← Back to Search Results
Iranian, Middle Eastern
Saffron-Scented Chicken Pilaf Recipe-63

Photo by: Joseph DeLeo
Comments: 0


Call me Scheherazade, but I’m in my turquoise gauze veil and jeweled slippers for this one. The cinnamon and lemony yogurt marinade gives the chicken a soft, perfumed tenderness; the saffron in the rice, itself studded with nuts and the musky breath of cardamom, is almost lit up with gold. Cook this and people will want gratefully to strew your path with rose petals for evermore.

Yield: Serves 6


  • 18 ounces chicken breast, cut into 1 x ½-inch-thick pieces (please don’t get your ruler out: I mean this as an approx. guide only)
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-milk yogurt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 generous quart chicken stock (instant bouillon concentrate is, as ever, fine)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2¼ cups basmati rice
  • 3-4 cardamom pods, bruised
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Scant ¼ cup cashew nuts
  • Scant ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3-4 tablespoons shelled pistachio nuts
  • Small bunch fresh parsley, chopped


Marinate the chicken pieces in the yogurt, lemon and cinnamon for about an hour. Soak the saffron threads in the chicken stock.

Over medium heat, in a large pan with a lid, melt the butter along with 1 tablespoon oil and add the rice, stirring it to coat until glossy. Pour in the saffron and chicken stock, add the cardamom pods, lemon juice and zest and bring the pan to the boil, then clamp on a lid and turn the heat down to very low; a heat diffuser, if you’ve got one, would be good here. Cook like this for about 10–15 minutes, by which time the rice should have absorbed the liquid and be cooked through.

While the rice is cooking, shake the excess yogurt marinade off the chicken using a sieve. Then fry the meat in a hot pan with the remaining spoonful or so of oil, and do this in batches so that the chicken colors rather than just pallidly stews to cookedness.

When the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and fork through the pan-bronzed chicken pieces. Toast all the nuts except the pistachios, by simply shaking them in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they color and begin to give off their waxy scent, and then add them to the pilaf along with the chopped parsley. Pile everything onto a plate and add a fabulously green sprinkling of slivered or roughly chopped pistachios.

© 2003 Nigella Lawson

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

659kcal (33%)
305mg (13%)
29g (44%)
7g (35%)
68mg (23%)
60mcg RAE (2%)
20mg (33%)
113mg (11%)
3mg (15%)

Would you like to leave a comment about this recipe?

Notify me of new comments on this recipe. Add comment

We'd love to hear what you think!

Please or to add a comment to this recipe.

Sign up for
The Cookstr Weekly

Free handpicked cookbook recipes delivered straight to your inbox

Explore Cookbooks on Cookstr

the-bread-bible The Bread Bible
by Rose Levy Beranbaum
martin-yans-china Martin Yan's China
by Martin Yan
cook-with-jamie Cook with Jamie
by Jamie Oliver
the-mozza-cookbook The Mozza Cookbook
by Nancy Silverton
a-bakers-odyssey A Baker's Odyssey
by Andrew Schloss
julias-kitchen-wisdom Julia's Kitchen Wisdom
by Julia Child
everyday-chinese-cooking Everyday Chinese Cooking
by Katie Chin, Leeann Chin
sunday-suppers-at-lucques Sunday Suppers at Lucques
by Suzanne Goin
down-home-with-the-neelys-a-southern-family-cookbook Down Home with the Neelys: ...
by Gina Neely, Pat Neely
new-american-table New American Table
by Marcus Samuelsson, Marcus Samuelsson
125-best-vegan-recipes 125 Best Vegan Recipes
by Maxine Effenson Chuck, Beth Gurney
fresh-from-the-market Fresh from the Market
by Laurent Tourondel
hot-sour-salty-sweet Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid

Thanks for signing up!

You'll receive an activation email in your inbox shortly. Don't forget to click that link and activate your new Cookstr.com account!

Already a member? Sign in here

Sign up for Cookstr!

  • Receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly
  • Save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr
  • Get updates on new cookbooks, Cookstr features, and other exclusives we know you'll love
By signing up you accept the
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
New to Cookstr? Sign up here
Thanks for commenting!
Would you like to share your comment on Facebook or Twitter?