Here are our best saffron recipes that use the coveted spice to infuse its legendary flavor, imparting great benefits and a taste that makes these recipes a favorite amongst our readers.
If you’re looking for a pinch of elegance to elevate your dish to the next level then just reach out for some saffron.
What is Saffron?
Saffron, also known as crocus sativus, has been valued around the world as a spice, a perfume, a dye and a medicine. Sought after for its subtle, fragrant and luxurious taste, this is by far one of the most precious spices in the world.
It is supposed to have been first cultivated in Greece, and is now mostly grown in Iran, India, Morocco and Spain. Not surprisingly then, it also has earned an essential status in these regional cuisines but also lends sophistication to some of the classic dishes of Europe.
Why is Saffron So Expensive?
The worlds most expensive spice is harvested through a very laborious process that delivers one ounce of saffron from about 1000 flowers! But no worries, when it comes to saffron, a little does go a long way. High quality saffron packs an abundance of sweet floral flavor.
Where to Buy Saffron
Saffron is available online at Amazon. Also check your local Persian, Indian, Middle eastern, Mediterranean grocery stores. As well as gourmet grocery stores such as Whole Foods.
The best quality saffron often comes from Iran. What makes Persian saffron superior is its deep color and remarkable aroma. High quality saffron is deep red in color with orange tips. The deeper the color, the better is the quality.
Avoid buying readymade saffron powder as that may be adulterated.
How to use Saffron
To get the most out of your saffron, powder it and steep in hot water. Using a mortar and pestle grind 1 teaspoon of dry saffron threads with a pinch of coarse salt or sugar and dissolve the powder in 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let it soak and cool down to give you a vibrant concentrated extract that will flavor your dishes like no other.
Make sure your hands are very dry when working with saffron and store it in a cool, dry and dark place or in the freezer. The saffron water mentioned above can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
Saffron Health Benefits
- Saffron is rich in crocin, crocetin, safranal and kaempferol — compounds known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, anti-carcinogenic properties.
- This flavorful spice not only makes food beautiful and bright, but may also improve mood. Some studies have shown that saffron may help with treatment of mild to moderate depression. However, more research is required to study this aspect.
- Several laboratory studies have revealed the anti-carcinogenic potential of saffron and of enhanced sensitivity to some chemotherapy drugs.
- Saffron supplements have shown to significantly lower BMI, appetite and central obesity.
- Some studies have indicated that regular intake of saffron may help treat PMS symptoms, such as anxiety, cravings, pain, irritability, headaches, etc.
- Other research studies indicate potential health benefits such as inhibition of atherosclerosis, improved insulin sensitivity, therapeutic application in retinal degenerative diseases and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are some of our best saffron recipes showcasing the lovely spice which enhances taste, flavor, appearance and may also lend some health benefits. Whether you use it for sweet or savory dishes, you will love using this versatile spice.
Always tailor diet to your own personal needs, consulting with a healthcare professional. And choose your favorite saffron recipe.
1. Chicken Biryani
This classic Indian dish with tender chicken in layers of fluffy rice, aromatic spices and caramelized onions is elevated up a notch only with the inclusion of saffron.
2. Braised Lamb Shanks
A spectacular dish of slow cooked lamb cooked in a fantastic sauce made with Persian spices, saffron, lemon and fragrant herbs.
3. Persian Love Cake
This super moist cake will absolutely impress with its exotic flavors of saffron, rose and cardamom.
4. Zereshk Polo
A royal feast of flavors and textures, this traditional barberry rice is topped with an impressive saffron chicken.
5. Moroccan Chicken Pastilla
A delicious Moroccan delicacy with shredded chicken subtly flavored with saffron is wrapped in perfectly crisp filo layers.
6. Persian Zucchini Frittata
Easy baked omelette filled with zucchini, aromatic spices and herbs. It has a tender custard like texture and is mildly flavored with saffron.
7. Shrimp and Rice with Herbs (Meygoo Polo)
A fantastic traditional, healthy and flavorful recipe with plenty of herbs and spices. Saffron lends a lovely flavor.
8. Homemade Falooda Recipe
This popular summertime treat with layers of rose syrup, jello, sweet basil seeds, creamy milk, ice cream, vermicelli and nuts should be definitely tried with the saffron flavor option.
9. Khoresht Kadoo
This flavor packed and comforting stew of seared chicken and zucchini, cooked in a tangy tomato based sauce is subtly seasoned with saffron and aromatic spices.
10. Saffron Rice with Chicken, Yogurt and Spinach
This beautiful and delicious Persian main course referred to as Tahchin e Esfanaj, is made with perfectly fluffy saffron rice.
11. Sweet and Savory Roasted Holiday Nuts
Flavored with cardamom and saffron, this snack is amazingly delicious, while providing plenty of nutrients.
12. Saffron Tea
There are three refreshing flavor options for you to try this delectable beverage.
Saffron Recipe Picks From The Web
- Roast Chicken with Saffron and Lemons
- Saffron Orzo
- Sauteed Shrimp with Garlic and Saffron
- Saffron Shrimp Paella
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Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Dip)
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Prick the eggplants with a fork in couple spots and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the skin turns darker and shrinks. Check foot notes for grilling, broiling or stove top options.
- The eggplants should be cooked through completely in the center. To check, press the back of a fork on the eggplant. It should compress easily all the way into the center without any resistance.
- Cut through the eggplant skin and scoop out the soft cooked flesh and mash it with a fork and set aside.
- Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, discarding some seeds if you wish. See note below for peeled and deseeded tomatoes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan at medium setting. Add the chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne or chili powder, ⅓ teaspoon salt and cook until tomatoes are softened, stirring in between, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the mashed eggplants and cilantro. Continue to cook over low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, mashing it if needed, into a thick but slightly textured dip like consistency.
- Stir in lemon juice and salt. Adjust as per taste, let it cool and transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate it overnight before serving.
- Take the zaalouk from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving and let it come to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Garnish with cilantro and red pepper flakes if you prefer.
- Chunky Zaalouk: To make a chunkier but less traditional zaalouk, insert garlic cloves into eggplant and roast it in the oven at 400˚F, along with the tomatoes. Chop the eggplants and tomatoes. Add the spices, herbs, half the olive oil, salt and mash it up to desired consistency. Drizzle olive oil and serve.
- Cooking Eggplants:
- Grill: Roast eggplants on charcoal or gas grill for 20 to 30 minutes, turning them slowly in between, until skin turns darker and shrinks.
- Broil: Cut eggplants lengthwise into halves and place the cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Place on the second rack and broil until skin turns darker and shrinks, about 20 minutes.
- Stovetop: Peel the eggplants completely, only some stripes or leave the skin on if you don’t mind it. Cut the eggplants into small pieces. Steam on high heat until soft or cook in a pan with some water until soft and mushy.
- Easy Zaalouk: Combine all ingredients with ⅓ cup of water and cook it over stove top until softened. Mash it up well and drizzle olive oil.
- Peeled and deseeded tomatoes: If you prefer, you can blanch the tomatoes. Cut a small cross on the surface of tomatoes and dump them in hot boiling water. After a minute, pick out the tomatoes and peel the skin, cut them into halves and deseed. Chop them into small pieces.
- Use more tomatoes if you want the dip to be saucy. You may even try using a little bit of tomato paste to give it thickness.
- Leftovers: Can be refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. You can freeze zaalouk for couple months. Thaw and reheat. Adjust the consistency, evaporating or adding water as needed. Check the seasoning as well.
- Nutrition facts not including any added salt.
- For other variations, tips and serving suggestions, scroll up the page to the blog post.