Nasi Kuning – Indonesian Yellow Party Rice

Nasi kuning is yellow rice. It is often eaten in Indonesia during festivals; anniversaries, weddings, birthdays or a holy party of any kind.

The rice is flavored with santen (coconut cream), kunjit (turmeric), salam, pandan, jeruk purut, lemongrass and salt. I’ve learned all sorts of ways to make yellow rice and usually it takes some time.

But my own recipe is different. This recipe is enough for 3-4 people and done in 50 minutes (steam for about 20 minutes and rest for 30 minutes). I use my regular electric rice steamer. So easy!

Nasi Kuning

  • 350 grams of pandan rice
  • 1/3 block of santen (coconut cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon kunjit (turmeric)
  • 4-5 leaves jeruk purut (lemon leaves)
  • 1 pandan leaf
  • 1 sereh (lemongrass)
  • 1 salam leaf (Asian bay leaf)
  • water

I use about 75 grams of rice per person but I always add a bit more for hungry stomachs or unexpected guests.

I love pandan rice. It’s used in Thai cuisine a lot too. I buy it at my supermarket. Pandan rice is flavored with pandan leaf.

Pandan leaves come from a palm tree. The leaves are very fragrant. Pandan is widely used in Asian dishes.

Nigella Lawson has just named Pandan the new avocado ;-). You can also use pandan to wrap meat or fish to steam or bake. It has indeed a delicious aroma.

I buy pandan leaf at an Asian food store from the freezer.

Rice steamer

I usually use my electric rice steamer to make rice and today it is not different. I want to show you how to make nasi kuning the easy way.

In the pan (from my electric steamer) I add the rice, the santen (coconut cream), the leaves (salam and jeruk purut), the sereh (lemongrass), a teaspoon of kunjit (turmeric), one long pandan leaf and half a teaspoon of salt.

Finger trick

Then the finger trick! Make sure your rice is neatly distributed across the bottom. Then fill the pan with water and measure with your fingertip (pinky).

Place your pinky underwater just one phalange deep. When you feel the rice touching your finger and only your fingertip is under, enough water is added.

This always works! You do not have to measure milliliters. So no matter how many people are staying for dinner, your fingertip will tell you there is enough water in the pan.


I mix the kunjit through my rice well. Now I place the pan in my electric cooker and choose regular steaming for white rice. When done, I open the lid and mix the rice gently. This way the santen are mixed in even better. I leave the nasi kuning in the steamer with the lid closed for another half hour on the ‘keep warm’ setting. The flavors can penetrate even better into the pandan rice.

Banana leaf

I decorate my rice bowl with some banana leaf (I buy at my local Asian store- they keep banana leaves in the freezer). The green and yellow colors work great together.

I let my leaves defrost completely and I cut a nice piece with scissors. Then I let the leaf soak in some luke water for a few hours. I pet it dry and use it to serve food. You can also pour over hot water when there is not enough time to soak it long enough. The hot water brings out the oils in the leaf and makes it shine again.

Sometimes I leave the stalk of sereh in too when I serve my rice; it just looks cool and bold.

Nasi kuning tumpeng

I decorate the top with some hot peppers and serundeng. For a party make the rice into a nice cone shape and decorate with cucumber, peppers and banana leaf. This cone is called a tumpeng.  Then the oldest person at the party can scoop the top off and the (food)party can start!

Check out Google to admire the most amazing tumpeng display!

I’m going to try some decorations soon, but for now: selamat makan! Oh, by the way we eat our nasi kuning today with rendang and sambal goreng buncis peteh ;-).

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2 Responses

  1. May says:

    *How many ML is the coconut cream?

    • Pauline Chavannes de Senerpont Domis says:

      If you not use santen, than add about 300 ml coconut milk, but always do the ‘fingertrick’ to know if there is enough water/coconut milk in the pan.

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