Roasted chicken with saffron and lemon

As you know, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, why use it on a roasted chicken? The rub that is created using the saffron makes for an incredibly robust and flavourful chicken with brightness from the lemon. What a perfect match!

I adapted this recipe from Saveur magazine but changed up a few things including brining the chicken in advanced and basting the chicken first before putting it into the oven. Steps that help with making the chicken super delicious!

If you do not have saffron, substitute the saffron with smoked/Spanish paprika or your favourite spice. It won’t taste exactly the same, but it will still make for a delicious roast chicken. I had a friend over for dinner and he raved about the moist chicken and the delicious sauce, which was served with white jasmine rice.


1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
1 tsp of saffron
2 tbsp of sea salt
2 tbsp of black peppercorns
2 lemons
6 rosemary sprigs
2 carrots-large dice
2 celery stalks-large dice
6 cloves of garlic-peeled and leave whole
3 cups of chicken stock (mine was homemade)
2 onions- quartered
Olive oil
Butcher string for tying

Preparation Work:

1. Brine the chicken the day before (steps here). This step is optional.

2. Cut the celery, carrots and onions and throw them into the roasting pan. Toss in the garlic and add the chicken stock. If you do not have chicken stock, substitute with other stocks or water. With the chicken drippings, this base will make a delicious sauce or gravy.

3. Prepare the lemons. For the 1st lemon, slice the lemon about 1/2 cm each. For the second lemon, cut the ends and poke holes all over the skin of the lemon to help release the scent.

4. Prepare the rub. Lightly toast the saffron threads in a pan (1 to 2 minutes). Using a mortar and pestle or a small food processor  (I used the magic bullet), grind the saffron, salt and pepper.

Cooking Steps: 

1. Preheat the oven to 385 degrees F.

2. Prepare the chicken. Slide fingers underneath the skin to make a pocket. Rub the spice underneath the skin and outside the entire chicken. Stuff lemon slices and 2-3 rosemary sprigs underneath the skin. If the rosemary stems are very woody, remove the stems and use the leaves only.

3. Add the whole lemon and remaining rosemary sprigs inside the chicken cavity.

4. Baste the chicken with oil to prevent the chicken skin from drying up too quickly. Tie the chicken legs with the butcher string and tuck the wings in.

Ready for roasting

Ready for roasting

5. Place the chicken on top of the mirepoix mixture and roast at 385 degrees F for 45 minutes and the remaining 15 minutes for 400 degrees F (1 hour in total). Feel free to use the broiler at the end to brown the skin further (I did find it was necessary). Before removing the chicken from the oven, stick the instant-read thermometer at the thickest part of the thigh and make sure it reads 165 degrees.

6. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. I found that the chicken was perfectly cooked at 1 hour.

7. I left the sauce at the base of the roasting pan as is and served it over rice. Feel free to thicken the sauce to make a gravy. I froze the lemon that was in the cavity which I will use to flavour other sauces (nothing goes to waste!).

Again if you do not want to utilize saffron or have a hard time finding it, utilize the steps and guidelines to make a scrumptious roasted chicken. If you can find saffron, do try out this delicious recipe!

Lemon saffron chicken

Lemon saffron chicken

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