Tahchin is a delicious and aromatic Persian rice dish made with saffron. This Persian Saffron Rice Cake includes a layer of shredded chicken and is garnished with barberries (zereshk), pistachios and almond slivers.
Why you must try this recipe
Tahchin is very different from the rest of the rice dishes you can find in Persian cuisine. The heart of each dish is fragrant long grain basmati rice. Be picky about your basmati rice and choose a high quality brand.
Unlike the other Persian rice dishes, tahchin is baked and dense – almost cake like. The rice is first parboiled, cooked about halfway, then mixed with saffron, egg yolks and yogurt.
Once baked, it becomes this incredibly fragrant, colorful and so crazy good meal! The fluffy inside has a layer of shredded chicken. The whole thing is surrounded by crispy tahdig, the crunchy crust that is cherished by so many of us.
You can dress up your tahchin or dress it down. I garnish this glorious cake of saffron rice with some zereshk (barberries), chopped pistachios and almond slivers. It really is a majestic dish.
See my Tahchin Web Story for a quick visual guide to making this recipe.
Ingredients you need
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- Boneless skinless chicken breasts: Shredded chicken is placed in between two layers of fragrant saffron rice. It is cooked and shredded before assembling the tahchin. You can also use leftover rotisserie chicken and shred that instead. And of course, you can make tahchin without any meat inside.
- Basmati rice: You want to choose a high quality basmati rice. Many of the varieties you find at the grocery store have less flavor and are processed so they cook faster. You want long grain basmati rice, preferably Indian. Several brands I like are Royal, Pari and Zaffaroni.
- Saffron: Just like basmati rice, you want high quality saffron, too. The amount you need depends on the quality. If you find that your rice is not a vibrant yellow, you are probably using a lesser quality saffron. This is the star of the show and what gives your tahchin its golden color and mouth watering aroma. Look for Persian saffron.
- Egg yolks: Only the yolks are used. Save the egg whites for a low fat omelet or to make meringues.
- Greek yogurt: You want a thick yogurt. If your yogurt is watery, drain it through a cheese cloth first.
- Butter: I grease the pyrex dish with butter instead of oil for flavor as well as color. It makes the crust of the tahchin deep and golden.
- Zereshk: Persian barberries are a classic garnish for tahchin. It is very sour and gets sautéed in butter and a little sugar. You can also use dried cranberries or omit altogether.
- Pistachios and almonds: For added color and crunch, you can garnish with pistachios and almond slivers, too.
- Pantry staples: Extra virgin olive oil, granulated sugar, lemon juice.
- Seasonings: turmeric, dried parsley, garlic powder and salt.
1. Steep the saffron: Crush saffron in a mortar and pestle then add hot water. Let it steep like tea and set aside.
2. Make the Chicken: In a small bowl combine spices then season both sides of each chicken breast. Heat a pan and add oil. Brown both sides of the chicken breast, then add lemon juice and reduce heat. Simmer until done. Shred the chicken then add some saffron water to add color. Set aside to cool.
3. Parboil the rice: Wash the rice three times then bring a pot of salted water to boil. When water is boiling, drain the rice and cook until half cooked, about 6 minutes. Pour the rice through a fine mesh strainer then reserve. Allow rice to cool slightly before mixing with yogurt and eggs.
4. Make the yogurt mix: In a large bowl whisk together yogurt and egg yolks until smooth. Stir in remaining saffron water.
5. Add the rice. Add the drained and cooled rice and gently mix until all of the rice is coated and yellow. Spread the rice flat in the bowl and carve out a line halfway dividing the rice. This helps measure out the even layers.
6. Assemble: Use butter to grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 pyrex pan. Spread half of the rice mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Spread the shredded chicken over the rice layer. Top with the remaining half of rice mixture. Cover with foil and bake. Be sure to rotate your tahchin halfway through cooking to insure even browning.
6. Prepare the toppings: Right before serving, heat a small pan and melt some butter. Add zereshk and sugar. Stir until sugar is melted then remove from heat. To serve, remove foil and place a large serving platter over the rice. Carefully invert and remove the pan. Top with chopped pistachios, almond slivers and zereshsk.
Recipe tips and FAQs
The beauty of this dish (besides its gorgeous color and incredible flavor) is that you can share a lot of the crunchy tahdig (crust) that everyone loves. Some people like the outside of their tahchin crispy, while others prefer a softer touch. I have made this both ways many times.
If you like your tahchin crispy, reduce heat to 450ºF and bake for 30 minutes, then reduce to 350ºF and bake for 1 hour. If you do not want it to crunch, reduce heat to 400ºF bake for 30 minutes then reduce to 350ºF and bake for 1 hour. I personally recommend the crispy tahdig!
