Saffron-Spiked Crispy Rice with Chicken and Lemon Zest

Tahchin is a traditional Persian dish of basmati rice mixed with saffron, yogurt and egg yolks, then baked into a cake. Here however, a tahchin morgh, or tahchin with chicken is made with a shortcut by simply layering uncooked pieces of seasoned chicken thighs into the rice so they bake right into the grains.

You will need a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie plate for this recipe. The glass not only conducts heat well so the rice forms a nice bottom crust, it also allows you to monitor browning. For make-ahead convenience, Milk Street says the rice can be put into the pie plate, covered and refrigerated for up to eight hours. When you’re ready to bake, drizzle on the melted butter, cover with foil and bake as directed.

I wasn’t so sure that I’d be bowled over by this recipe, but after a few bites I realized just how good it was! We omitted the currants, but kept everything else the same. Even though it is a one pan meal, it uses numerous bowls and containers to prep the ingredients, so make sure you have a dish washer on hand 😉

NOTE: Don’t use a metal baking pan or a ceramic pie plate. Neither will brown and crisp the bottom crust as well as glass. Also, be sure the oven rack is in the lowest position, as proximity to the heating element will assist with browning.

Saffron-Spiked Crispy Rice with Chicken and Lemon Zest

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron threads, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1- to 1½-inch pieces
  • 3 tsp. grated lemon zest, divided
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 Tbsp. dried currants
  • 2 Tbsp. salted butter, melted
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to serve
  • Roughly chopped roasted pistachios, to serve


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the rice with enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up 12 hours. Drain the rice in a fine-mesh sieve, then rinse under cool running water and drain again.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the saffron and boiling water; set aside. Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the lowest position. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie plate with 2 tablespoons of the oil.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, the garlic, ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of the saffron water. Stir until the chicken is evenly coated; set aside at room temperature.
  4. In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the yogurt, egg yolk, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon zest and remaining saffron water; whisk until well combined.
  5. When the water reaches a boil, stir in the rice and 2 tablespoons salt. Return to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes; it will not be fully cooked. Drain the rice in a fine-holed colander or large fine-mesh sieve, shaking to remove excess water. Add the rice to the yogurt mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add about 1½ cups rice mixture to the prepared pie plate, gently pressing it into an even layer over the bottom and about halfway up the sides. Stir the chicken mixture and the currants into the remaining rice mixture, then transfer to the pie plate and distribute in an even layer; do not compact the rice mixture. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over top. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. Carefully remove the foil and continue to bake until the bottom is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes.
  7. Run a silicone spatula around the edge to loosen the rice from the pie plate. Invert a serving platter over the pie plate. Holding the platter against the pie plate, carefully invert the two together. Carefully remove the pie plate. Sprinkle with parsley and pistachios.

Adapted from a recipe by Courtney Hill for Milk Street

3 thoughts on “Saffron-Spiked Crispy Rice with Chicken and Lemon Zest

  1. This looks delicious! What did you serve with it? And is there a way of saving your recipes on Pinterest? Teresa

    Sent from my iPhone



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