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Vegetarian Serbian Rice Pilaf

This vegetarian Serbian rice pilaf is an easy and quick rice recipe, perfect for cooking on a budget or for big families.

I made this vegetarian Serbian rice pilaf recipe especially for those of you who are always busy and want something healthy to eat. This Serbian rice pilaf recipe is easy to make and feeds 8+ people!

best easy serbian rice pilaf

This Serbian rice pilaf recipe was a very common meal during my childhood. I loved and still love its vibrant colors, fresh taste and creamy texture. Back then my mother used to make it with chicken broth, but it is just as good with vegetable broth.

how to make serbian rice pilaf

Serbian Rice Origins and History

Serbian rice recipes are a reflection of the rich culinary tapestry of the Balkan region, influenced by centuries of history and neighboring cultures. With rice as a staple ingredient, these dishes blend local produce, meats, and an array of herbs and spices to create flavorful and hearty meals. Whether it’s the simplicity of Rizi Bizi, the comforting warmth of Sarma, or the celebratory flavors of Pilav, Serbian rice dishes are beloved staples enjoyed during family gatherings, holidays, and everyday meals alike.

The origin and history of Serbian rice pilaf can be traced back to the culinary influences that have shaped the Balkan region over centuries. The dish likely has roots in the Ottoman Empire, which introduced rice and various spices to the area. These ingredients were then adapted and incorporated into local cuisines, resulting in dishes like rice pilaf. Serbian rice pilaf, known as pilav or pilavčići in Serbian, features a delightful blend of long-grain rice cooked with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and sometimes meat or sausage. This dish embodies the fusion of Eastern European and Ottoman flavors, with its hearty yet fragrant profile becoming a beloved part of Serbian culinary tradition.

Over time, Serbian rice pilaf evolved to reflect the seasonal availability of ingredients and the cultural practices of the region. While the basic preparation remains consistent—boiling rice with a flavorful broth or stock—variations may include the addition of local vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions, as well as spices such as paprika, parsley, and dill. As a versatile and satisfying dish, Serbian rice pilaf is enjoyed during family gatherings, festive celebrations, and everyday meals, showcasing the resourcefulness and creativity of Serbian cooks in crafting dishes that are both delicious and comforting.

serbian rice pilaf

Tips for cooking pilaf

Here are some detailed tips for cooking pilaf, along with the best water-to-rice ratio tip:

  • Choosing the Right Type of Rice: Select long-grain rice, such as Basmati or Jasmine, for the best results in pilaf. These varieties have a fluffy texture and absorb flavors well. Alternatively, if you like sticky rice, choose round-shaped rice.
  • Rinsing the Rice: Before cooking, rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This helps remove excess starch, preventing the rice from becoming too sticky.
  • Sautéing Aromatics: In a large pot or skillet, heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add finely chopped onions, garlic, and any other aromatics. Sauté until the onions are translucent and fragrant.
  • Toasting the Rice: Add the rinsed rice to the pot with the aromatics. Stir the rice continuously for a few minutes until it becomes lightly toasted. This step enhances the nutty flavor of the rice.
  • Measuring Water: Use a 1:3 ratio of rice to water. For example, for every cup of rice, add three cups of water. This ensures that the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the right amount of moisture.
Serbian Rice Pilaf with Vegetables recipe
  • Boiling the Rice: Once the water is added, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Then, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Steaming the Rice: Allow the rice to simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Avoid stirring the rice during this time, as it can cause it to become mushy.
  • Resting the Rice: Once the rice is cooked, remove it from the heat but leave it covered with the lid. Let it rest for an additional 5-10 minutes. This allows the steam to redistribute evenly throughout the rice, resulting in fluffy grains.
  • Fluffing the Rice: After resting, use a fork to gently fluff the rice to separate the grains. This helps prevent clumping and ensures a light, airy texture.
  • Serve and Enjoy: Pilaf is versatile and can be served as a side dish or as a main course with added vegetables, protein, or nuts. Garnish with fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley for a pop of color and flavor.

By following these tips, you can achieve perfectly cooked pilaf every time, with fluffy, flavorful rice that’s sure to impress. And remember, the 1:3 ratio of rice to water makes it easy to measure and ensures consistent results with minimal effort.

Vegetables Rice Pilaf Recipe

Want more pilaf recipes? Check out my favorites – mushroom rice pilaf and Bulgur Pilaf.

Vegetables Rice Pilaf Recipe retea de pilaf cu legume

Vegetarian Serbian Rice Pilaf
This vegetarian Serbian rice pilaf is an easy and quick rice recipe, perfect for cooking on a budget or for big families.
4.67 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
20 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine European, Serbian
Servings 6
Calories 172 kcal


  • 1 cup rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil


  • Heat the oil in a large pan. Add chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Add grated carrot and diced pepper. Saute for 5 more minutes.
  • Add the rice along with 3 cups of water. Stir until all ingredients are evenly spread. Add paprika, salt and pepper.
  • Let it boil for 10 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let it rest until all water is absorbed by the rice (20 minutes).
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and serve!


Calories: 172kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 3gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 16mgPotassium: 145mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 2484IUVitamin C: 27mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 1mg
Keyword carrots, peppers, rice
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Recipe Rating


Wednesday 14th of February 2024

Perfect! so easy


Wednesday 18th of July 2018

Just made this yesterday and I love it! Reminded me of the pilaf my Serbian grandma used to make. Love love love!

Ruxandra Micu

Monday 22nd of October 2018

Glad you liked the recipe! :)


Thursday 12th of July 2018

Great recipe! Thank you!


Tuesday 17th of July 2018

You're welcome!


Monday 21st of May 2012

nice idea thanks for sharing

The Codropss

Wednesday 1st of February 2012

Great Recipe!