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Quick and Easy Sayadieh Rice

Sayadieh Rice is a traditional Middle Eastern dish known for its delicate balance of rich, aromatic flavours. This onion-based rice dish is gently spiced and often served as an accompaniment to seafood, making it a staple at any Middle Eastern-style seafood feast. Among the medley of fish, including Sultan Ibrahim, Hamour, Lady Fingers, Red Snapper, and shrimps, Sayadieh Rice holds its own, adding depth and complexity to the meal. The dish is often served alongside vibrant salads like tarator and purslane, creating a well-rounded, flavourful, and satisfying spread.

The preparation involves sautéing thinly sliced red onions with a variety of spices, including cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, and peppercorns. The Calrose or basmati rice is then added and cooked with either fish stock or water, which adds a wonderful depth of flavour to the rice. The dish is finished off with a garnish of thinly sliced onions and a sprinkle of mixed nuts for a touch of crunch.

The beautifully spiced Sayadieh Rice is as visually appealing as it is delectable. Its vibrant colour and aroma are sure to entice everyone at your table. Pair it with your favourite seafood and salads, and you’ve got a feast that truly celebrates the rich culinary traditions of the Middle East.

sayadieh rice

Basic Ingredients for Sayadieh Rice


Calrose Rice or Basmati Rice: These are both medium to long-grain rice that have a slightly chewy texture when cooked. They also absorb flavours well, which makes them an excellent choice for this flavorful dish. Basmati rice will add a fragrant, nutty flavour to your Sayadieh Rice.

Vegetable Oil: Used for sautéing the onions and spices. It has a neutral flavour that won’t interfere with the taste of the other ingredients.

Whole Cloves: These provide a warm, sweet, and slightly bitter flavour that adds depth to the dish.

Whole Cardamom Seeds: Cardamom is a fragrant spice with a sweet, spicy flavour. It adds an aromatic quality to the dish.

Cinnamon Stick: This adds a sweet, woody flavour that pairs well with the other spices and the onions.

Bay Leaf: This leaf adds a subtle bitterness and a slight floral scent to the rice, enhancing its overall flavour.

Peppercorns: These add a spicy kick to the dish.

Red Onions: These are a key ingredient in Sayadieh Rice. They are caramelised to bring out their sweetness, which then infuses into the rice during cooking.

Fish Stock or Water: Fish stock will give the dish a deeper, more complex flavour, but water can be used if stock isn’t available.

Salt: This enhances the flavours of the other ingredients and makes them more pronounced.

White Pepper Powder: White pepper has a less pungent flavour than black pepper. It adds mild heat and complexity to the dish.

Turmeric Powder: This adds a beautiful golden colour to the dish and a subtle earthy flavour.

Cinnamon Powder: Similar to the cinnamon stick, the ground form imparts a more immediate flavour.


Onion: More thinly sliced onion provides a sweet, savoury crunch to contrast the soft texture of the rice.

Mixed Nuts: These add a crunch for textural contrast and a subtle nutty flavour that pairs well with the rice and spices. They also give the dish an attractive, festive look.

alternative ingredients

Rice: If you can’t find Calrose or basmati rice, you could also use Jasmine rice. It also absorbs flavors well and gives a nice texture to the dish.

Oil: If you prefer, you can substitute olive oil or any other cooking oil for the vegetable oil.

Fish Stock: Vegetable stock or chicken stock can be used in place of fish stock if needed.

Spices: If you don’t have some of the whole spices, you can use their ground versions, but use them sparingly as they’re more concentrated.

Preparation Tips for Sayadieh Rice

  • Rinse the rice several times in cold water until the water runs clear to remove any excess starch.
  • Cook the onions slowly and stir frequently to ensure they caramelize evenly without burning.
  • Keep an eye on your spices – they can burn quickly and become bitter.

Serving Tips for Sayadieh Rice

Sayadieh Rice is versatile and pairs well with various accompaniments. Here are some serving suggestions:

  • Salads:
    • Fattoush Salad: This Lebanese salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and crispy pieces of pita bread dressed in a tangy sumac dressing would offer a refreshing contrast.
    • Tabbouleh: This traditional Middle Eastern salad with bulgur, fresh parsley, mint, tomatoes, and a lemony dressing would complement the flavors of Sayadieh Rice.
    • Purslane Salad: This is a vibrant salad prepared with mixed with tomatoes, onions, and a lemon and olive oil dressing, pairs wonderfully.
  • Sauces:
    • Tahini Sauce: A creamy, nutty tahini sauce would add a rich element to the meal.
    • Tarator Sauce: This tangy, nutty sauce made with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley would provide a delicious contrast to the aromatic rice.
    • Harissa: If you enjoy a bit of heat, the spicy, smoky flavors of harissa would make a nice addition.
  • Fish:
    • Grilled Fish: Sayadieh Rice traditionally accompanies grilled or baked fish such as snapper, bass, or grouper.
    • Fish Kebabs: Skewers of grilled fish and vegetables would pair nicely.
    • Fried Fish: Varieties like sultan Ibrahim, hamour, or lady fingers, as you mentioned, offer a delightful textural contrast with their crispy exterior.

storage tips

  • Store any leftover Sayadieh Rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • For longer storage, you can freeze the rice in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator and reheat in a microwave or on the stovetop, adding a little water or stock to prevent it from drying out.

Sayadieh Rice

Servings: 8 servings


  • 4 cups calrose rice or basmati rice
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 whole cardamom seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 4 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups fish stock or water
  • 5 tsp 5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder


  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup mixed nuts


  • Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain.
  • Heat oil in a large non-stick pot over high heat. Add the onions, cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and peppercorns, and stirring continuously, cook for about 1 minute until the spices are fragrant.
  • Add the onions, and sauté for about 15 minutes on medium heat until they have caramelised and developed a rich golden-brown colour. This gives the rice a wonderful flavour and colour.
  • Add the rice, and stir for a couple of minutes until the colour has turned slightly opaque. Add the fish stock, salt, white pepper powder, turmeric powder and cinnamon powder, and on high heat, bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot; reduce heat and leave to simmer for 30 minutes until the rice is cooked.
  • While the rice is cooking, prepare the garnish by frying the onion slices until crispy.
  • Serve this wonderful aromatic rice on a platter and garnish with crispy onions and mixed nuts.

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