Saffron Rice with Meatballs

This image courtesy of Rinku Bhattacharya

I created this dish for my father. He loved recipes that were authentic in style but had been tweaked by me. I used to buy store-bought ground chicken, but lately I have been grinding my own in a food processor. This allows me to use good-quality free range chicken, which I find more flavorful and healthier too.

Preparation Time15 min

Preparation Time - Text15 minutes (plus 30 minutes for soaking rice)

Cooking Time50 min

Cooking Time - Text50

Cooking Methodbaking, sauteeing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturespiced


  • 1 small onion
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 green chilies
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter)
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for about 30 minutes and drained
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, beaten till smooth
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon saffron strands


  1. Make meatballs:

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Process the onion, ginger, garlic, and green chilies in a food processor until finely chopped. Mix this with the ground chicken and add the turmeric, salt, garam masala, and cumin-coriander powder, and mix well (I like to use my hands for this purpose to get this evenly mixed). Grease a baking sheet with oil or cooking spray. Shape the chicken mixture into walnut-size meatballs and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, turning over once. (It is important to cook the meatballs thoroughly, but make sure they do not dry out.)

  3. Make the rice:

  4. Heat the oil and ghee in a saucepan and add the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick, and onion. Stir in the sugar and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the rice, salt, yogurt, peas, and 2 cups water and cook on low heat for 25 minutes. The rice should be fluffy and cooked through at this point. Carefully mix in the saffron and check seasonings.

  5. Gently mix the meatballs into the rice, cover, and let simmer for at least 5 to 7 minutes on low heat. Turn off heat and let rice rest for 5 minutes before serving.


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