Persian Rice-Stuffed Onions

Persian Rice-Stuffed Onions

These elegant onions are stuffed with beautiful saffron-tinged basmati rice. The fluffy rice is infused with fragrant spices and studded with toasted nuts and dried fruit for a vibrant and textured jeweled look. The onion layers and rice can be prepared a day ahead and kept refrigerated. These festive onions are a great accompaniment to any large protein roast (fish, chicken, steak) and make for a stunning vegetarian main dish. Use any mix of preferred chopped dried fruit; apricots, dates and currants are all nice alternatives.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 6 persons



  1. Step 1

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high. Make a lengthwise cut into each onion from the top to root end, slicing only halfway through to the middle of the onion. (This will make it easier to separate the layers.) Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer briskly until the onions are softened through the middle and the layers separate easily, about 25 minutes. Transfer onions to a cutting board and let cool.
  2. Step 2

    Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden, 6 to 7 minutes; transfer to a plate to cool. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  3. Step 3

    In a small bowl, combine saffron and lemon juice, and let sit.
  4. Step 4

    Separate the onion layers until just the centers remain. (You may have to trim the root ends a bit more if the layers don’t completely separate.) Cut the 2 largest outer layers from each onion in half for 12 equal pieces, then count out more of the inner layers for a total of 20 to 24 stuffed onions. (The number will vary depending on the size of onions.) Finely chop the remaining onion centers and any remaining onion layers to make 1 cup; a little less or more is OK.
  5. Step 5

    Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a high-sided, 12-inch ovenproof skillet with a lid over medium. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in rice and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, and stir until evenly coated. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, saffron-lemon juice, cinnamon stick, cumin, cardamom and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the liquid is just absorbed, about 3 minutes (rice will still be undercooked). Stir in toasted almonds, pistachios, raisins, cherries and parsley.
  6. Step 6

    Spoon 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture in the center of each onion layer so that the onion loosely covers the filling. (Rice will expand; bundles should be partly open.) Scrape out and discard any remaining rice (or reserve for future use) and clean out the skillet.
  7. Step 7

    Coat the bottom of the skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and arrange onions seam side up in a single layer. Add 1 cup of water to the pan, season onions with salt and pepper, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bring to a boil over high, cover tightly and transfer to the oven to bake until all the liquid has been absorbed, rice is cooked through and onions are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  8. Step 8

    Garnish with parsley and drizzle with oil. Serve warm.