Saffron Rice with vegetables is a fluffy, colorful and aromatic side dish that is perfect for a variety of dishes. The saffron gives the rice a beautiful golden color and a delicate flavor, while the vegetables add a touch of freshness and pop.
If my memory serves me right, I don’t think I had ever tried saffron rice before moving to Miami from the Mediterranean. Often times, Latin based restaurants here serve a variety of side dishes made with rice and they call the yellow rice arroz amarillo or arroz Español (Spanish Rice). However, in Spain is known by the name Arroz al Azafran!
While the origins of the yellow rice comes from saffron rice, in the local restaurants here it is made with a packaged saffron seasoning that has very little real saffron and it does have red and yellow food coloring mixed in the seasoning to provide the artificial color and try to simulate the beautiful saffron tint.
So I made it my mission to learn how to make real saffron rice!! It did take me several iterations and I realize that there are plenty of variations to this recipe:). I tried to make mine versatile, so you can use it with a lot of dishes. Then you can customize it to your taste!!
What is Saffron?
Saffron is a spice that is used in many countries to add fragrance, flavor and elevate a dish to a gourmet status. It’s one of the most expensive spices in the world!
Despite its high cost, saffron is a very versatile spice that can be used in so many dishes. It has a unique, slightly bitter flavor that pairs amazingly well with seafood, rice, and vegetables. Saffron is also a natural food coloring, and it can be used to add a golden/yellowish hue to food.
If you’re looking to add a touch of luxury to your cooking, saffron is a great option. Just be sure to use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way:).
So let’s try to simplify the steps to make this yellow Mediterranean rice:).
- Grind saffron using a small mortar and pestle. Add water over ground saffron and set aside.
- Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Use medium heat. Add red bell pepper and continue sauteing until soft as well.
- Add rice and toast until all grains are shiny. Add water or stock, saffron water, other seasonings and once it boils, set heat to low.
- As water is disappearing, lower heat to simmer. Cover the pot.
- After about 5 minutes, uncover, add peas and carrots, fluff and leave it covered for 10 minutes. Turn heat to off.
Sonila’s Tips and Notes
I have several tips to make this recipe a success:).
- Treat saffron as gold, a little goes a long way. Don’t waste it!! Also, I highly recommend you grind saffron and add to water instead of adding it straight to food.
- Pay attention to rice cooking instructions. It’s important to use proper water measurements. Not all white rice needs double the water to cook!
- Also time cooking uncovered vs cooking covered in the pot matters. To be honest, I’m pretty ok with either method as long as you stick to it. Cooking covered with lots of water will lead to mushy rice or cooking uncovered with less water will give you crunchy, uncooked rice.
I love to serve this side dish with seafood and salad and here’s one example.
Saffron Rice With Veggies
- 1 medium size pot with lid I use stainless steel but you can use a regular pot, a Dutch Oven etc etc.
- 1 mortar and pestle
- 2 cups jasmine rice
- 1 white onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 24 saffron threads estimate about 4 threads per serving
- 3.5 cups water or stock (chicken or vegetable) of your choice
- 1 tsp salt
- 0.5 tsp black pepper
- 0.5 red bell pepper
- 10 oz frozen peas and carrots about 284 grams, 1 package
- Rinse rice and remove impurities, let it air dry in a colander or strainer so it's completely dry before you can toast it. Set aside. You can even do this the night before.
- Chop onion, mince garlic and dice the red bell pepper. Get the frozen peas and carrots out of the freezer.
- Carefully get saffron threads out of jar. I estimate about 4 threads per serving. Place saffron threads in mortar and slowly grind them. Add few tbsps of water and swirl to get every speck of saffron.
- Place a medium size pot on the stovetop, turn heat to medium. Add olive oil and once oil is shimmery, add onions and garlic. Saute until translucent. Use a wooden spoon to stir so nothing sticks to the bottom.
- Add red bell pepper and continue sauteing until soft.
- Add jasmine rice and toast the rice with the onions, garlic and red bell pepper until all grains are shiny.
- Add water (preferably warm or hot if you have an electric kettle), and the saffron with its water. Add salt and pepper at this point too. Mix once to incorporate.
- Once water comes to a boil, lower heat to low but leave pot uncovered. When water is not visible anymore, cover pot and lower heat to simmer.
- After 5 minutes, add frozen peas and carrots. Cover the pot and turn heat off. Let rest for about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot, fluff the rice while incorporating the peas and carrots. Serve warm with your favorite seafood or chicken dishes. Enjoy:).
- Optional ingredients you can add – chicken bouillon, star anise, cardamom, turmeric etc.
- Leftovers – store leftovers in a glass container with a tight lid, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. I have never frozen this rice so not sure how it holds frozen.
Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the World because it’s difficult to harvest, has a low yield and high demand. This article is very informative about saffron!
You’ll find saffron rice or variations of it with different names in so many countries. While I’m not aware of all of them, I know that you can find it in Spain, Italy, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Israel etc.
As a foodie, I try to order in restaurants or read about different dishes as much as I can. It’s hard to summarize this properly without inadvertently leaving out a certain culture or its cuisine. But from what I’ve seen, saffron rice is mostly cooked with white rice, a lot of times basmati rice. I personally love jasmine rice a lot because of the enhanced fragrance. A lot of recipes will specify long grain rice. While the Italian ones tend to use short grain rice or Carnaroli rice.
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Additional Side Dish Recipes
Feel free to check out some of my other side dish recipes.
- Cilantro Lime Jasmine Rice
- Roasted Acorn Squash
- Grilled Mini Sweet Peppers
- Sauteed Broccolini with Almonds