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Instant Pot Pilaf With Lamb, Almonds & Figs

Instant Pot Rice Pilaf With Lamb, Figs & Almonds

This Persian-style rice pilaf is made with ground lamb, dried figs, almonds and a beautiful blend of warm spices. If you’re not familiar with pilaf, it’s a dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth, and depending on cuisine, you can often find a variety of vegetables, meat or seafood mixed in. It’s a great one-pot dish.

Unlike risotto or fried rice, pilaf requires little attention as once all ingredients and liquids are mixd through, the rice is left to do its own thing without stirring, absorbing the broth while cooking.  This dish lands itself perfectly to Instant Pot, which is amazing for cooking most rice dishes. It makes the best risotto and the fluffiest, tastiest yellow rice.

Instant Pot Rice Pilaf With Lamb, Figs & Almonds

Before you start cooking

Rice: We love using Basmati rice for this dish but any long-grain white rice will do. The key to fluffy, perfectly textured pilaf is to soak and rinse the rice before cooking. This removes surface starch from the rice, which prevents it from becoming sticky, stodgy, and clumpy once cooked. Simply soak the rice in cold water for 10 minutes, then rinse 4-5 times with cold water and a sieve.

Lamb: Lamb is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine, so we opted for budget-friendly ground lamb. Beef, turkey, pork or chicken can be used instead and you can either dice the meat into small cubes or use mince.

Spices: The spices we use in this recipe are easy to find in most supermarkets and online. They are commonly used in many dishes, so if you don’t have them, they are worth investing in. Alternatively, you can get a pre-mixed Moroccan or Ras El Hanout blend. You can find the spices we used on Amazon from here: ground cumin, ground cinnamon, allspice , ground coriander seed, turmeric powder. Allspice can be omitted, as we only use a little bit.

Instant Pot rice pilaf ingredients

Dried fruit and nuts: Pilaf is versatile and forging, so you can use whatever dried fruit and nuts you have on hand. Dried apricots, cranberries, sultanas or dates can be chopped up and thrown in. Pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts or cashews can all be used instead of almonds. And of course, for a nut-free version, simply omit them altogether. You can get flaked almonds and dried figs online here.


We served this rice pilaf with a side of cucumber and yoghurt salad, lemon wedges (make sure to drizzle some juice over the top) and some hot sauce for extra kick. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Rice Pilaf With Lamb, Figs & Almonds

Instant Pot Rice Pilaf With Ground Lamb & Figs

  • Author: Instant Pot Eats
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Entree
  • Method: Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: Persian


This Persian-style rice pilaf is made with ground lamb, dried figs, almonds and a beautiful blend of warm spices.



  • 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • About 1 lb or 400-450 g of ground lamb (lamb mince)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Allspice
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional but adds a lovely yellow hue to the rice)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 1 medium to large carrot, diced
  • 5 dried figs, diced
  • 2 tablespoons almond flakes (can be omitted for a nut-free version)
  • 1 1/2 cups rice (well rinsed, see notes above)
  • 1 + 1/3 cup vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock cube dissolved in water)
  • 1/2 cup tinned tomatoes

To finish

  • Zest of the remaining 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon almond flakes
  • 78 mint leaves, finely sliced
  • Greek yoghurt or sour cream, to serve


  1. Soak the rice in a bowl or pot with cold water for 5-10 minutes, then rinse 4-5 times.
  2. Turn the Instant Pot on and press the Sauté function key. It should initially say 30 minutes on the display screen, you don’t need to do anything to the timer. Let the pot heat up while you dice up the onion.
  3. Add onion, olive oil, and a teaspoon of salt to the pot and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until softened.
  4. Add the ground lamb and stir through, breaking the meat apart with a spatula. Cook the lamb with onions for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. At first, the lamb meat will release a lot of juices but as you keep stirring and cooking it, the liquid will evaporate and the meat will star to brown. Once that happens, that’s when we add other ingredients.
  5. Once the lamb has browned off slightly, add another half a teaspoon of salt, spices, garlic and lemon zest and stir for 10-15 minutes, allowing the aromas to be released over heat. Press Keep Warm/Cancel to stop the Sauté process.
  6. Add the celery, carrots, figs, almonds and rice and mix through. Add the stock and tinned tomatoes and stir really well to make sure all ingredients are well combined. Scrape down any rice kernels or vegetables stuck to the sides of the pot.
  7. Place and lock the lid, making sure the steam releasing handle is pointing to Sealing. Press Manual, High pressure and set to 4 minutes. After 3 beeps the pressure cooker will start going. It will take a few minutes for the pressure to build up and then the actual cooking will begin. Once the timer goes off, allow 2 minutes for the pressure to release naturally and then use the quick release method to let off the steam. Open the lid when it is safe to do so.
  8. Finish the pilaf with extra lemon zest, almond flakes and mint sprinkled over the top. Serve with lemon wedges.

