“Havij Polow” – Iranian Saffron Carrot Rice with Chicken

Video by Farhang Foundation

Recipe and Ingredients by Omid Roustaei – The Caspian Chef



  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 8 tablespoons hot water

Divided Candied Orange 

  • 1 Navel orange peeled, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 water
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  • 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
  • 4 pieces of chicken thighs and breasts, with bone-in and skin-on, preferred
  • 1 cup water, more as needed
  • 3 tablespoon saffron water


  • 4 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
  • 3 tablespoon saffron water


  • 2 cup white basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons salt, for parboiling rice and will be rinsed out
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
  • 2 tablespoon saffron water


  • 1/4 cup slivered or chopped pistachios



  • Using a smooth mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads into a fine ground, add hot water, stir and set aside.


  • Score the navel orange into quarters with a paring knife, approximately 1/8 inch deep. Peel the orange and remove as much of the pith as possible. Thinly slice the orange peel into matchsticks.
  • Place the orange peel in a small saucepan with water and sugar, stir and bring to a gentle boil. Continue to simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the water and sugar have cooked into a small amount of syrup. Set aside.


  • In a large heavy pot, sauté the onions with 2 tablespoons of ghee for about 10 minutes over medium heat.
  • Add turmeric, salt, and pepper and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the chicken pieces on medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side. Return the onions to the pan, add 1 cup of water and mix well.
  • Cover and cook the chicken over low heat for 75-90 minutes until the chicken is completely tender. Be sure to turn the chicken over halfway and check for the liquid level. If necessary, add a small amount of water during cooking; however, keep in mind that the finished dish should not be watery.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of saffron water and stir. Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat.


  • In a medium-sized frying pan, sauté the carrots over medium heat with ghee for about 5 minutes, add the orange peel and syrup and 3 tablespoons of saffron water and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and set aside.


  • Select a large heavy-bottomed pot and bring 8 cups of water and salt to a boil, covered. Once boiling, add the rinsed rice and bring it back to a boil on high heat uncovered for about 6-8 minutes, or until the rice has slightly softened.
  • Drain the rice in a colander, rinse with warm water, and set it aside while you prepare the pan for the next stage of cooking.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee over low heat in the same heavy bottom pot. In a small bowl, gently mix 1 cup of the lightly cooked rice with 2 tablespoons of saffron-water and spread evenly in the bottom of the pot. This will turn into the crispy rice referred to as Tahdig.
  • Begin by layering a 1/3 of the partially cooked rice and a 1/3 of the carrot mixture until all rice and carrots are layered in the pot. Next, wrap the lid with a clean towel and place it on top of the pot.
  • Allow the rice to steam over medium-low to medium heat for 45-50 minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Place the rice and carrot pilaf on a serving platter with the braised chicken arranged around the platter, garnish with pistachios on top and serve.

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