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South African Yellow Rice

This South African yellow rice is a classic! This yellow rice is a traditional dish cooked with fragrant cinnamon sticks, colorful turmeric, and dotted with plump, juicy raisins. Serve it as a side dish or as the base to your favorite curried meat!

*Please note* this recipe was originally published in 2018. I’ve since redone the post but the recipe remains the same.

Yellow rice, you guys. YELLOW rice! It’s so good! If you read my latest 10 Thoughts you’ll know that I’ve been having fun going through old cookbooks and trying new recipes. One of these said cookbooks is my copy of Cook & Enjoy, a long-time favorite from South Africa. While I’ve thankfully got the English version, there are still a few things that I have to look up; case in point, I had to Google what they meant by “baby marrow”….luckily, it wasn’t anything nefarious involving a baby. It’s just zucchini. Whew!

Most of the recipes are pretty straight-forward though, like this rice!

yellow rice

So you might be wondering, what makes this South African yellow rice so special? Other than the fact that it’s, um, yellow? The colour is due to the teaspoon of turmeric, but the flavour of this rice is so special, thanks to the cinnamon, wee bit of sugar and turmeric. It is so fragrant, with just the right amount of sweetness and texture. Some people are weird about cooked raisins, so these are totally optional, but I personally love that little addition! My boys love them too, although they usually just end up spending their dinner picking out the raisins. Whatcha gonna do?!

yellow rice

How do you make South African yellow rice?

This yellow rice recipe only takes about 10 minutes to make!

It’s literally only a 1 step process:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all of the ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow it to sit, covered for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving!

What to serve with yellow rice?

I love to serve it with curried beef or chicken or just a simple grilled chicken breast. The first time I had it was also one of the first meals that Etienne cooked for me (and one of the last – hah – kidding)! He served it alongside another customary South African dish called bobotie; heard of it? I’m told this type of cuisine is called Cape Malay cuisine…I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’m slowly learning.

Yellow rice is a great way to serve up something other than boring old white rice; plus, kids love the colour! Oh, and it’s easy. The recipe below has literally ONE step. ONE.

Try it the next time you need a change from the standard 🙂

yellow rice

PS – have you looked at all of the wonderful pink recipes from this past weekend, from my virtual baby shower? I was blown away by all of the support and wonderful creations from my food blogging pals! So fun!

Some other easy side dishes from the blog:

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south african yellow rice

Yellow Rice

  • Author: Katherine
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups rice 1x


This South African yellow rice is a classic! This yellow rice is a traditional dish cooked with fragrant cinnamon sticks, colorful turmeric, and dotted with plump, juicy raisins. Serve it as a side dish or as the base to your favorite curried meat!


  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup raisins*
  • 1 cinnamon stick


  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow it to sit, covered for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving!


  1. If you’re not a fan of cooked raisins, leave them out!
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: side dishes
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: south african

Keywords: South African yellow rice // yellow rice recipes // what to serve with yellow rice

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South African Yellow Rice


  1. I love that you added raisins here and I totally wouldn’t pick them out 😉 And the cinnamon must add such a warm flavour. I’m glad that ‘baby marrow’ was zucchini! Yikes! This rice would be a lovely addition to our meatless March. Nice to find vegetarian inspiration 🙂 Though, I’m thinking this would be amazing with some chicken. Anywho……. 😉 Have a wonderful week, Katherine! XO

    • Haha! I’m so glad you wouldn’t pick them out, Dawn. I love the raisins in it!! YES – it would go perfectly with your meatless March 🙂 Or you can wait until April and try it with that chicken…you’re doing so good!! Thank you my friend! I hope you have a great week too!! XO

  2. yummm!!! this would be so good with an Indian style curry! love it! that colour is gorgeous!

  3. This looks like some good comfort food, love the addition of raisins in savory dishes, yum! Take care.

  4. I had a friend in college who was Persian and her mom always sent her home with tons of food to bring back to school and there was a similar yellow rice dish to this one. I used to steal it from her all the time! I’ll have to try out this version of the dish.

  5. Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchen

    The addition of raisins sounds delicious and I totally wouldn’t leave them out. Or pick them out! 🙂 I think I’m going to try going back through some old cookbooks too. That sounds like so much fun!

  6. This rice looks so yummy! I love the yellow color and the raisins in this! Definitely a great side dish to have with dinner 🙂

  7. I’ve had yellow rice before but it was a long time ago and I never even knew why it was yellow! This rice sounds so good and I love the raisins!

  8. OH MY GOSH Katherine, you are not going to believe this….I just put a pot of yellow rice RIGHT NOW on the stove to boil and then got to my computer and opened up your blog and I see your recipe. How on earth did that happen 😲

    I cook yellow basmati rice quite often but have not tried raisins in it and it sounds like a great idea. So next time definitely would love to try it with the raisins, it sounds delicious 🙂

    • Ashika, that’s hilarious!! Obviously, my South African friend would be familiar with this dish – but what are the chances you were actually in the process of making it while reading this!? Yellow rice is definitely a novelty for us Canadians, but probably a staple for you!! You definitely have to try it with the raisins! 🙂

  9. The Yellow rice look so good and comforting!! These are made so often at our house..we use jaggery instead of sugar.. I love that you have added some raisins in there too 🙂

  10. The raisins sets this apart from other rice side dishes, but it sounds so intriguing! The raisins are a definite leave in for me. Pairing this dish with curried beef or chicken sounds wonderful!

  11. SWEET! Thank you for sharing this recipe! We’re hosting a dinner with our friend who is from South Africa. I know he misses the food so it will be fun to surprise him with this side dish! Pinning!

  12. This is great, and would be a fabulous addition to a Thanksgiving table. After my daughter visited Colombia, she asked for coconut rice, and I served it for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. This year I might sub for this beautiful scented rice.

  13. Pingback: 21 Mouthwatering South African Desserts You will Love. - My Family Pride

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