Saffron Chicken


5 from 21 votes
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Grilled to perfection, this saffron chicken is the juiciest chicken you will eat. Deceptively easy to make, serve it with a delicious green sauce for the ultimate dinner. 

saffron chicken.

We love cooking with chicken.

It’s versatile, affordable, and pretty much a blank canvas. Some of our favorite chicken recipes include Tuscan chicken, baked chicken legs, Peruvian chicken, and this gorgeous chicken with saffron. 

Why this recipe works 

  • Takes 20 minutes to cook. Marinate the chicken a few hours in advance and this takes barely any time to cook! 
  • High-protein and healthy. Grilling chicken is one of the healthiest and most delicious ways to cook it. The addition of Greek yogurt adds extra protein, too!
  • Pairs with a range of dishes. This is a very versatile dish. You can serve it with rice, roasted vegetables, fresh salads, and pasta, as well as use it to make sandwiches and wraps. 

What I love about this saffron-marinated chicken is just how fancy it tastes! Honestly, this is the kind of chicken dish I’d expect at restaurants! 

Ingredients needed

Besides the saffron and chicken, there really isn’t much else that goes into this recipe. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Saffron. Saffron is the main ingredient of this dish. It is very mild yet fragrant. I use saffron threads for this grilled chicken recipe to give the chicken an appetizing golden look and a delicate floral aroma. 
  • Chicken. I prefer using a mix of different chicken cuts for this recipe, including skin-on thighs, drumsticks, and legs. Feel free to solely use chicken breasts. 
  • Yogurt. The yogurt-based marinade tenderizes the chicken gently and effectively. Yogurt also gives the chicken a nice tangy flavor. 
  • Garlic. Using garlic to add extra flavor to chicken is always a good idea. Use fresh minced garlic in the yogurt marinade. 
  • Lemon juice. Use freshly squeezed lemon juice to further tenderize the chicken and make it flavorful. 
  • Butter. Saffron-flavored melted butter to make the grilled chicken extra juicy. 
  • Water. You will need warm water to steep the saffron. 
  • Salt and pepper. To taste. 
  • Cilantro. Chopped cilantro to sprinkle over the chicken before serving it. 

How to make saffron chicken

Simple is an understatement for this recipe. Besides marinating the chicken, there isn’t very much hands-on time whatsoever. 

Step 1- Steep the saffron

Combine ½ teaspoon of saffron with a tablespoon of warm water and let it steep for 10 minutes. 

seeping saffron.

Step 2 – Marinate the chicken

For the marinade combine the yogurt, minced garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to the steeped saffron.

saffron marinade for chicken.

Add this mixture to the chicken pieces and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight giving the chicken a good mix several times. 

chicken marinating in yogurt.

Step 3 – Grill the chicken

Preheat the grill to medium heat and grease it generously. Remove the excess marinade from the chicken pieces and place them on the grill.

saffron chicken on grill.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Flip the chicken a few times to get it evenly charred on all sides or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

grilled saffron chicken.

Step 4 – Brush with saffron butter and serve 

Whisk melted butter with the remaining saffron. Brush it on the grilled chicken pieces while they are hot. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve. 

brushing chicken with butter.

Tips to make the best recipe

  • Make mini kebabs on skewers. Cut the chicken into even pieces and thread them onto skewers. 
  • Use high-quality saffron. Only high-quality saffron threads will provide the color, aroma, and subtle floral flavor that makes this dish unique. 
  • Don’t cook on high heat. Grilling chicken on high heat will burn it on the outside while leaving it raw inside. Cooking the chicken on medium heat allows you to achieve a safe internal temperature and an all-over golden look.
  • Use leftover marinade as a sauce. The unused yogurt marinade can also be served as a sauce for the saffron chicken that is already cooked. 

Storage instructions

  • To store: Store leftover saffron chicken in the fridge in an airtight container. The grilled chicken lasts up to 2 days in the fridge.
  • To freeze: Place the cooked and cooled chicken in a shallow container and store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  • To reheat: Reheat leftovers in a covered pan over medium heat, flipping the pieces a few times to get them evenly heated. You can also reheat the chicken in the oven or in the microwave. 
chicken with saffron.

More chicken recipes to try

Frequently asked questions

Can I use saffron threads?

You can use saffron threads for cooking so long as you steep them in a warm liquid. Steeping saffron threads in warm water, milk, or white wine is essential for drawing out their color and flavor and making a dish that has a distinct saffron aroma. 

What meats go well with saffron? 

