Sholeh zard is a Persian saffron rice pudding with exquisite flavors. Saffron and rosewater make this rice pudding extra special, whether served warm or cold.
Saffron is an important part of Persian cuisine and it's used in savory and sweet recipes including halva, Persian love cake and saffron ice cream. Today I'm going to show you how to make sholeh zard, a traditional Iranian rice pudding flavored with saffron. Follow along to learn how to make this easy classic Persian dessert.
Table Of Contents:
Unlike other variations of this dessert including Turkish rice pudding (sutlac), sholeh zard doesn't use cream or milk yet still maintains the creamy and smooth texture. This dessert is gluten-free and very easy to make.
Saffron is the most important ingredient in this dessert which gives it a bright yellow color and lots of flavor. Make sure you're using enough saffron and prepare it properly using my method of blooming saffron.
Sholeh Zard Ingredients
- Saffron: A little bit of saffron goes a long way. Make sure you're using quality saffron and bloom it on ice as mentioned in the recipe.
- Rice: It's best to use short grain rice such as jasmine for this recipe. Different types of rice need different amount of water but rule of thumb is 6 cups of water for 1 cup of rice.
- Sugar: Regular granulated sugar works best for this recipe. Avoid using other sweeteners including brown sugar, stevia or coconut sugar.
- Rosewater: It adds a subtle floral aroma and flavor to the dish which goes well with saffron. You can find rosewater in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean shops as well as online.
- Butter: For extra flavor and smooth texture. Make sure you're using unsalted butter.
- Slivered almonds: I consider this to be optional, however, they make sholeh zard very delicious.
- Toppings: Cinnamon is a classic topping for sholeh zard. We also like to use edible rosebuds as well as slivered pistachios.
How To Make Persian Saffron Rice Pudding
- Bloom the saffron: Grind the saffron threads using a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle the ground saffron over 2-3 cubes of ice and leave it at room temperature to melt. This will be your bloomed saffron.
- Cook the rice: Wash the rice a few times until the water runs clean. Place the rice with 6 to 8 cups of water in a large pot and bring it to a simmer over high heat. Turn the heat to medium and let it simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the rice is mushy and has fallen apart. The consistency will be thicker than soup.
- Add the sugar: Once the rice is fully cooked and mushy, add in the granulated sugar. Cook for 20 more minutes over medium heat until the sugar completely dissolves. The rice pudding will be smoother at this time.
- Add the butter: Slice the butter unto cubes and add it to the rice pudding followed by the rosewater. Cook for 10 more minutes.
- Add the saffron: Add in the bloomed saffron and slivered almonds. Cook on medium for 10 more minutes.
- Final touches: Fill the serving bowls and top the sholeh zard with cinnamon, slivered pistachios and edible rosebuds.
Tips To Make The Best Saffron Rice Pudding
- Use the right type of rice: To make sholeh zard, you need short grain rice. Long grain rice will not yield in the same silky and creamy texture.
- Patience: You need to cook the rice long enough for it to fall apart and turn into a creamy mushy texture. This will take 45 minutes to 1 hour so don't rush it.
- Saffron: The main flavor and color of this dessert come from saffron so use enough to give it the bright golden color.
You can serve sholeh zard warm, at room temperature or cold. As mentioned before, sholeh zard is usually served at special times like the month of Ramadan or Persian New Year (Nowruz).
Cinnamon is a must for sholeh zard since it complements the flavors well. With a cup of freshly brewed Persian tea, this saffron rice pudding can be a wonderful ending to a meal.
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. You can serve it cold or at room temperature.
Can you freeze sholeh zard? I don't recommend doing so because the texture will change and it will not be as tasty when thawed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can make this dish up to 1 day in advance and keep it refrigerated. It's best to transfer it to serving bowls when it's warm since the dessert thickens as it cools.
Adding ground saffron without blooming it would be a waste of such an expensive spice since you won't be using it to its full potential. It's best to bloom the saffron before adding it to the sholeh zard.
It's common to decorate sholeh zard with cinnamon. Some would do lines as we have done here and some would use paisley stencils for a more elevated look. Slivered pistachios and edible roses are also used to garnish this dessert.
Yes, to make vegan sholeh zard, use vegan butter instead of regular butter.
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Sholeh Zard Persian Saffron Rice Pudding
- ½ tsp ground saffron
- 1 cup short grain rice such as jasmine
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup rosewater
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- Slivered pistachios
- Slivered almonds
- Edible rosebuds
- Sprinkle the ground saffron over 3 cubes of ice and let it melt at room temperature. This will be your bloomed saffron .
- Rinse the rice a few times until the water runs clean. Then place it in a large pot and add 8 cups of water. Turn the heat to medium high and bring it to a simmer. Cover and cook on medium for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the rice falls apart and is mushy. The consistency at this point is thicker than soup.
- Add in the sugar and cook for 20 more minutes on medium for the sugar to dissolve completely. The consistency is going to be smoother.
- Add the unsalted butter and rosewater. Cook for 10 more minutes.
- Add the bloomed saffron and slivered almonds. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off.
- Fill serving bowls with sholeh zard and top with cinnamon, slivered pistachios and almonds as well as the edible rosebuds. The dessert will thicken as it cools.
- You can serve sholeh zard warm, at room temperature or cold.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Other sweeteners including brown sugar or stevia cannot be used in this recipe.
- You can make vegan sholeh zard by using vegan butter instead of regular one.
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