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Bowls: 1 large, 1 small
Nonstick pot with lid (at least 6 quarts)
Clean kitchen towel
Fine mesh strainer
4 cups Basmati rice (see Notes for our favorite brand)
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron (see Notes)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Rinse and soak rice
Add the rice to a large bowl. Rinse the rice under cold water several times, roughly 10-12 cycles. This removes the debris and surface starch that can make the rice sticky.
Soak rice in water and a generous pinch or two of salt for 2 hours.
Roughly an hour before you’re ready to serve the rice, fill a large nonstick pot with water ~2/3 full. Generously salt the water, cover, and bring to a boil.
Once the water is boiling, remove ~1/4 of a cup of hot water and set aside. Drain the excess water from the bowl of rice, then add the rice to the pot. Cook for 6 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
You’ll know it’s done because the grains of rice will be al dente like pasta – go ahead and try one!
Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved hot water to the ground saffron and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
Drain the rice
After the 6 minutes is up, transfer the rice to a large mesh strainer. Immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Wrap the pot’s lid with a tea towel, tying the opposite corners. This is a really important step because the towel catches the excess moisture, keeping the rice fluffy versus soggy.
In the same nonstick pot, over medium-high heat, add the saffron and water mixture. Let it sizzle. Then add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl it all around to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.
Using the spatula, gradually add the rice, first forming a base layer of ~1 inch. Gently pat it down with the flat spatula. Loosely layer the remaining rice into a dome shape (no need to pat).
Use the back of the spatula to poke a few holes, about ⅔ through. This is for the steam to escape. Don’t poke all the way to the bottom of the pot since you want your crispy “tahdig” layer to form.
Cover with the towel-wrapped lid. Turn the heat to medium-high for about 5 minutes to get the bottom crust started. Then reduce to medium-low and cook for another 50 minutes.
Flip, garnish, and serve!
Remove the pot from the heat and let rest covered for 5 minutes. Use the spatula to gently transfer the rice from the pot to a serving platter.
When you’re about an inch from the bottom of the pan, invert the pot onto a large plate. The tahdig should easily come out as one piece. You can serve the tahdig as is or break it up into smaller pieces.
Take your rice to the next level with this easy saffron garnish. In a small bowl, mix some of the cooked rice with the remaining saffron-water mixture. Use this golden rice as a garnish over your platter of white rice. As an optional flavor boost, drizzle some melted butter over the rice, and serve immediately.