Sholeh zard (Persian Sweet Rice Pudding with Saffron and Rose Water)

Sholeh zard is an exotic sweet rice pudding with a vibrant yellow color from saffron (hence 'zard' which means yellow) and subtle aromas of rosewater and dash of cinnamon. This aromatic, flavorful dessert can be prepared hours in advance prior to serving. Simply delicious and easy to make, this traditional dessert is often a staple at most Persian gatherings for dessert.

Saffron is a staple in Persian cuisine and flavors many dishes. It is the most expensive spice as it takes 150,000 flowers just to produce one kilogram of this exotic spice. A planted bulb takes two to three years before it is ready to produce flowers. Even after a couple of years of producing flowers, the bulb has to be dug up, cleaned and replanted.

Saffron has been cultivate and valued in the Middle East for at least four thousand years as an aromatic flavoring, perfume, dye, medicine, and even as an aphrodisiac. This valuable spice at times has been worth its own weight in gold.

In Europe, this spice has been incorporated in many popular dishes such as the Spanish Paella and the French Bouillabaisse. Growing up enjoying Persian cuisine, I have been spoiled with a majority of our dishes using Saffron for flavoring and dye. I would like to share with you a traditional Persian Dessert which uses Saffron as its main flavoring along with rosewater.


10 oz. basmati rice
12 cups water
16 oz. sugar
2 oz. slivered almonds
¼ teaspoons saffron (ground) and dissolved in ¼ cup hot water
1/2 cup melted butter- unsalted
¼ cup rosewater
1 tsp cardamom ( optional; traditionally not used)
cinnamon and slivered pistachios for decoration
pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl, wash and rinse multiple times rice in cold water until the water is transparent.

2. In a large pot, bring to boil 12 cups of water and add rice and a small pinch of salt. Over low heat allow the rice to cook, occasionally stirring to prevent rice from settling to the bottom of the pot. Usually it takes anywhere from 40-60 minutes for the rice to cook through. When rice is completely cooked (it appears soft and mashed like well cooked oatmeal), add sugar, rosewater, cardamom (optional), saffron and slivered almonds. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until consistency resembles porridge (if too thick, add a little more hot water; if consistency is runny, cook until water evaporates).

3. Place rice mixture in one large soufflé dish or individual decorative dishes to serve. Cool at room temperature for 45 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours.

4. Decorate with cinnamon and pistachios prior to serving.



  1. Don't I love this dessert!!! Best rice pudding I've ever tasted hands down, Marjan! Thanks for the recipe.


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