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Rice Pilaf with Greek Saffron by Kalofagas

by Georgia Korovila on February 04, 2021

One of the world’s most expensive spices is saffron. Although many countries produce it, it is pricey due to manual labour. In Greece, saffron (Krokos Kozanis) is cultivated in the Kozani region (northern Greece).


Each summer, crocus is planted, and then the stamen is hand-picked each autumn and then meticulously dried. About 50,000 filaments are needed to produce 100 grams of saffron. Thankfully, a little goes a long way, and one needs a pinch of saffron threads for most dishes. 

Greeks have been familiar with saffron since ancient times: Homer mentions it his writings, Cleopatra used it in her cosmetics. It has been found on ancient frescos in Crete and Santorini.

Today, I am sharing an easy recipe for saffron pilaf, which can be made on your stovetop. Remember, a little goes a long way; use just a pinch!

Rice Pilaf With Greek Saffron

(serves 4)

1/4 cup unsalted butter or olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cups Arborio style rice

1/2 cup dry white

1/4 tsp. Krokos Kozani saffron threads

6-7 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

approx. 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Add butter (or oil into a pot) over medium heat. Add onions and sweat for 5 minutes or until translucent.
  2. Add your rice and stir for a couple of minutes to toast. Add your white, saffron threads and simmer until most of the wine has cooked down.
  3. Add your hot stock and bring to a boil while stirring.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Take the lid off. If too runny, cook uncovered for 5 minutes. If too dry, add a ladle or two of hot stock. Add cheese, stir in.
  6. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve.

Make it Fancy: I like serving Saffron rice with Shrimp, a fillet of Fish, Scallops, a Crab Leg or a Lobster tail.

Purchase Krokos Kozani here or from most Greek specialty shops in/around Toronto.

© 2021, Peter Minaki. All rights reserved.