Persian Jeweled Rice is a gorgeous side dish sprinkled with colorful gem-like fruits, nuts and veggies. My Easy Jeweled Rice Recipe takes just 30 minutes to make, is incredibly delicious, and is naturally vegan and gluten-free. You’ll want to make this for holiday celebrations like New Year or Thanksgiving as well as an everyday side dish.
Looking to start the Jewish new year off with healthy and delicious recipes? No Jewish holiday is complete without an abundance of yummy food. Check out my roundup of Healthy Rosh Hashanah Recipes to add something new to your menus this year.
OMG….this delicious side dish will forever change the way you feel about rice. Jeweled Rice is new to me…and it was love at first sight…and then deeper love at first bite.
Be ready for ALL your senses to be engaged….this vegan rice dish is beautiful—-really stunning—-and also bursting with flavor and texture.
The taste is a perfect combination of sweet and savory, with hints of both in every bite….and be ready for the crunch of the nuts and the burst of the pomegranate seeds…oh, Jeweled Rice, where have you been hiding?
Oh, I know….it was hiding under the veil of cumbersome. Traditional Jeweled Rice is a multi-step, multi-day extravaganza…and, therefore, saved for special occasions. No worries friends…I’ve got your back…and I’ve figured out how and where to simplify so not only will you want to serve this for a special Christmas side dish…(insert any holiday here: Thanksgiving rice dish, Rosh Hashanah Side, New Years Eve Side Dishes, etc.)but it’s so easy you can make it for every day!
Why you will love this recipe
- Taste explosion with every bite!
- Less fussy than traditional jeweled rice recipe. So easy to make. I’ve figured out all the short cuts…without compromising on flavor at all.
- Unique and beautiful…everyone will love it…and it’s perfect for a holiday side dish.
- Whole grain rice is naturally vegan and gluten-free.
- Super satisfying…in every category.
What is Jeweled Rice?
There are many versions of this Persian rice dish. Sometimes called Iranian Jeweled Rice, Persian Jeweled Rice, or Javaher Polow. Generally, jeweled rice refers to basmati rice dish that’s named for its gemstone colors that look like sparkling jewels. The rice is colored yellow from saffron, and there are beautifully colored dried fruits, nuts, herbs or veggies that look like jewels, sprinkled throughout. It’s a popular Middle Eastern Wedding Dish that’s also served for holidays and on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
The best way to seed a pomegranate
You can buy a whole pomegranate and remove the seeds, or you can buy just the seeds. Buying the whole pomegranate will save money and buying pomegranate arils in a container will save you time.
Some people recommend submerging the pieces of pomegranate in water and working in the water, to avoid staining. I didn’t find this method any less messy and it took longer and used more equipment since I then had to strain the seeds out from the water. Plus, more dishes to clean afterwards.
Others will recommend cutting the pomegranate into halves and then beating with a wooden spoon into a bowl. This method didn’t get all the arils out and I had to go in and use my hands to finish up the job….so why not just do it that way to start with?
- Cut a thin slice off the bottom and top of the pomegranate.
- Make slits on four sides of the pomegranate heading towards the middle, but all the way through.
- Use a bowl MUCH LARGER than you think you need. This is super important to contain any mess from the pomegranate seeds. Use your hands to separate the seeds from the white membrane. Honestly, it takes about 2-3 minutes for the entire pomegranate.
- The seeds are ready to use in a recipe, or eat straight from the bowl.
Ingredients and Substitutions:
Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list. This is an easy version of traditional jeweled rice taking just 30 minutes to make, rather than several hours.
- Rice: I used white basmati so the rice would take on a beautiful yellow hue from the saffron. You could also use jasmine rice or long grain brown rice.
- Carrots: I love the addition of orange in this recipe, but you could easily substitute thinly sliced parsnips for the carrots.
- Onions: I used one purple and one white onion. The purple onions get darker when cooked. Vidalia onions would be a sweet choice, but any onion you have will work well in this recipe.
- Orange Peel: This adds so much flavor and texture, and also some nutrition! Orange peels are rich in Vitamin A and C plus phytonutrients. Lemon peel would be a good substitution.
- Pomegranate Seeds: I love the jeweled look these provide, along with fiber, antioxidants and vitamin E. Dried cranberries or cherries would offer some nice color if pomegranates aren’t available.
- Scallions: If the caramelized onions are enough for your taste buds, skip the scallions and add in a chopped fresh herb for color. Good choices would be parsley, oregano, thyme or cilantro.
- Nuts: Awesome for crunch and a bit of protein and healthy fats. Pistachios add a nice jeweled color. Slivered almonds or chopped walnuts would also work. If you can’t do nuts, try sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
- Golden Raisins: You could sub any dried fruit here. I’ve used dried apricots, cherries, figs, and chopped dates. Look for dried fruit that doesn’t have any added sugar or sulfates.
- Garlic: Cooking the rice with whole cloves of smashed garlic infuses the whole dish with flavor. The garlic softens (and the flavor becomes mild) and it is easy to mix into the cooked rice.
- Saffron: This spice brings a beautiful yellow hue to the rice. If you don’t have any, substitute ground turmeric for the same beautiful color.
