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Saffron Chicken

Photo: Amy Dickerson; Styling: Joni Noe

Total time 1 hr, 30 mins

Serves 6 to 8

Los Angeles actor Naz Deravian, creator of the food blog Bottom of the Pot, layers this fragrant, golden chicken into steamed rice with barberries. It also works as a stand-alone main course, with plain rice or pita bread. This recipe goes with: Barberry Rice with Saffron Chicken (Zereshk Polo)


  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs (4 1/2 to 5 lbs. total), skin and extra fat removed
  • About 2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron, ground with a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice grinder
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (optional)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced into 1/4-in.-thick rounds
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • About 3 tbsp. lemon juice

Nutrition Information

  • calories 325
  • caloriesfromfat 55 %
  • protein 32 g
  • fat 20 g
  • satfat 4.7 g
  • carbohydrate 3 g
  • fiber 0.4 g
  • sodium 488 mg
  • cholesterol 15 mg

How to Make It

  1. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day ahead (chill, covered, if more than 30 minutes).

  2. Put ground saffron in a small glass or bowl with 2 tbsp. hot (not boiling) water and the rose water, if using. Stir to combine, then let steep 5 minutes.

  3. Heat a 12-in. frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, then arrange onion slices in a single layer; sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Scatter garlic over onions. Place chicken thighs on top in one layer if possible (a little overlap is okay since they'll shrink as they cook). Sprinkle with pepper, then lemon juice, then saffron water. If any saffron remains in bowl, add a bit of hot water, swirl, and add to chicken.

  4. Bring to a simmer, partially cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, turning a few times to coat in juices, until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt and lemon juice if you like.

  5. Lift cooked chicken to a cutting board. Holding each thigh steady with tongs, cut meat off bone into bite-size pieces. Meanwhile, reduce juices in pan over high heat to about 1/2 cup. Return chicken to sauce and set aside, covered, until ready to use.

  6. Make ahead: Up to 2 days, chilled.