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Millet pilaf with lemon and saffron

If you're looking to an alternative to traditional rice, consider Millet. Combine the subtle sweetness of Millet with the bold flavors of saffron and lemon for a side dish that pairs well with any grilled meat or seafood.

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I often joke that Millet would be the result if Corn and Rice had a baby. It’s mild with a hint of sweetness, making it flexible for so many delicious meals.

We often grill meat for dinner, especially during the summer. If I want to pair a whole grain with our meal and didn’t make bread, don’t want to make bread, and want something beside rice, a whole grain pilaf is always a great option.

Millet, which is not a grain but a pseudo grain (not a grain but acts like one!), is so easy to prep and mostly needs time to cook on its own. Ready in about an hour, I can have the pilaf cooking while we hang out by the grill and wait for the meat to be done. It makes for an easy, delicious meal that is kid-friendly since it looks and tastes so much like rice.

And if you don’t like carrots? Onions? Just leave them out! This recipe can easily be flexible to meet your family’s preferences. See what veggies you have and add what you have available. Things that would work well would include:

  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Canned diced tomatoes with the liquid drained
  • Sweet peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Capers (omit the saffron)
I keep Millet in a glass jar in my pantry, treating it just like white rice. It makes it an easy staple I can reach for an easy, nutritious weeknight dinner.


  • Olive oil: To sauté your veggies in
  • Onion: You can also use a shallot or omit altogether if onions aren’t your thing
  • Garlic: I usually cheat on weeknight meals and use pre-chopped garlic from the grocery store, but fresh garlic is best
  • Carrots: I happened to have purple and yellow carrots on-hand, but orange carrots work too! They all taste the same and offer a nice crunch to the dish
  • Salt: The measurements are for Kosher or coarse mineral salt, so use less if you’re using table salt
  • Pepper: Fresh-ground pepper to taste! Add more or less depending on your preferences
  • Saffron threads: Available in the spice section of most grocery stores. They can be a bit pricey, but so good!
  • Whole uncooked Millet: A gluten-free grain that has been used in Africa and Asia for thousands of years
  • Chicken broth: You can also use water if you don’t have chicken broth on hand. Beef broth or vegetable broth will also work
  • Lemon: 1 lemon can be used for it’s zest and for it’s juice
  • Parsley: Dried or fresh parsley will work

Considerations of cooking with Millet

  • It needs time to cook: Similar to Rice, Millet needs time to absorb water, soften, and cook. Like any whole grain, this time cannot be rushed
  • It can dry out: Unlike Rice, Millet can be too dry for some palettes if you don’t add enough liquid. But this is easy to fix because … just add more liquid! Or, consider adding a sauce with your meal
  • It’s gluten-free: A great option for those with gluten sensitivities or Celiac Disease, Millet can be enjoyed cooked whole or milled into a flour

What can Lemon and Saffron Millet Pilaf be paired with?

  1. Seafood: Fish or shrimp cooked in a butter lemon sauce would be ideal for this Millet as it adds not only another mild flavor, but moisture as the Millet can feel dry if not served with extra liquid
  2. Grilled meats: From a steak to pork chops, any grilled meat would work great with Millet
  3. Millet bowl: Similar to a rice bowl but with Millet, add grilled chicken, fresh cherry tomatoes, and a tzatziki sauce

Frequently asked questions

Can Millet be stored in the fridge?

Yes! This is a great left-over dish, lasting three days in the fridge. It can be heated up by adding some liquid (water or chicken broth) and storing over medium heat until it’s warmed.

Can I make this without saffron?

You can still make this dish without saffron. If you do omit the saffron, don’t omit the lemon juice or lemon zest as I think this dish will struggle to have much flavor as Millet is such a mild grain. Consider adding extra lemon juice and zest to make up for the loss of saffron, but start small and add more to your liking.

Where can I find Millet?

I have not been able to find Millet at my local grocery store, but sourced mine online. Go here to see my sourcing recommendations.

Millet Pilaf with Lemon and Saffron Recipe

A light and slightly sweet alternative to rice, this Millet pilaf offers a nutritionally-packed side dish that can be paired with grilled meat or seafood or mixed with greens to make a hearty salad.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • 1 tbsp Olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 1 whole Medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic (peeled and diced)
  • 3 whole Carrots (peeled and diced)
  • 1 tsp Salt (Kosher or coarse mineral salt)
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Saffron threads (crushed)
  • 1 1/2 cup Whole uncooked Millet
  • 3 1/4 cup Chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 whole Lemon (peel for zest, squeeze for juice)
  • 1 tbsp Dried parsley (or 3/4 cup fresh parsley)


  • Add olive oil to pan and heat on medium-high. Add carrots (I used purple and yellow carrots, as that's all I had, but any color works!), onion, and garlic. Sauté for about 5-minutes until onions become translucent
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Note that you may need less salt if you're using table salt. I'm using coarse mineral salt.
  • Add saffron, crumbling it up in your fingers as you sprinkle it into the pan.
  • Add the Millet, cooking for a few minutes to lightly toast the grain. You don't want to see any color difference so be careful not to burn it.
  • Add the chicken broth or water. Note that you can decrease the amount of chicken broth if you prefer a drier Millet, or increase it more if you prefer a wetter Millet.
  • Add the juice from one lemon. Bring liquid to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low until all water has been absorbed, about 25 minutes. Turn off heat, and let sit, covered, until tender, 10 minutes more.
  • Add parsley. You can use fresh parsley. I didn't have any on-hand so I used dried parsley.
  • Add the zest of one lemon and serve!
Keyword Millet, Pilaf
We paired the Millet with grilled pork chops.