Chicken and Vegetable Pullao


What do you do when you’ve worked all day or in my case; chauffeured children, laundry, groceries, soccer practice, and you stumble home with not a clue as to what’s for dinner? Believe it or not, even on days that I’ve been to the grocery store, sometimes I have no clue what I am making for dinner that evening. 

On days, when I am almost out of everything, it is even harder! What is your plan on days like these? Everyone has store cupboard staples, in my case, I always have rice, lentils, onions and garlic ginger paste! It’s an Indian store cupboard 🙂 What are the must-haves in your pantry? And how about when supplies are running low? What do you all turn to (apart from takeaway)?

My meals in a hurry, or on days that I need some comfort food, I always find myself turning to something with rice. It’s my comfort food because growing up, I ate it almost everyday. 

I wasn’t going to post this recipe because it happened to be one of those last minute, I am “out of everything” meals. It was thought of at the last minute after returning home exhausted and kids whining for dinner.


However, as I was devouring my plate, I realised how good it was and how easily it came together. I thought it might be worth sharing because it is essentially a one pot meal and one that’s open to much improvisation.

In Indian cookery, there are a lot of specific, traditional dishes, including many pullaos. However, pullaos are great for improvising. You can throw in just about anything, add rice, spices and meat or vegetable stock and you have a tasty pullao unique to you.

So, I thought I would share mine to inspire others to create their own. My pullaos are different every time! It really always depends on what I have in the fridge, freezer and pantry. Last week, it was zucchini squash, potatoes and a bit of left over chicken. 


Chicken and Vegetable Pullao

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Serves: 6-8 servings

  • 2½ cups rice, washed and soaked for 10 minutes
  • ½ cup red lentils, washed and soaked with rice
  • ½ large onion, chopped fine
  • 2 large zucchini, small cubes
  • 2 large potatoes, small cubes, parboiled or fried
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • handful of mint or cilantro, or both
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • salt and pepper to taste (takes about 2 teaspoons salt to season 3 cups rice)
  1. In a big pot on medium high heat, brown the onions.
  2. Once the onions are caramelised, add the zucchini cubes and fry.
  3. Brown the zucchini cubes a little too.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger, cook a little.
  5. Add the cumin, coriander, red chilli powder and turmeric.
  6. Fry the spices a little.
  7. Add the washed and drained rice and lentils and coat with the oil and spices.
  8. Once the rice and lentils are coated nicely with the spices and oil, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  9. Once boiling, turn the heat to medium and simmer until most of the broth has been absorbed.
  10. Do not boil till totally dry, there should be about ½ inch of liquid still in the pot above the rice.
  11. Add the fried or parboiled potatoes and the shredded chicken.
  12. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on low, for 10 minutes.
  13. Put on a timer.
  14. After 10 minutes on low heat, turn off the burner and remove pot from heat.
  15. Without opening, steam for another 10 minutes. Set a timer.
  16. After 10 minutes, remove lid and fluff rice and lentils with a fork and mix in the vegetables.
The ingredients are all open to change, the type and quantity. I like to boil or fry my potatoes before hand otherwise they tend to make the rice too gummy. You can use any meat, I had a leftover cooked chicken breast and so I shredded that into the pullao. In a pullao with stuff in it, I usually use double the liquid to rice ratio. The other vegetables in the pullao will absorb a little of the liquid and you want to ensure there is enough to cook the rice and lentils. However, after the simmering of the rice and lentils, they still look too under done, add a little more liquid. The grains should lengthen in size and look half way done when they are done simmering.


So, that is my Chicken and Vegetable Pullao with leftover bits and bobs. However, those bits and bobs made a terrific, comforting meal that hit the spot. You don’t need fancy ingredients for a pullao; use what you have.

That is my last minute creation made up of a bit of this and that, what do you all make in a hurry? Do you look for convenience or comfort? When I am tired beyond belief and don’t want to be in the kitchen cooking, I find that I want something comforting to eat and not just food because of the sake of food. A comforting meal helps me feel better. Is it the same for you guys? Lots of questions today! But I was thinking about that and wondering about all of you and how y’all handle a long and arduous day.

Hope you are all having a great week!

  1. Pingback: Farmers Market Pasta | from the Bartolini kitchens

  2. As a mom myself, I know exactly what you are talking about! Sometimes, meal plans don’t come to me until the very last minutes when I’m pulling stuff out of the fridge! I’ve always chalked that up to my “creative” side – not wanting to be tied down to a weekly/daily menu or regimen. Like you, when I run out of time and ideas, rice is a go-to dish! This pullao is definitely going into my repertoire! Have a good weekend, mama! Your family is lucky to have you 🙂
    Jen L | Tartine and Apron Strings recently posted..Clams in Chili-Cilantro OilMy Profile

    • Thanks Jen! It’s nice to have a few dishes that you can turn to in a rush. Pasta and rice are my two faves, then of course, eggs and breakfast foods.

