Rosh hashannah Rice
Photo credit Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox

Sephardic Jeweled Rosh Hashanah Rice

Sweet and fragrant, this dish incorporates symbolic holiday foods.

We grew up in Barcelona, Spain. Not exactly your typical Jewish upbringing, and while we loved the beautiful city, it could be difficult and isolating during the Jewish holidays. Nevertheless, we managed to form a tight-knit group each year with our aunt, uncle and cousins who enjoyed the festive Syrian-Lebanese style food our talented mother prepared for us.

The main meal itself was amazing, but it was the symbolic foods we ate before the main meal that were our favorites. Our mom would make zucchini and spinach frittatas, cold leek soup and we would enjoy sweet dates, apples with sugar, pomegranates with rose water and the head of a fish or lamb, a tradition for Sephardic families.

sweet RH rice vertical
The Syrian Lebanese cooking we grew up eating didn’t usually include sweet flavors in savory dishes during the year. But for Rosh Hashanah our mom would make an exception with her delicious sweet carrot and raisin rice. It was always a big hit and we brought the recipe with us when we moved to the U.S.

This year our parents will join us for the holidays and so we decided to change things up a little and make our mom a surprise rice dish. The first night of Rosh Hashanah we will make her traditional carrot and raisin rice. And the second night, we will serve this new sweet fragrant rice that includes some of our mom’s favorite spices and dried fruit. We think she will be proud of keeping the old traditions, and making some new ones as well.

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Sephardic Jeweled Rosh Hashanah Rice

Sweet and fragrant, this Sephardic Jeweled Rosh Hashanah Rice dish incorporates symbolic holiday foods.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x


Units Scale
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided, plus 1 tsp
  • 2 medium size onions, diced small
  • 10 dried apricots, quartered
  • 6 dried figs (we used Smyrna), quartered
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cups pistachios or pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups long-grain rice (we used jasmine, but you can use basmati or whatever you prefer)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1½ tsp fresh lemon or orange zest
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds


  1. Combine salt, sweet paprika, turmeric, cumin and black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a deep, nonstick skillet with a lid. Add rice and spices and stir well.
  3. Cook over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly and making sure the rice gets well coated with the oil and the spices.
  4. Add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, remove from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes covered.
  5. In the meantime, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in a nonstick skillet.
  6. Add onions and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes stirring frequently, adding water 1 Tbsp at a time if necessary, to prevent from burning.
  7. Transfer onions to a plate and in the same skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil. Add dried fruit and pistachios or pumpkin seeds and cook over medium low for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  8. Once the rice is ready, fluff it with a fork, add onions, dried fruit, pistachios and lemon or orange zest and toss well.
  9. Right before serving, sprinkle pomegranate seeds on the rice.
  • Author: Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Quick
  • Cuisine: Sephardic

14 responses to “Sephardic Jeweled Rosh Hashanah Rice”

    • Hi Suzan, everyone has their own tried-and-true ways to cook rice! Cooking the rice on a low heat for 20 minutes then keeping it covered for another 15 minutes off the heat should ensure it’s cooked through and the grains are separated.

  • I made this last year for Rosh Hashana and it was a big hit! This year, I’m wondering if this could be made ahead of this without drying out. Have you made it ahead of time and did it stay moist? TIA!

    • Yes, you can make it ahead. Just add a bit more water when reheating to keep it from being too dry.

  • Made a half recipe and loved it. Please note the type in step 4 where it says to add just one cop of water.

  • Made this last high holidays and the Sephardic niece of mine was so happy to see something from her families heritage ( the rest of us are Ashkenazi) – so now this is a tradition to our break the fast table along with bagels, lox, creamed herring, kugel! Thanks for this fragrant, delicious rice dish that looks pretty too!

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