Asparagus and Saffron Rice Pilaf

Spring has sprung in the produce aisles with asparagus and strawberries taking their rightful places in the front of the produce section.  A bunch of beautiful asparagus spears greeted me at the entrance of my local Trader Joe’s last weekend and I remembered this recipe that I had bookmarked couple of months ago.  Here’s a tip to find the right bunch of asparagus, make sure the tips are tightly closed and the stalks are bright green and firm. The spears went into this beautiful, fragrant rice pilaf and we loved every morsel of it. With everyday pantry ingredients, this rice pilaf can be made under 30minutes minus the soaking time of rice.

asparagus saffron rice pilaf


1.5 cups basmati rice

2.5 cups water

2 dry bay leaves

4 cloves

4 pods of green cardamom

2 one inch cinnamon sticks

2 generous pinches of saffron

1 pound asparagus, cut lengthwise into 1inch pieces

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup vegetable broth or water



1. Clean and soak the basmati rice in cold water for 20 minutes.

2. Place water in a large pot and add bay leaves, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and salt. Bring the water to a boil and add drained basmati rice.

3. When the water begins to boil, cover the pot with a lid and let the rice cook on low flame for about 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat when all the water is absorbed and rice is fully cooked.

4. While the rice is getting cooked, heat oil in a pan and when hot, add cumin seeds. When they splutter, add chopped onions and a pinch of salt. Cook till turn onions turn soft, about 7minutes on medium heat.

5. Add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes, sauté for a minute.

6. Add the asparagus stalks and lemon juice. Give it a good stir.

7. Add vegetable broth or water and when it starts to simmer, place a lid on the pan and let the asparagus cook on medium heat for 5-7minutes. Make sure the asparagus doesn’t get over cooked.

8. Add the asparagus along with the sauce to cooked rice and fluff gently with a fork.


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