Saffron Rice offers a Dairy-Free Taste of India with Fragrant Spices


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!

Dairy-Free Saffron Rice Recipe - so aromatic and fragrant! Delicious Indian-style dish, naturally gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and optionally vegan.

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.

Dairy-Free Saffron Rice Recipe - so aromatic and fragrant! Delicious Indian-style dish, naturally gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and optionally vegan.

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.

Dairy-Free Saffron Rice
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Please note that the Prep time is hands-on time only. Allow 30 minutes for the rice and saffron to soak. Chopped cashews or pistachios and golden raisins or cranberries also make nice additions to this aromatic rice.
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8 servings
  • 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
  1. Place the rice in a bowl, cover it with cold water, and let it soak for 30 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. Drain and rinse the rice.
  4. 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.
  5. In another pan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Stir the hot broth into the rice mixture. Stir in the salt and saffron.
  6. Cover and cook until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the whole spices and serve.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ½ cup Calories: 217 Fat: 4.2g Saturated fat: .7g Carbohydrates: 38.1g Sugar: .7g Sodium: 523mg Fiber: .8g Protein: 5.2g

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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