Tahchin can also be prepared with one layer of saffron rice and one layer of white basmati rice (instead of two layers of saffron rice). The trick here is to add dabs of butter to keep the white rice from drying out in the oven.
My family prefers two layers of the saffron yogurt rice, so I am sharing this recipe here.
You can also prepare and bake your tahchin in the pot you parboil the rice in. Just grease it with butter like you do with a pyrex dish before adding the rice back in. Make sure you are using an oven safe pot!
I personally prefer baking my tahchin in the clear pyrex dishes so I can see how the crust is doing. The rice is already golden from the egg yolks and saffron. But it darkens and browns while it bakes, creating the crispy tahdig crust.
Tahchin is a baked saffron rice dish that resembles a cake. The rice is partially cooked and then mixed with egg yolks, yogurt and saffron. This rice mixture is then spread into a baking dish, sometimes with a layer of shredded chicken, and then baked. It is garnished with some sweetened barberries, almond slices and/or chopped pistachios.
Tahchin can easily be reheated in the microwave. Add a damp paper towel over your rice and the steam will help puff up the rice and rehydrate it. The crispy tahdig is best the day you first bake your tahchin. Once reheated, it does soften. You can also reheat tahchin in a pot. This works best if you have a lot of tahchin to reheat. Add some oil to the bottom of the pot and place the tahchin crust side down and sprinkle a little over the rice. Heat over medium for 20 minutes, raising the temperature to medium high for 5 minutes to crisp up the crust.
Tahchin is a baked saffron rice dish that resembles a cake and is made with yogurt, egg yolks and saffron. Tahdig is the crispy crust that is formed from making basmati rice, Persian style. Tahdig can be rice, potatoes, onions or lavash. You can also make little mixture similar to tahchin and spread that on the bottom of your pot to create a delicious rice crust.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 TBS + ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBS lemon juice
- 3 cups basmati rice
- ½ teaspoon ground saffron
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 cups yogurt
- 2 TBS butter
- ¼ teaspoon zereshk
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 TBS chopped pistachios
- 1 TBS almond slivers
- In a small bowl combine crushed saffron with 2 TBS hot water and set aside.
- In a small bowl combine ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon dried parsley, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. Season both sides of each chicken breast.
- Heat a pan over medium high heat and add 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil. When oil is hot, add the chicken breasts. Cook chicken until browned, about 5 minutes.
- Flip chicken over and brown other side. Reduce heat to and add 2 TBS lemon juice. Cover pan and cook until chicken is done, about 10 minutes.
- Remove chicken from heat and shred it with two forks. Add 1 teaspoon of saffron water to chicken juices in the pan and mix with shredded chicken. Reserve.
- In a medium-sized bowl soak rice with water. 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.
- After washing the rice a third time, rinse and then cover rice with water and add 1 TBS salt.
- In a 5-quart non-stick pot add 8 cups of water and 1 TBS salt and bring to boil. When the water has come to boil, pour out the water in the bowl containing the soaking rice. Add the wet rice to the boiling water.
- When the water boils again and the rice floats to the top of the pot (approx. 6 mins), pour the contents of the pot into a fine colander. You know your rice is ready to strain if you bite a rice kernel and the center is still uncooked. Allow rice to cool slightly before mixing with yogurt and eggs.
- Preheat oven to 500ºF.
- In a very large mixing bowl whisk together yogurt and egg yolks until smooth. Stir in remaining saffron water. Add the drained and cooled rice and gently mix until all of the rice is coated and yellow.
- Use 1 TBS butter to grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pyrex pan.
- Spread half of the rice mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan.
- Spread the shredded chicken over the rice layer.
- Top with the remaining half of rice mixture.
- Cover with foil and place in the oven. If you like your tahchin crispy, reduce heat to 450ºF and bake for 30 minutes, then reduce to 350ºF and bake for 1 hour. If you do not want it crunch, reduce heat to 400ºF bake for 30 minutes then reduce to 350ºF and bake for 1 hour. Rotate the dish halfway through the cooking time to insure even browning.
- Right before serving, heat a small pan over medium high heat. Melt 1 TBS of butter then add zereshk and sugar. Once sugar is mixed and combined, remove from heat.
- To serve, remove foil and place a large serving platter over the rice. Carefully invert and remove the pan. Top with chopped pistachios, almond slivers and zereshsk.
Zereshk polo can also be made in the pot that you parboil the rice. Just make sure that the pot is oven safe and greased all over.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 193Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 192mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 0gSugar: 4gProtein: 12g
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