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Saffron Rice

Saffron rice – When looking for a comforting side dish, you don’t have to look too far. This vibrant, aromatic, and flavorful dish is what you need on your dining table.

Easy Saffron Rice recipe: The Perfect Side Dish for Any Occasion

Make dinner extra special with Saffron rice: Rice is one of the best staples you can ever ask for because it is versatile and can be molded into what you want.

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or just need a quick and easy side dish, saffron rice is the perfect choice. With its rich flavor and stunning color, saffron rice pairs perfectly with everything from chicken to seafood. Plus, it’s easy to make in large batches for crowds.

What is Saffron Rice?

Saffron rice is a delicious and fragrant rice dish that is typically made with long-grain white rice, saffron threads, and a variety of aromatic spices.

The saffron gives the rice it’s signature golden-yellow hue and imparts a delicate, earthy flavor that is truly unique. This versatile dish can be served as a side or as the main course, and it pairs wonderfully with a wide array of dishes from various cuisines.

This super easy-to-make meal is perfect for special occasions such as weddings and festivals. You can also enjoy this rice dish as a weeknight dinner. It pairs wonderfully with healthy roasted vegetables or crispy chicken

A bowl of saffron rice garnished with parsley

Why Saffron in rice? 

Saffron is known for its unique flavor, color, and aroma. It is that exotic spice that gives the rice a unique fragrance and a delicate yet distinct taste. Its delicate floral notes and subtle flavors are a perfect complement to the nutty, earthy flavors of rice. Additionally, the yellow color it adds to the rice just makes the dish look festive and welcoming. 

Let’s get into the ingredients you need to make this tasty dish. 

Ingredients for Saffron Rice

  • Saffron threads: this is the most important ingredient of this recipe. 
  • Hot water: to soak the saffron 
  • Long-grain white rice (preferably basmati or jasmine)
  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Unsalted butter or olive oil: to sauté the onions and toast the rice.
  • Seasonings & Spices:  Onion, garlic, Kosher salt, black pepper
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
  • Optional add-ins: toasted slivered almonds, pine nuts, or raisins

How to make Saffron Rice

  • Infuse saffron: Mix saffron threads with 1/4 cup hot water in a small bowl or cup. Wait 10-15 minutes for the saffron to color and flavor the water.
  • Rinse and drain rice: Rinse rice in a fine-mesh sieve until water runs clear. Drain well.
  • Sauté onions and garlic: Heat butter or olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook onions and garlic until soft and fragrant.
  • Toast rice: Add rice to skillet and cook until lightly toasted.
  • Add liquid and seasonings: Pour in broth and saffron water, then add salt and black pepper.
  • Cook rice: Bring to a boil, then simmer for 18-20 minutes.
  • Fluff and garnish: Let the rice rest for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Garnish with parsley or cilantro, and almonds, pine nuts, or raisins, if desired.
  • Serve: Transfer the rice to a platter or plates and serve immediately.

Variations you can try

  • Add some texture: For a more interesting mouthfeel, add a handful of toasted almonds, cashews, pine nuts, raisins, or pistachios to the rice after it’s finished cooking.
  • Get colorful: While saffron rice is already visually striking thanks to its signature yellow-orange hue, adding colorful ingredients like red bell peppers or green peas can take it to the next level.
  • For a tropical twist, try adding some coconut milk or grated coconut to the rice. The result is delicious. 
  • Go beyond rice: While rice is the traditional base for saffron rice, there’s no reason why you can’t mix things up. Try using quinoa, couscous, or even cauliflower rice as your base instead.
Delicious saffron rice scooped up with a spoon to show it's beautiful texture

Frequently Asked Questions 

What does saffron rice taste like?

When it comes to saffron rice, it’s all about the flavor and aroma. The taste is unique with notes of grassy flavors that are complemented by undertones of floral and honey flavors. Plus, its beautiful golden color makes it a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Overall, saffron rice is a delightful addition to any dish, especially rice-based dishes such as  Chicken Biryani or pulao. The addition of saffron takes the dish to another level and adds an extra element of deliciousness that cannot be found with any other spice.

Why is saffron used in rice?

Saffron is a highly sought-after spice that is frequently used in rice dishes due to its distinct taste and aroma. It has a unique flavor profile that is often characterized as being grassy, with floral and honey undertones. Not only that, but saffron also adds a striking yellow or golden color to rice dishes, making them visually appealing in addition to being delicious. 

