Saffron rice?

So our Penzeys order came in earlier this week. I decided to order a bit of saffron, and tonight we’re looking at a couple filets, artichokes, Hollandaise, and likely saffron rice.

But the web is full of varying saffron recipes and for our first foray I want to do this right — and keep the focus on the saffron as much as possible. Anyone with a trusted recipe/technique? Source of one? Suggestions for something else?

Hungrily yours,


I’m a fan of Risotto alla Milanese. The linked recipe is more or less what I use (mine is at home on the bookshelf).

We like to keep it simple.

1 cup aged basmati rice
1 can chicken stock(15 oz)
2 cloves garlic(peeled)
1 tsp butter
a few strands of saffron

Wash the basmati rice until the water runs clear and then soak for 20 minutes. Drain the rice.

Mince the garlic and saute in the butter until golden.

Saute the drained rice for about a minute and then add the chicken stock.

Bring to a boil and sprinkle the saffron threads over the top.

Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed(~12-15 minutes).

You’ll end up with nice rice bed suitable for a lot of dishes, with a few spots of saffron coloring the places where it cooked.


Sounds great – so just a few strands. Good to know that it’s expensive but I don’t need to use it all at once. I’m not expecting something as intensely falvoured as rosemary, but it sounds like usage is similar.

Most saffron recipes I’ve seen call for steeping the saffron in a small amount of hot liquid before adding it to the recipe (usually a bit of boiling water).

Yes, a little goes a long way. We usually triple or quadruple the recipe for our family, and we use a pinch of saffron, 25 threads or so. Since you’re adding it to boiling water it will float on top and let the flavor seep out until the rice absorbs the water. Covering the pan helps too. At the end the rice will come up from the bottom and leave the saffron strands on the top where they’ll be in contact with a few grains, but while it’s boiling.

A friend of mine does like Eva Luna mentions and makes basically a saffron tea, which she then uses a pipette(straw) to make “saffron spots” in her rice dishes.


I like to add a pinch of saffron to my basmati, along with a handfull of raisins. While the rice is cooking, I gently saute sliced almonds in butter until they are light brown. When the rice is done, add the almonds and butter to it before serving.

All saffron is not equal, though - you may need to experiment a bit to find out how much to use to get the desired result.

I don’t bother with chicken stock if I am making saffron rice. Take about an ounce to two ounces of near boiling water and add a good pinch of saffron and let that steep while I rinse the basmati rice at least three times. I then add the saffron and water it is steeped in to the rice and use that container to add the rest of the water to the rice so I make sure all the saffron flavor goes into the rice. That and a bit of butter in the pot will give it enough flavor that it doesn’t need a sauce. I will often add a star of anise, a short stick of cinnamon, five pods of cardamon, five corriander corns, five pepper corns, and three cloves, all whole, to the water for the rice. I like the flavor this gives and though it doesn’t need a sauce, it goes well with many sauces because it is not overwhelming.

I buy my saffron on ebay. The last year I bought 3 grams for $27.50 including shipping from Australia from someone named blorey. It was very good saffron, all red thread and very potent. I have had good luck from people selling on ebay.

I use turmeric in place of saffron threads-near the same taste and coloring; hundred times less expensive.

Turmeric tastes absolutely nothing like saffron. Turmeric is earthy/musty with a bit of mustard in there. Saffron is difficult to describe – I don’t know any other herb or spice I could compare it to, but I would call it somewhat medicinal and perhaps even a little metallic. Like cilantro, it took me a few times to get used to its flavor, it’s just so distinct to me. Turmeric has no similarities with saffron, except for its color.


Turmeric is what is added to saffron to make you think you’re getting more for your money. It’s uses are many, but none of them are as a substitute for saffron.

Turmeric is nothing like saffron, but a spiced rice that includes turmeric can be pretty tasty.

I remember when I bought the last batch of saffron, I kept the bag it came in at my desk because it smelled so nice. Safflower is another herb used to color rice yellow. It too does not impart the wonderful subtle flavor of saffron.

The amount of saffron I use in rice is cheaper than chicken broth I might use to add flavor instead, and is less caloric. I spent less than $30 on the saffron I use for a year and we have rice fairly often.

Another fine saffron substitute that doesn’t break the bank is achiote powder.

Only for color, again. It also tastes or smells nothing like saffron. If you’re just going for the color, why not food coloring?