Upgrade Your White Rice In Just Five Minutes

Raid your pantry for easy Persian rice

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This September, embrace the upgrade with us: Make your eating and drinking better, faster and stronger.

In Persian cooking, rice is king. "Rice is the anchor of every meal and gathering—lunch or dinner—you're always going to have rice," author of The New Persian Cookbook and rice devotee Louisa Shafia explains.

Making traditional Persian rice is a multistep process, during which grains of high-quality basmati are soaked in cold water, parboiled, then steamed and dressed with dried fruits, nuts and herbs. A tower of saffron-hued rice, bejeweled with barberries and orange zest, or a jade-colored rice infused with dill and tossed with fava beans, is a thing to behold. There are even odes dedicated to tahdig, the crispy crust that forms at the bottom of the pot when rice is made this way.

Sadly, white rice in our kitchens is all too often left unadorned (or simply doused with Sriracha and soy). Shafia says to look at a pot of white rice as a "blank palette that can be dressed up with anything that's delicious and in season." With a little inspiration from Shafia's kitchen, it's easy to dress up basic white rice (yes, even the minute variety; we won't judge) in just a few minutes with pantry staples.

Here's our handy guide for upgrading your rice:

In a small bowl, dissolve a pinch of saffron into 2 tablespoons of warm water. Once dissolved, add it to a large bowl with 3 cups of warm, cooked rice (that's 1 cup uncooked), with 1 tablespoon of butter, a pinch of salt and ¾ cup of dried fruit. Toss to combine. Pile rice onto a plate and top with ½ to ¾ cup of chopped (or slivered) and toasted nuts, ? cup of chopped herbs and the zest of half an orange or lemon if you're feeling fancy. Serve immediately with wedges of lemon or orange.

Any combination you like is fair game, but here are some of our favorites:

Dried cherries + slivered almonds + mint

Dried apricots, chopped + pistachios + orange zest

Sultanas + pine nuts + parsley + lemon zest