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Indian Saffron Yellow Rice Pilaf

Indian Saffron Yellow Rice Vegan Gluten Free Healthy

Guys, I’m sharing with you today my hands-down one of my favorite rice dishes – Saffron Yellow Rice Pilaf. Have you had Saffron Yellow Rice before?!

When I was growing up, one of our close family friends were from India. I have such fond memories of going to their home for family celebrations and always being in awe of the gorgeous, traditional Indian clothing as well as the variety of colorful and flavorful food. My favorite being the buttery, Saffron Yellow Rice Pilaf that always stood out to me because it was so different from the white rice my mom prepared for us at home. 

yellow rice pilaf

This Saffron Yellow Rice Pilaf is a spin on the yellow rice I fell in love with as a child. It is buttery, FULL of warm flavors and the perfect side dish to serve alongside your favorite curry or Vegan Butter Chicken. I  add a handful of peas to this Yellow Saffron Rice Pilaf for the splash of color, protein and extra taste. I also add some red lentils to this Yellow Rice Pilaf which makes this dish much heartier that a typical rice side dish. On busy weeknights, I like to whip easy, healthy vegan rice pilad up and enjoy it with a side of veggies for a quick, complete and easy meal.

So what in the world makes this Yellow Saffron Rice SO darn buttery even though there is no butter whatsoever in this recipe?!

ceara s kitchen

Coconut milk! 

The coconut milk makes this Vegan Yellow Saffron Rice slightly creamy, rich and the perfect texture y’all. I served this to my family the other day and it’s ALWAYS an instant hit at the table.

If you end up making this delicious Indian Saffron Yellow Rice Pilaf, I love seeing your awesome feedback! Share your creations with me by writing your feedback in the comments below, tagging me (#cearaskitchen) in your beautiful shots on Instagram or sharing your photo on my Ceara’s Kitchen Facebook page. Have a beautiful day guys! #EatHappyLiveHapp

the coconut milk

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Indian Saffron Yellow Rice Pilaf

  • Author: Ceara
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


This Indian Saffron Yellow Rice Pilaf is based off a yellow rice pilaf I used to enjoy as a child. This yellow rice is buttery, slightly creamy and goes perfectly with curries or Vegan Butter Chicken. The distinctive yellow color comes from the saffron powder and pinch of tumeric used when cooking the rice.


  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp saffron powder
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk*
  • 3 1/24 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas


  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Green Onion


  1. Over medium high heat, in a large pot, saute onions and garlic in a 1/4 cup of vegetable broth until the onions are soft. Add the spices (saffron powder, tumeric and cinnamon) with 1/4 cup of vegetable broth to the pot. Stir and simmer for 1 minute until the spices are fragrant.
  2. Stir in the rice and red lentils. Stir, allowing the vegetable broth to dissolve and slightly brown the rice for a minute or so in the hot pot.
  3. Add the coconut milk, additional vegetable broth (3 cups), cover and bring to a simmer over low heat for 10 – 15 minutes until the rice and lentils are cooked. Add a splash more vegetable broth or water if necessary.
  4. Stir in the green peas, stir, cover and leave the rice to sit for 3 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork. Garnish with fresh cilantro and green onion.


1) For a coconut-free version (or if you just don’t have coconut milk on hand) soak 1/4 cup raw cashews in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and blend until creamy with 1/2 cup of water. I like this recipe equally both ways!
2) If using fresh green peas, add them in halfway through cooking the rice, allowing them to cook with the rice.

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Category: Side
  • Cuisine: Indian

Indian Saffron Yellow Rice Vegan Gluten Free Healthy recipe

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  1. I really hate vegetable broth that is bought. Do you have a fresh reciipe? How much salt would you use if you were substituting water?

    1. <3 Thanks, Vanessa! The coconut milk really does make this rice so incredibly flavorful and "buttery" :) Let me know if you end up trying it!

    1. I made both the butter chicken and the saffron rice tonight. All was delicious! I’ll be making these again!
      One other question – on step one for the rice dish, did you mean to saute the onion and garlic in 1/4 cup of broth or do you put in the entire 1 and 1/4 cup? I added just enough to saute, then added more as needed until step 3.
      Thanks so much for sharing!

      1. Thank you so much for the lovely feedback, Sarah! I am SO happy that you enjoyed the butter chicken and the saffron rice 🙂 They really do go together so beautifully!

        To answer your question, at the beginning, you saute the onion and garlic in 1/4 cup vegetable broth. I will clarify it in the instruction so it’s a bit more clear 🙂

  2. Another beautiful dish Ceara! I just love that gorgeous yellow color! I have never even used saffron before in my cooking. I’ve heard it is incredibly expensive, right? I love all the ingredients you used and you know how much I love my coconut milk, lol! I use it to thicken up and creamify my soups as well, it works so amazing! I really need to add this one to the list too. I can only imagine how good it would taste with your butter chicken!! You always just belt out the most amazing stuff!

    1. Thank you my friend 🙂 Saffron is such a lovely addition to so many dishes! I love using it in the kitchen. It is a bit expensive but SO worth it!

  3. Mmmm I could just eat this by the bowl <3 I have had this little bag of saffron that someone gave me for a while and never known what to do with it, this is what I need to make! The spices sound fantastic and coconut milk goes so well with rice I can only imagine the creaminess is incredible!

  4. I love the bright beautiful color of this rice!! I’ve never cooked with saffron before but I’ve always wanted to experiment with it! Ohhh, I bet coconut milk makes this rice so delicious and creamy!

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