Saffron Rice (stove top, rice cooker)

This simple saffron rice recipe is infused with saffron flavor and is the great elegant side dish that pairs well with Middle Eastern and Spanish flavors. Cook it on the stove top or in a rice cooker.

Rice is a staple in our house and we eat it 3-4 times per week! While a batch of perfectly fluffy rice is always gobbled up, sometimes it’s fun to obtain creative. We love making coconut rice, cilantro lime rice, and this delicious saffron rice!

saffron rice in brown bowl with green herbs sprinkled on top

Saffron rice is a lovely bright yellow color, and has subtle saffron flavors: floral and ever so slightly pungent. This is a short cut recipe that you can make on the stove top or in a rice cooker, and is great for infusing extra flavor into your rice with very small effort.

Reasons you’ll ♡ saffron rice

  • it’s a bright, lovely color that looks great on your table
  • no chopping or sauteeing any ingredients means you can cook it quickly on the stove or in the rice cooker
  • the rice infuses with delicate flavors of saffron

saffron steeping in hot water

Cultural significance

Found in India, Pakistan and the Middle East, the recipes and techniques used to cook saffron rice varies by region, and has different cultural significance and history in each (1). In Iran, it is prepared as a saffron-infused savory rice cake called tachin, whereas in North India, you’ll find it served as a sweet or savory pilaf-style dish called zarda, which is infused with saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, and topped with pistachios and golden raisins .

My goal with this saffron rice recipe was to create a recipe that infused rice with delicious savory saffron flavors with minimal effort; it is not mean to imitate or replicate the traditional recipes mentioned above in any way.

What is saffron?

Saffron threads are the dried stigmas from crocus sativus, a flower that is grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco and India (2). Saffron is the world’s Trendy expensive spice, but don’t let that deter you from cooking with it; a small goes a long way! Adding a pinch of saffron threads to this rice is sufficient to infuse the whole pot with delicious flavor.

It’s extremely difficult to depict the flavor of saffron; some say it is floral, but also that it has a slightly pungent flavor. Once you taste saffron, you will seek why the flavor is so difficult to depict!

Do not buy cheap saffron- I myself have been tricked into this in the past and was disappointed to find out it was not actually saffron at all. Purchase a brand you cognize! I use McKormick brand.

Ingredient notes

  • rice– use long grain white rice; I highly recommend using basmati. If you use long grain brown rice, you’ll need to commute the cook time accordingly.
  • oil– I’ve used coconut oil, which helps soften the rice and make it fluffy. You may swap for butter.
  • onion– to make this a ‘no chop/no saute’ recipe, I’ve swapped fresh onions for onion powder. If you’d like to take some time to sautee half an onion in the oil before adding the rice, that would be even more flavorful!
  • saffron– it’s essential to bloom the saffron before prepping the recipe (more on that below).

ingredients for the saffron rice recipe in a rice cooker

Recipe tips

Rinse the rice

Rinsing your rice helps remove extra starch from the surface of the rice, your saffron rice kind and fluffy. You can rinse it in one of two ways: 1) use a colander and rinse under tap water or 2) BEST- add rice to the pot, cover with water, swirl, carefully decant the water, and repeat until the water becomes clear.

Bloom your saffron

Before we commence cooking, we will first steep our saffron in hot water. This helps the saffron flavor diffuse out of the threads and throughout the rice while it cooks. Start by covering the saffron threads with 1/4 cup of hot or boiling water. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

If you have extra time, you can grind your saffron threads using a mortar and pestle, before adding warm or hot water to dissolve.

Always let your rice rest

In addition to rinsing your rice, it’s crucial to allow the saffron rice to rest after cooking by allowing the moisture to evenly distribute in the pot. After your pot of rice has finished cooking through, transfer to a cold burner and allow to rest (no peaking!) for 10 more minutes, before fluffing with a fork and serving.

If you are using a rice cooker, the rest period should be built into the cook cycle, so no need to do this.

Storage + Reheating

While rice does have a bad reputation, if handled properly, there should be no food safety issues:

  • Get it into the fridge within 2 hours of cooking- do not let it sit at room temperature for too long as this is the temperature at which harmful bacteria can replicate
  • Store in an air tight container for up to 4 days
  • Reheat until steaming hot
  • Do not reheat more than once


Saffron rice freezes well. You can freeze it in meal prep containers or in freezer bags (I love these re-usable silicone freezer bags

!). Some people add a small bit of water when re-heating freeze/thawed rice, as it does end up slightly dryer than fresh rice.

bowl of saffron basmati rice on grey background

What goes well with this recipe?

This saffron rice recipe is infused with delicious saffron flavors and goes well with Middle Eastern flavors (think: yogurt, garlic, citrus, and Middle Eastern spice blends), and Spanish (think roasted red peppers, smoked paprika, peas and seafood).

bowl of saffron yellow rice on grey background


More rice recipes

Saffron Rice

Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: Spanish

Keyword: dairy-free, gluten-free, rice, vegan

Calories: 204kcal

Servings: 4

This simple saffron rice recipe is infused with saffron flavor and is the great elegant side dish that pairs well with Middle Eastern and Spanish flavors. Cook it on the stove top or in a rice cooker.

Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time15 mins

10 mins

Total Time25 mins

Stove Top

  • Combine saffron threads and boiling water and allow to ‘steep’ for at least 5 minutes.

  • In a medium pot, combine saffron + boiling water with the basmati rice and all other ingredients.

  • Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 15 minutes.

  • Remove from heat and let sit for another 10 minutes before serving.

Rice Cooker

  • Combine saffron threads and boiling water and allow to ‘steep’ for at least 5 minutes.

  • Combine saffron + boiled water with the basmati rice and all other ingredients.

  • Cook using the ‘white rice’ function (or regular function if there is not a white rice option).

  • Once the cook time is up, fluff with a fork and serve.

1- swap for any long grain white rice (adjust water ratios as needed for jasmine or other types). If you use long grain brown rice, you will need to increase the cook time as needed.
Store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Heat in the microwave, or in a frying pan (add a bit of extra butter) until steaming hot.
Do not reheat more than once.

Serving: 1/4 of the batch | Calories: 204kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 559mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 0g | Vitamin A: 220IU | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 0.4mg

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