It sounds fancy, but you can make chicken in a creamy saffron sauce in about one hour. Really! Now, I will admit that saffron is kind of expensive, but a little goes a long way.
Chicken in creamy saffron sauce. My mouth is watering. Chicken is so versatile. Entire books have been dedicated to numerous recipes for this feathery friend. I will admit, right off the bat, saffron is a favorite of mine. It's expensive I know, but it is so delicious and delicate. By the way, in my book, you can't go wrong with cream.
It takes about 70,000 stems to get a pound of saffron.Holy cow!!! Yup, that's a lot of stems, and a lot of picking. Now, as far as a substitute? Sorry, but no! No spice or herb is a good substitute for the delicate taste of saffron.
The word saffron is of Arabic origin: Za’fran, meaning yellow. Interestingly enough, the Spanish word for saffron is azafran, almost identical to its Arabic counterpart. The deep reddish threads (stigma) of the crocus turn a deep yellow when they come in contact with water. Saffron features prominently in Persian and Mediterranean cuisine. You can’t possibly make a paella (the typical Spanish seafood and rice dish) or an Adas Polow ( a Persian dish consisting of rice, lentils and raisins) without saffron. Apart from its use in savory dishes, saffron is also used in cakes and other sweets. More on that later.
Saffron in ancient times
In ancient Egypt it was used as a perfume dye and medicine. It also had a religious use: saffron cakes were used as offerings the gods. In ancient Mesopotamia saffron was used as both an aromatic and as an aphrodisiac. In the Middle Age spice, it was considered the most desired along with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. According to Greek mythology, the god Hermes accidentally struck his friend Croco lethally wounding him. In the spot where blood dripped, Hermes touched his sword and flowers began to grow. These flowers were, well... crocuses! Another reference to saffron in Greek mythology has Zeus sleeping on a bed of saffron.
Saffron historical uses
Saffron also appears in the social rituals of antiquity. It was allegedly scattered at the feet of Roman emperors. Not surprising given the excesses that characterized the Roman Empire. Along the same vein, saffron was supposedly sprinkled on couches of fashionable homes so guests could breathe in the sweet aroma. I just hope the couches were not white!!! It was also thrown on the beds of newlyweds in Ancient Rome (Remember saffron’s aphrodisiac use in ancient Mesopotamia?)
Step by step photos:
- Preheat your oven to 200°F. Slice your chicken breasts horizontally through the middle.
- Place one sliced half between two pieces of plastic wrap. Lightly pound each chicken breast until it is about ¼ inch thick. Tip: Sprinkle a little water on the plastic before placing the chicken. It will make easier to pound out.
- Beat 2 eggs in a pie pan and place each chicken breast in the egg to coat.
- Take another pie pan and stir to combine the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken breast to fully coat.
- Heat the oil in a skillet on medium and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Work in batches and you may need add a little more oil as you go. As the breasts are done cooking in the skillet place in an oven safe dish. Keep all the cooked chicken breasts warm in the oven while making the pan sauce.
- Using the same skillet, sauté the shallot and garlic until the shallot is translucent.
- Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape up all the little bits from the pan surface and cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
- Add the cream and saffron to the pan.
- Whisk the sauce on low for 5-10 minutes.
- Continue stirring until the sauce thickens to a nappe consistency or coats as spoon when wiped as shown. Place all the chicken breasts on a serving platter, sprinkle with some chopped parsley. You can drizzle the saffron sauce over the chicken or serve on the side, your choice.
Frequently asked questions:
- How long can I store the chicken in the refrigerator? Once it has completely cooled you can store it in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Can I freeze the cooked chicken? Yes, wrap it tightly in a freezer bag after it has cooled. You can freeze it for 2-3 months when properly stored.
- Can I freeze the saffron cream sauce? I would not. It will separate or split once it thaws and have a grainy texture. It is edible but not an optimal texture.
- How do I reheat the chicken? Reheat the chicken in the microwave for 1-2 minutes per breast. Stop to flip over every 30-45 seconds until hot. Once reheated do not cool and store again in the refrigerator, consume it right away. So only reheat the amount you will consume.
I think you will enjoy making this delicious chicken in creamy saffron sauce. After all, saffron is a winner in my book, and chicken? Well you can never go wrong with chicken, or cream! right?
Moroccan saffron chicken is a slow roasted dish you can make in a dutch oven, slow cooker or tagine. Here is a version of a Persian rice dish (Albalou Polow) that is made with sour cherries but I like to use dried cranberries in mine. Here is a low carb creamy cauliflower soup with saffron to try on a cold winter day.
Chicken in Creamy Saffron Sauce Recipe
Love this recipe! Try a creamy saffron sauce for your next chicken meal. You will love this creamy saffron sauce smothering your tender chicken breasts!
- 2 Tbsp curly parsley fresh, chopped
Prepare the chicken:
Preheat oven to 200°F.
Cut each chicken breast half into two pieces width wise. Lightly pound each piece to about ¼" thickness. Tip: Place between plastic wrap that has been sprinkled with a little water makes it pound out easier.
- In a small bowl mix together the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Place beaten egg and flour in two separate shallow bowls ( a couple of pie pans work very well).
- Add salt mixture to flour and mix well.
- Dip the chicken breasts into the egg and then into the flour until they are well coated.
- Heat oil in a shallow frying pan. Use only enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
Fry each chicken breast piece for about 3-4 minutes on each side. You might have to add some oil for every batch of chicken breasts you cook.
Place the fried chicken breasts in an oven safe platter and place in oven to keep warm while cooking all the chicken and preparing the sauce.
Prepare the pan sauce:
In the same pan, on medium heat sauté the shallot and garlic until shallot is translucent. Deglaze with wine. Scrape up the little bits and continue to cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the cream, and saffron. Cook sauce on low for about 5-10 minutes or until it thickens to coat the back of a spoon when wiped or nappe consistency.
Remove the sauce from the heat and place in a serving bowl.
Bring the chicken breasts out of the oven and pour saffron sauce over the chicken breasts.
- Sprinkle with parsley.
Originally published July 2016 and updated January 2021.