Travel has been a bit more limited these past couple of years. And lets face it, visiting far off countries doesn’t always fit into everyone’s schedule and budget – even in a good year. But you can easily connect with other cultures through regional foods and recipes. This dairy-free saffron rice, for example, plays on a popular dish in East Africa and India, along with aromatic spices used heavily in those regions. It involves a couple more steps than basic rice, but in our opinion, it’s worth it!
Adventure to India with this Fragrant Dairy-Free Saffron Rice
We originally shared this recipe way back in 2007, but are moving it to our recipe section, and have made a few changes. Saffron rice often uses ghee or butter, but we find that oil works equally well. We usually stick with a complementary oil, like coconut, or use a more neutral-tasting oil, like grapeseed or extra-light olive oil (not extra-virgin).
Saffron can be expensive at many local stores. Price around and visit a local Indian grocer, if there is one in your area. Or simply purchase a good brand online. The threads are very light, so a small jar does go pretty far. And be sure to splurge on basmati rice. It has a distinctive nutty taste that adds more flavor and better texture to saffron rice.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Saffron Rice
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, plant-based, top food allergy-friendly, optionally vegan, and optionally vegetarian. Just be sure to choose the broth that suits your dietary needs.
- 2 cups uncooked basmati rice (no substitutions!)
- ¾ teaspoon crushed saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 6 whole cardamom seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cups dairy-free vegetable broth (for vegan) or chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Place the rice in a bowl, cover it with cold water, and let it soak for 30 minutes.
- Place the saffron threads a bowl with 2 tablespoons boiling water, and allow them to soak for 20 to 30 minutes, while the rice is soaking.
- Drain and rinse the rice.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Stir in the rice, reduce the heat to low, and sauté for 5 minutes.
- In another pan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Stir the hot broth into the rice mixture. Stir in the salt and saffron.
- Cover and cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Remove the whole spices and serve.