about 7 cups chicken stock or broth 1.7 liter
- 10.5 oz cooked chicken meat about 300 g
- fine sea salt and pepper
- Place the chicken parts into a large soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, celeriac or celery sticks, bay leaves, all-spice corns, and 2 liters/ 8 ½ cups water. Bring to a slow simmer.
- Simmer for about 30 minutes for the breasts and 40-50 minutes for the legs (check to see if they are cooked through).
- You could add one or two cubes (to taste) of chicken stock to the broth; it will increase the flavor.
- Shred chicken: When the meat is cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside. Discard the vegetables and the spices; you can keep the carrot, slice it and add it to the pilaf together with the meat. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and the bones and shred the meat into smaller pieces. Set aside.
- In the meantime, start cooking the pilaf. Measure the needed stock and keep it warm all the time; you can leave the pot on a low heat source for the entire cooking process. I use a jug pot for this recipe, it makes pouring easier.
- Prepare vegetables: Chop the onions finely. Slice the carrots and chop the red bell pepper into fine strips.
- Cook onions: Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions and cook them gently until translucent. Add 120 ml/ ½ cup chicken stock and stir. Turn the heat down to low and cook the onions, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots and the peppers and cook gently for another 5 minutes, stirring a few times in between. Add another 120 ml/ ½ cup chicken stock and let it bubble away for a further 5 minutes or so.
- Add the unwashed short-grain rice and stir well for about 2-3 minutes. Add 500 ml/ 2 cups of the chicken stock and stir well. Cook gently for another 5 minutes, and add some salt.
- Add stock: Now, it will be a bit like making a risotto, without continuous stirring. Start adding the remaining stock (about 1 liter/ 4 cups left) little by little, stirring well after each addition.
- Cook pilaf: Cover the pot, leaving a crack open, and cook the rice for about 50 minutes, making sure that you add some stock and stir regularly every 5 minutes or so.
- Add chicken: After 30 minutes, add the chicken (and the leftover cooked carrot if you wish), stir well, and continue adding the stock and stirring for further 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and sticky.If the liquid is not enough, you can add more from the pot or more water if you are out of chicken stock.
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
- It is best served immediately, but it can easily be reheated on low heat with the addition of some more chicken stock.
- You could make the pilaf using already cooked chicken and bought chicken stock, it is faster, but not so authentic. You will need about 300 g/ 10.6 oz chicken meat for the pilaf.
- If only cooking chicken breasts/legs in water for a short time, I would recommend using 1-2 chicken stock cubes as well, which will increase the flavor. When using chicken stock made from a whole chicken or chicken bones cooked for a longer time, the stock cube will not be necessary, the liquid will have enough flavor as it is.