Coconut Persian Rice

May 20, 2013
3 Ratings
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

I first tasted Persian Rice more than 20 years ago at a Christmas celebration. It was the contribution from my Cuban hostess's Iranian mother-in-law. I went home with the recipe tucked in my purse, and it's the dish I'm invariably asked to bring to any holiday meal. Over the years, I've changed the basic saffron rice very little from that first delicious taste, but I have made up several distinct versions of it. This is my coconut riff. While the recipe can be cut, I never do—it's a special occasion dish, and special occasions call for a crowd. (The many steps take less time than you'd think and are worth it. The towel is absolutely necessary for fluffy rice; if you use paper, be sure it's a high quality one without printing.) —Antonia AT

What You'll Need
  • 3 cups Basmati rice (I use the extra long)
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken into 2-3 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4-5 small onions, halved down the center and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups coconut milk (I use full fat canned)
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon
    1 teaspoon saffron threads

  • 2-3 fresh pomegranates for 1 cup (approx.) arils
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped roasted pistachio nuts (I like salted, dry roasted ones)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus generous pinch of salt
  1. Rinse the rice in several changes of water; agitate it each time. Do this until the water runs relatively clear. (This step helps to make the rice fluffy.)
  2. Place the rinsed rice in a large bowl and cover again with water Add one teaspoon of salt and stir. Let rest one hour. Drain very well.
  3. In a 200 degree oven, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of saffron threads on a small piece of aluminum foil and toast for 6-8 minutes. (I always err on the side of caution with this pricey spice.)
  4. Crumble the toasted saffron into a small bowl, add the untoasted saffron and 1/4 cup of the hot water. Steep and add to the coconut milk mixture.
  5. Heat a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the coconut oil and tilt to insure the bottom is coated. Add the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. When they sizzle and become fragrant, add the onions and reduce the heat to medium so they won't burn. Saute until lightly browned. Add the rice and stir until it's coated with the oil.
  6. I serve it spread on a platter as I saw it the first time, edged with (the remaining) pistachio nuts with the remaining pomegranate arils in the center.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • hardlikearmour
  • ntt2
  • Antonia AT
    Antonia AT

6 Reviews

ntt2 May 23, 2013
Thanks Antonia!
Antonia A. May 23, 2013
Don't mention it! How embarrassing...
ntt2 May 22, 2013
There's no mention of adding the coconut milk or cooking the rice?
Antonia A. May 22, 2013
Gosh, I don't know what happened to the rest of it! (I spent what seemed like an hour typing.) I'm not sure how to edit it—but I'll provide the instr here: 3a. Boil the water in a teapot. 3b. Bring the coconut milk to boil in a saucepan over high heat, stirring frequently. 5a. Pour the hot coconut milk into the pan w/ the rice. Add 1 cup hot water + enough add'l hot water to cover the rice by about an inch. Salt to taste. Bring to the boil. Cover with the paper towel and a tight fitting lid. Turn down the heat to low and simmer fr 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steam for a minute or two. Remove the lid & towel, then the cinnamon & cardamom. Fluff with a fork. Toss in half of the arils and pistachios. Spread on a platter & go to 6.
hardlikearmour May 22, 2013
What would you recommend as a substitute for pomegranate arils when they aren't in season? Do you think dried tart cherries or cranberries would work?
Antonia A. May 22, 2013
I think the cherries may still be a bit too sweet, but I did use cranberries once in a pinch. I tossed them in pomegranate molasses, and it was a pretty good substitute.