15 Minute Saffron Basmati Rice: Stovetop, Rice Cooker or Instant Pot

Saffron basmati rice is ready within 15 minutes and the perfect unique accompaniment to your meals! This saffron rice recipe can be made easily on a stovetop, in a rice cooker, or in an Instant Pot.

Plate of saffron rice.

Saffron basmati rice is made with white basmati rice and has a delicate and slightly sweet flavor. The saffron adds a distinct lightly floral and sweet taste, which complements the natural nutty and aromatic flavor of basmati rice.

 This fragrant side dish has a sweet, floral, almost musky taste.  It is very distinctive and saffron cannot be easily substituted.

I like to keep the added spices and flavors to a minimum because of saffron’s delicate taste.  To me, it’s important to let that shine through in this yellow rice recipe.

Looking for other basmati rice ideas?  Try South Indian Lemon Rice, Coconut Basmati Rice, Brown Basmati Rice, and Mint (Pudina) Rice!

Pot of saffron rice.

Why you will love this recipe

Simple ingredients | No fancy ingredients needed! Big flavor with simple ingredients.

Quick to prepare | Ready in 15 minutes without much active time.

Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free | Suitable for all diet types

What Makes This Rice Dish Unique?

Saffron Flavor: Saffron basmati rice has a delicate and slightly sweet flavor. 

Appearance: Saffron basmati rice has a beautiful yellow color. The long grains of basmati rice remain separate and fluffy when cooked using my approach, giving the dish an elegant and visually appealing appearance.

Fragrance: The aroma of saffron basmati rice is captivating and enticing. The saffron threads impart a subtle floral and earthy scent, which combines beautifully with the natural aroma of basmati rice.  

Saffron Infusion: The saffron threads used in saffron basmati rice are typically soaked in warm water or milk beforehand to release their vibrant color and unique flavor. This infusion is then added to the rice during the cooking process, imparting its distinct characteristics.

Ingredient Notes

Below are ingredient notes. Full ingredients and directions are in the printable recipe card at the end of the post. 

Saffron basmati rice ingredients.

You only need four ingredients to make saffron rice:

Basmati Rice: I used white basmati rice.  Any long-grain rice or white rice can work, however, water ratios may change.

Saffron: Use good quality saffron. A pinch of saffron threads goes a long way.

Ghee:  I love the taste of ghee and it can’t be replicated.  But, extra virgin olive oil also tastes delicious.

Salt: This helps the taste come through.

I like to keep the added spices and flavors to a minimum because of saffron’s delicate taste.  To me, it’s important to let that shine through.

Any other ingredients are optional.  I like to add onions and cashews for crunch.  I discuss other ideas below.

Onions and cashews (optional)

Variations: Seasoning the rice (optional)

If desired, you can add additional seasonings to enhance the flavor of the saffron rice. Common options include whole spices like cardamom pods (green cardamom), cinnamon sticks, and bay leaf.

You can also use vegetable stock in place of water for more flavor. I prefer not to as it is very easy to overpower the saffron flavor and it should be the star of the dish!

Preparation  

The steps for preparation are the same no matter which cooking method you choose.

  1. Bloom the Saffron

Grind the saffron strands, this will help you get the most bang for your buck out of the world’s most expensive spice!

Next, soak the saffron in a tablespoon of room temperature or slightly warm water.  

This will give saffron time to bloom.  You’ll get the best flavor and color with this prepared saffron water.

Basmati rice grains being washed with water in a white bowl.
  1. Rinse the rice: Measure the desired amount of rice (usually 1 cup) and rinse it under cold water until the water runs clear. This step helps remove excess starch from the rice.

Making It

Stove Top

Add ghee to a medium saucepan or pot and turn on the gas to medium.  Once ghee melts and heats a bit add cashews and cook until they brown.  Remove and set cashews aside.

Next, add finely chopped red onions, and saute for about 2 minutes. 

Then, add rinsed and drained basmati rice to the pan. Mix and coat rice grains well ensuring they are all coated.

Basmati rice grains in a pot.

Add bloomed saffron water, salt, and 1 ¼ cups water.  

Saffron water in a pot with basmati rice.

Let the rice cook in the water. Keep an eye, it should take about 8-11 minutes for the water to be absorbed.

You can tilt the pot to the side to check if there is water on the side. 

Cooked yellow rice in a pot.

Once water is absorbed, cover the pot. Turn off the stove and let the rice sit for 10 minutes.

You will notice the rice grains will change from laying flat to slightly turned up.  That is a sign the rice has “bloomed” and is ready.

After you see this visual cue, you can uncover the rice, fluff rice with a fork, and serve.

Saffron rice grains turned up in pot.

Resting time after water is absorbed is key.  It allows the rice to steam and absorbs any remaining moisture.

Rice Cooker

Add ghee or oil to the rice cooker.  

Place rinsed rice into the rice cooker’s inner pot. Add the appropriate amount of water according to the rice package instructions. For every cup of rice, the usual ratio is 1.5 to 2 cups of water. Adjust the quantity based on your preferred texture.

Add bloomed saffron water.

  1. Cook the rice: Place the inner pot into the rice cooker, close the lid, and select the appropriate setting for cooking white rice. Turn on the rice cooker, and it will automatically cook the rice to perfection.

  1. Let it rest: Once the rice cooker switches to the “Keep Warm” mode, let the rice sit undisturbed for 5-10 minutes. This resting time allows the rice to steam and absorb any remaining moisture.

  1. Fluff and serve: After the resting period, open the rice cooker’s lid and use a fork or rice paddle to gently fluff the saffron rice.
Yellow rice in a plate.

