Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf

Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting a guest from Kazakhstan. Saule is a friend of friends and is currently living in Madison, WI, working with the university there. But she needed a place to stay while she attended a conference in Minneapolis last week, and we were glad to have her here.

Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf - Carrots

We didn’t get to spend too much time with her, since she was busy at the conference by day and working hard on developing materials for learners of non-mainstream languages by night (a subject near and dear to this ESL teacher’s heart). But she was here to witness to the Great Ant Invasion of 2013. And she did offer to make us a traditional Kazakh meal while here, which we happily agreed to.

Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf

It’s clear that Saule is a teacher; she walked me step by step through creating this beef pilaf; technically called plov (or “pilau”). This is a dish almost always made around the holidays, but can also be made for regular dinners as well. Saule told us that her take on this pilaf dish is actually more of an Uzbek variety, but that, at its core, this beef pilaf is about as traditional as it gets in Kazakhstan. 

Basically, large pieces of yellow onion are cooked until they begin to caramelize and are pretty browned. Then, large chunks of meat are added to the pan and browned, followed by carrots and a simple seasoning of salt, pepper, and cumin.The rest is just as simple: a handful each of fresh dill, chives, and parsley, then raisins, and, count them, three BULBS of garlic (I know! I was skeptical too!). All of this simmers together for a while until the meat is tender, and then is served on a bed of jasmine rice.

kazakh-beef-pilaf-4 Friends, this was delicious. Full of flavor, despite its simplicity. The garlic mellowed out; the fresh herbs add great flavor, and those raisins and carrots added just the perfect hint of sweetness to all the savory goodness.

Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf

The recipe listed below makes a ton – enough for a Kazakh holiday feast – we’ve been enjoying leftovers for days, and hope you’ll do the same.

Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf

Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf

(recipe by Carpé Season)

(yields 8-10 servings)

This traditional Kazakh beef pilaf has a simple list of ingredients but is packed with flavor! A note about what to cook this dish in: In Kazakhstan, this would be cooked in a kazan , which is a large pot that has a wide opening, and is somewhat shallow for being so large. This allows moisture to evaporate, which is important when cooking pilaf.

I found using my stockpot was too deep; the water from the beef wasn't evaporating. So we transferred everything to my 7-qt. "sauteuse" pan - which is a high-sided, large yet shallow pan. This worked much better for frying the meat. Basically, my advice is, don't cook this in anything too deep!


1/4 c. canola or vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, cut into wedges 1/2" wide (basically large pieces)

2.5 - 3 lbs. boneless pot roast (or chuck roast), cut into 2" chunks

7 thick carrots, cut into matchsticks (1/4" wide; 2" long)

1 scant tbsp. salt

3/4 tbsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. ground cumin

3 bulbs garlic, peeled (cloves left whole)

1 c. raisins

1 handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1 handful fresh chives, chopped

1 smaller handful fresh dill, chopped

3 c. uncooked white jasmine rice


see note at the top of recipe about what kind of pan you should use!


Heat oil over medium-high heat in a pan like the one described above. When it is hot (after about 2 mins.), add the onion chunks. Cook onions until they begin to caramelize and turn golden-brown, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.


When onions begin to brown, add chunks of meat. Cook beef over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. (next time, I would consider cooking half the meat in a separate pan to avoid overcrowding and then, once browned, combining it again). The key here is to cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the meat has a nice brown color!


When the meat is browned, add the salt, pepper, and cumin.

Then add the carrots, and continue cooking for about 8 minutes, stirring regularly.

(This is when I would suggest starting to cook your rice!)

Then, add your garlic cloves, parsley, chives, dill, and raisins.


At this point, you can add 1-2 c. of water (enough water so that the liquid rises to 3/4 of the "height" of the meat in the pan). Cover with a lid, and let it continue at a gentle boil for about 10-15 minutes or until the meat begins to soften.

When meat begins to seem tender, remove lid, and continue to cook over high heat until most of the liquid evaporates again. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve on a platter over a bed of rice!

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6 thoughts on “Traditional Kazakh Beef Pilaf

    • Haley – I think this would freeze well. It’s basically stew + rice. Next time I make this, I plan on freezing it in individual sized portions…let me know if you try it!

  1. Hey darlin’
    Chris and I made it. It was delicious! I wish I could post a picture here. It reminded me of my time in western China. I think it would be fun to try sauteing the rice in some oil and cooking the meat with the rice for awhile to see if it tasted more Uighur. Thanks for posting this :)

    • I’m so glad you tried it and liked it! I kept thinking of you two while she was here because she kept mentioning the Uighur population in her home city.

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