Tawa Pulao

Tawa Pulao is a popular street food from Mumbai where rice is cooked with vegetables, spices and butter. It's spicy, tangy and packed with flavors. Best enjoyed with a side of cooling yogurt.
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Spicy and full of veggies, Tawa Pulao is a popular street food from the city of Mumbai in India. It has rice cooked with vegetables, butter, pav bhaji masala and garnished with cilantro and fresh lemon juice. The addition of a chili-garlic paste made with Kashmiri red chilies gives it that bright color and also adds to flavor.

rice with vegetables like potato, pepper garnished with cilantro served in a paper plate

I have been to Mumbai a few times in my life and every time I go there, I feel like I am always eating. From vada pav, to pav bhaji, tawa pulao and so much more, there’s always so much to eat. I think I have said this several times, but I will say it again- there’s nothing quite like Indian street food. It’s spicy, tangy, sweet and just so full of flavor. I can live on it forever.

Rice has been a staple for me growing up, we had it for every meal. I wasn’t the biggest rice fan back then (probably because it was made everyday for both lunch and dinner), but now I quite like it and cook it several times a week. One of my favorite ways to cook rice is Tawa Pulao. It is packed with veggies, spicy and Indian street food at its best.

What is Tawa Pulao

Tawa pulao is a popular street food from Mumbai. It literally translates to pulao made on a tawa where tawa is a flat concave shaped pan commonly used in Indian cooking and pulao refers to any spiced rice dish made with vegetables or meat.

It is spicy, loaded with veggies, flavored with pav bhaji masala and really delicious. If you have been to Mumbai, chances are you must have eaten this dish. I am not from Mumbai but whenever I have been there, I have always eaten a plate of tawa pulao.

Street vendors use a large tawa to make this pulao. However, since I don’t have such a large tawa at home, I use a wok to make it. You can use any pan or wok here or if you have a large tawa, then definitely use that.

Ingredients

Rice: for tawa pulao, use good basmati rice. I like using sella basmati rice, just like I have used it in my veg biryani.

Vegetables: for this pulao, I have onions, peppers, peas, potatoes, cabbage but you can use other vegetables like beans, carrots too.

Pav bhaji masala: a good tawa pulao needs a good pav bhaji masala. You can either use homemade pav bhaji masala (I have a recipe for it in my pav bhaji post) or use a brand that you like.

Garnishes and flavoring: the pulao uses butter, cilantro, kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), and lemon juice to enhance the flavors.

ingredients for making tawa pulao arranged on a board

Tips To Make Best Tawa Pulao

To make the best tawa pulao at home, here are some tips which will help.

Use the right rice: a great looking and tasting pulao depends on the type of rice being used. For tawa pulao, please use Basmati rice. My personal recommendation is to use Zebra Sella XXL Basmati rice. I find it at Indian grocery stores and it has the longest grains which makes it excellent for pulao.

Don’t overcook the rice: to have that nice looking tawa pulao, make sure to not overcook your rice. It’s best to cook it in an open pot (see below in recipe steps). This way the rice cooks perfectly, all grains are separated and it’s not overcooked. You don’t want mushy rice for this recipe.

Make chili-garlic paste: to get the right flavor and also that nice color which we associate with Mumbai’s tawa pulao, you have to make and use a paste made with dried whole Kashmiri red chilies and garlic. This forms the base for this pulao and you should not skip it. Also remember to use Kashmiri red chilies only and not any other chili here. That is what will give the pulao that color.

Use amul butter: you can definitely use any butter of choice but I recommend using amul salted butter for best results. That will give you the taste closest to the street style.

Finish with cilantro and kasuri methi: just like pav bhaji, finish the tawa pulao with fresh cilantro and kasuri methi. Squeeze some lemon juice and if you want to take it a step further, you can even add some extra butter (1-2 teaspoons) on top before serving. That will add more flavor to the pulao.

Step by Step Method

1- Add 8-10 whole dried Kashmiri red chilies (do not regular red chilies else you won’t get the bright red color and also the paste will turn too hot) to a bowl. Pour hot water over it and let it soak for at least 30 minutes until they soften.

2- Meanwhile, take 1 cup (195 grams) of basmati rice (I used sella basmati rice) in a bowl. Rinse until water turns clear and then soak it in around 3 cups of water for 20 minutes.

3- Once 20 minutes are up, drain the water in which the rice was soaked using a strainer. Bring a pot of water to boil (around 6 to 7 cups of water) on medium-high heat. Add few drops of oil to it. Once it comes to a roaring boil, add the soaked and drained rice to it.