Instant Pot

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Method

1. Wash dry rice grains well until water runs clear (about 3-5 times).

2.Press the sauté button on your Instant Pot. Let it heat for 2 minutes and add ghee to melt or oil. Mover it around the pot to provide a coating and prevent sticking.

3. Add washed rice, ¾  cup water, and salt. Mix well.

4.Close the lid, and secure the valve. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Naturally, release the pressure for 15 minutes.

5.Fluff the rice with a fork and enjoy.

Plate of saffron rice with a serving spoon.

Garnishes

 Saffron basmati rice is often garnished with additional saffron threads sprinkled on top to enhance its visual appeal. Other common garnishes include slivered almonds, raisins, or fried onions, adding texture and contrasting flavors to the dish.

Serving

Saffron basmati rice is a versatile side dish that pairs well with a variety of main courses, such as chicken, lamb, or vegetarian curries. Its aromatic and flavorful nature makes it an excellent accompaniment to both rich and mild dishes. It can also be enjoyed on its own as a delicious and fragrant rice dish.

Storing

 According to FoodSafety.gov, cooked rice can be stored for 4 – 6 Days in the refrigerator and 

6 months in the fridge.

I would try to consume the rice ideally within 1-2 days.  Use an airtight container. Make sure it is thoroughly reheated and use your judgment.

Serving Suggestions

Saffron rice is a versatile side dish that combines many Indian main dishes.  Aloo Gobi, Chana Palak, and Aloo Palak are just a few ideas.  

It makes a unique, great side dish for parties.

Have you tried this saffron basmati rice recipe? If so, I would greatly appreciate it if you could leave a comment and rate it with stars. It would mean a lot to me to hear how it turned out. If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creation. Thank you for your support!

Plate of saffron rice.

15 Minute Saffron Basmati Rice: Stovetop, Rice Cooker or Instant Pot

Shilpa Joshi
Saffron basmati rice is ready within 15 minutes and the perfect unique accompaniment to your meals! This saffron rice recipe can be made easily on a stovetop, in a rice cooker, or in an Instant Pot.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 1.5 cups
Calories 269 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Pot For Stovetop method
  • 1 rice cooker For rice cooker method
  • 1 Instant Pot For Instant Pot method

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup aged basmati rice (rinsed at least 3 times) I use an aged long grain basmati rice – India Gate brand
  • 1 tbsp Ghee or oil I use ghee or olive oil.
  • 1 cup water* *Depends on method used, water to rice rations: Rice cooker 1/2:1/2, Stove top 1 1/4: 1/2 cup rice, Instant Pot 3/4 cup water: 1/2 cup rice
  • ¼ tsp salt Adjust to your preference
  • tsp saffron strands ground saffron strands, add extra pinch for big flavor
  • 2-3 tbsp onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp cashews

Instructions
 

Stove top Method

  • Rinse rice (3-5 times) and drain until water is not cloudy. Use a mesh strainer for an easier way to rinse until water runs clear.
  • Cashews: Add ghee to a medium saucepan or pot and turn on the gas to medium.  Once ghee melts and heats a bit add cashews and cook until they brown.  Remove and set cashews aside.
  • Next, add finely chopped red onions, and saute for about 2 minutes.
  • Add rice and mix thoroughly with ghee/oil, coating grains well in it.
  • Add bloomed saffron water and salt then mix to coat grains in saffron water. Then add 1 ¼ cups water. Let it come to boil and slightly turn down gas a notch. Let it continue to simmer and cook.
  • Let the rice cook in the water. Keep an eye, it should take about 8-11 minutes for the water to be absorbed. You can tilt the pot to the side to check if there is water on the side.
  • Once water is absorbed, cover the pot. Turn off the stove and let the rice sit for 10 minutes.
    You will notice the rice grains will change from laying flat to slightly turned up.  That is a sign the rice has “bloomed” and is ready.
  • After you see this visual cue, you can uncover the rice, fluff rice with a fork, and serve.

Rice Cooker Method

  • Wash dry rice grains well until water runs clear (about 3-5 times)
  • Turn on rice cooker on Cook and melt ghee
  • Add rinsed and well drained rice to melted ghee in pot and mix well
  • Add water (3/4 cup water: 1/2 cups rice ratio) and close the rice cooker with its lid.
  • If your rice cooker has options, select white rice, or else start the cook button.
  • Once cook time is over, let sit 5-7 minutes. Open lid and fluff rice before serving.

Instant Pot Method

  • Wash dry rice grains well until water runs clear (about 3-5 times)
  • Press the sauté button on your Instant Pot. Let it heat up 2 minutes and add ghee to melt or oil. Mover it around the pot to provide a coating and prevent sticking.
  • Add washed rice, 3/4 cup water and salt. Mix well.
  • Close the lid, secure the valve. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Naturally release the pressure 15 minutes.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork and enjoy.

Notes

See post for more details.  Summary tips below:
  1. Wash thoroughly – remove excess starch is important. I wash a minimum of 4-5 times or until the water runs clear
  2. Coat basmati grains in ghee or oil before adding water
  3. Look for visual cues that the rice is ready (pics in post)
  4. Use a good brand of aged authentic Indian basmati rice such as India Gate (this is KEY)
  5. If you want a softer texture, add 3-4 tbsp water more and cook 4-5 minutes longer covered.
– Rice cooker used: Hamilton Beach (only cook and warm settings)
– Instant Pot used: Instant Pot Duo Plus
You can use 1/2 tbsp ghee/oil but 1 tbsp ghee/oil produces a delicious taste.
Jeera rice is a popular type of flavored basmati rice
Nutrition values are rough estimates using WPRM calculator as a high level estimate.

Nutrition

Calories: 269kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 4gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 7mgPotassium: 71mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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