Keywords: Persian-style rice pilaf ground lamb dried figs almonds warm spices


Instant Pot Rice Pilaf With Lamb, Almonds & Figs


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  • Reply
    January 29, 2018 at 1:15 am

    This was awesome! I ate beyond fullness it was too good!! Thank you for posting.

    • Reply
      February 2, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      It’s definitely one of those “go back for more” dishes 😉 Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    An admirer of a good food
    April 8, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you for this recipe, I used it as a baseline and made pilaf twice – worked out well both times!

  • Reply
    Tracie Dawn Simons
    June 16, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Didn’t have fun so used apricots. This recipe is delicious! Leftovers are even better. Will be making this again.

  • Reply
    Tracie Dawn Simons
    June 20, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    I made this last week. I was so good that I am making again tonight!!!! I am on an Elimination Diet but I can eat everything in this. I think I
    The leftovers are even better.

    • Reply
      June 22, 2018 at 3:43 am

      Tracie, that makes me so happy to hear. We try to develop recipes that cater to people’s individual needs which is why we do a lot of gluten-free cooking and plant-based recipe development. I’m so happy you can enjoy this even during an elimination period. The leftovers really allow for the flavours to meld! Yum!

  • Reply
    September 10, 2018 at 5:16 am

    Delicious! I used dates in place of figs and was short on a couple of the spices so I used some substitutes. Will make again, even my picky teens enjoyed it!

    • Reply
      September 10, 2018 at 4:36 pm

      Joanie, so glad this was a hit for your family. The dates sound like a gorgeous addition to the dish.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2018 at 11:31 pm

    This sounds awesome. I love everything in it – except the white rice. How would you adapt it to brown rice?

    • Reply
      November 7, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Brown rice needs quite a bit more time to cook, so it’s mostly the timing. 15 mins for brown rice, I believe.

  • Reply
    February 27, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    What are “tinned tomatoes” in this use? We have a lot of options for canned tomatoes where I live. Diced, pureed, chunks, whole, whole peeled, in sauce, in juice. Do you want just the tomatoes, without liquid, or some liquid with the tomatoes? Since the amount of liquid makes or breaks an IP recipe, it would be helpful to be more specific.

  • Reply
    Ann Morton
    April 1, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    I have a new Instant Pot Ultra and followed the instructions exactly. Unfortunately it began to burn (“BURN started to flash on the screen) just as it came up to pressure. I stopped it right away but was able to salvage most of this wonderful recipe. The only liquid called for is stock and tomatoes. Maybe I’ll add more liquid next time or cook on the stove top because I loved this dish. So flavorful. 5 stars for flavor. Just need to work out the IP quirks.

    • Reply
      April 10, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Glad you enjoyed the dish, even with the Burn notice. It seems to come for some people but not others, so it really depends on perhaps having a little more of a particular ingredient and so the liquid needs to be adjusted. Definitely try it again with a little more stock or water.

    • Reply
      August 16, 2019 at 12:10 am

      I too got the Burn notice on my instant pot the first time I made this. The second time I added the standard ratio of liquid to rice, rather than what the recipe calls for. In other words I added 2 and 2/3 cups liquid. The recipe came out perfectly, great flavors, no burning.

      • Reply
        August 20, 2019 at 9:17 am

        Hi Dianne, thanks for your lovely feedback. I wonder which size IP you use? Some people have experienced the burn notice with the 8-quart ones but not with the standard 6-quart IPs. Either way, good to know it worked better with a little more liquid.

    • Reply
      Mieke Schrijvers
      August 28, 2019 at 5:26 am

      I also have an IP Ultra (6qt), and ended up with the “BURN” warning, just before reaching full pressure. So very frustrating. I hit cancel, and transferred to a large skillet to finish on the stovetop. In the process of transferring, I added a full cup and a half of stock, more. Definitely needed that for the rice. Very yummy end result, regardless.

      • Reply
        Ann Fabrizio
        September 3, 2019 at 8:01 pm

        I’m sorry this happened to you. The burn notice occurs usually when the substance inside is too thick or not enough water. We have a whole article explaining what the Burn warning means so you don’t have to panic when it occurs.

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