Saffron Rice

5 from 7 votes

Saffron rice is a delicious dish that blends rice with the unique flavor of saffron. Pair this golden, nutty rice with chicken, beef, or fish!

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Tired of the same old plain rice routine? Let this saffron rice spice up your next dinner! This delicious rice is a staple in Persian cuisine—and for good reason. Saffron gives a beautiful golden color and slightly earthy flavor to the aromatic basmati rice dish. With all its color and flavor, you’ll be happy to hear this saffron rice recipe is simple and easy to make.

Saffron rice in pot after being fluffed and garnished with fresh parsley.
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Saffron rice is something I love to make whenever I have guests coming over for dinner because its color and fragrance really stand out as a side dish compared to regular white rice. It’s also my go-to when I am not feeling up to making my other fav, crispy Persian rice.

Recipe At a Glance

Cuisine Inspiration: Persian
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
Key Flavor: Slightly Sweet, Nutty
Skill Level: Easy


  • Sweet, Earthy Flavor: A truly one-of-a-kind spice, saffron gives the rice a slight sweetness and floral flavor. Paired with the nutty flavor of basmati rice, this dish is flavorful and fragrant, but not overly bold.
  • Easy to Make: It takes minimal prep to create this beautiful dish. Seriously, you’ll be shocked at how quick and easy this rice recipe is—and clean-up is a breeze too!
  • Perfect For Any Occasion: This yellow saffron rice is packed with flavor and looks beautiful on any dinner table, making it the ideal side dish to impress guests.

What Is Saffron?

Saffron is a spice derived from Crocus sativus, a flower commonly known as saffron crocus. It is prized for its vibrant crimson threads, which are the dried stigmas of the flower. Saffron’s distinct aroma, unique flavor and rich golden color make it one of the world’s most expensive spices. It is used in everything from traditional dishes like paella to desserts.

Ingredients to Make Saffron Rice

Ingredients for recipe: onion, water, rice, saffron, salt and pepper, butter.
  • Saffron: This sweet, fragrant spice gives the rice its beautiful yellow color. Look for saffron threads that are uniform in size with a deep, rich red color.
  • Basmati Rice: Basmati rice is an aromatic long-grain rice that pairs well with the earthy flavors of saffron. Be sure to rinse your rice to remove excess starch—once the water runs clear, it’s ready to cook! If you want more tips for making perfectly fluffy rice, check out my guide on how to cook rice.
  • Butter: A little bit of butter adds a lot of rich, buttery flavor to the rice.
  • Onion: Sauteed onion adds savory flavor and helps balance the sweetness of the saffron and rice.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: For seasoning.
  • Add Toasted Nuts: I love serving rice dishes with toasted pine nuts on top to make them more appetizing and delicious, like I did with this Turmeric Rice. I recommend a combination of cashews, almonds, and pine nuts, but any nuts will work.
  • Cook Fresh Herbs With the Onion: A garnish of fresh herbs on top of cooked rice always makes for a beautiful presentation. But you can enhance the flavor of the whole dish by cooking herbs like cilantro, dill or basil with the onion and butter.
  • Use an Alternative Long-Grain Rice: The nutty and sweet flavors of basmati work best with this dish, but another long-grain rice like jasmine or long-grain white rice will also work if you don’t have basmati rice on hand.
  • Try Turmeric Instead: If you can’t find saffron, I recommend using ground turmeric instead to maintain the yellow color and give a similar earthy flavor. Simply add 1 tablespoon to the hot water mixture instead of saffron.

How to Make Saffron Rice

  1. Melt the butter in a medium pot. Add the onions and cook until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the rice and steeped saffron (with the hot water) to the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until the saffron turns the rice yellow.
  3. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover with a lid.
  4. Once the rice is done, gently fluff with a fork.
4 image collage making recipe in a pan: 1- onions after softened, 2- saffron water and rice added, 3- stirring to combine, 4- rice after cooking with a fork fluffing some.

