Turmeric coconut rice is a simple, one pot side dish recipe that's full of flavor. With a slightly creamy and never-mushy texture, coconut milk, turmeric, fresh ginger, garlic, and more combine with basmati rice for a satisfying side that pairs well with many main dishes.
Preparing a side dish doesn't come naturally to me when I make dinner. A big green side salad with rotating produce, nuts, etc. was ever-present on our dinner table growing up and often acted as our side, and I seem to have adopted the same philosophy as an adult. Main dish, big green salad, maybe some bread? We're set.
My husband comes from a big side dish family, and over the years I've been training myself to intentionally think about making a non-salad side when the opportunity presents itself. Garlic sautéed green beans, air fryer baked potatoes, and creamy polenta from a tube have become some of my trusty options.
This turmeric coconut rice is based on the coconut rice my mother-in-law makes. I've added a few ingredients to zhush up the flavor even more for a satisfying side dish that jazzes up a main protein wonderfully -- though a side salad is always welcome, too.
Reasons to Make This Dish
- The coconut flavor shines and complements the earthy turmeric and ginger flavors.
- Turmeric coconut rice makes a great base for salmon and other fish, grilled chicken, air fryer tofu, and more.
- It can be made with ingredients you often can already have on hand (see my tip on freezing ginger root below).
- The cooked rice can be frozen for convenience.
- Basmati Rice: This is a long-grain white rice variety that fluffs up when cooked and doesn't turn too sticky. It's a great choice for absorbing the coconut milk and turmeric flavors here, but jasmine rice would also work.
- Coconut Milk: Use the canned variety (not a refrigerated carton, which is very watery and thin). Full-fat, lite, or unsweetened are all fine. The flavor will naturally be more "luxe" and flavorful with full fat, but using lite will have a considerable reduction in calories and saturated fat.
- Coconut Oil: Unrefined or refined work. Unrefined will provide even more coconutty flavor to this turmeric coconut rice, while refined is basically flavorless. You could also use a different cooking oil - I will sometimes use olive oil.
- Ground Turmeric: Bright in both coloring and flavor, this adds a pleasant "sharpness" and earthy flavor. In its fresh form it resembles a smaller ginger root, but ground turmeric is more accessible and used here.
- Ginger: Grated fresh ginger provides another flavor pop here. Do not use ground ginger as it's much milder and won't have the same effect.
- Broth: Vegetable or chicken (if not vegetarian) broth has an edge over plain water when cooking rice when it comes to flavor. I recommend going for a reduced-sodium variety if available.
Tip - Before beginning, place your rice in a large metal sieve and rinse it well under cool water. You can also add it to a bowl, cover with water, and swish it around with your hands before draining. Repeat until the water is clear.
This step rinses away excess starch and leads to fluffier cooked rice. This is applicable to both basmati and jasmine varieties.
- Sauté - Cook the onion in the coconut oil for 6-7 minutes, adding the minced garlic and grated ginger during the last minute of the cook time.
- Toast Rice - Stir in the ground turmeric, then add the rinsed rice (dry). Cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
- Add Liquid - Pour a bit of the broth to deglaze the pan (if needed), then add the remainder along with the coconut milk and give everything a big stir. If using regular full-fat coconut milk you may notice larger solidified chunks of coconut cream. That's normal, they'll melt very quickly.
- Cook - Bring everything up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. Fluff the turmeric coconut rice with a fork before serving.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Staining - Turmeric is so pigmented that it will easily stain utensils, dish towels, clothing etc. I recommend setting away any nice wooden spoons, sentimental linens, etc. before cooking this recipe.
- Serving Suggestions - Fresh chopped cilantro has a nice flavor for garnishing turmeric coconut rice. We also enjoy roasted cashews or peanuts as a topping.
- Freezing Ginger Root - Rinse ginger root with cool water and pat fully dry before freezing whole. When you need fresh grated ginger for a recipe, simply grate it along a microplane zester from frozen. There's no peeling necessary!
- Freezing Rice - Once fully cooled, transfer cooked rice into a zip-top bag. Press out as much excess air as you can before sealing, then freeze for 1-2 months.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Turmeric Coconut Rice
- 2 cups basmati rice or jasmine
- 1 ½ Tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- Big pinch kosher salt or to your liking
- Pinch freshly-cracked black pepper or to your liking
- 1 ¼ teaspoons ground turmeric
- 2 cups reduced-sodium broth vegetable or chicken, or water
- 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk regular or lite
- Chopped fresh cilantro for serving
- Add dry rice to a large metal sieve and rinse it thoroughly under cool water. Set aside for now.
- Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the diced onion. Sauté for 5-6 minutes until starting to soften and turn golden, then add the minced garlic, grated ginger, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more.
- Stir in the ground turmeric, then add the rinsed rice. Stir until evenly combined, then let the rice toast for 2-3 minutes while stirring frequently.Let rice cook for just a few minutes, stirring frequently, and then add coconut milk and water. Stir to combine, and then raise heat to let liquid come to a boil.
- If there are any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, pour in a little bit of the broth to deglaze and scrape them up. Then stir in the remainder of the broth and the coconut milk. Stir to combine.
- Raise the heat to bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. Fluff the cooked rice up with a fork before garnishing with cilantro and serving.
- Store leftover portions in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
Note - This recipe was updated in April 2023 from its initial publish date in 2016. It was scaled up to use one full can of coconut milk for convenience, and now reflects my preference to use broth in place of water. If you're returning from a saved link, you may recognize some of the original photos below.