Saffron caramelized onion dip is a classic appetizer with a Persian twist! Flavored with bright saffron, this dip is perfect for Yalda night alongside a spread of fruit, herbs and cheese.
For Iranians, Yalda (a.k.a. winter solstice) is a night of celebration. We celebrate the fact that days are going to be longer and nights are going to be shorter. Today I'm going to share our Yalda spread with you and tell you more about how we celebrate this special night.
This post is sponsored by Zaffrus. As always, all opinions are mine.
Yalda and its significance
Shabe-e-Yalda, also known as Shab-e-Chelleh, is an Iranian celebration of the longest and darkest night of the year. On this night, Iranians gather and eat, drink and stay up well after midnight. It's common to read poetry (including Hafez) during this night and enjoy spending time together with loved ones. This night is about celebrating the end of long and dark nights and the start of brighter days, something we need now more than ever!
What do you eat at Yalda?
Food plays an important role in these national celebrations. For Yalda, having fruit such as pomegranate and watermelon is very common as well as nuts and homemade sweets. Iranians believe that eating such food on this night keeps you healthy through the year.
How to put together a board for Yalda
It's very simple to put together a nice board for Yalda. Here are the components you need:
- Fruit including watermelon, pomegranate, and persimmon, which you can slice or serve whole.
- Nuts such as walnuts, peanuts, raisins, and almonds always make a nice addition.
- Cheese and herbs such as basil, mint and green onions.
- Crackers and bread such as homemade barbari to serve with cheese and dips.
- Something sweet like Zaffrus saffron honey.
- And, special to this board, a delicious and unique saffron caramelized onion dip made with Zaffrus saffron.
Saffron caramelized onion dip
When setting a Persian appetizer board, adding a delicious saffron concoction is a given. This saffron caramelized onion dip is something I've been wanting to share with you for a while. Made with Zaffrus premium saffron and their saffron vinegar, this dip has a nice saffron flavor in every bite and with that golden color, it's just perfect for your Yalda board. It's very simple to make this dip:
Grind Zaffrus saffron threads using a pestle and mortar. Then sprinkle it over a couple cubes of ice and wait for it to melt. This would be your saffron water. Check out my tutorial on how to bloom saffron for more information.
Caramelize the onion
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add some olive oil and a little butter to melt. Start sautéing thinly sliced onion in the skillet and let it cook for about 30 minutes, until caramelized, soft and golden. Stir occasionally. Add in a little bit of salt. Add in Zaffrus saffron vinegar to the onion to deglaze and cook until almost evaporated. Let the onions cool for a few minutes.
Make saffron caramelized onion dip
In a large bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise and yogurt until combined. Add in the saffron water and mix well. Stir in the caramelized onion and taste. Add more salt if needed. Serve with barbari or crackers.
How long does this dip keep?
You can make this recipe ahead of time and keep it refrigerated for up to 4 days. Make sure you keep the dip in an airtight container, preferably glass.
Notes and tips to make Yalda a wonderful night
- Keep things simple. If serving dinner, make sure it's a light one since you're going to serve fruit, nuts and sweet for the rest of the night.
- Slice the fruit for the board so it's easier to serve.
- Have at least two types of cheese on the board, we used both creamy feta and cheddar to provide a rich assortment of flavors.
- Make sure you caramelize the onions on medium to medium low heat to avoid burning them. This should take about 30 minutes.
Looking for more Yalda recipes?
Saffron Caramelized Onion Dip
- ½ cup Zaffrus ground saffron
- 2 cubes ice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 large onions thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp Zaffrus saffron vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- Sprinkle ground saffron over the ice cubes in a small bowl and let it melt. This will be your bloomed saffron.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour on the olive oil and add the butter to melt.
- Sauté the onion over medium heat and stir occasionally. You want the onion to become golden and soft. This would take about 30 minutes. Add in the saffron vinegar and deglaze until almost evaporated. Add the salt and let it cool for a few minutes.
- In a large bowl mix yogurt, sour cream and mayonnaise. Add in the bloomed saffron and caramelized onion. Mix well to combine.
- Serve cold with barbari and crackers.