Vegan Uzbek Pilaf

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Adjust Servings:
500 g. Longgrain Rice or Basmati
500 g. Carrot
250 g. Onions
300 g. Mushrooms
1 large Whole Garlic Head unpeeled
1 tbsp. Cumin seeds
1 tbsp. Dried Coriander
1 tsp. Smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp. Dried Turmeric Powder
1 tsp. Dried Barberry
150-200 g. Cooked Chickpeas
3 tbsp. Raisins
1 l. Water
2-3 tbsp. Oil for frying
1 Chili (fresh) optional

Vegan Uzbek Pilaf





      As I grew up in Uzbekistan, Pilaf was often at our family table since I was a child. Traditionally people in Uzbekistan eat Pilaf for lunch as it is caloric dense food, a combination of protein and carbohydrates gives energy for the rest of the day. Traditional Uzbek Pilaf is cooked with meat and white rice. I have known this recipe since I learned how to cook in my teenage years. Now it’s time to veganize it and enjoy this tremendous Uzbek dish without meat or any animal fat! My Vegan Uzbek Pilaf contains pretty basic ingredients such as long-grain rice (I used Basmati this time), carrots, garlic, mushrooms. A good pilaf should also include essential spices such as cumin, turmeric, sweet paprika, and dried barberry.

      Flavor Base


      Mushrooms are the Pilaf base which we have substituted meat for. I like using сhampignons in this recipe. But if they are not available,  other kinds of mushrooms such as shiitake, crimini, or portabello mushrooms would go well too. The flavor opens up when we saute them at the beginning of the cooking process and later on it passes into the rice.


      Carrots are a crucial ingredient in Uzbek Pilaf. The main mistake, which I see often is when people put too little carrots in the Pilaf. The golden rule in Pilaf is the amount of carrots equals the amount of rice. The Ratio of carrots to rice is 1:1. Only then that sweetness and right flavor will be achieved.

      Whole Garlic Head

      Traditionally pilaf is prepared without stirring ( it is not a stir-fry). After the rice is in the pot, the whole garlic head (not peeled) should be put inside the rice. This is the key ingredient. This garlic head will be cooked in the steam of the rice and give all its flavor to the vegan Uzbek pilaf. Ths garlic then can be peeled when the pilaf is done and eaten, it will be soft and smoky inside. I don’t particularly like eating that garlic head, but my husband, for example, says that it is his favorite part in Pilaf. You try and see if you like it, and if you don’t, just set it aside after the Pilaf is fully cooked.


      The broth, which we are making to cook the rice in is called Zirvak. It contains all the Pilaf ingredients and spices. We always start with sauteing the onion, then adding the meat substitute (mushrooms) and then carrots and spices. After the vegetables have softened up in a pot, we add the water, bring it to a boil and simmer for a while. This broth absorbs all the flavors from the vegetables and gives it to the rice when we cook it there. It is essential to add enough water and wait when it cooks into zirvak and only then adding the rice in it.

      Additional Ingredients


      Traditional Uzbek Pilaf has a small number of large chickpeas as an additional ingredient.  However, I recommend putting a good amount of chickpeas in this Vegan Uzbek Pilaf to make this dish substantial, to get a good amount of protein in a meal. Unfortunately, there were no more chickpeas in the supermarket (due to the covid19 quarantine) and I have used green peas instead.

      Dried Fruit

      Raisins and dried apricots are often used in the Uzbek pilaf to give it a note of surprise, an extra sweetness, and just for an extra burst of flavor. I love using dried fruits in savory dishes, they really bring it to the next level.

      Cooking Pot

      People in Uzbekistan cook Uzbek Pilaf in huge amounts outside on fire in a large cauldron (which is called Kazan). As for regular home cooking on the gas or electric stove, a good substitute for a cauldron would be a pot with a tight lid with a thick bottom, made out of aluminum or cast iron.

      How to Serve Pilaf

      It looks especially appetizing to serve Pilaf to your guests or family in a nice large serving dish like this one traditional Uzbek one.  Place the whole cooked in this pilaf garlic head in the middle, sprinkle with some raisins and green onions on top, and enjoy.

      If you are wondering, where to get this traditional Uzbek dish, hand-made in Uzbekistan, I recommend checking out SpringBeautiful. This online shop belongs to a friend of mine, who travels and gets the dishes herself (high quality and authenticity guaranteed).

      If you are interested in other vegan, healthy, and easy vegan gluten-free recipes with rice, check out this Oriental Pumpkin Rice recipe. 

      Please share, like, and leave your comments down below! I would be happy to hear your feedback and how my recipe turned out for you!

      Thank you,


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      Prepare Zirvak

      1. Chop the onions into small cubes, slice champignons and chop carrots into stripes.
      2. Add your oil of choice ( I use Avocado oil) to the pre-heated pot over medium-high heat;
      3. Add the chopped onions and saute until transparent and slightly golden;
      4. Then add the sliced mushrooms and saute until they shrink and release some liquid;
      5. Add the carrots, stir slightly and let them cook a little in the oil and liquid from the champignons for 4-5 minutes on medium heat;
      6. Then add all the spices, salt to your taste stir and pour water, bring it to a boil and reduce the heat. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 10 minutes.


      Add Rice

      1. Rinse the rice under cold water until the water is transparent (wash away the starch);
      2. After our zirvak is done, open the lid and do not stir anything! Add chickpeas and just spread the rice equally on top, without any stirring and bring to a boil again.
      3. Once boiled, again - no stirring!!! Just reduce the heat to low, make some holes with a spatula in the rice so that some steam can come through, and place the whole unpeeled garlic head inside the rice.
      4. Place a plate on top of the rice so that it presses on it slightly and cover with a lid. Let the rice cook fully (for 25-30 minutes) on low heat without any stirring. Just leave it there.
      5. Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat, mix it all together and add raisin!


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