Persian Jeweled Rice is a gorgeous side dish sprinkled with colorful gem-like fruits, nuts and veggies. My easy Jeweled Rice Recipe is incredibly delicious, uses no sugar, very little oil and is naturally vegan and gluten-free. You’ll want to make this for celebrations like New Year or Rosh Hashanah as well as an everyday side dish.
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you.
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 one 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!
What is Jeweled Rice?
There are many versions of this persian rice dish. Sometimes called Iranian Jewelled 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.
Jeweled Rice Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Basmati 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 with anti-inflammatory properties. 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.
The easy way to remove pomegranate seeds:
This is important because pomegranate juice will stain. And also because it’s easy to get the seeds out of a whole pomegranate, so you don’t need to spend so much more to buy just the seeds.
Some people recommend submerging the pieces of pomegranate in water and working in the water….to avoid staining….but 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. I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to get so dirty, but it 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? Just wash your hands (and your cutting board) immediately afterwards…no staining.
- 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 sprinkle onto your Jeweled Rice.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS HEALTHY SIDE DISH
- 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.
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.
Place rinsed rice, carrot rounds, smashed garlic cloves, orange peel, cinnamon stick and saffron threads into an instant pot. Pour in water and stir well. While rice is cooking, prepare the onions. 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.
- Saute onions in a heavy skillet with olive oil.
- Continue to slow cook until they’re brown and crisp.
- Stir in spices and nuts, until well distributed.
- Cook until nuts are toasted and onions have absorbed spices.
Let rice cook in the Instant Pot for 12 minutes, with natural release. When rice is done, fluff with a fork, making sure saffron threads and garlic are well incorporated into the rice.
- Mound the rice and carrot mixture onto a serving platter
- Arrange the caramelized onion/nut mixture onto the rice.
- Sprinkle with sliced scallions and golden raisins.
- Add pomegranate seeds to the top.
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.
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl to mix well and then pile onto a platter or a serving bowl for an even distribution of ingredients in every bite.
- You can use any dried fruits….apricots, cherries, cranberries in place of, or in addition to, the golden raisins.
- Make 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….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.
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.
More Healthy Holiday Recipes:
- Vegan and Gluten-free Stuffed Mushrooms
- Healthy Chocolate Pie
- Vegan Meatloaf
- Caesar Salad
- Stuffed Butternut Squash
- Almond Thumbprint Cookies (vegan and gluten-free)
- Vegan Stuffed Cabbage
- Cornbread Stuffing (vegan and gluten-free)
- 2 cups white basmati rice
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 4 large cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 lb. small carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- finely julienned rind of 1 orange
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 2 purple onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- seeds of 1 pomegranate
- 1/2 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 1/4 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 1/2 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.
RICE: The recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups water....this is for cooking in an instant pot (or pressure cooker). If you're making the rice on the stove, you will need 3 1/2 cups water. Less liquid is needed in the instant pot because the rice will "steam" rather than absorb more water to cook.
NUTS: Any nut or seed that you enjoy will work here.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle Holder, 12", Red Silicone
Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker, and Warmer, 6 Quart, 14 One-Touch Programs
Makerstep Set of 3 Stainless Steel Fine Mesh Strainers. Graduated Sizes 3.38", 5.5", 7.87" Strainer Wire Sieve Sifter with Insulated Handle for Kitchen Gadgets Tools
Amount Per Serving Calories 248Total Fat 11gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 0mgSodium 172mgCarbohydrates 37gFiber 5gSugar 15gProtein 4g
The nutrition calculations were done using online tools. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients you used. You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information is accurate, complete and useful.