Rice cooker saffron rice is my little secret for spending NO TIME on a side dish that feels extra-fancy. With no additional prep time and just a couple extra ingredients, you can transform your plain white rice into an elegant and fragrant side dish!
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In general, I don’t stock up on single-function appliances, but my rice cooker is a life saver. My rice comes out perfectly cooked every time, and I never have to worry about setting the burner to the perfect temperature and leaving it in for the right amount of time to cook but not burn the rice.
I just throw in my ingredients, hit the “cook” button, and boom. Done.
But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
You can do almost anything to your rice as it cooks and make it more interesting – substituting some or all of the water for broth or tomato sauce, or even adding a crushed-up bouillon cube. Salting the water is a must, and adding spices also goes a long way to a more flavorful side dish.
This rice cooker saffron rice has recently become one of my new favorite go-to side dishes. It doesn’t take any longer to prepare than plain white rice cooker rice, and it tastes about a million times more interesting.
You just make your rice — I used regular long-grain white rice, but it would be amazing with jasmine or basmati rice too — but substitute out some of the water for chicken broth and lemon juice. Add a big pinch of salt, a generous pinch of saffron threads, and a little butter, and you’re good to go.
If you don’t typically use a rice cooker, use the same ingredients and cook as you’d normally cook your rice in a saucepan.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a great rice cooker if you don’t have one already. I have this super-cheap one and it’s never failed me in years. Perfect rice every time.
I love the light, slightly floral aroma of the saffron, and I find this rice cooker saffron rice to be the perfect accompaniment to salmon or some baked bone-in chicken.
A jar of saffron threads is a bit of an initial investment. I did have a little sticker shock at the $15 price tag I paid — but a little goes a long way and it’s been worth every penny for me to be able to add that one-of-a-kind flavor to rice, paella, pasta, and tomato sauces.
I got my saffron at our regular grocery store, but if your grocery store doesn’t carry it, you can order the same kind I have from Amazon. Be wary of saffron that is too cheap, because they frequently use filler material and you won’t get the same quality of flavor.
Next up for my jar of saffron? I want to recreate an amazing saffron-infused gelato I had in San Gimignano, Italy! Would you try it?
Dressing up your rice cooker saffron rice
The recipe below is for the ultimate lazy rice cooker saffron rice, where you literally just throw it all in and press the button, but if you have a few extra minutes and don’t mind an extra dish or two, you can make it even more flavorful with one or both of these extra steps.
- Crush your saffron threads with a mortar and pestle, and then pour a small amount of very hot water over them. Let it soak for about 10 minutes until the water is a rich golden color. Crushing and infusing the spice first releases extra flavor so you get more bang out of the buck you spent on your saffron! Mix the saffron water into the ingredients before cooking your rice, and add an additional pinch of un-crushed saffron threads on top.
Feeling EXTRA fancy? Make a little aluminum foil envelope containing your saffron threads and toast the envelope in a pan before crushing and soaking the threads. Toasting them releases even more flavor!
- Dice half an onion and sauté in olive oil first, then add the cooked onion to your rice before you cook it. You can slightly undercook the onion if you’d like, as it will continue to cook along with the rice.
And that’s it! Go forth, dress up that boring white rice, and enjoy this no-fuss, no-prep side dish that will make you feel extra fancy.
For an easy meal, make it with:
Rice Cooker Saffron Rice
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice use long-grain, basmati, or jasmine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 to 1-1/4 cups water see recipe note
- Generous pinch saffron threads
- 2 tbsp butter
- Large pinch kosher salt to taste
- Add all ingredients to a 6-cup or larger rice cooker and stir. Hit the cook button and do nothing until it's finished.
- Fluff with a fork and mix to make sure saffron threads are evenly distributed throughout the rice before serving.