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Easy Mediterranean Rice Pilaf Recipe

This Mediterranean rice pilaf recipe with currants and pomegranate seeds is not only pretty, it tastes great too!


This Mediterranean rice pilaf recipe is an elegant showstopper on any table.

The fresh herbs add flavor, the currants add sweetness, and the pine nuts, pistachios or almonds not only add flavor, but extra crunch to this fluffy rice!

Rice is such a common side dish that one forgets how easy it is to take it to the next level.

I love this simple rice dish because it makes everything you serve it with look great.

And what to serve this Mediterranean dish with?

Perfect with chicken or fish, lamb or shellfish.

This fragrant rice pilaf with delicious flavor, is meant for special occasions.

However once you find how easy it is to prepare this great side dish you may find yourself preparing it more often.

Mediterranean Rice Pilad

What type of rice can one use to make this easy side dish?

The most important tip to keeping this rice two toned is to use the right rice.

Basmati rice is what I suggest because of its nutty and floral flavor.

Jasmine rice, even though it is a long grain rice like basmati, tends to be a bit more moist, which makes it harder to keep the colors of the white rice and yellow rice separate.

This elegant rice dish can be made with common plain rice but in this case the rice may have a tendency to all turn yellow.

Not that that is a bad thing because there is nothing wrong with a yellow rice recipe!

Basmati rice grown in the United States does not require rinsing or soaking.

Rinsing is often done to remove surface starch. Soaking is done to speed up the cooking process.

I love Mediterranean recipes because they are full of flavor and generally quite healthy.

This is one of my favorite rice recipes and is a great way to add color to your dinner plate.

Mediterranean Rice Pilaf Recipe

What is a rice pilaf?

Rice pilaf has seasonings and more aromatics in addition to other ingredients besides rice!

How to make this Mediterranean rice pilaf recipe?

Though olive oil can be used, I love the flavor that butter gives, so begin by melting the butter in a medium saucepan on the stove top and adding the grains of rice.

Stir to make sure they are well coatedwith the butter.

Add the boiling water, some salt and a pinch of white pepper.

Why white pepper?

White pepper is more earthy and musty in flavor than black pepper.

But black flecks just aren’t as visually appealing in this perfect side dish.

Cook time is just 15 minutes on low heat.

After all water has been absorbed remove from heat.

Pour the saffron water over one side of the rice and let rice sit off the heat with the pot covered by a thin dish towel and then a lid placed on top of that.

Leave lid on for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Why do you use a thin dish towel to cover the rice before putting the lid on?

This way the condensation will drip into the towel and not on the rice.

Saffron Rice Pilaf

After the rice has sat, scoop the white rice into a bowl and fluff with a fork.

Add in the drained currants, the nuts of your choice and the fresh herbs, leaving a little of each ingredient for a pretty garnish.

Now add the yellow rice and fluff gently.

Garnish with some more fresh herbs, some nuts and don’t forget pomegranate seeds.

They look like little jewels on this golden rice pilaf.

Substitutions for Mediterranean Rice Pilaf Recipe

Don’t have currants?

Other dried fruit substitutions include dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots, raisins and prunes.

Just make sure to chop them up into small pieces.

Want to use pine nuts?

No worries, but I would saute those with the rice and then leave them in the rice to cook.

Sliced almonds or pistachios can be added after the rice has cooked.


I love dill. Really I do. But it is the mixture of the herbs that add lots of flavor.

Feel free to use fresh parsley, tarragon, or cilantro. I love dill, parsley and cilantro as my combo. Oh yeah. A little fresh mint is good, too!

I think you will love this fluffy basmati rice dish. This makes a great vegan side dish.

Some of you may be tempted to use chicken broth instead of water, but in this case I just love the nice flavor that all the herbs, fruits and nuts give.

Mediterranean Rice Pilaf Recipe in white bowl

Turmeric vs. saffron?

Turmeric is from a root and is more bitter and earthy in taste.

Saffron is from a flower and has a lighter and sweeter taste.

Yes, it is expensive but it doesn’t take much to make this simple side dish.

I love Middle Eastern cusine and this rice dish is no exception.

Enjoy serving it with your favorite foods and create your own version next time.

Because I know there will be a next time!

(Below is from 2018.)

2018 is in full swing and though I’ve been busy you wouldn’t know it from this blog.

As I mentioned 2017 did not end on a high note and I was definitely not in holiday mode. Try as we could throughout 2017 to make things better…well,  better just wasn’t cutting it.

