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Rice Pilaf With Saffron, Peas, Carrots, and Raisins

If you’re looking to elevate your rice game and add a burst of color and flavor to your dinner table, look no further than Rice Pilaf. This vibrant dish combines fluffy rice with the aromatic essence of saffron, the sweetness of carrots and raisins, and the delightful pop of green peas.

Rice pilaf made with saffron, peas, and raisins. Served in a plate and garnished with parsley

If you’re looking to elevate your rice game and add a burst of color and flavor to your dinner table, look no further than this Rice Pilaf made with Saffron, Peas, Carrots, and Raisins.

This vibrant dish combines fluffy rice with the aromatic essence of saffron, the sweetness of carrots and raisins, and the delightful pop of green peas. The result is a visually appealing and delectable side dish that pairs perfectly with a variety of main courses.

The perfect balance of ingredients makes this recipe perfect as a weeknight meal and a meal for special occasions.  

Versatile Dish

This saffron-infused rice pilaf is a versatile side dish that can be paired with a variety of proteins and vegetables. It complements grilled or roasted meats such as chicken, lamb, or beef, as well as fish and seafood dishes.

For a vegetarian or vegan option, serve the pilaf alongside a hearty legume-based dish like a chickpea or lentil curry, or a flavorful vegetable tagine.

The pilaf can also be garnished with a sprinkling of toasted nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, or pine nuts, for added crunch and flavor. Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or mint can be used as a final touch to enhance the dish’s visual appeal and add a burst of freshness.

Rice pilaf in a pot with a spoon lifting it up to show it's beautiful texture

What is Rice Pilaf?

Rice pilaf is a flavorful and aromatic dish made with rice that is typically cooked in broth or stock, along with a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, spices, and sometimes even meat. The rice grains are first sautéed in oil or butter to enhance their nutty flavor and then cooked with the other ingredients to create a fragrant and delicious one-pot meal or side dish.

The cooking process involves toasting the rice in fat, such as oil or butter, or oil until it becomes lightly golden and aromatic before adding the liquid, which helps to coat the grains and prevent them from becoming sticky. The rice is then cooked until tender, allowing the flavors to meld together. This method ensures that each grain of rice is infused with the essence of saffron and the other complementary ingredients.

This technique gives the rice a light and fluffy texture, with each grain remaining separate and distinct. This cooking technique has been adapted and embraced by various cuisines worldwide, each adding its own unique twists and flavor combinations.

Saffron

Saffron, often referred to as the “golden spice,” is a key ingredient in this rice pilaf variation. Derived from the stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower, saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world due to its labor-intensive harvesting process.

Its unique flavor, which can be described as slightly sweet, floral, and earthy, adds a touch of luxury and sophistication to any dish. Additionally, saffron imparts a beautiful golden hue to the rice, making this pilaf visually stunning as well as delicious.

Keys to making the best Rice Pilaf

Wash your rice: When trying to use rice in any recipe at all, it is important to wash your rice. This applies to this Rice Pilaf recipe as well. Washing rice with cool water until the water runs clear helps to remove the unnecessary starch and dirt in the unwashed rice. This helps your rice to be fluffier. 

Toast your rice: To get the best Rice Pilaf, make sure to toast your long-grain rice with your aromatics before cooking it with your broth. This gives your meal the savory flavors that you desire.

Cook your rice perfectly: Knowing the perfect water-to-rice ratio is a skill that will elevate your rice pilaf. If you want to know more about how to cook rice perfectly, check this sure method I have shared here. 

Let the rice pilaf rest! Allowing the rice to rest for a few minutes before serving not only helps it gain a fluffier and lighter texture but also allows any excess steam to dissipate. This way, the individual grains retain their structure instead of clumping together and forming a sticky mash. Achieve the desired result by using a fork instead of a spoon when fluffing up the rice. The end result is a delightful dish that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also a treat for your taste buds.

Ingredients that you need to make this Rice Pilaf recipe

  • Fragrant Basmati Rice: Basmati rice is a long-grain rice known for its delicate aroma and fluffy texture. Its grains remain separate and tender when cooked, making it the ideal choice for rice pilaf.
  • Saffron: Saffron, often referred to as the “golden spice,” adds a beautiful yellow hue and a distinct floral flavor to the rice. Its earthy notes elevate the overall taste and appearance of the dish.
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • Spices and Seasonings: Onion, Garlic, Kosher salt, Freshly ground black pepper, Ground cumin.
  • Unsalted Butter or Olive Oil
  • Colorful Vegetables: Peas and carrots bring vibrant colors and natural sweetness to the rice pilaf. The peas provide a burst of freshness, while the carrots contribute a subtle earthiness that complements the other ingredients.
  • Sweet Raisins: Raisins lend a touch of sweetness to the dish, creating a delightful contrast to the savory flavors. They also add a pleasant texture, providing a hint of chewiness with every bite.

How to make the best rice pilaf

  • Rinse rice in a fine-mesh sieve under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain well.
  • Sauté onions and garlic in butter or oil until soft. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant.
  • Toast rice with salt, black pepper, cumin, turmeric in the skillet.
  • Add broth and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
  • Stir in the carrots, peas, and raisins or currants (if using).
  • Fluff rice with a fork and top with nuts and herbs.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions 

What type of rice is best for this rice pilaf recipe?

