Persian Jeweled Rice

Persian Jeweled Rice is a spectacular rice pilaf topped with colorful gem-like fruits and nuts.  This popular Middle Eastern wedding dish is a celebration in itself ~ it’s gluten free, vegan, and incredibly delicious!

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This is insane.  I was grinning the whole time I was making, photographing, and eating this spectacular Persian jeweled rice.

A while back the New York Times ran a version of this classic spiced rice, which is sometimes called Persian Wedding rice. Dried cherries, apricots, figs, pistachios and pomegranate seeds glisten like little gems scattered throughout this beautiful dish.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to a simple roasted chicken, and wouldn’t it be just amazing on a Thanksgiving table?

When I made my SAFFRON RICE I learned that true basmati rice only comes from India.  When I was at my regular grocery store I was surprised to find a 10 lb burlap sack of Indian basmati, complete with a zipper and handles!  I felt very exotic and chic walking out with my basmati tote bag  But seriously, look for genuine Indian basmati, you’ll taste the difference and you’ll be helping to support the dna of an ancient rice, as well as the farmer’s who grow it.

This Persian jeweled rice is a feast for the senses.  It’s exquisitely flavored with saffron, which gives it its golden color, along with  cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice.  You’ll bite down on toasted fennel and cumin seeds which will release alternate bursts of flavor.

The finely juilienned lemon rind adds a surprising amount of citrus aroma to the rice.

This little zesting tool will give you super fine ribbons of pure zest, with none of the bitter white part.  I love this tool and use it a lot.

I chose apricots, tart cherries and figs, but you could also use cranberries, golden raisins, goji berries, or the authentic Middle Eastern barberries, if you can find them.

I discovered a new easy way to separate the seeds from a pomegranate…you slice part way into the fruit, and then pull it apart into two.  Then slice part way into each half and pull them apart into four pieces.  Then, fill a large bowl with water and, under water, gently pull apart each quarter, nudging out the seeds with your fingers.  The seeds will fall to the bottom and the pith will rise to the top…no mess!

Think about this rice dish for your holiday tables, it would make a spectacular vegetarian side dish.

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Some other stunning vegetarian and vegan side dishes ~

Persian Jeweled Rice

Yield: serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 2 Tbsp butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1.4 tsp cumin seeds
  • a rounded 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • a rounded 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • a rounded 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed well
  • 2 bay leaves
  • finely julienned rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup dried Turkish apricots, diced
  • 1/4 cup dried figs, diced
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, toasted
  • seeds of 1 pomegranate for garnish

Instructions

  1. Mix the saffron threads in 2 1/4 cups of hot water, Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the fennel and cumin seeds until they are fragrant, just a minute or two. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and allspice and stir to combine. Add the onion and saute over low heat until the onion is softened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add in the rice and saute it for a minute or 2 with the spices and onion.
  4. Pour in the saffron infused water, along with the bay leaves and lemon rind. Stir to combine, season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
  5. Add in the fruit and nuts, stir to combine, and cover the skillet with a tight fitting lid. Cook on low to medium heat for about 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 10 minutes.
  6. When the rice is done, fluff it, remove the bay leaves, and spoon onto a large platter. Scatter the pomegranate seeds on top to garnish.

Notes

I used heaping 1/4 teaspoons when I measured out my spices. You can adjust to your taste. Keep some extra fruit and nuts aside so you can sprinkle them, along with the pomegranate seeds, across the rice in the final presentation. I should also note that a more traditional way of making this rice includes a crusted layer of rice at the bottom. It’s a more involved method which you can see here

 Make it your own ~

    • Try this same flavor profile with other grains such as quinoa, farro, or cracked wheat. 

 

don’t forget to pin this Persian Jeweled Rice

Persian Jeweled Rice is a spectacular rice pilaf topped with colorful gem-like fruits and nuts ~ this popular Middle Eastern wedding dish is a celebration in itself. It's gluten free, vegan, and incredibly delicious! #holidaysidedish #vegan #glutenfree #vegetarian #persian #iranian #MiddleEastern #weddingfood #pomegranates #saffron #pilaf #rice #holidays #Christmas #thanksgiving #Thanksgivingsidedish

 

 

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61 Comments

  • Reply
    Maija
    January 17, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    OMGoodness!
    I just made this for supper tonight.
    OMGoodness!
    It’s out of this world good!
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!
    I followed it exactly… but for two things:
    I didn’t want to spend the money on saffron,
    so I added some turmeric instead.
    I thought I had basmati, but only had jasmine,
    so I used that.
    To be honest, I can’t imagine it being any more delicious though!
    It was rather expensive to make though.
    Darnitfooeyrats.
    Thank you so very much. I will definitely make this again.. and again.

