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 dish pairs nicely with just about any entree, but especially hearty dishes like Braised Lamb Shanks and Slow Cooker Short Ribs.

Saffron Rice - In a Bowl with a Serving Spoon

Once you taste how delicious this saffron rice is, it may become one the regular side dishes in your meal rotation. The aroma from the saffron is beyond heavenly, and is an extraordinary flavor for this humble grain.

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. 

A little goes a long way, both for flavor and for giving the dish a soft yellow tone. It’s such a great ingredient, and takes well to virtually all meats, but especially Chicken Saltimbocca and Leg of Lamb.

What Kind of Rice to Use

I recommend you use Basmati rice for this recipe. It’s a long-grain variety with fluffy grains, but more importantly, it has an amazing fragrance and flavor to it.

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

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

Tips for Best Results

Pre-rinse the rice – We will start by rinsing the grains under running water for a good couple of minutes, which rinses away excess starch. This will give us more separated grains later on.

Toast the rice before adding liquid – This is another trick that will give you more separate grains in your end result. You will be able to see the grains turn opaque over the course of a few minutes.

Use real saffron – Don’t get scared off by the price tag on saffron, because you really don’t need that much saffron for this recipe. Just 1/4 tsp is all you need to generously flavor this entire batch.

Let the rice rest for 10 minutes after cooking – This will give you the absolute most fluffy rice. Make sure to leave the lid on for the full 10 minutes.

Basmati Rice in a Plastic Bin with Measuring Cup

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 texture. 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 grains 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 grains fluffy and tender:

Yellow Saffron Rice - How It Looks After Cooking

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

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

How to Serve It

This will taste best served right away. If you need to keep it warm on the table, cover it with foil or a lid to trap in the heat and moisture.

This dish pairs nicely with flavorful main course meat dishes like Beef StewPeruvian Chicken, and Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs.

FAQ and Tips:

How do you store Saffron Rice 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.

Can you freeze Saffron Rice?

Yes, store in an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months.

How do you reheat Saffron Rice 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 grains may dry out. Alternatively, you can thaw overnight by moving the container from the freezer to the fridge.

Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page. Or, follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest!

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 grains look dry and turn 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 pan sit off the heat for 10 more minutes. Serve and enjoy!


Storing leftovers: Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Freezing: Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Reheating: You have two choices. First, you could thaw the rice overnight by moving it from the freezer to the fridge, then microwaving or stir frying as usual to warm it up. Or, if you wish to reheat 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 it may dry out. 


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.