Nasi Lemak

Make the best Nasi Lemak, a coconut milk rice dish that is a famous dish in Malaysia and Singapore. The dish consists of spicy and savoury dishes like sambal, crunchy nuts egg, and crispy anchovies. Fried chicken or beef rendang are always served too.

4.82 stars

Preparation 20 mins
Cooking 40 mins


Nasi Lemak Recipe, Coconut Milk Rice, 椰浆饭

Malaysian, Singaporean, Bruneian

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Nutrition per Serving

742 kcal
82 g
40 g
13 g

Nasi lemak is a rice dish that is widely popular in Malaysia, Singapore and even Brunei. The rice is cooked in coconut milk along with fresh and fragrant spices like lemongrass and pandan leaves. First time eaters always describe nasi lemak to be an experience. The spices make the dish fragrant, even from afar!

Every bite is then enjoyed with some fried anchovies which are crispy. Fresh cucumbers are also a must. Most importantly, sambal! It is made a chilli paste condiment that is savoury and spicy, with a hint of tamarind. This dish has it all flavour profile you can ever imagine!

Meaning of Nasi Lemak

In Malay, it means ‘rice’ and ‘fat’. However, the ‘fat’ refers to the creaminess of the coconut milk which is used in cooking the rice. It is a very popular dish that is widely available at roadside stalls, markets, food courts in shopping malls and even in 5 stars hotels throughout Malaysia.

Why this recipe works

The rice is a crucial component to the dish. A Malay uncle (family friend) once said, most nasi lemak today are not good because they tend to cut down on the coconut milk due to cost. In this recipe, I made sure that the coconut milk is sufficient!

Do not use too much coconut milk or you will notice the fats clumping up in the rice once cooked, making it soggy instead of fluffy.

A super simple recipe is also available for sambal, the spicy and savoury chilli paste that is a must have in the dish.

Sambal on the side
Sambal on the side

Basic plate of nasi lemak

A basic plate of nasi lemak consists of coconut milk rice, 'sambal', fried anchovies, slices of cucumber and a slice of fried or hard boiled egg. Additionally, curry chicken, squids sambal, fried fish, spiced fried chicken or chicken rendang may be added. The list could go on according to individual preferences. It is actually a wholesome meal by itself and often eaten throughout the day. Of course, do not forget the cup of teh tarik as it complements the dish fantastically.

Ratio of water and rice

Many of you asked regarding the amount of water needed to cook the perfect pot of rice. In this recipe, we used a 2 to 1 (liquid to rice) ratio which means using 2 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice. Ensure to get rid of all excess water after rinsing the rice before adding the required amount of liquid.

As the nasi lemak recipe requires 0.5 cup of coconut milk, the suggested amount of water needs to be reduced accordingly. That is to use 1.5 cup of water instead plus 0.5 cup of coconut milk to one cup of rice. Hence, the ratio of 2:1

Is nasi lemak healthy?

I grew up with the advice to reduce the intake of nasi lemak because it is high in saturated fat. That’s why it is advisible to eat it occasionally. However, a plate of Nasi Lemak has both protein and nutrients. I like to ensure that there are enough vegetables on the plate too. Pair it with fresh cucumbers, Acar Awak (pickled spicy vegetables) or kangkung belacan.

To reduce the amount of saturated fat, simply reduce the amount of coconut milk.

How to prepare nasi lemak in advance

As simple as it may seem, the preparation can be quite tedious. Cooking the sambal one day before definitely shortens the cooking time. Besides that, anchovies and the peanuts may be fried in advanced too. Once they are cooled to room temperature, they can be stored in air tight containers for up to 3 days.

The nasi lemak sauce

The dark red sauce which is served alongside nasi lemak is known as sambal. It is made up of a combination of mainly chillies, shallots and garlic. There are many varieties and recipes of this sambal. Normally, nasi lemak is served with a simple sambal but depending on the vendors, anchovies, prawns or squids are sometimes added to it.

Nasi lemak is a great recipe for gatherings especially when you are planning to introduce Malaysian food to foreign guests. To make it more authentic, wrap nasi lemak in banana leaves to make it distinctively a Malaysian tradition.


1⁄4 tsp
lemongrass stalk(s)
pandan leaves
75 ml
coconut milk
1 1⁄2 cups
1 cup
4 tbsp
dried anchovies

Steps to Prepare

Nasi Lemak Step 1

Step 1 of 4

Wash rice and put into pot. Add coconut milk, water, a pinch of salt, pandan leaves (knotted) and lemongrass. Optionally, you may add 2 cardamoms.

Nasi Lemak Step 2

Step 2 of 4

Bring to boil, then lower heat to minimum. Cover the pot with the lid. Allow rice to cook for 15 to 20 minutes until it dries up and holes appear on the surface. Turn off the stove. Leave the lid on for another 10 minutes before serving the rice.

Nasi Lemak Step 3

Step 3 of 4

    • peanuts
    • 4 tbsp oil
    • dried anchovies

Ensure oil is hot before frying the peanuts (with skin) at medium heat until browned. Remove peanuts. Then, add anchovies and fry till golden brown or crispy.

Nasi Lemak Step 4

Step 4 of 4

    • 2 egg(s)
    • cucumber(s)

Serve rice with side dishes such as boiled or fried egg, fried peanuts, fried anchovies, sambal, cucumber slices and chicken rendang. To make the dish more fragrant, serve it on banana leaf.

Published: February 14, 2014

2 Discussions

a year ago


Hi, I cooked twice and the rice turned out powdery. Not sure what went wrong. Is 1 cup of water around 150ml? Should the coconut milk be warmed up before use or can I use cold coconut milk?

a year ago


Do you mean uncooked rice? 1 cup is about 236ml. Keep the ratio of 1:2 for rice to water. Coconut milk does not need to be warmed up. If there are clumps (when cold), stir well before using.

3 years ago


Great recipe. Very fragrant~

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