Persian Rice Pilaf with Saffron

Persian pilafs play with the contrast between sweet and savory flavors. Here the rice is first cooked, then fried to get a nice crust, referred to as tahdig, which is highly appreciated in Persian homes.

It works very well with aromatic meat dishes but can also easily be expanded to a main course itself by adding cooked meat, fish, or poultry and more vegetables.–Andreas Viestad

Persian Rice Pilaf with Saffron Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 6 to 8


  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped apricots
  • One 1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 to 3 cardamom pods, lightly bruised
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • A small pinch of saffron threads (approximately 1/3 gram)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds


  • 1. Soak the rice in water, either placing it in a small-holed colander under running water or placing it in a pot full of water, stirring well and changing the water two or three times. This removes the surface starch and prevents it from sticking and clumping.
  • 2. In a wide nonstick pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and apricots for 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl.
  • 3. Add the rice, cinnamon, and cardamom to the oil remaining in the pot and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the boiling water and let the rice boil uncovered over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through.
  • 4. Drain the rice, reserving the cooking water, and return the rice to the pot. Turn up the heat to high and add the butter, yogurt, saffron, turmeric, paprika (if desired), and the onion and apricot mixture. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching.
  • 5. Add the reserved water (and more, if needed), little by little, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked through.
  • 6. Remove the rice from the heat and season with salt to taste. Stir in the spring onions and pomegranate seeds, and serve.
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