Turkish Rice Dessert Flavored With Saffron

'Safranlı zerde' is a delicious Turkish pudding-like dessert made with rice, pine nuts and currants and flavored with saffron and rose water. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu, 2013
  • 30 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Yield: 2 servings
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Saffron, one of the most highly prized spices in the world, is used to add color and aroma to a delicious Turkish pudding-like dessert called 'safranlı zerde' (sah-FRAHN'-luh zeyr-DAY').

Called 'zerde' for short, this nutritious, clear pudding is made with rice, pine nuts and currants and uses water rather than milk as a base. This makes for a clear pudding with a lovely yellow color.

Many recipes for "zerde," like this one, also contain edible rose water to add yet another delicate flavor and aroma to the dish.

'Safranlı zerde' is a dessert that orginates from the areas surrounding the city of Konya, located in inner Anatolia and is a good example of regional Turkish cuisine. It's said to have been a favorite of the Ottomans and was prepared regularly in the Topkapı palace kitchens in Istanbul.

Today, 'zerde' can be found in many Turkish restaurants and dessert shops all over the country. It's also a favorite dessert served during the holy month of Ramadan.

'Zerde' is simple to prepare. Like many Turkish puddings, it's very nutritious and low in fat.

All you need is rice, cornstarch, sugar, some dried currants and pine nuts and a pinch of saffron. If you don't have real saffron, you can substitute with one-half to one teaspoon of tumeric powder.

Tumeric will also give your pudding a lovely yellow color and a hint of flavor. In fact, as you'll see in the recipe below, I like to add a little tumeric along with the saffron just to boost the color. Don't use yellow food coloring or the color will look much to artificial.

Serve your 'zerde' cold in decorative dessert bowls garnished with more currants and pine nuts. You can also use other toppings like coconut or ground nuts.

Try this traditional Turkish dessert recipe and give a new, colorful twist to old fashioned rice pudding.

What You'll Need

  • 4 ¼ cups water
  • ½ cup uncooked rice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • pinch of saffron
  • ¼ tsp. tumeric
  • 3 tbsp. rose water
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch (rounded)
  • 2 tbsp. dried currants (plus more for garnish, if desired)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (plus more for garnish, if desired)

How to Make It

  1. Begin by washing the rice in wire strainer under cold, running water for several minutes until the water runs clear. Once it's washed and drained, put the rice in a large saucepan. Add water to the pan to cover the rice about ½ inch. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook the rice for about 20 minutes.
     
  2. Put the 4 ½ cups water in a separate saucepan. Add the saffron and let it soak for about 15 minutes. After it softens, use the edge of a wooden spoon to crush the saffron and release the yellow color.
     
  1. Add the cooked rice, sugar and tumeric to the saffron and water and bring it to a boil. Add the rose water and cornstarch and cook, stirring continuously for about 20 minutes until the pudding thickens and becomes a clear yellow color.
     
  2. Turn off the heat and leave the pudding to cool in the pan about 10 minutes.
     
  3. Fill your dessert cups or a large serving bowl with the pudding. Let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours.
     
  4. Serve your 'zerde' cold. Garnish it with more pine nuts, and dried currants that have been soaked for a few minutes in hot water. You can also use other toppings like ground coconut, crushed pistachio nuts and fresh pomegranite seeds.
     
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 610
Total Fat 12 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Unsaturated Fat 3 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 6 mg
Carbohydrates 123 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Protein 6 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)