Morel Mushroom Pilaf

Morel Mushroom Pilaf Recipe

I was reluctant to try this recipe because morel mushrooms aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. Foraging is not an option because I don’t know any mycologists and there’s always that tiny chance of Death by Shotgun if I unknowingly wander into an ex-convict’s backyard.

A Julie Sahni recipe has never steered me wrong, though, so why not?

All of the spices (cumin, cardamom, cloves, and a cinnamon stick) are left whole so the morels don’t get overwhelmed. The pilaf was very fragrant but more delicate than I expected. The first thing you taste is the morels (thank goodness) along with the natural sweetness of the onions.

recipe adapted from Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking
Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Cinzia

Badshahi Pulao / Gochian Pulao
The Emperor’s Pilaf / Morel Mushroom Pilaf

makes about 6 to 8 servings

Fresh Morel Mushrooms
Morel Mushrooms.


2 cups basmati rice, washed and drained
4 medium onions
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1/2 pound fresh morel mushrooms, halved and cleaned
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
6 whole cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches long
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt

Morel Mushroom Pilaf Spices


  1. Place the basmati rice in a bowl. Add 4 cups of cold water and soak for about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the water used for soaking.
  2. Slice 2 of the onions into paper-thin slices (this will be used in the next step). Finely chop the remaining 2 onions.
  3. Make the Crispy Fried Onions. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Fry the paper-thin onions until dark brown, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the onions from burning. Remove the onions using a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. The onions will crisp as they cool.
  4. In the same pan and oil used to fry the onions, add the cumin seeds and cook for a few seconds over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until light brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the onions from burning.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the morel mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes, until the morels are fragrant. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf and continue cooking until the spices are slightly puffed.
  6. Stir in the drained basmati rice and cook until the rice is thoroughly coated in oil and lightly browned. Add the reserved soaking water and salt. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  7. Cover and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and let the rice steam for another 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and rest for at least 5 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle the crispy fried onions on top as a garnish and serve with grilled or stewed meats or seafood.

Morel Mushroom Pilaf Cooked

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85 Responses to “Morel Mushroom Pilaf”

  1. snooky doodle says:

    I ve never tried morels since I ve never seen them here. the dish though looks mouth watering :) All those flavours combined must be amazing. yummy

  2. Joelen says:

    I love all those mushrooms! Looks delicious!

  3. katiek @kitchensidecar says:

    wow. this is a very sexy dish. I like the whole spices. The flavors will be so fragrant. They could infuse the mushroom pores! Good pairing with the basmati rice.

    I love using these cloves and cardamon in my cooking. Good for stock as well.

  4. Rosa says:

    What a scrumptious looking pilaf! I love the flavor of morels!



  5. Pigpigscorner says:

    I love the taste of these mushrooms but the texture seems a bit weird to me. Looks really yummy!

  6. Peter says:

    Oh I perk up any time I see a recipe with Morels…a fabulous rice dish…worthy of special guests.

  7. Y says:

    What beautiful morels! This looks like such a luxurious, simple dish. Yum!

  8. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella says:

    That looks delicious, I love a good pilaf. Hehe you know the only thing I was thinking about foraging was eating unknown mushrooms, not bullets from an ex convict! lol

  9. Caitlin says:

    Again with the morels? I love the combination of spices though – leaving them whole seems to be the trick, eh?

  10. kat says:

    That does look like it highlights the mushrooms which is so important with morels

  11. Christina@DeglazeMe says:

    Morels are so luxurious in flavor and full of depth, I just adore them. Too bad they cost an arm and a leg!

    By the way, how does one clean morels??

  12. Mara @ What's For Dinner? says:

    Looks amazing!! Where did you find such gorgeous morels?

  13. Leela says:

    Looks absolutely delicious.

    I’m curious about what the soaking does to Basmati, though, and even more curious about why the soaking water is reused. I come from the rinse-the-starch-off-your-raw-rice-until-the-water-runs-clear-to-prevent-gumminess-while-ensuring-fluffiness camp, so I find this very interesting.

  14. veggie wedgie says:

    M.mmm. Morel mushrooms are so good!