Thanks to its neutral flavor, chicken pairs best with saffron. You can also pair saffron with lamb and beef.

saffron chicken recipe.

Saffron Chicken | Cooks In Just 20 Minutes

5 from 21 votes
Grilled to perfection, this saffron chicken is the juiciest chicken you will eat. Deceptively easy to make, serve it with a delicious green sauce for the ultimate dinner. 
Servings: 12 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes


  • 3/4 teaspoon saffron divided
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 1/2 lbs chicken pieces a mix of thighs, drumsticks, and legs
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted


  • In a large bowl, combine ½ teaspoon of the saffron with warm water. Let it stand for 5 minutes.
  • Add in the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and mix until combined. 
  • Add the chicken and mix very well, until all the chicken is well coated.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight, if possible.
  • Preheat a hot grill to medium heat and grease generously.
  • Remove the excess marinade from the chicken. Place them on the grill, and cook for 15 minutes, turning once or twice, or until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165F.
  • Once the chicken is grilled, whisk together the melted butter with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of saffron. Brush over the grilled chicken pieces.


TO STORE: Store leftover saffron chicken in the fridge in an airtight container. The grilled chicken lasts up to 2 days in the fridge.
TO FREEZE: Place the cooked and cooled chicken in a shallow container and store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
TO REHEAT: Reheat leftovers in a covered pan over medium heat, flipping the pieces a few times to get them evenly heated. You can also reheat the chicken in the oven or in the microwave.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 226kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 18gFat: 16gSodium: 281mgPotassium: 217mgFiber: 0.1gVitamin A: 206IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 38mgIron: 1mgNET CARBS: 2g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Persian
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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Recipe Rating


  1. That’s IT?! You mean to tell me, my little latte friend, that there are only FOUR ingredients to this unicorn of foodie dishes that you’ve been teasing me with for MONTHS?!! Shame on you…shame! Luckily, I have just a tiny shred of forgiveness in my heart just for you…but don’t thank me…oh no. Thank the packet of saffron in my kitchen cupboard that is SCREAMING to me at this very moment! And wouldn’t you know, I just had a friend talk me into buying some basmati rice last weekend! Did you come raid my kitchen while I was at work the other day??

    1. …..Yes. I did.

      Seriously, the most simple of recipes are the most delicious! And it’s actually 5 ingredients….the main one is love. 😉

  2. After hearing about this for so long, I absolutely am going to have to give it a try now! It sounds fan-freakin-tastic!!!

      1. So, I just made this for my lunches this week. Now I know why you’ve been talking it up all this time…it is delicious!! I also love how simple it is and that it uses commonly on-hand ingredients, which is always a huge plus. Thanks to you and your mum for sharing this recipe – will definitely be a repeater. 🙂

        And yes, I used thighs! Ever since I made the switch, I’ve never gone back to chix breasts – they just seem so dry and tasteless now.

      2. Thanks so much, Mermaid- you know what is funny- we both made each others chicken based recipes haha!

        Seriously, I think of chicken boobs as prison food.

  3. IF ONLY YOU KNEW HOW MUCH I LOVE PERSIAN FOOD – OMG OMG OM GOMG OM GOMGHHDFIUgdiuasdhdiaeiu! I LOVE IT SO MUCH. BAH HA AH! Okay, I guess you know now, lol! So when you come to LA, we are not only going to eat at seafood buffets galore but we are also going to Persian Food Hop!!! I have lots and lots of places I can take youuuuuuuuu! 😀

  4. Aaah the famous chicken! Which – repeat after me: I do not love more than Mum.
    While I have full faith that the recipe is a winner, a sprinkle of magic (love) from Mum while she cooks is what I reckon takes it up 50 notches. So when you make it, it will not be *exactly* the same :tongue out:!
    Chicken is my fave meat, but I refuse to cook it!
    My Mum makes the best biryani – by what everyone says – which is a heavily complicated dish and if I’m correct cannot be made without saffron.

    1. I don’t disagree with toy there- I can NEVER replicate her recipes but hey, when the craving strikes, I have a semi decent substitute.

      Biriyani is delicious- you should steal the recipe from her 😉

  5. Mmmm easy is always delicious and simple food with good ingredients is some of the best. Stir-fry or salads are my go-to for easy meals, tons of veggies, minimal work, and delicious no matter what you put in.

    I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of this chicken now that you can make it yourself (minus the beating of course!)

    1. Haha thanks, Sarah! Although it won’t EVER come close to the way mum makes it, it provides a decent substitute! stir fries really are a perfect go to!

