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Saffron Rice with Dried Fruit

This fragrant saffron rice recipe makes fluffy rice topped with dried fruit that has been quickly sauteed with diced onions. The flavor combo is out of this world!

I love side dishes that are simple to make, and yet feel super fancy. That’s this saffron rice recipe. It comes together quickly but tastes like something you would get at a high-end restaurant. Saffron threads give the rice a golden hue that’s accented by chopped apricots, dates, golden raisins, and currants. The fruit is briefly sauteed in olive oil along with diced onions, which gives the fruit a sheen that makes it resemble little jewels. Chopped almonds are also added for a bit of crunch that contrasts wonderfully with the tender rice.

And best of all, this rice recipe is kid-approved! In fact, children seem to love eating this gorgeous dish.

What is Saffron?

Saffron is a spice that comes from a flower called Crocus sativus. The petals of the flower are purple, while the stigmas and styles are crimson. The three stigmas at the center of each flower are harvested, then dried, and sold as saffron. There are only ever three stigmas per flower and it takes more than 80,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron. Once ready to use in cooking, these stigmas are called “saffron threads.”

Purple Crocus sativus flower with crimson stigmas
The saffron flower, Crocus sativus, with crimson stigmas that can be harvested for food. (Getty Images)
What does saffron taste like?

Saffron is an aromatic herb that is slightly floral without being sweet.

Why is saffron so expensive?

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world because it is an extremely labor-intensive crop. The stigmas that eventually are turned into saffron have to be harvested by hand and then carefully dried before they can be used in cooking.

What color is saffron?

The saffron threads themselves are an orangey-crimson color. When added to food, they give it a golden hue. Even a couple of strands of saffron will add a nice amount of color to your dish.

Getting the Most Saffron Flavor

For this dish, we are going to soak the saffron threads in a bit of hot water before adding them to the rice along with the vegetable broth. Soaking the saffron threads for a bit releases both their color and flavor into the liquid, which is then more easily absorbed by the rice.

A dutch oven filled with saffron rice topped with dried fruit

Do I Have to Add Dried Fruit?

You don’t have to add the dried fruit, but it is so simple to make and adds such a lovely element to this dish, that I recommend at least giving it a try! You could also add caramelized onions or toasted, chopped nuts like walnuts or pistachios.

What to Serve with Saffron Rice

I usually serve this recipe with paprika oven-baked chicken thighs for a sure-fire dinner hit. The flavors in that chicken recipe compliment the rice really well. If paprika is not your thing, you could also serve these maple-soy baked chicken thighs with this rice.

For a bready accompaniment, I rather like these sweet potato buttermilk biscuits, popovers, or a tender slice of this buttermilk zucchini cornbread.

Saffron rice on a plate with chicken thighs

How to Store Extras

It is important to cool leftover rice quickly and place it in the fridge as soon as possible. Improperly stored rice can cause food poisoning, even after it has been cooked. I recommend dividing the rice up into small, shallow containers, then placing them in the fridge shortly after your rice has finished cooking. The smaller containers help dissipate the heat quickly. It is best to use your extra rice within 2 days.

How to Reheat Rice

The microwave is the easiest and best way to reheat rice. I recommend reheating single servings at a time to make sure your rice is heated evenly.

Scoop the rice into a microwave-safe bowl, then for each cup of rice drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of water on top. Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe plate or lid, then zap everything for about 2-3 minutes, pausing halfway through the cooking time to give everything a good stir. Reheated rice is safe to eat once it reaches 165F, which you can verify with an instant-read thermometer (affiliate link).

Extra rice can only be reheated once, so toss anything that’s left after you’ve warmed and eaten your leftover rice.

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Saffron Rice with Dried Fruit

A dutch oven filled with saffron rice topped with dried fruit
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This fragrant saffron rice recipe makes fluffy rice topped with dried fruit that has been quickly sauteed with diced onions. The flavor combo is out of this world!

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4-5 servings
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

For the saffron rice:

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • Kosher salt to taste (a pinch or two, depending on how salty your broth is)

For the fruit topping:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup of dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup coarsely pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dry currants
  • 1 cup chopped almonds or walnuts

Instructions

Prepare the saffron. Crumble the saffron in a bowl or pound it into a powder using a mortar and pestle. Add the hot water and let the mixture steep briefly.

Cook the onions and toast the rice. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and toast, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.

Finish the rice. Stir in the hot vegetable stock, saffron mixture, and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Make the fruit topping. While the rice is cooking, make your fruit topping. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it turns a light golden color, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the apricots, dates, raisins, currants, and nuts, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes.

Serve. Fluff your rice, sprinkle with fruit topping, then serve warm.

Keywords: saffron rice, saffron recipe

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