4- Let the rice cook until it’s cooked through. Neither cover the pan nor lower the heat. The amount of time the rice will take to cook will depend on the rice itself. For the sella basmati that I used it took around 10 minutes. Remember to not overcook the rice, you don’t want that for the pulao. So just until it’s cooked or 95% cooked.

step by step picture collage of making tawa pulao

5- Once the rice is cooked, drain the rice using a strainer. Let it cool for 5 minutes and then fluff using a fork. Let the rice cool down and dry completely before you use it in the pulao.

6- Now, drain the Kashmiri red chili which were soaking. Once you have drained the water, cut open the chilies and de-seed them. This will make them less spicy.

7- Add the de-seeded chilies to a blender along with 5 to 6 large garlic cloves and little water. You would need around 2-3 tablespoons of water, we want a thick paste so don’t add too much water here.

8- Pulse everything until you have a thick chili-garlic paste. Set this aside.

step by step picture collage of making tawa pulao

9- To a pan or wok (or use a large tawa if you have one), add 2 tablespoons butter (I used amul butter) and 1 tablespoon oil. Once the butter melts, add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds. Let the seeds sizzle.

10- Set heat to medium-high, then add 1 medium sliced onion and cook for 2 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste and cook for 1 minute. Now, add 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of the prepared chili-garlic paste. You can add more or all of the paste if you prefer spicy pulao but be careful with it as it can get really spicy. Cook the paste for 1 minute.

11- Now, add all the veggies:

  • 1 medium green pepper, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sliced cabbage
  • 1 large tomato, quartered
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas (which were boiled already)
  • 1 medium potato, boiled and cubed

Stir until all veggies are well combined and cook for 1-2 minutes.

12- Then add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 2 to 3 teaspoons pav bhaji masala (I added 2) and 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste).

step by step picture collage of making tawa pulao

13- Stir and then add around 2 tablespoons of water at this point. This way the spices don’t burn and they all cook nicely. Cook the spices with the vegetables for 1-2 minutes. The vegetables need not to be super soft for this pulao so total cooking of 5-6 minutes (from the time they were added to the pan) should be okay.

14- Now add the prepared rice. This is around 3 cups of rice.

15- Mix the rice with the vegetables and spices until it all comes together.

16- For the finishing touches, add 2 teaspoons kasuri methi, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and juice of 1/2 lemon. You can even add a pat of butter at the end if you like. Tawa pulao is ready!

step by step picture collage of making tawa pulao

Serving Suggestions

Tawa pulao is spicy so it should be served with a bowl of cooling raita to balance the heat. Some of my favorites are:

Using Pre-Cooked Rice

If you don’t want to go through the whole process of cooking rice especially for Tawa Pulao and have some leftover rice which you want to use, you can definitely do that.

For this recipe, you would need around 3 cups of cooked basmati rice. The recipe will remain the same, you will only skip the steps of cooking the rice and start with preparing the chili-garlic paste.

Vegan Variation

This recipe is all vegan except the use of butter in the recipe. To make it vegan, use vegan butter of choice or you can simply replace all the butter with oil.

tawa pulao served in a plate garnished with onion rings, cilantro and served with a bowl of yogurt

Tips & Notes

  • Add more veggies: for this tawa pulao recipe, I have used green bell pepper, potato, cabbage, and green peas. You can use more veggies here like beans, carrots, beetroots etc. You can even use cauliflower but I would probably fry the cauliflower before adding.
  • Add protein: if you want to add protein to this pulao, you can add some sautéed paneer or tofu in here.
  • Adjust spice levels to taste: tawa pulao is usually spicy so you can adjust spice levels to taste. I haven’t used the whole chili-garlic that I made in this recipe but if you prefer it that spicy, add the entire paste and it will be quite spicy.

This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in September 2015.

