Sholeh Zard is a Persian saffron rice pudding made with basmati rice, sugar, cardamom, rosewater and saffron. It is garnished with cinnamon, pistachios and almonds.
I never thought much about having a favorite color until I had kids. All of a sudden there were favorites everywhere. Favorite foods. Favorite movies. Favorite books. Favorite colors. The first time one of my kids asked me my favorite color, I drew a blank.
I loved my soft grey t-shirts, but how boring is it to say you love the color grey? My children never changed their minds about their favorite colors. The Professor loves green. Middle Child adores blue. My Princess is all about pink.
After a few years of self-realization and changing my mind, I finally settled on yellow. Yellow is a sunny day. Yellow is a sunflower. Yellow is a bowl full of lemons. Yellow is summer time. And of course, yellow is saffron!
Although saffron threads are more orangish-red, and high quality saffron steeped in hot water produces the same deep orange color, add it to rice and you get this gorgeous, happy always-makes-me-smile-big yellow.
What is Sholeh Zard?
Sholeh Zard (شله زرد) is farsi for “yellow pudding.” It is a Persian dessert made with white basmati rice, saffron, cardamom, rosewater and sugar. It is a thick rice pudding that has the power to turn a room full of Persian adults into little kids, happily licking their spoons and bowls clean.
The history of this gorgeous dessert goes back several hundred years when it was served only on special occasions like nowruz, the Persian new year. Today is served more often, but it is still a very special occasion dessert.
Unlike traditional rice pudding, there is no milk or cream in Persian saffron rice pudding. Sholeh zard is still creamy because the rice is cooked until it is soft and starchy. Butter is added at the end to give a little more creaminess.
The saffron gives this rice pudding its brilliant yellow color. The saffron, cardamom and rosewater is the holy trilogy of Persian flavors. It really is not like any rice pudding you’ve ever had before as it is
How to make saffron rice pudding
I had never made saffron rice pudding before this, so I didn’t realize how long the cooking process takes. But the smells that arose from my kitchen while cooking this dish was incredible. Everyone came out from all parts of my house to find the source of this heavenly smell.
The combination of basmati rice, saffron, rose water and almonds is incredible — and I am not a huge pudding fan. And then the addition of cardamom and cinnamon, and you have something special. This quintessential dish encompasses everything I love about Persian food. All of your senses are engaged.
How to serve sholeh zard
And like many Persian dishes, it’s all about the presentation! My mother-in-law is a talented artist and she created this beautiful “painting” for this dish of sholeh zard made with the cinnamon, dried rose petals, almonds and pistachios.
It was at a picnic, specifically a Sizdah Bedar celebrating the Persian New Year (Nowruz) where I saw one Persian family serve individual servings of sholeh zard in small mason jars. That’s where I found my inspiration for my pretty little jars of golden yellow sweetness.
Yellow, magenta and pistachio green – some of my favorite colors! Ooops! There I go again, I just can’t pick one favorite color!
The saffron in “saffron rice pudding”
Because this dish is simple, the key to a delicious and amazing saffron rice pudding is the quality of your ingredients. Especially the key ingredient, saffron. Yes, saffron is expensive, but a little high quality saffron goes a very long way.
Don’t get duped with saffron imitations. When buying saffron you want long red strands. Some people sell safflower stems as saffron. The price is cheaper, but you can tell by looking at their yellow strands that they are not saffron.
Buying powdered saffron does not guarantee that you are actually purchasing 100% saffron. Colorants can be mixed into the powder. And finally, turmeric is NOT a good substitute for saffron. Yes, it is yellow, but the flavor is something else entirely.
If you want to purchase high quality saffron that doesn’t cost you an arm or a leg, I sell saffron here on my blog. This is high quality Persian saffron that I use in all of my cooking. Look at that glorious color. Order your saffron here.
- 1 ½ cup basmati rice, uncooked
- 8 cup water
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp crushed saffron
- 2 TBS hot water
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 4 TBS almond slivers
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ cup rose water
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 TBS pistachios, (optional)
- In a medium-sized bowl cover rice with water and gently wash the rice by stirring the rice in the water with your hand. This helps wash some of the starch and grit out. Pour out the water and repeat two more times.
- Drain washed rice and place in a 5-quart non-stick pot with 8 cups water and salt.
- Bring it to a boil, skimming the white foam from the surface as it forms.
- Cover and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes or until rice is completely soft.
- Stir in sugar and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring constantly.
- While rice is cooking, combine saffron and 2 TBS hot water in a small bowl and reserve.
- After rice has cooked for 20 mins, add saffron liquid, butter, 2 TBS almond slicers, cardamom, and rose water.
- Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened to a pudding.
- Pour saffron pudding into a shallow serving dish or spoon into individual serving bowls.
- Garnish with 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 TBS almond slivers, and 2 TBS pistachios
- Chill in refrigerator until set, about 2 hours. Serve cold.
You can make sholeh zard the day before you have to serve it.
Serving Size:¼ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 243Total Fat: 4.2gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 62mgCarbohydrates: 52.1gFiber: 0.6gSugar: 37.7gProtein: 1.8g