Polo – Persian steamed saffron basmati rice


Rice, or as we say in Farsi, polow is the main grain consumed in Persian cuisine. Persians have mastered the art of cooking rice and have taken it to a whole different level. Rice is soaked and masterfully steamed to create a light and fluffy texture. The bottom of the pot is also cooked to a crispy perfection by adding ghee or butter and saffron and served upside down to showcase the beautiful and enticing golden crust, tahdig.

Polo ba Zaferoon

Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef
Persian rice pilaf with saffron tahdig
5 from 13 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
soaking 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 55 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Servings 4


  • 2 cups white basmati rice, soaked and rinsed
  • 8 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons salt, for parboiling the rice and will be rinsed out.
  • 4 tablespoons butter,ghee or oil divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water


  • Wash the rice thoroughly and set aside to soak for at least one hour.
  • In a large covered pot, bring 8 cups water and salt to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and boil on high heat uncovered for about 7-8 minutes, or until the rice has slightly softened.
  • Drain the rice in a colander and set aside while you prepare the pan.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons ghee in a non-stick pot over low heat. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the lightly cooked rice with 1 tablespoon of saffron-water mixture, gently mix and spread evenly in the bottom of the pot. This will be the crispy rice referred to as Tah-dig.
  • Pour the remainder of the rinsed rice to the pot and lightly fluff with a fork. Cut up the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee into pieces and evenly spread over the top of the rice.
  • Pour the additional 1/4 cup water evenly over the top of the rice. Wrap the lid with a clean towel and place on top of the pot. This will allow the rice to steam.
  • Allow the rice to steam over a medium-low to medium heat for 45 minutes.
  • Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon saffron water over the top of the rice. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.


When serving this dish to guests, I typically use a non-stick pot so that I can flip the rice over and serve it upside down showcasing the crunchy saffron tahdig.
When steaming the rice, do not lift the lid and never mix the rice.
Keyword rice, saffron, tahdig
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