  15. Ben says:

    Recipes using this kind of mushroom are popping up all over the internet and now I really REALLY need to make something with them. But I don’t think it is worth risking getting shot at an ex-convict back yard, though. LOL The pilaf looks very appetizing!

  16. Soma says:

    Sounds Heavenly & looks like a classic elegant Biryani!

  17. Jo says:

    want! serious want! Looks amazing!

  18. noble pig says:

    That sounds so wonderful and I love the rustic look of this.

  19. The Duo Dishes says:

    We’re also morel virgins. What’s best about this is all the earthy spices and flavors. Very different than expected!

  20. Irene says:

    Oooh I am so jealous of the morels! What a perfect way to use them!

  21. erin @ dessert girl says:

    Something about the first picture is creeping me out. :-) It looks sort of like something out of sci-fi movie with a title like The Slugs That Ate My Brain! But I’m sure it tastes really yummy!! :-)

  22. Gera @ SweetsFoods says:

    I can smell the complete battery of spices but never tasted the morel mushrooms. I’d like to see if they’re available to experiment with rice.
    This sublime dish would perfect for my dinner right now :)



  23. Haley J. says:

    Ohhh, this is just lovely. You’ve posted a couple brilliant morel recipes, and now I feel I must get my hands on some more to try this. Morels and rice – two of my favorite things ever!

  24. Erica from Cooking for Seven says:

    I just returned from hunting morels. We found 47, a decent number. We are fortunate enough to find them just down the road!
    I must admit that I find morels fried in butter are hard to beat, but this sounds delicious. And the photos are stunning.

  25. Eileen @ Passions to Pastry says:

    Does this ever look great! Last year I was given some morels by a friend. No such luck this year!

  26. Pritya says:

    Hi Jude, This is a lovely site with such stunning images. Read through some of your posts and enjoyed your style of expression – “so morels don’t get overwhelmed” – lol. Congrats and Cheers!

  27. sara says:

    this sounds wonderful. what an interesting flavor combination for me, and your pictures are just outstanding.

  28. Caitlin, as long as you don’t bite into one, I guess. A mouthful of cloves can be unpleasant.

    Christina, it depends on who you ask, but in the original recipe, wiping with a moist paper towel is recommended. I prefer to wash morels briskly under cold running water because it has so many grooves that dirt can get stuck in.

    Mara, Green City Market of course

    Leela, I washed the rice until the water is clear before soaking. It seems to be the traditional Indian way. As for reusing the soaking water, I’m not sure. I think the idea is that some nutrients end up in the water.

    Erica, nothing but concrete here. I wish I could walk across the street and pick up morels :)

  29. maryann says:

    I like this Jude! :)

  30. elra says:

    I love pilaf anything. Your pilaf with morel sounds so tempting. Delicious!

  31. Madam Chow says:

    It looks delicious, and I must say you’re a brave fellow. A few morels around here are over $20, and I don’t know that I would have had the guts to try this recipe with them. I’m glad to see that the spices did not overwhelm the morels, so this is yet another recipe off your blog that I’ll have to bookmark!

  32. Marta says:

    Jude, I’m so glad you made this! It looks delicious and I’d never though of it unless you had showed us how to do it :)
    I’m new to your blogs and I’ve really enjoyed the bit I’ve seen! I love your photos and how the show the different stages in food preparation.
    Thanks Jude, I’ll continue to read you :)

  33. Manggy says:

    What a perfect way to end the morel season– I’m glad their taste was preserved, heh :)

  34. Natashya says:

    That looks so delicious. The split morels look a bit like mussels. Such wonderfully fragrant spicing.

  35. sweetbird says:

    Morels are so sexy – and pretty much impossible to find where I’m at. I hope you can feel my jealousy from here…

  36. gourmet says:

    Wow, great recipe, i will test it next week. Nice Photos too !
    Greets from Cologne…

  37. CookiePie says:

    That looks so delicious — love morels!!

  38. Ferinannnd says:

    Спасибо за статью, всегда рад почитать вас!

  39. maris says:

    It sounds like you have a really nice variety of spices in there – cardamom, cloves, etc. Your house must have smelled amazing when you were cooking!

