This Saffron Rice is a simple side dish that’s fragrant and full of flavor. It’s made in the style of a Rice Pilaf and has fluffy, separate grains.

This is one of my favorite regular side dishes in my meal rotation, and it’s all thanks to how heavenly saffron is as a flavor and spice.

Saffron Rice - In a Bowl with a Serving Spoon

I didn’t grow up eating much saffron, but I fell in love with it while I was living in Spain. Spain is where most of the world’s saffron is grown.

Saffron is most often characterized by how expensive it is, probably because it’s a fun fact to be the world’s most expensive spice by weight.

But in my opinion this is a disservice to saffron’s reputation, because cooking with it is not actually expensive. Saffron is incredibly potent and you only use very small amounts at a time. 

Saffron Rice Recipe - Shown In a Nonstick Frying Pan with Spoon

A little goes a long way, both for flavor and for giving the rice a soft yellow tone. It’s such a great ingredient!

What Kind of Rice to Use

Basmati rice is my favorite for this recipe. It’s a long-grain rice with fluffy grains, and it has an amazing fragrance and flavor to it.

Basmati Rice in a Plastic Bin with Measuring Cup

However, you could also use any standard long-grain white rice or a jasmine rice here. I don’t recommend using a brown rice for this dish, as it won’t cook the same.

How to Make Saffron Rice

This dish is made in the style of a Rice Pilaf. The rice is rinsed, then toasted in softened onion and saffron, then simmered in chicken stock, covered with a lid, until tender.

Prep the Rice

Start by rinsing the basmati rice thoroughly under running water for two minutes:

Rinsing Basmati Rice in a Fine Mesh Strainer Under Running Water

This is a fundamental I learned long ago from The Science of Good Cooking (affiliate). Rinsing, not soaking, makes for the best rice. This helps remove excess starch, which will give us more separate and fluffy grains later on.

Prep the Aromatics

Place some chopped onion and ghee in a skillet, then crumble saffron threads by rubbing between your fingers:

Crumbling Saffron Threads in Fingers

Cook all of this together over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onion has softened:

Softened Onion and Butter in Nonstick Skillet

Toast the Rice

Add the rinsed rice to the skillet and increase the heat to medium high. Stir it all around for about 3 minutes, which should cook away the moisture and begin to turn the rice opaque.

Toasted Basmati Rice in Skillet Mixed with Onion

Add Chicken Stock

Add chicken stock to the pan, and increase the heat to high.

Pouring Chicken Stock Into the Skillet

Wait for the chicken stock to come to a boil, about a minute or two, then reduce the heat to medium low so the chicken stock is at a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid.

Nonstick Skillet with Saffron Rice Cooking with Lid On to Trap Steam

Cook the Saffron Rice!

Let the rice cook, covered with the lid, for about 18-20 minutes.

By the end, the liquid should be full absorbed and the rice fluffy and tender:

Yellow Saffron Rice - How It Looks After Cooking

Stir everything well with a spatula, then replace the lid and let the rice sit off the heat for 10 more minutes in the pan.

The rice is now ready to eat!

Saffron Basmati Rice - Served in a White Bowl with a Stainless Spoon 

This dish goes well with tons of main course meat dishes. I’ve paired it with Beef StewPeruvian Chicken, and Braised Lamb Shanks. Enjoy!

More Rice Recipes:

Saffron Rice FAQ and Tips:

  • Storing leftovers: This dish keep really well, either in the fridge or the freezer. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • How to Freeze: Store in an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Reheating from Frozen: Microwave at 50% power for 2-5 minutes, depending on the amount, but make sure you place a dish or plastic wrap or something to seal the top and trap in the moisture, otherwise the rice may dry out. Alternatively, you can thaw the rice overnight by moving it from the freezer to the fridge.
Saffron Rice in a White Bowl with Serving Spoon

Saffron Rice

This Saffron Rice is a great simple side dish that's fragrant and full of flavor.

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  • 2 cups basmati rice organic recommended
  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (red or yellow)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp saffron I recommend a quality Spanish saffron
  • 3 cups chicken stock


  • Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water for 2 minutes, until the water runs clear.
  • Add the ghee, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt to a 12" nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Crumble the saffron between your thumb and finger and add to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion has softened.
  • Increase the heat to medium high and add the rinsed rice. Cook for 3 minutes, until the rice is dry and turns opaque.
  • Add the chicken stock and increase the heat to high to bring to a boil, which should take a minute or two. Reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a simmer, then cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 18-20 minutes, until the liquid has been fully absorbed.
  • Stir the rice well, then replace the lid and let the rice sit off the heat for 10 more minutes. Serve and enjoy!


Calories: 312kcal, Carbohydrates: 54g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 16mg, Sodium: 175mg, Potassium: 197mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 4IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.