Persian Chicken and Saffron is a traditional dish that can be served with several different side dishes. This amazing dish is made with the golden spice and is bursting with enchanting flavors from a land far far away.
There is only one spice that can turn food into gold: saffron. A little bit of saffron always goes a long way, that’s why it’s one of the priciest spices in the world.
What I love the most about saffron is that it’s a spice that can be used in sweet and savory dishes. This Persian chicken with saffron is like sunshine on a plate. Juicy chicken thighs smothered in an onion saffron sauce makes a simple yet sophisticated dish full of flavors.
Persian Chicken Recipe with Saffron
Chicken is cooked in many different ways in Persian cuisine. It can be cooked in a tomato sauce such as the chicken in Zereshk Polo Morgh. This saffron chicken recipe is a staple in Persian cooking as it can be served with several types of mixed rice dishes such as dill rice and Persian white rice. In the olden days, home cooks would cook chicken in boiling water first and then mix the chicken with the sauce, but as I tried many different approaches to making Persian chicken I came to the conclusion that the chicken is juicier and way tastier if it’s seared first until the skin is golden.
Start by searing the chicken with a tablespoon of bloomed saffron. Now, that might seem unconventional to some as saffron is a delicate spice and could lose the aroma if it’s added in the beginning of the recipe. But fear not, as this is not the stage in which we add all the saffron. I add only one tablespoon to give a color shock to the chicken and help it turn to that gorgeous golden color you see here.
Once the chicken legs are fully seared on both sides and have turned into a gorgeous golden color, transfer them onto a plate and discard the excess fat that has been rendered from the skin.
Heat some olive oil in the same pan and saute onion and peppers. Add in the spices and top with the chicken legs. Add in water and cook for about 40 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked. Now because we have already added some saffron to the chicken, they are going to smell and look very nice. Finally, add in the rest of the bloomed saffron and cook for another ten minutes. This is for the saffron to blend into the dish. After ten minutes, the golden Persian chicken and saffron is ready to serve with you side dish of choice.
What to serve with Persian chicken and saffron?
This traditional Iranian recipe is pretty simple to make and the flavors are unique and bright. It’s perfect for a friendly gathering when you all are excited to try a new dish at the comfort of home. Because of the bright and full flavors, this dish is better served with a simple side dish ,such as:
- Persian Rice and Tahdig
- Persian Herb Rice
- Dill Rice with Peas
- Tahchin – Persian Savory Rice Cake
- Harissa Chicken with Saffron Couscous
If you have read my post on Advieh, you know that spices have a very important role in Persian cuisine and that saffron is one of the key spices in Persian cooking. It’s important to know how to bloom it and use it. I’ve seen several recipe videos where saffron is used by the strand and unfortunately that is not the correct way of using saffron as it gives most of its aroma and flavor once it’s ground and bloomed. I need to emphasize this as saffron is the key ingredient in this Persian chicken recipe. Knowing about saffron and its usage is like Persian Cooking 101, and this Persian chicken with saffron is the perfect recipe to make if you’re new to saffron and/or Persian cooking!
More chicken recipes:
- Mediterranean Chicken Recipe
- 10 best healthy chicken recipes
- Joojeh Kabab (Persian Saffron Chicken Kebab)
Notes and tips for making Persian chicken with saffron:
- You can use boneless skinless chicken for this recipe. If doing so, start the recipe by heating one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and then sear the chicken. It will also take less time for the chicken to cook with peppers and onions.
- This saffron chicken recipe is different from Persian chicken kebab. Both have saffron but this Persian chicken recipe is made in a pan whereas the kebab is made on charcoal.
- You need to bloom saffron for this recipe as saffron shouldn’t be used as a strand. To bloom saffron, grind 5 strands using a mortar and pestle, then sprinkle over 3 cubes of ice and leave it on the counter. Once the ice is melted, the bloomed saffron is ready.
- Store the leftover chicken in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days. To reheat, place the chicken in a pan, cover it and heat over medium low heat.
Every bite of this saffron chicken stew carries memories of a home I’m not at anymore. The caramelized onion is like how my maman would make it and the chicken infused with saffron has hundreds of stories untold. When I miss my land far far away, a drop of bloomed saffron would bring sweet memories back, bring a smile to my face, and warms my heart.
Then, I remember I have this corner of the internet to tell you all about that other world, which many haven’t seen but half of me belongs there. So, thank you for being here, I love sharing my stories with you.
Persian Chicken with Saffron
- 4 Whole Chicken Leg Quarters Bone-in Skin-on
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/3 cup Bloomed Saffron See Notes #1
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Large Yellow Sweet Onion Thinly Sliced
- 1 Large Green Bell Pepper Cut into one-inch pieces
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon See Notes #2
- 1 Cup Water
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pat dry chicken legs and sprinkle salt on both sides.
- Place the chicken legs, skin side down in the pan and sear until the skin is golden and the fat is rendered.
- Add in one tablespoon bloomed saffron to the pan, shake the pan so the saffron spreads on the skin on the chicken.
- Turn the chicken legs and sear the other side for seven to eight minutes until golden.
- Transfer the chicken legs to a plate and cover. Discard the fat.
- In the same pan, heat the olive oil. Once shimmery and ready, saute sliced until until translucent and golden on the edges.
- Add in green bell pepper and saute for another minute.
- Add in turmeric, cinnamon and black pepper. Cook for another five minutes.
- Place the chicken legs on the onion and pepper mixture.
- Add in Water and turn the heat to high.
- Bring it to simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes, until the chicken is almost cooked.
- Add in the rest of bloomed saffron. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked.
- Serve with Persian rice, or Persian dill and green pea rice.
- Saffron shouldn't be used as a strand in cooking. It needs to be ground and bloomed. Here is a complete tutorial on how to bloom saffron.
- You can use one cinnamon stick in this recipe instead of ground cinnamon.
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