Basmati Rice with Cabbage: Another Great Thanksgiving Side Dish

This Persian Basmati Rice with Cabbage is full of flavor, scented with saffron and features a crispy onion crust (tadigh).

Basmati Rice with Cabbage (Kalam Pollo) by

What? You’ve never heard of basmati rice being served during the Thanksgiving meal? Funny. We have it all the time! As many new immigrants come to the US, it is customary to bring parts of their culture into the new world they are living in. Italians brought us pasta and pizza. The Irish brought their potatoes and beer. The Germans gave us sausage and more beer. The Chinese introduced sticky rice and noodles. Persians have their kabob and of course, basmati rice.

My parents don’t live in California, so every Thanksgiving they are typically guests at their friends’ Thanksgiving meals. My mom is always asked if she could bring some basmati rice. It’s now a Thanksgiving tradition with our all-American friends.

My mom has always prepared rice for our holiday meals. It’s a staple dish that we loved as children. We went from eating plain white rice, to trying all the wonderful variations of pollo (cooked rice): sour cherry, green beans & tomato, lentil, orange peel. All of these rice dishes are usually made as a side dish to a meat dish.

And they match beautifully with a roast turkey or ham.

Most pollo dishes require you to layer the par-boiled rice with the extra ingredients as you prepare it for final steaming.

My uncle is also an amazing cook. He introduced Basmati Rice with Cabbage (Kalam Pollo) to me. It’s a simple dish for you to start with your first pollo. The cabbage requires about 5-8 minutes of sautéing prior to layering with the basmati rice. The crust I chose was onion. Mmmm… the original onion rings.

Basmati Rice with Cabbage

Fragrant basmati rice with layers of delicious cabbage makes this a fabulous side dish to any meat. Recipe by Laura Bashar of Family Spice


  • 3 cup basmati rice, uncooked
  • 16 cup water
  • 2 TBS salt
  • 1 TBS hot water
  • 2 TBS butter, unsalted, melted
  • 1/2 tsp saffron, crushed
  • 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head of cabbage, green, cored & shredded
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled & cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds


  1. In a medium-sized bowl soak with water:
    • 3 cup basmati rice , uncooked
  2. Gently wash the rice by stirring the rice in the water with your hand. This helps wash some of the starch and grit out. Pour out the water and repeat two more times.
  3. After washing the rice a third time, let the rice soak in:
    • 8 cup water
    • 1 TBS salt
  4. In a small bowl mix:
    • 1 TBS hot water
    • 2 TBS butter, unsalted , melted
    • 1/2 tsp saffron , crushed
  5. Bring to boil in a 5-quart non-stick pot:
    • 8 cup water
    • 1 TBS salt
  6. While waiting for the water to boil, heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add:
    • 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 head of cabbage, green , cored & shredded
  7. Sauté until cabbage starts to wilt, approximately 3-5 minutes, remove from heat and season with:
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
  8. When the pot of water has come to boil, pour out the water in the bowl containing the soaking rice, and add the wet rice to the boiling water.
  9. When the water comes to boil again and the rice floats to the top of the pot (approx. 6 mins), pour the contents of the pot into a fine colander placed over the sink. You know your rice is ready to strain if you bite a rice kernel and the center is still uncooked.
  10. Return the pot to the burner, set heat to medium and add:
    • 1 TBS vegetable oil
    • 1 large onion , peeled & cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  11. Using a spatula, gently scoop the drained rice covering the onions, forming the first layer of rice in the pot. Make sure you do not push the rice in together as this will result in mushy rice
  12. Spread some of the cooked cabbage over the first layer of rice.
  13. Continue alternating layers of rice and cabbage until you are finished with both and ending with a rice layer. Your pot should not be filled to the top. You will need about 3 inches between the top of your rice and the top of the pot. If you must tap the rice off of your spatula, do not tap it against the pot. This will move the rice in the pot and press them together. Tap your spatula against the colander.
  14. Using the handle of a long wooden spoon or another utensil, gently press several holes around the rice down to the bottom of the pot. This will allow the steam to travel freely through the pot.
  15. Pour the saffron mixture over the top layer of rice.
  16. Cover the lid of your pot with a clean towel or several paper towels, and set firmly over your pot to prevent steam from escaping. The towel will keep the condensation from dropping back into your rice and turning the rice into mush.
  17. After 7 minutes, lower the heat to low and let the rice finish cooking for another 45 mins. You will know your rice is done because it has fluffed up. Another trick to see if your rice is down is to lick your finger and quickly touch your wet finger against the side of the hot pot. If you hear a sizzle sound, your rice is done (and hopefully your finger isn't burned!).
  18. To serve, you can place a large round platter over the top of the pot, then carefully invert the pot and remove gently. This will create a cake-effect, with the onion crust showing on top. Or, you can use a spatula to gently remove the rice and scatter on your serving platter, creating a pyramid-effect, placing the crunchy onions on top or surrounding the rice.

Prep Time:

Yield: Serves 6

Cook Time:

Basmati Rice with Cabbage Detail

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One Response to Basmati Rice with Cabbage: Another Great Thanksgiving Side Dish

  1. What a fun post…I am a big rice lover and although I enjoy potato dishes as well, I am all for anything rice 🙂 These would do beautifully at the holiday table 🙂

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