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Tawa Pulao

rice with vegetables like potato, pepper garnished with cilantro served in a paper plate
Manali
Tawa Pulao is a popular street food from Mumbai where rice is cooked with vegetables, spices and butter. It's spicy, tangy and packed with flavors. Best enjoyed with a side of cooling yogurt.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Soaking Time 15 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Entree
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 306 kcal

Ingredients

  • 8-10 whole dry Kashmiri red chilies do not replace with regular red chilies
  • 5-6 large garlic cloves
  • 1 cup basmati rice 195 grams, I used sella basmati rice OR you can also use 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons butter I use and recommend Amul salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil 15 ml, use any oil of choice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium red onion sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
  • 1 medium green pepper thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup cabbage sliced
  • 1 large tomato quartered
  • 1/4 cup green peas frozen, which were boiled for 10 mins beforehand
  • 1 medium potato boiled and cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons pav bhaji masala add 1 teaspoon extra if needed and to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons kasuri methi dried fenugreek leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 lemon juice of

Instructions
 

  • We start by making the chili-garlic paste first. Take a bowl and add whole dried Kashmiri red chilies to it and then pour hot boiling water over it. Let it soak for around 30 minutes while you can work on the rice and prep the veggies.
  • Meanwhile, rinse the basmati rice in a bowl until water turns clear and then soak it in 3 cups of water for around 15 to 20 minutes.
    Then drain the water in which the rice was soaked using a strainer. Bring a pot of water to boil on medium-high heat. Add few drops of oil to it. Once it comes to a boil, add the soaked and drained rice to it.
  • Cook the rice until it's cooked but remember to not overcook it. This took around 10 minutes with sella basmati rice but can take less or more amount of time depending on the quality of rice being used. Just remember to not overcook the rice, you don't mushy rice for this recipe.
  • Once the rice is cooked, drain it using a strainer. Let it cool for few minutes and then fluff using a fork. Let the rice cool down before you use it in the pulao. Your rice is now done. Now let's make the chili-garlic paste.
  • Now, drain the water in which the chilies were soaking. The chilies will be soft by now, cut them open and remove the seeds. Then add the de-seeded chilies to a blender along with 5 to 6 large garlic cloves and some water (probably around 2-3 tablespoons). Pulse everything until you have a thick chili-garlic paste. Set this aside.
  • Now, take your pan or a large tawa if you have one and start making the pulao. Add 2 tablespoons butter to it along with 1 tablespoon oil. Let the butter melt and then add cumin seeds to it. Once the seeds sizzle, then add the sliced onions to it.
  • Set heat to medium-high, and cook the onions for 2 minutes until they are translucent. Then add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 1 minute.
  • Then add the prepared chili-garlic paste. You can add the entire paste if you like (it will make the pulao very spicy) but I added 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of it only. Cook the paste for 1 minute.
  • Now, add all the vegetables- sliced green pepper, sliced cabbage, tomatoes, boiled green peas and boiled and cubed potatoes. Stir and cook the veggies for 2 minutes on medium-high heat.
  • Then add the turmeric, pav bhaji masala and salt to taste. You can add more pav bhaji masala as needed. At this point, add a little water, around 2 tablespoons so that the spices don't burn and cook them along with the vegetables for around 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Now add the prepared rice (this will be around 3 cups of cooked rice) and mix the rice with the vegetables and spices until it is all nicely combined.
  • Garnish with crushed kasuri methi and chopped cilantro. Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice and serve tawa pulao with a cooling raita. You can also add some butter on top before serving, will add more flavor to the pulao!

Notes

  • Add more veggies: for this tawa pulao recipe, I have used green bell pepper, potato, cabbage, and green peas. You can use more veggies here like beans, carrots, beetroots etc. You can even use cauliflower but I would probably fry the cauliflower before adding.
  • Add protein: if you want to add protein to this pulao, you can add some sautéed paneer or tofu in here.
  • Adjust spice levels to taste: tawa pulao is usually spicy so you can adjust spice levels to taste. I haven’t used the whole chili-garlic that I made in this recipe but if you prefer it that spicy, add the entire paste and it will be quite spicy.
  • Please do not use regular whole red chilies in place of Kashmiri red chilies. You need Kashmiri red chilies for color and they are also not extremely spicy.

Nutrition

Calories: 306kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 6gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 493mgPotassium: 346mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 770IUVitamin C: 49mgCalcium: 52mgIron: 1mg
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43 thoughts on “Tawa Pulao

  1. I think I just found me a gem of a blog! You have no idea how much my husband and I love Indian food. If we had lots more money our weekly eating out would be at the Indian restaurant in our area. I love the simplicity of this dish! But I am just so intrigued by the complexity and unique way of Indian cooking, and I would say that it’s unlike any other I’ve made before. We took a one day date-class together and it was one of the coolest events we had attended. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for dropping by Ellie! I’m so glad to hear that you love Indian food. It’s not that complex actually. Don’t get intimidated by it, that is why I try to do step by step photos for my Indian recipes. I hope you do give them a try!

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