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Try this Healthy Arab Recipe: Garlic Turmeric Rice

posted on: Apr 14, 2021

Garlic Turmeric Rice
Photo: Blanche Shaheen

By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer


The earliest physical evidence of turmeric use by humans comes from ancient pots found near New Delhi, India. Scientists actually found turmeric residue at the bottom of these pots tracing back 4500 years. Fast forward a few thousand years, and the Egyptians wrote about their use of turmeric on papyrus around 1500 B.C. The ancient document mentioned turmeric as a dye and as a medicine.  Arab traders in the 7th century continued to introduce turmeric throughout the Middle East, hence this spice’s popularity in Moroccan tagines, Egyptian teas, Jordanian Mansaf,  Iraqi pickles,  Yemeni Chicken Mandi, and Lebanese sponge cakes called “Sfouf.” 

Recently cooks and holistic doctors have rediscovered turmeric for its medicinal properties, as well as its beautiful color and mild flavor. Many holistic medical doctors use turmeric to help detoxify the liver, fight various cancers, speed metabolism, kill bacteria, disinfect cuts and burns, and even slow the progression of autoimmune diseases. Perhaps the popularity of turmeric is the reason why my garlic turmeric rice is hands down the most popular recipe on my YouTube channel, having garnered over 850,000 views as I write this article. This no-fail formerly secret family recipe yields rice that is bursting with flavor and versatile with so many other dishes. My garlic-addicted father inspired this recipe.  He eats garlic bulbs raw and adds them to everything, from his salads and meats to his sandwiches and rice. When making this special garlic rice, he minces the garlic and shallots as finely as possible until they practically form a paste for maximum flavor.  Also, make sure you rinse and then soak the rice before cooking for at least half an hour. This will eliminate excess starch, and make your rice fluffy and better able to absorb whatever sauces or stews you pour on top. The golden yellow turmeric, which comes from the ginger family, gives the rice a beautiful glow. This rice is compatible with any number of Middle Eastern stews or kebabs.

Video for How to Make Garlic Turmeric Rice:

Video: Blanche Shaheen/Feast in the Middle East/BlancheTV



1 cup jasmine rice (soaked)

6 cloves of garlic

One shallot

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp turmeric

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Salt to taste

Water for soaking the rice


Pour enough water so there is at least two inches over the rice and let soak for 30 minutes, then rinse the rise and drain. Heat the butter and oil until melted. Add the garlic and shallots, and stir until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the rice, salt, and turmeric, and stir for about 3 minutes to toast the rice a little. Then add chicken broth. Wait until mixture boils, and then reduce heat to a low simmer, and cover rice to cook for about 20 minutes or until rice is fluffy.

How To Repurpose Leftover Takeout Rice:

While the recipe above is foolproof for making turmeric rice from scratch, there are times when one gets stuck with takeout rice. This rice tends to be flavorless and hard as a rock, and many might be tempted to throw that rice away. However, there is a simple hack to turn that takeout rice into garlic turmeric rice as well. The recipe below is altered to accommodate leftover rice that has already been cooked.

To see the technique on how to rescue takeout rice, click on the video below:

Video: Blanche Shaheen/Feast in the Middle East/BlancheTV


1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups leftover rice

1/2 cup chicken broth

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric

3 cloves minced garlic

Heat up a skillet, and add the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, then pour in the chicken broth, salt,  and turmeric. Mix until the turmeric melts into the broth. Add the leftover rice, separating it with a fork if needed. Mix until the rice is well hydrated and serve. Depending on the kind of leftover rice, you might have to add a little more broth if needed. 

Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the cooking show called Feast in the Middle East, and soon to be cookbook author. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond.  You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American at    Her recipes can also be found at

Check out Arab America’s blog here!