Baked Saffron Yoghurt Rice with Chicken

Baked Saffron Yoghurt Rice with Chicken

Portion size – Serves 4


  • 3 cups extra-long white basmati rice (500 – 600 g)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon salt, as required
  • 6-8 saffron threads, ground between fingers, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced ¼-inch-thick
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 kg), halved
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • For topping:
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • ½ cup dried cranberries, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes, then drained
    • ⅓ cup raw pistachios, coarsely chopped


Step 1:

  • Boil a large pot of water and add about ½ a cup of salt
  • While the water is boiling, clean and strain the basmati rice with warm water
  • Rinse the rice until you are sure that the water from the rice is clear

Step 2:

  • In a small bowl, add the saffron and 2 tablespoons hot water and let it soak for 10 minutes
  • Be sure to pre-soak your cranberries now, too

Step 3:

  • In a large, deep-pan, add the olive oil and set over medium heat
  • Once hot, add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 20 minutes
  • Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes

Step 4:

  • Add the chicken thighs, 2¾ teaspoons salt, and the pepper
  • Cook, turning the chicken as needed until the pieces begin to brown slightly, about 6 minutes in total

Step 5:

  • Add the lemon juice and saffron water, and turn the chicken to coat well
  • Lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot, and let simmer, stirring occasionally until the chicken is tender and just cooked through, 20–25 minutes
  • Remove from the heat and let cool slightly

Step 6:

  • Cut the chicken into ½-inch-long strips, return them to the pan, and toss to coat in the onions and pan juices
  • Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside while you finish the rice

Step 7:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C
  • In a large bowl, combine the yoghurt, egg, and a tiny pinch of ground saffron
  • Add half of the rice and stir well to combine
  • Set the mixture aside

Step 8:

  • In a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish, add 3 tablespoons of butter; set the dish in the oven to melt the butter, for about 3 minutes
  • Remove the dish, swirling the melted butter all over the bottom and sides

Step 9:

  • Spread the yoghurt-rice mixture evenly along the bottom of the dish, packing it down firmly
  • Add the chicken pieces evenly over the rice, then sprinkle the remaining plain rice over the chicken in an even layer

Step 10:

  • Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of chicken juices and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Cover tightly with aluminium foil, transfer to the oven, and bake until the bottom of the rice is crispy and golden, 80–90 minutes
  • Remove the baking dish and let the rice rest at room temperature for 5 minutes

Step 11:

  • Prepare the topping: In a small pot, melt the butter over medium heat
  • Stir in the drained cranberries and pistachios, and cook until the berries are just plumped about 2 minutes
  • Remove from the heat

Step 12:

  • Run a knife along the sides of the baking dish to help release the rice
  • Place a large rectangular serving platter, baking tray, or cutting board over the rice, and quickly flip the baking dish over to unmold
  • Remove the baking dish and sprinkle the crispy surface of the rice with the cranberry topping
  • Cut into pieces and enjoy your Baked Saffron Yoghurt Rice with chicken