Meatless Monday Challenge

Aromatic Yellow Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions

on April 24, 2020
last updated April 30, 2024
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This Yellow Saffron Rice uses vegetable broth and onions to compliment the floral, aromatic saffron for a delicious and versatile side dish.
Aromatic Yellow Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions on a pink marble background

Looking for an elevated side dish to serve up? This Aromatic Yellow Saffron Rice is foolproof and beyond delicious, the perfect accompaniment to any main!

With just 6 ingredients and 30 minutes required, this buttery, fluffy, fragrant rice will be your new quick and easy side dish recipe!

Bowl of Yellow Saffron Rice topped with caramelized onions

Saffron Rice Ingredients

Here’s everything you need:

  • Basmati rice. While any white rice will do, Basmati rice is less likely to get mushy.
  • Vegetable broth. You can buy it or make your own vegetable broth.
  • Saffron. Essential for that aromatic floral finish.
  • Unsalted butter. Salted butter will work in a pinch, but you will have to adjust the amount of salt you add.
  • Yellow onion. Yellow or Vidalia onions are preferred, but any type of onion can be substituted if desired.
  • Salt. Just to bring all of the other flavors to life.
  • Water. This just helps to get an even cook on the quick caramelized onions.
Yellow Saffron Rice Ingredients - Basmati Rice, Salt, Unsalted Butter, Vegetable Broth, Saffron, and Yellow Onion

Yellow Saffron Rice Tips and Tricks

Yellow Rice Vs Saffron Rice

Saffron rice is made yellow by cooking the rice in saffron-infused liquid. So, all saffron rice is yellow. However, not all yellow rice is saffron rice.

Rice can also be made yellow by cooking it in certain broths, or with turmeric.

Get Your Money’s Worth

Saffron is an expensive little thing, but the good news is that it goes a long way! Especially if you grind it into a fine dust. I use my trusty mortar and pestle to break down my Saffron. It releases those floral aromatics and lets it distill into your broth more easily.

If you don’t have a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, just use a knife to cut or your fingers to break the saffron into smaller pieces.

Using a mortar and pestle to grind saffron

Boil, then Simmer

Add your rice, vegetable broth, saffron, and salt to a large pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, stir, reduce heat to low, simmer, and cover.

Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is evaporated and the rice is tender. Fluff it with a fork and transfer it to a serving bowl.

Pouring Basmati rice into large pot with vegetable broth and saffron

Keep Your Onions Separate

As much as I hate to make you use more than one pot, caramelizing the onions separately allows them to get beautifully browned and add some texture to your dish. Boiled onions are a whole different taste and texture.

Green tip: Organic farms rely on biodiversity to generate rich soil, avoiding the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which means no toxic runoff. Consider organic onions for this recipe!

Add a Splash of Water

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan with the sliced mushrooms. For detailed instructions on how to easily slice mushrooms, check out this recipe for Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms, which walks you through it step by step.

Once your butter is melted, stir to coat the onion in butter, then allow to sit over medium heat for about 10 minutes without touching. Then, add a splash of water and stir.

Continue to heat until the water is evaporated, and the onions are evenly caramelized.

Caramelized onions in a pan

Add Your Butter Last

To really get that buttery flavor and texture, add it to your saffron rice once it’s fully cooked. It should be the last thing you do before adding the caramelized onions on top.

Adding butter to cooked yellow saffron rice

Garnish with Just a Little Extra

Once you plate your rice with the caramelized onions on top, add just one more tiny pinch of saffron. It’ll make that “aromatic” I promised you earlier come to life. It really drives home that beautiful floral flavor!

Storing and Reheating Leftover Rice

This Yellow Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to 6 days. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months.

From frozen, either thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat or add frozen rice to a pan over high heat and stir occasionally until heated through.

You can microwave refrigerated rice on high to easily reheat it. An individual portion will likely need 1-2 minutes. Just make sure it is heated thoroughly.

Green tip: Did you know that of the billions of pounds of food wasted annually, it is estimated that 50% of it happens in our homes? It’s always best to avoid food waste by properly storing and consuming your leftovers.

Serving Your Yellow Saffron Rice

This delicious side is truly versatile. I love serving it with fish, like this Baked Cod with Panko or Pecan Crusted Halibut, and a vegetable like these Sweet and Salty Brussels Sprouts.

Overhead shot of Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions with a wooden spoon next to it

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Why I Obsess Over This Saffron Rice

  • The color. Look at that gorgeous yellow!
  • The smell. I can taste it before I even bite into it!
  • The texture. Perfectly cooked rice with a buttery finish is delicious enough, but throw on those caramelized onions and your taste buds will do a happy dance!
  • It goes with everything! You’ll be hard-pressed to find a main dish that this does not accompany well.

If you’re loving this Yellow Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions and are looking for more delicious sides, check out this Caprese Asparagus and Roasted Garlic and Feta Mashed Potatoes.

Aromatic Yellow Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions on a pink marble background

Aromatic Yellow Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions

5 from 2 votes
Marley Goldin
Print Save Rate
This Yellow Saffron Rice uses vegetable broth and onions to compliment the floral, aromatic saffron for a delicious and versatile side dish.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • ¼ teaspoon saffron (plus an extra pinch for serving)
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large yellow onion (sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons water
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  • Using a mortar and pestle, grind your saffron until it is fine powder.
  • Add saffron, rice, vegetable broth, and salt to a medium-sized pot and bring it to a rolling boil. Then reduce it to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed.
  • In a separate small pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter and sliced onions over medium heat. Once the butter melts, stir to coat the onions, then let them cook for about 10 minutes without stirring. Add the water, stir, then cook until water absorbs, and onions are golden brown on all sides.
  • Remove the rice from heat and fluff it with a fork. Transfer to a serving bowl and remaining butter and stir to melt butter.
  • Pour the onions on top of the rice and sprinkle with an extra pinch of saffron. Serve hot with your favorite main dish—I love it with this 3-Ingredient Pesto Butter Salmon.

Pro Tips

  • Saffron is expensive, but luckily a little bit goes a long way. You really only need a pinch of it per 1 cup uncooked rice, especially if you grind it up.
  • The consistency of the rice should be light and fluffy. If the liquid is absorbed before 15 minutes, then the stove is too hot. Add a little more veggie broth, and make sure to turn down to a simmer.

Share This Recipe

Course Sides
Cuisine Asian
Diet Vegetarian
Keyword 30 Minutes or Less, 5 Ingredients or Less, Caramelized Onions, Classic Side Dishes, Rice, Saffron Rice
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2 thoughts on “Aromatic Yellow Saffron Rice with Caramelized Onions”

  1. 5 stars
    I’d give this 10 stars if I could! Just a few ingredients creates such a flavorful elegant dish that tastes like it took hours! My new go to side dish

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