Russian Beef Plov (Beef Pilaf) Recipe

Russian plov is known in the United States as pilaf, and in the UK as pilau. Pilaf is a rice dish generally containing vegetables and meat, cooked in a stock. An important feature in this dish is the grains must be cooked a certain way in order for the dish to be called pilaf; the rice is pilaf is fluffy and mustn’t adhere.

Pilaf is seen as a main course, and it is always served hot. However I’ll say I have enjoyed plov cold and room temperature before, and honestly it still tasted absolutely delicious. Have you ever been so hungry you ate your meal before even warming it up? Russian beef plov does that to you!

Popular in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the balkans, Asia, and even Latin America, pilaf has become a staple in many different people’s homes. A type of pilaf called kabuli palaw is even the national dish of Afghanistan. It’s easy to see that pilaf is world renowned, and once you try Russian beef pilaf you’ll know why.

Beef plov pilaf
Image: cooks illustrated

Let’s talk about the ingredients you need for the beef plov to come out exquisite and as intended. What’s the star of the dish? Well the flavors really mingle together perfectly but it is the rice and the technique with which the grains are cooked that makes plov what it is.

What kind of rice should you use when making pilaf? When preparing pilaf, the number one goal is fluffy, separated rice. This is not a sticky rice type of dish. It’s crucial to use a long grain rice; my favorite kind of rice to use in beef plov is basmati rice. It comes out perfect every. single. time. If you can’t get your hands on basmati rice, don’t worry. Any long grain rice will do!

Remember that rice contains a lot of starch, and too much starch can add stickiness to the rice. We don’t want that! So when preparing pilaf you must rinse the rice thoroughly, about 3 or 4 times.

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add your rice to the bowl. With clean hands, using your fingers shake around the rice in the water. You’ll begin to notice the clear water turning white. Drain the water, fill the bowl of rice up again and repeat this process until the water runs clear.

You may cook your rice in broth, or in water. When making beef plov I do prefer to cook the rice separately in beef stock. It enhances the flavor of the rice without me having to salt it. If I don’t have stock on hand, which believe it or not is the case sometimes, cooking the rice in salted water works and as long as you flavor the dish properly it still turns out a 10/10.

What types of vegetables go into beef pilaf? When I think of Russian plov, I think fluffy, fragrant, and succulent. Fluffy rice, fragrant vegetables, and succulent meat. Onions, garlic, and carrots are a must in Russian beef plov. It makes little to no difference what type of onion you use; I love shallots for their mild and sweet flavor, but white or red onions work just fine.

Garlic, well you just can’t go without it. You needn’t add much. A simple touch of garlic nudges the dish into a new territory of flavor.

My husband always requests I add more carrots. That’s because carrots really add a significance of fragrance to the dish. When they’re cooked they become sweet and some pieces will caramelize. Carrots also add a beautiful rich color to the plov.

Now for the meat! Pilaf can be prepared with a variety of meats. The most common types of meat in pilaf are beef, chicken, and lamb. Beef and lamb bring lots of richness and heartiness to the pilaf, while chicken seems to be a leaner and lighter option. If a chicken pilaf is what you’re after, my Chicken Plov (Chicken Rice Pilaf) Recipe has been in the family for decades and never disappoints!

No matter whether you choose beef, chicken, or lamb as the choice of meat in your pilaf, the cooking preparation is what truly makes it succulent, juicy, and fall apart.

When you go to purchase your choice of beef, make sure you are getting quality beef. For this recipe use top sirloin, or a quality beef chuck. Trim off the excess fat, as those pieces can end up chewy after cooking. And finally, be sure to sear the beef on a very hot pan or pot in oil. We want the beef to brown quickly, because cooking for too long will dry it out.

Now that we’ve gone over the details and preparation let’s jump right in!

What You Need:

1 1/2 lb sirloin beef

2 shallots or 1 medium onion (chopped)

5 carrots (grated)

2 garlic cloves (chopped)

3 tbsp oil

2 tbsp butter

2 cups basmati rice or other long grain rice

2 cups beef stock (low sodium)

3 cups boiling water

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 bay leaves


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan or pot, heat the oil and melt butter. Trim the excess fat off the beef, and chop the beef into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Make sure your pan is extra hot add the beef and sear it until it is browned. Browning must be quick on an extra hot pan, so as not to dry out the meat by overcooking.

Now add chopped garlic and shallots and stir. After a few minutes add the grated carrots and stir to combine meat and vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, and add bay leaves. Sauté on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes.

Take the time to rinse out your rice. Basmati rice is my favorite rice to cook plov with because it always turns out very fluffy, airy, and separated. Don’t skip the step of rinsing out your rice to remove the starch.

Spoon the beef and vegetable mixture into a large casserole dish. Layer the rinsed, uncooked rice on top of the beef and vegetables. Dill casserole dish with 3 cups boiling water and 2 cups beef stock. Poke holes into the rice mixture to allow the liquid to soak through while cooking. Cover with foil and cook for about 50 minutes.

Remove the foil carefully as the dish will be super hot! Mix the rice and beef and vegetables together, cover with foil and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve immediately! Plov is a main course, and should be served alongside cold garden salads, Russian Shuba Salad, or Olivye (Olivier salad). Top piping hot beef plov with smetana and a side of Marinated Mushrooms! Enjoy!

Russian beef plov pilaf
Image: leelalicious
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