Tahchin is a Persian saffron rice dish of fluffy basmati, barberries and golden raisins, baked with eggs and yogurt to form a crispy crust. This savory cake recipe is a must-make!
Andy Baraghani, senior food editor for Bon Appetit Magazine, says,
"...Cooking rice is a ceremonial process; it’s the true test of what makes a great cook of Iranian cuisine."Andy Baraghani
Those passionate Iranian cooks are surely the reason that the basmati rice cake known as tahchin (or tachin) is so inexplicably delicious. Thankfully, Iranian-based rice dishes like this one and my Persian crispy rice recipe are easy to make!
Tahchin vs Tahdig
These words are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing. Tahchin is the name of this baked rice dish.
In comparison, tahdig is a Persian word meaning “bottom of the pot”, describing the crispy, caramelized layer at the bottom of the cooking vessel.
After the dish is cooked, the contents are inverted onto a platter, revealing the “tahdig”. In fact, rice isn’t the only option for this cooking process!
The crispy layer can be made with potatoes, bread or even a vegetable.
Ingredients for Persian Saffron Rice
*The primary ingredients are shown here. A complete list, including amounts, is shown in the recipe card below
- Long grain rice- Extra long “fancy” basmati rice is the gold standard choice for making this recipe. However, any other long grain white rice is fine. Just be sure to avoid short grain varieties, as they are too starchy and will become gummy during the baking process.
- Egg yolks - These help give a golden yellow color to the dish, and they help bind the mixture for baking
- Plain yogurt- Any full-fat variety works, but avoid Greek yogurt; it is too thick to combine well with the other ingredients
- Saffron- This ingredient is the harvested stamen of crocus flowers, and because there are just FOUR threads per flower, true saffron threads are very expensive.
In fact, saffron the world’s most expensive spice, but there is no appropriate substitute for the gorgeous color and flavor it brings to any dish. I use Mehr brand saffron threads.
- Barberries- This fruit has a red-orange color and tart flavor. If you can’t find the dried berries, you can use dried tart (sour) cherries instead
- Golden raisins add a touch of sweetness to compliment the tart berries. If you prefer dark raisins, you can use them instead, but golden raisins are a bit sweeter.
- Sea salt- It may not seem important, but salt is an important ingredient in any rice dish, especially in the cooking water.
Video: Making Tahchin
Making this dish is fun and easy! Watch the video in the recipe card below to see it in action.
Step by step instructions
- Grind and bloom the saffron threads.
To get the best color and flavor, the saffron needs to be ground into a powder, then "bloomed" in a dish of warm water.
The simplest way to grind the threads is using a mortar and pestle. If you don't have one, it's okay; just place the threads in a small bowl and use the back of a spoon to crush them.
Be careful when working with saffron. The natural color can stain fabric, counter tops, and even your skin.
- Rinse and cook the rice.
To remove as much excess starch from the rice as possible, place the grains into a strainer and rinse it with tap water until the water runs clear.
Be sure to use plenty of salt! It is a key component to adding flavor to the rice, so don't be shy; it should be salty like ocean water.
- Cook the barberries and raisins.
This doesn't take long; just a couple of minutes in a saute pan with some melted butter. You can do this while you're waiting for the rice to cook.
- Make the tachin batter, then bake.
Combine the egg yolks, yogurt, oil and saffron water together in a large bowl, then add the cooked rice.
Pour half of the batter into a greased baking pan, sprinkle some additional raisins and dried berries over it, then add the remaining batter. Then in the oven it goes!
- Cool the dish slightly, then invert onto a serving platter.
- Use a glass baking dish. This will allow you to check the underside of the dish, to ensure that the rice golden brown in color.
- Cover the baking dish tightly. Persian saffron rice needs to bake with steam as well as with heat from the oven. To keep moisture in, cover the baking dish tightly with a layer of aluminum foil.
- Serving suggestion: This cake is best when served while still warm, and eaten within two days.
- Storing leftovers. If you need to store leftovers, be sure to keep them in an airtight container so that the tahchin doesn't dry out too quickly.
Baked Persian Saffron Rice (Tahchin)
- 1 tsp saffron threads finely ground
- 1 orange zest
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ cup dried barberries chopped (or 1 cup dried tart cherries)
- 2 tsp golden raisins (sultanas), chopped
- 1 tsp rose water optional
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt not Greek, too thick
- ½ cup vegetable oil plus more for greasing dish
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- Grind the saffron threads in the palm of your hand, or in a mortar and pestle (preferred). Mix with 2 tablespoons of warm water in a large bowl. Let sit and allow saffron to bloom and draw out as much color as possible. It should be a deep ruby red.
- Zest 1 teaspoon of the orange and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add ¼ cup salt and stir.
- Place rice in a strainer or sieve and rinse with lukewarm water, swishing rice around with your fingers to get rid of excess starch. Continue to rinse until water runs clear.
- Add rice to boiling water and stir to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rice begins to rise to the top and is tender but still has a slight bite to it, 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Cook barberries and golden raisins stirring often, until plumped slightly and warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest and rose water.
- Preheat oven to 400°F and place rack in lower third of oven.
- Add the egg yolks, yogurt, oil, and salt to the saffron and mix well with spatula. Add rice to yogurt mixture and gently fold in to ensure every grain is coated.
- Coat a 10" diameter glass pie dish with oil (glass lets you check on the color from underneath). Add half of rice mixture and use the spatula to gently pack the rice into dish. Scatter half of fruit mixture over and top with remaining rice. Press down again, this time more firmly.
- Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until rice on the bottom and around edges is a deep golden brown, 65–75 minutes. Discard foil and let cool 10 minutes.
- Loosen the rice around the edges using the point of a knife. Place a large plate on top and invert rice onto plate like a cake. Scatter remaining fruit mixture over top. Slice and serve.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.