Saffron Chicken & Rice

Servings : Serves 3-4

Saffron is known to be the most expensive spice in the world, which makes this meal a truly luxurious one. The flavour and warmth of saffron give the dish a vibrant appearance and evocative aroma. The rice is cooked in stock, with an extra boost of flavour from the juices that cook out off of the delicious chicken as it bakes, which takes this meal to a whole new level. What makes it even more awesome is that it is a one-pan meal, easy prep and easier clean-up!

Ingredients for Chicken Marinade

  • 750 gm or 6 pieces bone-in chicken thighs (you can use boneless or any other chicken pieces that you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch of saffron, crushed

Other Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 cups long-grain basmati rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock or water
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 potatoes, cut into small cubes (optional)
  • 1 chilli, chopped (optional)
  • salt to taste


Combine all the marinade ingredients with the chicken thighs and refrigerate for a couple of hours or up to overnight. Remove from the fridge at least an hour before you begin cooking to allow the chicken to come to room temperature.

Before you begin cooking, warm up the chicken stock and add the saffron strands into it so they can soak and release their colour and flavour. Rinse the rice thoroughly and soak it in water for about 15 minutes, then drain in a colander. Preheat the oven at 180 C.

For this recipe I use 1 1/2 cups of liquid for every cup of rice. You may adjust this amount depending on the type of rice you use.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wide heavy skillet or oven-safe pan until very hot and then add the chicken thighs. Cook over high heat until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Then transfer the chicken thighs onto a plate.

In the same pan, add 1 tbsp of butter to the residual oil and allow it to melt. Then add the chopped onions and stir them until they are soft and begin to turn golden. Once the onions have coloured, add the garlic paste, turmeric powder and cumin powder. Stir them in for a minute. Next, add the potato cubes and rice, stir them in gently to coat the grains with the lovely spices. Add the stock, peas and salt. Bring to a simmer and stir. Adjust the salt if needed. Once the liquid has reduced slightly from the rice, place the chicken thighs on top of the rice, cover the skillet or pan with a tight lid or aluminium foil and put it in the preheated oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Alternatively you can place the tightly covered pan on the gas stove over very low heat for the same amount of time.

Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes before opening the lid. To get a good colour on the chicken pieces, you can put the pieces on a small tray under the oven grill for a couple of minutes. Gently fluff up the rice, garnish with fresh coriander and serve with lemon slices and a tomato-onion salsa.

Enjoy! 🙂

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