nasi lemak

Nasi Lemak: Making World Famous Rice

Welcome to another nasi recipe! Nasi lemak is a great way of preparing rice, using coconut milk and pandan leaves to create this amazing dish. Definitely try this one out if you want to upgrade your plain white rice game!

To make nasi lemak, simply cook washed rice, preferably long grain, in coconut milk and pandan leave. By using just enough moisture, fully evaporate the coconut milk and let the rice rest for at least 30 minutes. That’s it!

What is nasi lemak?

If you’ve ever enjoyed the delicious flavors of Malaysian food, nasi lemak might be one of your favorites. This dish is called “rich rice” in Malay. It’s made by cooking rice in coconut milk and pandan leaves, giving it a luxurious taste.

Nasi lemak is a popular dish in Malaysia and has a rich history tied to the Malaccan coast. It’s traditionally eaten for breakfast and served with spicy sambal, cucumber slices, fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, and a boiled or fried egg.

What sets nasi lemak apart is the way it’s cooked, turning ordinary rice into a fragrant and creamy centerpiece that complements the other delicious elements of the meal.

Let’s get started on how to make nasi lemak!

Step 1: Collect the ingredients

nasi lemak

Nasi lemak

Nasi lemak! This traditional way of making rice is just so much more exciting than ordinary plain white rice. Definitely try it out if you love rice dishes!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Rice dish
Cuisine Indonesian
Servings 4 people
Calories 210 kcal


  • 300 g (long grain) rice
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 1 pandan leave


  • Collect the ingredients
  • Make nasi lemak
  • Serve and conserve nasi lemak
Keyword Nasi lemak

What to consider when choosing the ingredients

Understanding and selecting the right ingredients is crucial. The long-grain rice’s delicate texture is perfect for absorbing the creamy coconut flavors without getting mushy.

For the coconut milk, aim for a high-quality brand that uses real, not powdered, coconut milk. The pandan leaf — often called “screwpine” — lends a subtle, aromatic quality that’s indispensable to nasi lemak’s unique taste.


Step 2: Making Nasi Lemak

Cooking rice is a careful process that requires accurate timing and techniques to achieve the best result. Rinse the rice under running water until the water runs almost clear, don’t be afraid to use a lot of water for this process.

Now take a pot, combine the rice, coconut milk, and your knotted pandan leaf. Add water, but be cautious not to add too much; you want the level to be just slightly above the rice, about the height of the tip of an index finger.

Place the pot over medium heat, bring the mixture to a gentle boil, and stir occasionally. As it begins to boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer.

cooking nasi lemak
cooked nasi

The timing of this is crucial; it should simmer until the moisture is fully absorbed, usually about 15 to 20 minutes, but the precise duration depends on the rice and pot you use.

Once the rice is done, fluff it with a fork to separate the grains, and quickly remove the pandan leaf. Keep the pot covered to allow the residual heat to do its magic. The end result should be rice that’s tender and infused with the aroma of coconut and pandan.

If you want more info on the perfect way to cook rice, read more on the best pots to use (and how). Or the best Korean rice cookers to do the job (Australian readers here).

For the most authentic nasi lemak experience, allow the rice to rest for at least 15-30 minutes.

To unlock deeper flavors and a creamier texture, refrigerate it overnight and warm it gently the next day before serving. The overnight rest time gives the rice the opportunity to continue absorbing the flavors, creating a truly sensational bite.

Step 3: Serve and Conserve

Nasi lemak is best enjoyed with a range of dishes. While the traditional sides are a must, you can also explore different varieties to suit your taste.

Serve your nasi lemak with sambal, slices of fresh cucumber, roasted peanuts, crispy fried anchovies, and a hard-boiled or fried egg. The interplay of spicy sambal with the cooling cucumber, crunchy peanuts, and the rich creaminess of the rice is what makes the ensemble truly sing.

I recommend serving nasi lemak with the following side dishes:

Various sambals:

nasi lemak zoomed

And consider trying out some other nasi dishes:

If you have leftover nasi lemak, store it in the refrigerator for up to a day. You can also freeze the rice for longer storage — an excellent way to have this comfort food at the ready whenever a craving strikes.



What does nasi lemak consist of?

Nasi lemak primarily consists of rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with a sambal, fried anchovies, peanuts, boiled eggs, and cucumber.

What is the difference between nasi lemak and nasi goreng?

Nasi lemak is steamed rice cooked with coconut milk and herbs, whereas nasi goreng is fried rice cooked with an array of additional ingredients, typically including meat, vegetables, and a blend of sweet and savory sauces.

Is nasi lemak junk food?

While nasi lemak is a dish rich in flavor and contains fats from coconut milk, the traditional meal is considered a balanced dish when consumed with the whole range of its classic accompaniments.

What meat is in nasi lemak?

Nasi lemak can be served with various types of meat, such as fried chicken, cooked shrimp, or anchovies, to cater to individual preferences.

Does nasi lemak make you sleepy?

The starch in the rice may contribute to a feeling of being full and sleepy, but this effect varies from person to person.

Is nasi lemak healthy?

Nasi lemak, when eaten in moderation and combined with an overall balanced diet, can be part of a healthy lifestyle. The coconut milk and side dishes provide a variety of nutrients, and the key is in portion sizes and variety.

Is nasi lemak vegetarian or vegan?

Yes, Nasi lemak is both vegetarian and vegan.

Is nasi lemak breakfast food?

Nasi lemak is typically eaten for breakfast in Malaysia, though it’s a dish enjoyed throughout the day.

Where is nasi lemak from?

Nasi lemak is a traditional dish from Malaysia, although its popularity has spread to other Southeast Asian countries.

How is nasi lemak invented?

The origins of nasi lemak are deeply rooted in Malaysian culture, with its invention traditionally attributed to the Malay coastal communities. The exact details of its invention are not recorded, but the dish has been enjoyed for generations, passed down through families and adapted by different regions.

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