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 18, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      :) I’m so glad you enjoyed this Maija, it really is a joyful dish, isn’t it?

  • Reply
    Bita
    November 20, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Sue, guess what? I’m Persian :) We’re married 19 years now but I still remember back to when we were planning our wedding. The venue we chose would not allow us to cater. We really wanted to serve the traditional Persian Wedding Jeweled Rice. I taught the chef at the club where we got married how to make this dish. He nailed it! It was no easy feat. We had close to 300 people at our wedding. It was a beautiful day. I love your version of this dish – I’ve never seen it served with pomegranate arils. You are right, it would be fantastic on the Thanksgiving table along with the turkey and sides. Thank you for sharing this and for bringing back the memories! ?

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 21, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Oh wow, Bita, what a memory ~ 300 people, yikes! I bet you have some amazing photos of that dish.

  • Reply
    Katy
    August 1, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    2 questions – if I double the recipe would I increase the cooking time? And do you think it could be made in a rice cooker? Thanks! It’s gorgeous!!!

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      I’ve never used a rice cooker, so I’m not sure about that, Katy. This recipe is fairly large already, so I would make the recipe twice in two separate pans rather than try to make one giant batch.

      • Reply
        Katy
        August 7, 2016 at 11:55 am

        Thanks! I just always worry about burning the rice but I’ll give it a shot!

  • Reply
    Adrian
    November 22, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    I chose this recipe for part of Thanksgiving dinner this week. How much time should I allow from prep to serving?

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 22, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Well, just from a scan of the recipe I’d guess about an hour and a half, to be leisurely about it. You can make it a bit ahead, keep the rice warm, and scatter the ‘jewel’s on at the last minute — good luck!

  • Reply
    Katie McK
    November 4, 2015 at 2:22 am

    Oh my goodness, this looks like my kind of dish! I love anything middle eastern and dried fruit in savoury food is just amazing. Without wanting to sound like a complete sycophant, I truly love all the recipes on your blog. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 4, 2015 at 6:32 am

      Thanks so much Katie, you made my day! I think this recipe is fascinating, and it’s fun to make, too. The color of the rice, the colors and textures of the fruit and nuts — it really is special, I hope you give it a try.

  • Reply
    Janelle
    November 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I am fawning (a.k.a. drooling all over my keyboard) over your rice recipes. Gorgeous and they sound delicious! Pinning them ALL!!!

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 21, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Thank you Janelle, this rice is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever posted, I hope you make it and enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Efthymia
    October 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I can’t really thank you enough for the recipe! I made it as a side dish for rabbit in a beer, wine and rosemary sauce and guess what, I can’t even remember the rabbit’s taste! Not too sweet, not too spicy, just perfect! You just made three friends’ evening a night to remember. Thanks and thanks and thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      I’m so glad to hear that Efthymia! This is a once in a lifetime dish, that’s for sure. I would never have thought to pair it with rabbit!

  • Reply
    Lynda
    April 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Oh, my! I have been meaning to try this for the longest time. Waiting for the perfect moment for the stars to align, I guess. I have had all the ingredients in the house for months………
    Well, this was just phenomenal. It took willpower for us not to consume the whole pan tonight. I followed your recipe pretty closely, using golden raisins, dried apricots and our home-dried figs. The pomegranate arils added far more to the recipe than I expected, too.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Reply
      Sue
      April 16, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Im SO glad you tried it and liked it, I have to agree, it’s a very special dish :)

  • Reply
    Margie MacKenzie
    September 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Oh!! I wish I could take a full month off of work just so I could prepare all the wonderful recipes you post! Your photos are exquisite and make everything all the more appealing. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sue
      September 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Thank you, Margie!

  • Reply
    swati
    September 16, 2012 at 9:22 am

    great clicks and an equally great recipe! yum

  • Reply
    Julia
    September 16, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Love your photos! Especially the one with all the spices and beans. Are pomegranates already in season? I don’t see them anywhere.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      September 16, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      I think it’s not quite the height of the season yet, but, as with everything now, they start filtering in to the stores way before their true season. I think they are most plentiful through the holidays, which is perfect for this dish.

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