  40. anushruti says:

    The rice grains look so perfectly cooked and your photos look very tasty!

  41. Teanna says:

    That looks amazing! I have been looking for morels, but they cost a FORTUNE here (DC)!

  42. Jescel says:

    i’ve never had morels before. i’m so intrigued as i’ve been seeing it on TV more and more. very intriguing dish. this would also be good with risotto, perhaps?

  43. Heather says:

    I just picked up some morels last night, and I’m going with a simple rice dish as well. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, eh Jude? Great application here.

  44. Lori Lynn says:

    Hi Jude! We just returned from Paris and had the dinner of our lives at Le Cinq. The first course was morels with white asparagus, with a creamy risotto accompaniment. I have been craving ever since. Your recipe looks stunning.

  45. bee says:

    is that brown basmati? i love it. i think it’s more flavourful (besides being healthier) than the white.

  46. Dimah says:

    That sounds and looks absolutely delicious!

  47. Dragon says:

    I wish we had morells all year long. Looks delicious.

  48. jo says:

    This is certainly a great recipe and the pictures speak it all. I’ve not seen morels before in my life and haven’t come across it in the local supermarkets. Just wondering how this would taste with any other more common mushrooms?

  49. The Purple Foodie says:

    Hey Jude! How’ve you been? Haven’t seen much of you in twitterland. The pilaf looks sooo good. I can imagine it being so wonderfully fragrant and warm with the spices. Although, I’m curious to know how it’d taste with morels, since we don’t get them here.

  50. katiek @ kitchensidecar says:

    I like the cardamom in there. Seems so fragrant yet not too overpowering for the morels. The texture also looks great.

  51. maybelles mom says:

    I do love Julie Sahni. And, I am glad you didn’t get shot for this dish.

  52. Chow, they are pretty pricey but I can’t help it. I’m kind of glad that they’re no longer available.

    Marta, thanks much!

    Bee, yup I prefer the taste, and of course the added nutrition, of brown basmati.

    Jo, any mushroom will definitely do in a pinch. I’m thinking shiitake or oyster mushrooms would be a nice subsitution.

    Hey Shaheen! Just took a little break from blogging, but now I’m back and have a lot to catch up on :)

  53. Olga says:

    Morels are definitely on the list of foods I’d like to try. LOVE mushrooms!

  54. Cynthia says:

    This is a pilaf I would give anything to have.

  55. we are never full says:

    i like that the morels shine here at about $40 a pound, you’ve gotta stretch them – luckily they are full of flavor.

  56. nick says:

    Those morels look absolutely beautiful in there! You aren’t joking about the price though, sometimes they are ridiculous. I have previously bought mine from a husband and wife mushroom hunting team from WA state, at a very reasonably price. They sell dried and fresh in season:

    One of the bags I got from them had caps so large that I decided to stuff them with a chicken liver pate using a piping bag, they were awesome.

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  58. jill h says:

    i tried the recipe, and it was good for the base only. yes, it had a nice combination of flavors, but it definitely needed MORE flavor. some add ons:
    try adding a splash or so of dry white wine while the chopped onions are browning, for depth and acidity. also, try stepping up all the spices- this recipe especially needs more garlic, more salt (and i dont even usually like an excess of salt), and maybe some pepper, curry or chile powder for an extra kick.
    to cut down on the cost, i used half of the specified morel mushrooms + other various sliced wild mushrooms. i unfortunately dont have the opportunity to forage the morels, but i happily found fresh ones for sale ($7.99 per small box) at my local whole foods store.
    i served the pilaf with indian-style yogurt marinated chicken.
    despite the fact that this recipe needed a bit of extra flavor, it was still very good, and very creative. ill definitely make it again, but will make sure to add the extra flavor components :)

  59. jill h says:

    ps. let me note that i did buy those fresh morels during their season (early spring-ish-time) at my local whole foods market in chicago. they were beautiful looking! considering how much they cost when dried, i though the $7.99 pricetag for a small but generously filled box was quite reasonable. also, i did add in a variety of other wild mushrooms, but they definitely didnt detract from the delicious flavor of the morels, which was still the focal point of the dish.

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