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Basmati Rice with Saffron (Zaffrani Pulao)

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  • Prep 60 min
  • Total 1 hr 51 min
  • Servings 6
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Basmati, the royal rice, finds an ideal partner in saffron, the world’s most expensive spice.
Updated May 9, 2005
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  • 1 cup uncooked basmati or regular long-grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup raw whole cashews
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 2 medium red onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 1
    Place rice in medium bowl; add enough cold water to cover rice. Rub rice gently between fingers; drain. Repeat 4 or 5 times until water is clear; drain. Cover rice with cold water; soak 30 minutes. Drain; set aside.
  • 2
    Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cashews; stir-fry 10 to 20 seconds or until cashews are golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.
  • 3
    Add raisins to hot oil; stir-fry 20 to 30 seconds or until raisins plump up. Remove with slotted spoon; add to cashews to drain.
  • 4
    Add cumin seed, peppercorns, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks to hot oil; sizzle 15 to 30 seconds. Mix in onions; stir-fry 3 to 4 minutes or until onions are golden brown.
  • 5
    Add rice; gently stir-fry 1 minute, taking care not to break tender rice grains. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water, the saffron and salt. Heat to boiling, stirring once; reduce heat to medium-high. Cook uncovered 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all the water has evaporated.
  • 6
    Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 5 minutes; remove from heat. Let rice stand covered 10 to 15 minutes.
  • 7
    Fluff rice with fork or spoon to release steam. Serve sprinkled with roasted cashews and raisins. Serve with peppercorns, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks left in to continue to flavor the rice, but do not eat them.

Tips from the Betty Crocker Kitchens

  • tip 1
    Rice pilafs (pulaos) in India are generally served with the whole spices used in cooking. The spices not only make for an appealing presentation but also continue to flavor the rice. The spices are not eaten but are simply pushed aside when the rice is eaten.
  • tip 2
    Pay extra attention when roasting cashews and raisins because they turn light brown almost instantly in hot oil.
  • tip 3
    Store saffron threads in their original airtight container in a cool, dry area.
  • tip 4
    Saffron is the stigma of the crocus flower (crocus sativa), a delicate purple blossom. About 5,000 flowers must be handpicked to produce a single ounce of saffron. A little saffron goes a long way—a few threads will permeate the entire dish with a pungent aroma and rich yellow hue.


215 Calories, 8 g Total Fat, 4 g Protein, 34 g Total Carbohydrate

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 Serving
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
8 g
Saturated Fat
1 g
400 mg
130 mg
Total Carbohydrate
34 g
Dietary Fiber
2 g
4 g
% Daily Value*:
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
2 Starch; 1 Fat;
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
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