Long-grain rice varieties, such as basmati or jasmine, are ideal for rice pilaf due to their lower starch content, which helps keep the grains separate and fluffy. Be sure to rinse the rice under cold water before cooking to remove excess starch and prevent clumping.

Can I make rice pilaf in advance?

Yes, you can make rice pilaf in advance. Once cooked, allow it to cool completely, then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, you can either microwave it or gently warm it in a pot on the stovetop with a splash of water or broth to prevent it from drying out.

Can I use other grains besides rice in a pilaf?

While rice is the most common grain used in pilaf, you can certainly experiment with other grains like quinoa, bulgur, or couscous. These grains can be cooked using the same pilaf technique and paired with various ingredients to create delicious variations.

Can I freeze rice pilaf?

While rice pilaf can be frozen, it’s important to note that the texture of the rice may change slightly upon thawing and reheating. It’s best to freeze the rice pilaf in portion-sized airtight containers or freezer bags. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Rice pilaf made with saffron, peas, diced carrots, and raisins served in a plate.

What to pair Rice Pilaf with?

  • Garlic Honey Chicken Thighs: The flavors and textures of the garlic honey chicken thighs and rice pilaf is a perfect pair. They both work together harmoniously to create a delicious and satisfying meal. 
  • Juicy-Baked Chicken: You can never go wrong with baked chicken with Rice Pilaf. It is mouthwatering and delectable. You will enjoy it. 
  • Roasted Vegetables: If you are a vegetarian, you can enjoy rice pilaf with a side of healthy roasted vegetables 
  • Lentil Soup: A hearty lentil soup would pair well with rice pilaf. The earthy flavor of the lentils pairs nicely with the nuttiness of the rice.
  • Chicken and Rice Soup: This would be the perfect match for a side of plain rice pilaf. Chicken and Rice Soup is pure comfort and is perfect for weeknight dinner. 
  • Salmon Salad: If you are trying to eat healthier but not totally going to vegan route, salmon salad is the best best. Pairing this with Rice Pilaf is flavor overload. 

Storage and Reheating Tips

How to store rice pilaf

You want to make sure it is cool before packaging it airtight in a container or ziplock bag. Pop it in the fridge, and it should stay fresh and delicious for up to 4 days. 

Alternatively, you can freeze it to enjoy at a later time by portioning it out into containers or bags and removing excess air before sealing. Bear in mind that freezing might alter the texture and taste, so it’s best to consume it within the recommended time frame for optimal quality.

How to reheat rice pilaf

When reheating rice pilaf, there are several methods you can use, such as the microwave, stovetop, or oven. 

  • Microwave – add the rice to a microwave-safe dish along with a splash of water or broth and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high at 30-second intervals, stirring in between. 
  • Stovetop – pour in a small amount of liquid to the pot or skillet with the rice, cover tightly, and cook over low heat while stirring occasionally until it’s sufficiently heated. 
  • Oven – preheat it to 350°F, make use of a baking dish for the rice, add a little liquid, shield with foil, and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until it’s warmed through. Always give your rice a good stir during the reheating process to ensure it heats evenly.

Other Rice recipes you need to try

Rice pilaf made with saffron, peas, and raisins. Served in a plate and garnished with parsley

Rice Pilaf Recipe – Homemade and Easy

This Rice Pilaf recipe is incredibly flavorful and delicious. Its mix of rice, veggies and aromatics is inviting. This gives it perfect balance as it works as a weeknight meal and also a meal for special occasions. 
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Course: Lunch/Dinner
Keyword: rice
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 353.8kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups long-grain white rice preferably basmati or jasmine
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter or olive oil
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup golden raisins or dried currants optional
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ bouillon powder optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Place the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. This helps to remove excess starch and prevents the rice from becoming sticky. Drain well and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, add the saffron threads and pour 2 tablespoons of hot water over them. Let it steep for about 10 minutes to release the vibrant color and aroma. Set aside.
  • In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  • Add the drained rice to the skillet and toast stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, until the rice is lightly toasted and coated with the butter or oil. Add the cumin, turmeric, salt, black pepper and stir to coat the rice evenly with the spices.
  • Pour the chicken or vegetable broth into the skillet along with the soaked saffron (including the liquid) and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet. Allow the rice to simmer gently for about 18-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
  • Once the rice is cooked, add the frozen peas, diced carrots, and raisins to the skillet. Stir gently to combine all the ingredients. Cover the skillet again and let it simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until the peas and carrots are tender.
  • When the rice is cooked, remove the skillet from the heat and let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Then, using a fork, gently fluff the rice to separate the grains. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro if desired.
  • Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 353.8kcal | Carbohydrates: 77.5g | Protein: 7.2g | Fat: 0.7g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Sodium: 589.9mg | Potassium: 181.2mg | Fiber: 1.9g | Sugar: 1.3g | Vitamin A: 321.1IU | Vitamin C: 7.5mg | Calcium: 43.9mg | Iron: 1.3mg

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