Recipe: Saffron Rice Pilaf

Saffron Rice Pilaf, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Saffron Rice Pilaf, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

In my Culinary Arts I class, we recently completed a kitchen lab on grains.  After reviewing the recipe options, I chose to make Saffron Rice Pilaf, mainly because I didn’t know a lot about saffron and wanted to learn more about it.

So, what is saffron?  Saffron is a spice which is derived from the flower of the Crocus Sativus.  Each crocus bears up to four flowers.  The threads of these flowers are collected and dried, resulting in the spice. Saffron is used mainly as a seasoning and as a luminous yellow-orange coloring agent in food.  It’s aroma has been described as a metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes.

Due to the time-consuming and delicate process of harvesting saffron, it is among the world’s most costly spices by weight. In fact, to glean 1 lb. of dry saffron requires the harvest of up to 75,000 flowers.  In February 2013, a .06 oz. retail bottle of saffron could be purchased for $16.26 (= $4,336 per pound). Handle it carefully!

1 Tbsp. butter
1 oz. olive oil
4 oz. mirepoix:
– 2 oz. chopped onion
– 1 oz. chopped carrot
– 1 oz. chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. saffron
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups chicken stock (hot)


  1. Heat butter and oil in a heavy sauce pan.
  2. Add mirepoix, garlic, bay leaf, pepper and saffron and sweat until tender, but not browned.
  3. Add rice and sweat until coated with oil/butter.
  4. Add salt and stock and bring to a boil.’Tightly cover pan and reduce heat to lowest setting.
  5. Steam rice for 15 minutes until tender.
  6. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes more.
  7. Fluff rice before service.

Food Mingle Blog Alternatives and Substitutions:

  • Standard mirepoix is always a ratio of 2 parts onion to 1 part each celery and carrots.
  • I also added 1/4 cup frozen peas, after I took the cooked rice off the heat, and before I let it sit, covered, for 15 minutes.  The professor recommended this approach.
  • I used basmati rice for the long grain rice. If your rice has been on the pantry shelf for a while, then you will want to rice it a few times before using it.

Yield: 8 servings


Culinary Arts 1: Fundamentals of Food Preparation – Lab Manual,” Monroe Community College, Department of Hospitality Management, Chef Gerald Brinkman, M.S.Ed., Assistan Professor and Michelle M. Bartell, M.A., R.D., CDN, Professor

On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (5th edition)”, Labenski, Sarah et al, Pearson Publishing. 2015



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