Saffron-Rosewater Milk

A simple combination of whole milk and fragrant saffron and rosewater make this a quick flavor enhancer. It’s a key ingredient in Cheetie Kumar’s Lamb Biryani.

Saffron-Rosewater Milk

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Nidia Cueva

Active Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
30 mins
1/2 cup

Enriched with rosewater and saffron, this aromatic milk adds moisture and flavor to the lamb and rice in Cheetie Kumar’s Lamb Biryani

Rosewater, made through the process of steam distillation of fresh rose petals (typically dog rose, damask rose, or cabbage rose), is often used in baking recipes to impart distinct floral notes. Here, it pairs perfectly with the rice-based dish. Use sparingly as rosewater is quite potent and can overpower other subtle flavors. 

Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world by weight, comes from the stigmas of the Crocus sativus plant, a member of the iris family. This spice, largely grown in Iran, India, Greece, and Spain, must be harvested by hand, which is a contributing factor to the lofty price tag. The flowers only bloom once a year and must be harvested in the morning while the flowers are still closed to protect the delicate stigmas. Also, each light purple flower only produces 3 threads of saffron. The good news however, when used in cooking, a little saffron goes a long way, and these thin, delicate threads add a beautiful gold hue and pungent, slightly fruity flavor to dishes such as paella, tahdig, and this biryani. Store the spice in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

Avoid purchasing pre-ground saffron, which will lose its pungency quickly and can sometimes contain inexpensive fillers in place of pure saffron. Impostors such as corn silk threads, safflower, and coconut filaments are dyed with red food coloring and are sometimes sold as saffron. While cheaper than pure saffron, these imitation products will lack flavor and aroma or occasionally will impart the dish with an off-putting metallic taste. Always source high-quality saffron from reputable specialty spice stores or online at


  • 15 saffron threads

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 2 teaspoons rosewater or orange blossom water (such as Cortas)


  1. Toast saffron in a small saucepan over medium-high, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add milk, and heat over medium-high, undisturbed, until bubbles form around edge of pan and a thin skin forms on milk, about 4 minutes. Stir in rosewater, and remove from heat. Let cool at room temperature 20 minutes.

To Make Ahead

Saffron-rosewater milk can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 5 days.


Source high-quality saffron from specialty spice stores or online at

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