Tips for Making the Best Persian Saffron Rice

  1. Bloom the saffron. Anytime you’re cooking with saffron, it’s important to allow it to bloom, which means steeping it with hot water to extract its fragrance and color. You’ll notice the warm water will turn golden in color, and then you can use the liquid to cook the rice. If you have a mortar and pestle, you can also crush it into a powder before blooming.
  2. Rinse the rice well. I like to use a mesh sieve and mix the rice with my fingers under running cold water until the water runs clear. If you don’t have a mesh sieve, you can also place the rice in a medium bowl and rinse with cold water, changing the water about six times until it starts to run clear. 
  3. Don’t skip the steam. Removing your rice from the heat and keeping the lid on so it can steam for 10 more minutes ensures each grain is perfectly cooked and infused with saffron’s earthy, floral flavors.
  4. Fluff with care. Once it’s done steaming, fluff your saffron rice gently with a fork. This simple step separates the grains without breaking them and gives that signature fluffy texture.
Saffron rice on a plate next to broccoli and a chicken thigh.

What to Serve With Yellow Saffron Rice

How to Store & Reheat Saffron Rice

Storing and reheating saffron rice is a breeze! Just pop any leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate within two hours of cooking. 

To reheat, sprinkle a bit of water over the rice, cover it, and gently warm it up on the stovetop or in the microwave. Next, fluff your saffron rice with a fork to bring it back to its golden, flavorful glory!

How long will saffron rice last in the fridge?

Saffron rice is a great make-ahead dish! It will keep its delicious flavor and texture for up to 5 days when stored properly in the fridge.

Can I freeze yellow saffron rice?

Technically, you can freeze saffron rice, but the texture might change a bit upon thawing.

If you plan on freezing, first cool the rice completely. Next, store it in an airtight container. Finally, remember to reheat it gently with a touch of water and fluff it to help bring back its original texture. For best results, consume it within a month.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you bloom saffron for rice?

First, place your saffron threads in hot water to extract the spice’s fragrance and color. After 10-15 minutes, the warm water will turn golden in color. Next, add the liquid with the other water when you cook your rice.

Can I substitute ground saffron for saffron threads?

Absolutely! While saffron threads are traditional, you can use ground saffron. (If you have a mortar and pestle, you can even ground the saffron yourself.) Note: Ground saffron is more concentrated, so you will only need ½ the amount.

Why is my saffron rice sticky, and how can I fix it?

There are two reasons this could have happened: First, you may have forgotten to run your basmati rice through cold water to help remove excess starch. This step ensures you get separate, individual grains in your final dish. Second, you may have skipped the steaming. Let your saffron rice steam for 10 minutes after it simmers so it becomes nice and fluffy.

Bowl of saffron rice with a spoon dipped in.

Whether you’re looking for a quick and flavorful weeknight side dish or a colorful addition to your table for guests, this saffron rice recipe is sure to pair well with your favorite entrée. I love serving it with my Baked Lamb Chops or Beef Kafta and adding a fresh parsley garnish, but the possibilities are endless! Enjoy!

More Rice Recipes:

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Saffron Rice

Saffron rice is a delicious dish that blends rice with the unique flavor of saffron. Pair this golden, nutty rice with chicken, beef, or fish!
5 from 7 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Side Dish
Calories 200
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes



  • Place the saffron threads in hot water in a small bowl and allow the saffron to steep until golden in color, 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well and set aside.
  • In a medium pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the rinsed rice and the steeped saffron with the hot water over the cooked onions. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine until the rice mixture looks yellow.
  • Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 15 minutes.
  • When the time is up, remove from the heat and allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes. Then uncover and fluff with a fork.
  • Serve warm with fresh parsley, if desired.


Calories: 200kcal, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 8mg, Sodium: 321mg, Potassium: 75mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 88IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 20mg, Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Side Dish

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