This will be the year of doing things differently as it was obvious to us that better doesn’t always work.

It isn’t easy to teach old dogs new tricks but we are determined to master skills such as how to work differently, how to be nicer, how to gain patience and most importantly how to grow old together. 

It’s time to say goodbye to the year of floods, me getting older, parents getting even older, crappy jobs and to say hello to a new year- a year of new possibilities.

I’ve been in high mode getting my business restarted and soon will have a website where you can see the custom plates I design for special occasions.

Revamping this blog is also on the list as as are the usual items such as health, diet and exercise which are kind of one and the same.

Boring!!! And that’s it for what some may call resolutions.

On to rice. I last left you at chicken shawarma and didn’t even have the decency to write out the recipe for this charming, perfectly gorgeous, perfectly festive, luscious rice.

It reminds me of how my bedroom looked when I was young.

Yellow walls and yellow bedspreads with rose, hot pink flowers, a gold shag carpet and of course… a pink princess phone completed the picture. 

Well, that’s how I remember it and though this rice doesn’t leap off bed spreads, it will leap off your plate and into your mouth quite rapidly.

It is good and tasty and perfect with most any dish, but pile this on a plate and surround it with chicken shawarma and you will be diving in.

Even from a high dive…this distinctive yellow and white basmati rice is that enticing. And so easy to make!

Saffron Herb Rice with yellow and white grains is easy to make and tastes great! Plus it is so pretty!
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Saffron Rice

Saffron Herb Rice with Currants

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  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Cook Time: 30 Minutes*
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: 6 Servings 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern


This Mediterranean rice pilaf recipe with saffron and lots of fresh herbs, currants and nuts, tastes as good as it looks. You will be amazed at how easy it is to make!


Units Scale

2.5 T unsalted butter

2 c basmati rice, rinsed and drained well

2.5 cups boiling water

1 t saffron threads soaked in 3 T boiling water for 30 minutes

1/4 c currants soaked for a few minutes in hot water

2 oz fresh herbs such as cilantro, dill, tarragon or a combination of your favorites

1/2 c slivered or crushed pistachios or almonds

Salt and Pepper

Pomegranate Seeds for Garnish


Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice, making sure the grains are well coated in butter.

Add the boiling water, 1 t salt, and a pinch of white pepper. Mix well, cover with a tight lid and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat-all the water should be absorbed- and pour the saffron water over ONE side of the rice, covering about 1/4 of the surface and leaving the majority of the rice white. Cover the pan immediately with a thin dish towel and reseal tightly with the lid. Set aside for 5-10 minutes.

Use large spoon to remove the white rice to a large bowl and fluff it with a fork. Drain the currants and stir them in, followed by the herbs and most of the nuts, leaving a few herbs and nuts for garnish. Mix well.

Fluff the saffron rice and gently fold it into the rice mixture. Don’t overmix as you don’t want the white grains to be stained with yellow-however I did not have this problem. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve hot or at room temperature.


*Does not include 30 minute saffron soaking time

Recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi






Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

Healthy World Cuisine

Monday 22nd of January 2018

2018 is going to be a grand year and can't wait to see your custom plates. By any chance are any of them matte and great for food photography? So glad you boy is coming home in a month... miss them so much when they are over 6000 miles away! Guilin is gorgeous, so miss the fresh scallops on the shell with rice vermicelli. By the way your rice dish sounds lovely, so beautiful. Take Care


Friday 19th of January 2018

Welcome back! Looks like your 2018 is off to a great start! Looks like you had a wonderful trip to China. Love the pictures. I'm with you in hoping that 2018 is better than 2017. When you figure out how to stop growing old, please share your secret. :) Lovely rice dish! So very colorful and great list of ingredients.

Sippity Sup

Thursday 18th of January 2018

Oh the tastes and sights in this post are captivating. Especially those mountains! GREG

SavoringTime in the Kitchen

Thursday 18th of January 2018

Great to see you back! What beautiful scenery in that part of China, Abbe! The limestone formations covered in green are gorgeous. I love the river scene with all of the ferries headed in the same direction. Not sure if I'd want to drive a truck on that small road with water on both sides. Yikes! All the food you enjoyed looks delicious and the saffron herb rice sounds amazing. I used to buy saffron rice in packages at the store but a home made version would be incredible.


Thursday 18th of January 2018

This rice dish looks fabulous - so pretty as well as tasty. Wow, sorry about the spill off your bike. Hopefully the flower crown had some magical powers to heal. Great China photos!