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Iranian Jeweled Rice
(Published: )
Prep Time Cooking Time Servings
8 people
  • 3 cups long-grain white basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 cup whole dried barberries, or chopped unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon loosely-packed saffron or 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons oil, butter, or ghee
  • 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw pistachios
  • 1/2 cup golden or green raisins
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch long matchsticks
  • 1 4-inch whole cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom

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1. Wash the rice in a large container of water, rinsing and draining until the water runs clear. When clean, cover again with water, add 2 tablespoons of water, and allow the mixture to soak for between 2-24 hours. Drain through a sieve and set aside.
2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Use a knife or vegetable peeler to cut thick strips of rind off the oranges. Slice the strips crosswise into small slivers. Drop the slivers into the water and cook for 1 minute. Drain, then rinse with cold water to cut the bitterness of the orange rind. Set aside.
3. Clean the barberries and remove stems. Place them in a sieve inside a bowl. Pour cold water in and soak for 20 minutes. Then pull sieve from bowl, and run cold water over barberries to clean off any remaining sand. Set aside. (Skip this step if using cranberries).
4. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the saffron threads with a few pinches of sugar until you have created a powder. Stir the powder in 3 tablespoons of orange blossom water. Set aside.
5. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the almonds and pistachios, cooking for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add raisins and toss with the nuts for another minute. Then empty nuts into a bowl and set aside.
6. In the same hot skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the saffron orange blossom water, 2 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Add the carrots and orange peel, then saute for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar and saffron and orange blossom water mixture, the cinnamon stick, and cardamom--then saute for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of water to the pan, then bring everything to a boil over high heat, then lower to medium and cook for about 10 minutes (or until carrots become caramelized, and the liquid has been reduced to a syrup). Drain carrots and orange peel, and reserve the syrup.
7. In a large stock pot, bring ten cups of water to a boil. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt, then add the rice to the pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of plain orange blossom water. Boil for 6-10 minutes, or until rice is soft. Drain the rice, and rinse in cold water.
8. Combine the remaining saffron orange blossom water and the reserved carrot/orange syrup to the par-boiled rice. Take a large spoonful of rice, and gently spread it over the bottom of the pot, making it as flat and even as possible. Add more spoonfuls of rice, gradually shaping the rice into a pyramid shape (this leaves room for the rice to expand and enlarge).
9. Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean dish towel and cover to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 20 minutes over low heat.
10. When finished, arrange everything on a serving platter in this order: layers of rice, then the caramelized carrot mixture (sans the cinnamon stick), then the barberry/nut mixture.

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