    • You are very sweet Sarah, I am still learning but I appreciate your encouraging words!

  3. Oh Nazneen, I love recipes like this. They are so versatile even if they are at the whim of the leftovers in my fridge and pantry! I have wandered the aisles at the market too many times, without inspiration. And on those days, I’m just going to come home and whip up this marvelous rice dish. It’s amazing how something you pulled together so quickly looks like you’ve been fussing over it all day! Your photos are beautiful! : )
    Anne@FromMySweetHeart recently posted..Bake Sale & RaffleMy Profile

  4. Love that top photo! And I love dishes like this, where you can change out ingredients so easily. I could almost make this recipe as written – I have everything on hand except for the zucchini and potatoes! Really good stuff – thanks so much.
    john@kitchenriffs recently posted..The Mint JulepMy Profile

    • Thanks John! Yes! That’s the reason I posted this so you have a basic recipe that you can embellish.

  5. You certainly threw together a great meal and I’m so glad you did decide to post it. Love your serving dish. I must try to find some of those for when I cook curry xx
    Hotly Spiced recently posted..The Big BananaMy Profile

    • Thanks Charlie! Sometimes good things happen on a whim! Try an Indian store if you’re looking for the kadhi pot.

    • Thanks Sawsan, believe me, there are days I just make eggs too! I always keep tins of hummus too so some days I break open a tin with some zaatar and salad and call it a night!

  6. I hear you loud and clear and have followed the same road many a time either thru’ lack of the same or sheer tiredness! Great ‘sample’ recipe to have and to tweak: I do the same with both cooked brown rice always in my fridge or some form of noodles and always feel twice blessed; the dish invariably ends up more than palatable and it has ‘cost’ me practically nought as but few ‘new’ ingredients have been used!!

    • I agree Eha! Those makeover dishes are always better than the original! I love frying up rice and noodles too with some vegetables and eggs. Perfect leftover food! Thanks for stopping by Eha!

  7. Meals that we make in hurry are always the best. I make pulao a lot even when I am not in rush and my daughter always look forward that I add some meat in it. I love that you have added red lentils and zucchini along with meat, giving a twist to a traditional pulao recipe. Even I keep trying different options as rice is something we cook regularly. I once made vegetable pulao with chai flavor and it has now become a regular in my home.
    Balvinder recently posted..Skinny Panini With Sorghum ChapattiMy Profile

    • Thanks Bal, I love adding red lentils…it’s almost a more jazzy khichdi…which I love too.

  8. This sounds like a delicious meal that you created, Nazneen, and on the spur of the moment, too. I think most of us have these “go to” dishes, though they’re sure to vary because of our different pantries. I’ll usually make a pasta or, as I’ll post later, a frittata. Both are very simple compared to your pullao. I’m surprised, though, that I have most of the ingredients required by your recipe. I never would have thought to combine them like this. Guess who’ll be making pullao in the not too distant future? Thanks, Nazneen, for pointing me in this direction.
    ChgoJohn recently posted..Grandpa’s Tuna Salad gets a MakeoverMy Profile

    • Thanks John. You mention having all the things to make a pullao with but don’t usually think of it at the spur of the moment..I think that has a lot to do with how and what we grew up eating. I fall back on Indian food because its what I know from home. On a tired day, I just want comfort and that’s why I believe I make rice dishes. Of course, you will fall back on what you grew up eating….which I am sure is quite tasty too!

    • That’s funny you noticed! I didn’t use it on purpose. Usually I do but I feel that adds a “heavy” element… basically garam flavours and I wanted a lighter taste. You can most definitely add it if you wish. I left it out on purpose 🙂

  9. This looks great and a fabulous spur of the moment dish. It’s often those dishes that are the most flavoursome. I have what I call a fridge meal, just using whatever’s in the fridge. A little difficult today as I’ve just had a clearout so it’s sliced chicken and condiments only at the moment! Have a good week. GG xx
    glamorous glutton recently posted..Wild Garlic Pesto And Wild Garlic FocacciaMy Profile

    • Thanks GG! It’s funny also that you can make it so well on the spur of the moment but when you go to recreate it, it’s a major flop!

  10. It was made with leftovers and looks terrific! I’d be happy to have it for dinner. I also have some ingredients that are always in my pantry and use them to make a dish when I’m out of others that I need. Life is busy and often we have to do what we have to do especially as Moms. I hope your week gets better and you can breath a bit. 🙂 Miss you! I wish you were here so we could go shopping together at CM. Take care!
    Denise Browning@From Brazil To You recently posted..Passaporte Brasil at Central Market– Celebrating Brazil, Its Culture, and FoodMy Profile

    • Thanks Denise! I would love to go shopping at CM with you! It would be so much fun xx