Persian Saffron Roast Chicken & Barberry Rice

May 31, 2019
3 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

A new take on a Persian classic, thanks to a whole saffron-flavored roast chicken. —Shadi Hasanzadenemati

What You'll Need
  • Roast chicken
  • 1 (3 1/2 to 4–pound) whole chicken
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron
  • 2 ice cubes
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Rice & barberries
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cups water (enough to cover the rice and to come 1/2 inch over it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup barberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Sprinkle ground saffron on ice cubes and let it melt at room temperature.
  3. Clean the chicken and pat dry it completely, on the skin and in the cavity. Run your fingers under the skin to make sure it’s separated from the meat. But don’t tear it. This is to make sure the saffron flavor can get under the skin as well.
  4. Mix bloomed saffron, olive oil, melted butter and the juice of 1/2 lemon in a bowl and using a small spoon, slowly pour it under the skin. Massage the skin to make sure the saffron and oil are getting all over the meat.
  5. Place the head of garlic in the cavity. Cross the legs and tie them using a kitchen twine. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, pour in the chicken stock, and roast for about 1 hour and 20 minutes until the thighs register at 165°F. Baste the chicken only once halfway through.
  6. Once the chicken is cooked, let it sit for 10 minutes before carving. Serve saffron chicken with barberry rice.
  7. While the chicken is roasting, make the rice. Place the rice, water, salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan or a pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer until the water is almost evaporated. Using a fork, bring the rice to the middle to form a mountain shape. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil around the edges. Wrap the lid in a clean kitchen towel and place it on top of the pot. Let the rice cook for another 10 to 12 minutes until fully cooked. Take 1/2 cup of the cooked rice and mix it with bloomed saffron. Set aside.
  8. Wash and dry the barberries. In a small pan, heat the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium low heat and add the barberries to the pan. Stir constantly and add the salt and sugar. Sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes over medium-low to low.
  9. Transfer the white rice into serving plates and top them with some saffron rice and sautéed barberries. Serve with saffron roast chicken.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • FrugalCat
  • Gretchen Cheak
    Gretchen Cheak
  • Michelle Chadima
    Michelle Chadima
  • Tenant
Shadi HasanzadeNemati is a food writer and recipe developer at Unicorns in the Kitchen. She loves a good tahdig and her favorite spice is saffron.

6 Reviews

FrugalCat January 27, 2024
It's just the two of us so I made this with a Cornish hen. I cut the proportions down and we had enough rice for good leftovers. The saffron trick is a keeper. I found unsweetened dried cranberries (very tart) that I subbed in for barberries.
Gretchen C. April 26, 2021
This recipe is one of our favorites. We use cranberries instead of barberries because we can't find them here and turmeric instead of saffron but this recipe is PHENOMENAL!
Michelle C. July 30, 2019
Is there a specific brand (or description) of barberries that you recommend? There are SO many available on Amazon, and I have never seen them locally (but I will definitely start looking! We LOVE a punch of tart!)
Tenant July 8, 2019
What do you do with the salt?! On top of the skin or in the marinade?
Lynn D. June 22, 2019
What do you do with the whole head of garlic?
Laurie G. July 28, 2019
As per #5 in the directions, the garlic goes inside the chicken cavity.