Saffron can be expensive but don’t let the price tag scare you away – a little saffron goes a long way, and its unique flavor is worth every penny. Plus, saffron has been used for centuries not only for its taste but also for its potential health benefits, including its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and mood-enhancing properties.

What do you eat with saffron rice?

Saffron Rice is a versatile dish that can be paired with a variety of meals. Whether you are vegan or a meat lover, there is room for you to enjoy Saffron Rice as you please. Some meals you can eat Saffron Rice with include: 

  • Roast Chicken: Roasted chicken and saffron rice is a classic combination that never fails to impress. It is the perfect blend of flavors that is not only comforting but also delectable and finger-licking. 
  • Beef kebabs: The combination of these two is hearty and delicious. The tender texture of the beef kebabs complements the fluffy and fragrant flavors of the saffron rice. 
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables: As a vegan, you are not excluded from enjoying Saffron rice. Pair with your favorite roasted veggies, and you are good to go!
  • Collard greens: This beloved Southern dish is known for its hearty, earthy flavor and tender texture, and this goes wonderfully with Saffron Rice

Tips for making the best Saffron rice

  • Use high-quality Saffron threads. Look for strands that are deep red in color with a strong aroma for the best flavor and color.
  • Steep the saffron in a small amount of hot water or broth for at least 10 minutes before adding it to the rice. This allows the saffron to fully infuse its flavor and color into the rice.
  • When it comes to cooking the rice, use a ratio of 1:2 for rice to liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Do not lift the lid or stir the rice during the cooking process, as this can cause the rice to become mushy
  • Once the rice is fully cooked, fluff it with a fork and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. This allows the rice to cool slightly and helps it to fully absorb any remaining liquid.
  • Use long-grain white rice like Basmati or Jasmine.
  • Try not to overcook the rice so you don’t end up with mushy rice. To know more about cooking rice perfectly, check out these methods I shared

Storage and Reheating Tips

Have leftover Saffron Rice? That’s not a problem. Let’s get into how you can store your saffron rice dish properly. 

To keep your saffron rice fresh, start by allowing it to cool down to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Storing it in the refrigerator is the best way to preserve its freshness for up to four days.

When you’re ready to enjoy it again, just reheat it in the microwave or on the stove using a little bit of water or broth to help rehydrate the rice and prevent it from drying out. Be sure to stir it frequently while reheating to prevent any burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

If you need to store your saffron rice for longer than four days, consider freezing it for up to one month. 

To reheat frozen saffron rice, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before following the same reheating instructions. With these tips, your saffron rice will be as fresh and delicious as the day you made it.

Other rice dishes that you will enjoy:

Delicious Saffron rice in a skillet beautifully garnished with parsley

Saffron Rice

When looking for a comforting side dish, you don’t have to look too far. This fluffy and easy Saffron Rice recipe is what you need on your dining table. Make dinner extra special with Saffron rice.
5 from 1 vote
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Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 436.5kcal


  • A generous pinch of saffron threads about 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice preferably basmati or jasmine
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
  • Optional add-ins: toasted slivered almonds pine nuts, or raisins


  • Infuse saffron: In a small bowl or cup, add the saffron threads to 1/4 cup of hot water. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, allowing the saffron to infuse the water and releasing its color and flavor.
  • Rinse and drain the rice: 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.
  • Sauté the onions and garlic: In a large skillet or saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, 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 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  • Toast the rice: Add the drained rice to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, until the rice is lightly toasted and coated with the butter or oil.
  • Add the broth, saffron water, and seasonings: Pour the chicken or vegetable broth and the saffron-infused water (including the saffron threads) into the skillet. Stir to combine. Add the salt and black pepper, and stir well.
  • Cook the rice: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover with the lid, and simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
  • Fluff and garnish the rice: 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. Sprinkle the chopped parsley or cilantro over the saffron rice. If desired, add toasted slivered almonds, pine nuts, or raisins for additional texture and flavor.
  • Serve: Transfer the saffron rice to a serving platter or individual plates and serve immediately. Enjoy!


Calories: 436.5kcal | Carbohydrates: 79.2g | Protein: 11.8g | Fat: 7.8g | Saturated Fat: 4.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2.3g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 15.1mg | Sodium: 661.4mg | Potassium: 365.1mg | Fiber: 1.7g | Sugar: 1.2g | Vitamin A: 492IU | Vitamin C: 6.8mg | Calcium: 50.3mg | Iron: 1.5mg

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