  6. FINALLY. I’m gonna ask my mom to make this. Not because I’m a bad daughter (like you, a bad son), but because I’m afraid I will mishandle the precious saffron. I would be the one to accidentally drop half the jar of saffron into the pot.
    Who is ever nice to you? Not me.

    1. Geebuz, your mum will probably disown you for doing that…why is saffron so damn expensive!

      You are as nice as wearing a T shirt when it’s snowing outside.

  7. I think the only time I’ve ever had saffron was in paella. Other than that, I’ve never really had saffron-based dishes! I really love being exposed to other cultures, especially through food, so I’d love to try this. If I do I’ll definitely give you a shout-out! I love chicken but (confession) I’m terrible at cooking it myself. I’m really picky about meat so if I play around with raw meat too much I’ll make myself sick and can’t eat it for awhile. That leads me to being super high-maintenance and making Zain cook the chicken or only ordering it when we go out to eat. I wish I could be a huge meat eater who didn’t care where it came from but it’s just not in the cards for me haha.

    1. Haha I guess we all have our downfalls 😉

      OH saffron is the KEY spice in paella…enough saffron can make or break a paella!

    1. How ridiculously expensive is it?! I will probably use the ‘fake’ saffron when I make it lol!

  8. Tell Margie to get home from Uzbekistan so she can come deliver me some saffron! That shit is expensive. Better yet send me some tonight. I’ll throw it on some quinoa.

    WAKE UP I have some blotching to do…

    1. How dare you say she is from Uzbekistan. She is finding a new menopause buddy.

      Blotching with you is the icing (made of almond meal and coconut milk) on the cake (made of air, barbells and raw cocoa).

  9. You know what’s sad? I don’t think I’ve ever had saffron anything before. You know what’s even sadder? That you didn’t invite me over for dinner so that I could try it out. You’re lucky I had my mom’s sesame chicken stir fry to fall back on. That’s probably one of the dinners that my mom makes the most often for when I go over there, and I’m definitely not complaining — I love it. Even better as cold leftovers 😉

    1. You’re always invited for dinner! Try saffron mixed with basmati rice- that is another way mum makes it, but instead of coconut milk, melt some butter. It is delicious!

  10. Confession: I have never cooked with chicken thighs, simply because the name and idea of it kind of sketches me out. But this just migggght be the recipe to change that, given your mum’s first recipe (caramelized onion and eggplant dip) rocked my world!!

    1. You need to try cooking with chicken thighs, Meg- they are so flavourful- so much more than chicken breasts!

      Stoked you enjoyed it 🙂

  11. Yum, yum, yum! I’ve had numerous Persian dishes with saffron but never one like this. Do you use sumac much? I am hoping to carve out time this weekend to make your caramelized onion and eggplant dip. (Then sit down with a wooden spoon and it all by my lonesome.) Do you use regular large eggplant or the smaller Japanese variety? The woman who taught me how to make eggplant stew (ghormeh bademjan? I probably horribly butchered the spelling.)
    My mom makes an Italian barbecue chicken. It is simple and delicious. Basically, she marinates chicken in olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and lemon for 24 hours before grilling.
    Enjoy your well earned weekend!

    1. Mum uses sumac when she makes huge vats of Persian style rice- she melts butter through it then tops it with sumac!

      With the eggplant, try a regular one! That chicken actually sounds delicious- good marinating is absolutely key!

  12. I love the simple ingredients in this dish, but I bet it’s super, super flavorful! It looks like the most perfect comfort food – add a side of crusty bread and that sounds like perfection! I haven’t actually tried a saffron based dish before, but I love trying new things, so I’m excited to try out a new herb!

    1. Definitely give it a go, Holly- it is sooo good and I love mopping up the excess sauce with French baguette or a sourdough loaf!

  13. I had a tomato saffron soup once and that was delicious and warming! I love chicken thighs too, so much tastier then the old breast 😉
    I don’t really eat that much meat, perhaps twice a week or so… The J man has been making a really good coconut chicken lately though. He coats a chicken breast in coconut oil, mix of random spices, dessicated coconut and then griddle pan fries it – so good – try it!

    1. Stupid chicken boobs- once moving down to the thighs, you never go back! Tomato + saffron is an epic combination!

      Okay, you need to remind me to make it- that might make the chicken boobs taste nice 😉

  14. I love saffron but I’ve never cooked with it. Can your mom make this for me? Or you. Which reminds me… why aren’t you hopping a plane to Switzerland?

