Rice: Top four popular recipes from Sri Lanka

image of popular rice dishes

Meal prep recipes

Ghee Rice

The flavorful dish is quite easy and straight forward to make. Ghee style and its variations are a popular choice when it comes to wedding menu creations in Sri Lanka. Medium or short grain raw rice is perfect for making this side dish. At my home whenever cook this, I use ponni raw verity from the Indian grocery store. If not, you could use Basmati, if that is what you can easily find.

If you want to learn how to replace rice in curry dinners, please read my click to read my article on that

image of popular rice dishes

Ghee Rice

Course Dinner
Cuisine Sri Lankan


  • 4 cups of rice
  • Two medium red onions
  • One inch piece of lemongrass
  • 3 Inch stick of cinnamon
  • One tablespoon of whole black pepper
  • Half a cup of cashews
  • Two tablespoons of raisins
  • 6 Cardamom pods
  • 4 white cloves
  • 2- inch piece of Pandan leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of ginger and garlic crushed together
  • 8 cups of water or chicken stock
  • 2 Teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of Ghee


  • Rinse the rice and drain. Set it aside.
  • Peel and slice red onions and fry in ghee until caramelized.
  • Remove onions and add cashews next. Roast until golden on the edges. Add ghee if the pan becomes too dry to prevent cashews from being burned. Remove and set aside.
  • Add another teaspoon of ghee to the pan and add Cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Fry for few seconds and add ginger garlic, half of caramelized onions, half of cashews and Pandan leaves. Fry for about 30 seconds.
  • Add drained rice and fry until well roasted.
  • Add water or stock and salt. Cook the rice covered until fluffy.
  • Trunk the heat off. Spread remaining onions, cashews, and raisins on top and cover the pan.
  • Let the rice sit 15 minutes more covered.
  • Mix and serve with your favorite curry.
Keyword rice

#2 Yellow turmeric rice

Here is another perfect side dish made with Ponni raw or Samba. It is cooked with herbs and coconut milk and enjoyed with ensemble of Sri Lankan curries like black pork and vegetable curries like tempered eggplant or lentils to make up a festive lunch.

Sri Lankan yellow rice

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Servings 16 Servings


  • 4 cups Rice
  • Half a teaspoon of rice
  • 1 Oz of Maldive fish Dried Tuna
  • 2 Red onions
  • Curry leaves
  • 2 inch piece of Pandan leaves
  • 8 cups of light coconut milk
  • Roasted cashews and raisins optional
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 inch piece of Pandan leaves
  • 2 Teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of Ghee
  • Tablespoon of whole peppercorns


  • Wash and drain rice and set aside.
  • Make a flavor bundle by tying Cardamom, clove, cinnamon peppercorns in a piece of muslin cloth. Bruise the spice slightly.
  • Heat Ghee and fry onions until light Golden brown.
  • Add spice bundle, Maldive fish, curry leaves, Pandan leaves and rice.
  • Add coconut milk/ water and turmeric powder. Bring to boil on high heat.
  • Cover and cook on medium low until rice are done.
  • Fluff up the rice covered the pan and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Remove the spice bundle.
  • Garnish with caramelized onions, roasted cashews, and raisins.
Keyword rice

Source : Ceylon cookery; Chandra Dissanayake

#3 Indo Asian style

Restaurant style fry is my favorite out of all four recipes. Typically, Samba or Basmati is great for making this dish. Rice is cooked beforehand and flavored up with fried vegetables and meat just after. You could use any combinations of meat such as beef or mutton or meat and shrimp combination. I am using chicken and shrimp today as it’s my favorite combination of all.

Restaurant Style Fried Rice

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine Asian Sri Lankan, Chinese
Servings 16 Servings


  • 4 cups of steamed Basmati rice
  • half a cup of Julienned carrots
  • half a cup of Leeks thinly shredded. Green leek leaves too for garnishing.
  • half a cup of green beans thinly sliced
  • half a red onion
  • handful of curry leaves
  • half an inch sliced ginger
  • two cloves of garlic
  • thinly sliced green chili
  • 4 oz of shredded fried chicken
  • 4 oz of sliced boiled prawns
  • one large egg
  • one teaspoon of salt
  • half a teaspoon of cumin powder optional
  • 2 tablespoons of soya sauce
  • one tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • one tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
  • half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoon of oil or butter


  • Heat oil or butter in wok on high. When oil starts smoking, fry onions, ginger, garlic, and curry leaves for 10 seconds.
  • Add carrots and green beans. Cook for few seconds until just wilted, add leeks and fry for another few seconds. Add salt, cumin and crushed red pepper. Mix well.
  • Add rice and start tossing vegetables with rice, once mixed add shredded chicken and shrimp.
  • Mix soya sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil together and add to the rice. Toss well to combine. Sprinkle the green shredded leeks on top and mix.
  • Fry the egg sunny side up for garnishing.
  • Enjoy with your favorite meat curry and lime pickle and a fried egg.
Keyword Fried rice

#4 Breakfast prep with coconut milk

Milk rice is part of the Sri Lankan breakfast table during Sinhala and Hindu new year. This tad bit overcooked and creamy, coconut milk infused is perfect to combine with sweet snacks or spicy curry side dishes.

New year breakfast table with coconut milk rice ,red curry fried chicken, curry baked poratoes

Coconut Milk Rice

Prep Time 35 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Servings 4


  • 4 cups raw white rice or basmati rice
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 cups of thick coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons of salt


  • Rinse the rice with water three times. Measure up six cups of water to cook the rice. Add two teaspoons of salt while cooking.
  • When the rice is almost cooked, add another two cups of coconut milk mixed with half a teaspoon of salt. Mix well with the rice.
  • Turn the heat to the lowest setting. Let the rice sit for an additional 10 or 15 minutes. Keep the pot covered. Occasional scraping the bottom will prevent the rice from burning too much.
  • After 10 minutes, pour the rice in to the serving platter while hot. Run a flat spoon dipped in coconut milk to flatten the rice then cut. enjoy with the relishes and sweets.
Keyword milk rice recipe, sri lanka coconut milk rice, sri lanka milk rice recipe

Apart from the recipes above, there are many other popular dishes with rice in festivities like Lamprais, Biryani, Nasi goreng etc… but these four recipes are my easy, go to, favorites. What are yours?

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