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Butter substitute for rice recipe

I would like to make Persian rice (the kind that browns on the bottom); the recipe calls for butter or ghee. I would like to make it pareve- should I use margarine (I buy the non-hydrogenated kind) or vegetable oil? Thanks.

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  1. My usual rule of thumb is that for baking (where the chemistry of solid vs. liquid fat can be important), use margarine, but for cooking, use olive oil. That said, I've only made Persian-style rice a few times, and I'm sure there are others with more experience on the matter.

    1. You absolutely can use oil or margarine to brown/crisp the bottom of a pot of Persian rice, otherwise known as making "tahdig." I've eaten it prepared that way literally hundreds of time.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Arthur

        I think the intent of the question was WHICH one to use; your answer seems to sanction either one. Do you prefer one over the other?

        1. re: queenscook

          There's not a whole lot of functional difference between the two. Go with olive oil and call it a day.

          1. re: queenscook

            Thanks for clarifying my post. I am specifically asking which one to use- oil or margarine- I am hoping that someone on this board has made this type of rice and could advise me accordingly.

            1. re: Lissy63

              You're effectively asking if you should start making coffee with water or ice cubes. The end product will be essentially identical with either margarine or oil. Google recipes for tahdig and you'll see dozens that use olive oil. You're overthinking this one.

            2. re: queenscook

              From my experience, I'd say olive oil is the most common substitute for butter, but, as I said, they will all work just fine. (I've even used Smart Balance.) Which one is preferred depends entirely on which flavor you want infused into the rice based on your own personal taste. It's sort of like asking if you should spread margarine or drizzle olive oil onto a slice of bread. To each her/his own.

              My only real cooking tips are: 1) you _must_ use basmati rice (I have not seen a worthwhile substitute for that); 2) use a non-stick pot, especially if you're attempting this for the first time; and 3) once the water has boiled out, make sure to lower the heat to about medium to avoid burning. You want the bottom rice to form a crust that is brown and crunchy, not charred black. And if you burn rice residue onto a non-stick pot, you may have to kiss that pot goodbye.

          2. I make Persian rice at least once a week. I always use Earth Balance. It's parve and tastes very much like butter.

            1. My MIL only uses corn oil, as this was the only pareve option in Iran.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jaq121897

                No disrespect to your MIL, but that doesn't sound correct to me. I also have many Persian relatives, and they all use olive oil as the pareve substitute for butter in this dish. To the best of my knowledge, and judging by the plethora of Farsi-labelled imported brands in the Los Angeles Persian food markets, there has never been a shortage of olive oil in Iran (but I readily admit that I could be mistaken).

              2. My new favorite parve butter support is Earth Balance buttery spread. I've been using the past two weeks and the flavor is much better than margarine. I made mashed potatoes with it and it tasted like I cooked with butter.

                1. This is practically the only way I ever cook basmati rice since I learned how. I always use olive oil. For many other things, especially baking I use earth balance (now available organic and a soy free version as well). However, I find the olive oil, even extra is easier to control when heating the rice pot. It's fat doesn't separate from water and brown or burn which can happen with margarine. I find the most important thing is to dump the rice out into a colander and drain it and then clean, dry and oil the pot for the second (steaming) stage. I've used a paper towel, but I prefer a clean kitchen towel on top of the rice during the steaming period. I've never used a no stick pan and I've left the rice on a very low (simmer) gas flame for over an hour with no ill effects. I've also transferred to a still warm oven at candle lighting and had nice hot rice when serving over an hour later. Some people tell me their mothers always finished the cooking in a moderate or low oven (presumably in a very heavy pot.) I haven't found poking the three holes in the rice my first recipe called for seems to make a difference. Also, I've successfully done the variation which involves putting potatoes on the bottom of the pot and ending up with a fired potato "crown." Very popular with the Shabbat dinner crowd.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lburrell

                    Earth balance is definitely better than regular margarine. I also have purchased Willow Run margarine which is also kosher pareve and is comparable to earth's balance but is a little cheaper. I found it in the organic margarine section (right near the earth's balance) in Fairway.

                    1. re: azna29

                      There is a major difference between Willow Run and Earth Balance. Willow run still uses partially hydrogenated oils. Earth Balance does not. Since recent health studies have established that there is no safe level of consumption of these oils, we stopped using any products that contain them.

                  2. EArth balance or smart balance are GREAT parve margarine subsitutes