    1. Lucie is a genius with saffron so I reckon this is the best recipe to test out together 😉

  15. Bless your Mum for cooking your favorite dish in your shoebox twice 🙂
    This sounds totally yummy and easy. The best combination when it comes to recipes! I can’t remember I ever ate a saffron based recipe. Would be a new experience.
    my fallback dinner? Chili con Carne of course 🙂

    1. Hahaha thank you, Juli. Try it- Saffron makes things smell so good and look…fluro.

      You forgot the sweet potato under the chili con carne 😉

  16. YUMMMM hahah about the old stove— my stove from last year was from the 70s I swear and I was so confused as to why the apartment wouldn’t replace it. Are they that expensive??? Anyway, this looks awesome and my favorite way to eat chicken hmmm honestly probably just grilled with olive oil–suuuuuper simple and still flavorful.

    1. Haha seriously, what is with some places and replacing their electrical equipment? When I was in the temporary accommodation my work provided, their ovens there cooked food in like, 15 minutes. My mind was blown.

  17. This seems so simple and tasty! I have saffron, but I only ever add it to rice…which I haven’t actually done for a while. Might have to do that next time and cook rice…
    Fallback dinner: eggs or pancakes (woot breakfast for dinner!) or a big salad. Gets the job done.

    1. I LOVE adding saffron to rice too- especially paella!!! Your fallback dinners are well approved. Well approved!

  18. YES! I’m so excited for this! Truth be told I have saffron in my cupboard, but I’ve actually never cooked with it. This will be the perfect way to try it out. 😀

    My fallback recipe is either Mexican or some kind of stir fry. Truth be told I don’t cook a lot of chicken because I find it boring, but this recipe looks anything but boring!

    1. Thanks, my favourite stalker.

      Actually, I hear you on that- try cooking with chicken mince (NOT the lean kind)- they make amazing burgers, especially mixed with parmesan cheese!

  19. Yum!!!!

    Easy to make and can be frozen too, this post has made Jen very happy! 🙂

  20. I have been waiting for this recipe! It looks so good and I’m glad it’s a pretty basic recipe – sometimes simple is best. I love chicken, and it’s probably where I get most of my protein from (meat wise). I make a good chicken curry with chicken breast, canned tomatoes, rogan josh curry paste and coconut milk! But if I just want quick chicken I cook it with a marinade of balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, dried italian herbs, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper!

    1. No worries! I hope you do try it out- it really is delicious and so simple to make! That quick marinade sounds great!

  21. Say whaaat- this recipe looks fool-proof and I can’t wait to try it…big thanks to your momma for sharing! I’ve been looking for a good chicken curry type recipe that doesn’t contain Indian flavors and this sounds right up my alley. Recently I’ve been loving chicken in burger form- mince, add loads of fresh herbs and a few veggies and bind. And of course ketchup, avocado and mustard are almost always a given ;)!

    1. I’ll let her know! This is so good over some rice or even with a pita! YES! I love using chicken mince with cumin, salt and pepper and simply fry them- delicious!

  22. Finally! Me and my chicken were waiting for this saffron version. I might be obsessed with saffron, I throw it at anything and everything. I even use it as make up. That was a bad joke.

    Grilled chicken is my favorite, but in winter I just make it in the oven. It allows me to have a predrink while it’s roasting.

    1. I know you love your saffron but you must try this out- seriously, it is so simple and so delicious! Mmmm you can never beat grilled chicken to chuck in all things and everything!

  23. Mum has outdone herself yet again. I’m glad you got her to share the recipe; the world needs this chicken.

    I think some of the best dishes also are some of the most basic to make with the fewest ingredients possible. A ripe tomato paired with fresh mozzarella and basil and then dusted with olive oil, a touch of vinegar and S&P is just about heaven on a plate for me. I could eat this every day in the summer.

    1. That would be absolutely perfect, with a slice of white sourdough toast as a vehicle and an extra drizzle of balsamic. Why must you mention this when we are entering Winter now :p

  24. Oh my gosh this looks amazing!! I’ve been waiting so patiently for you to share this recipe!! I can’t wait to make it, and the best part… It’s advocare challenge friendly! Woohoo!!
    I’ve never tried a saffron based dish but always wanted to. I think my go to chicken recipe is a simple roasted bird with yummy seasoning on to!! There’s nothing better then a farm fresh roasted bird!!

    1. Thanks heaps, Alex- AND BONUS!!!

      I still need to roast a bird from scratch- that has been on my foodie bucket list for like… 2 years now. Oops.