- Olive Oil: If you’re oil free, no problem. Just omit the oil when cooking the rice. To make oil-free onions, use an air-fryer or cook on the stove top with a bit of water or broth.
- Dried Spices: Cinnamon, cumin, allspice…these really flavor the onions and add so much to the finished dish.
How to make this easy rice dish
First make sure to wash the rice well. Use a fine mesh sieve and continue to rinse, while you stir, until the water runs clear.
Step 1: Place rinsed rice, carrot rounds, smashed garlic cloves, orange peel, cinnamon stick and saffron threads into the bowl of an instant pot.
Step 2: Pour in water and stir well. If you don’t have an instant pot, you can use a saucepan on your stove. NOTE: you will need more water and a few extra minutes. The exact directions with amounts and times are in the recipe card.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the onions.
Step 3: Heat heavy cast iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl in remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil and add sliced onions. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
Step 4: Continue to cook until they’re brown and crisp. The slower the process, the more the onions will caramelize rather than burn.
Step 5: Add nuts and spices.
Step 6: Turn the heat down. Cook, stirring constantly until nuts are toasted and onions have absorbed spices.
Step 7: Let rice cook in the Instant Pot for 12 minutes. Use a natural release.
Step 8: When rice is done, fluff with a fork. Make sure saffron threads and garlic are well incorporated into the rice.
Step 9: Use a large platter to layer everything beautifully. First mound the rice and carrot mixture. Then add the caramelized onions. Finally top with raisins, scallions and pomegranate seeds.
Jeweled Rice can be served warm, at room temperature or even cold, straight from the fridge.
Meal Prep and Storage
- Prep ahead: Rice mixture and onion mixture can be made in advance, kept at room temperature for a few hours or in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days. Slice scallions and seed pomegranate in advance as well.
- Storage: Jeweled rice will stay good in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days. Freshen with a sprinkle of toasted nuts and fresh herbs before serving.
- Reheat: If you’d like to serve this as a warm side dish, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl in 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil and spoon the rice into the skillet. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, leaving undisturbed. The bottom will crisp up and the top will get warm. Alternately, preheat oven to 350 and bake in a casserole dish until heated through, about 15 minutes.
Debra’s Pro Tips
- Don’t forget to wash the rice well before cooking. You’ll want to rinse off any dirt, chemicals or bugs…and also rid the rice of any surface starch that could give the rice a gummy texture or cause it to stick together.
- For a little bit of everything in every bite, use a large bowl to mix everything together rather than taking the layered approach.
- Reheat leftover rice in a cast iron skillet….leave it sit for a bit to get crunchy. YUM!
- Pistachios are a great sub for the almonds as they look like little green jewels.
- Make extra caramelized onions….they will shrink…and also, someone is always stopping by to nibble on them!
Jeweled Rice FAQs
Basmati rice works well for this recipe because it’s flavorful and will absorb the saffron making it a beautiful golden jeweled color. You can use any long grain rice you have, and adjust the cooking time.
For Brown Rice in the Instant Pot, high pressure for 14 minutes, natural release. For Brown Rice on the stovetop, 25 minutes.
Absolutely! The basmati rice and also the garlic come out perfect every time in the instant pot. I also like the way the saffron, cinnamon stick and orange peel flavor the entire dish when cooked with the rice in the pressure cooker. You will still need to make the caramelized onions separately in a heavy skillet though.
More Healthy Holiday Recipes
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Easy Jeweled Rice Recipe
- 2 cups white basmati rice
- ¼ cup olive oil divided
- 4 large cloves garlic smashed
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 lb. small carrots peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- finely julienned rind of 1 orange
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 ¼ cups water
- 2 purple onions thinly sliced
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- seeds of 1 pomegranate
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 3 scallions thinly sliced
- Place rice in a fine mesh strainer to wash. Let the water continue to rinse until it runs clear. Stir, rinse again.
- INSTANT POT DIRECTIONS: Add rinsed rice to instant pot along with 2 Tablespoons olive oil, smashed garlic cloves, saffron, carrots, orange rind, cinnamon stick and 2 ¼ cups water. Stir. Set to high pressure and cook for 12 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release. Hit "cancel" on the instant pot and leave the rice there until you're ready to move on.
- STOVETOP DIRECTIONS: In a medium sized saucepan, bring 3 ½ cups water to a boil. (NOTE: cooking on the stovetop you will need MORE water). Turn down to a simmer, and add the olive oil, garlic, saffron, carrots, orange rind, cinnamon stick and rice. Mix well. Cover and let simmer on low for 12-15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Turn off heat and let it sit at least 10 minutes, covered….or until you're ready for it.
- While rice is cooking, heat a heavy skillet over medium/low heat. Swirl in remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil and slowly saute onions, allowing them to caramelize. This will take about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in nuts, seasonings (cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, allspice and sea salt) and continue to stir and cook (about 2 minutes) as nuts get toasted and onions take on the spices.
- Fluff rice with a fork. Make sure garlic is well distributed and saffron has colored the rice evenly. To do this, use a large fork and continue to stir/toss/fluff. Add to bowl or platter. Sprinkle on onion/nut mixture, pomegranate seeds, scallions and raisins. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Rice will stay good in the fridge for 5 days. Gently reheat in a heavy skillet, or in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.