10 Best Persian Foods That You’ve Got to Try

From the earliest times Persians have been known for their hospitality, whether that of the tribesman offering rest and refreshment to a weary traveler, or that of the urbane city dweller offering a sumptuous repast to his guests.

Tradition requires that guests or visitors be served only the finest food available, and always in the most bountiful manner possible. Accounts of early travelers to Iran indicate that the dishes served have not changed appreciably over the centuries.

Persia’s geography, history and cultural influences have shaped the diversity of ingredients and the methods of cooking in one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cultures. Persia – or Iran – has been subjected to repeated invasions, but it has maintained its culture, language and identity throughout the centuries.

The vast size of the country encompasses a wide array of local dialects, lifestyles, regional traditions and customs, not to mention an extraordinary variety of landscapes and climates.

All these are reflected in the country’s food. In the north, around the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, the landscape is lush and green and as a result of plentiful rainfall there is great diversity of fruit, vegetables and herbs.

The northern regional cuisine features simple, fresh notes of taste and aroma, and there is a preference for sweet and sour flavours, as opposed to spicy. Further south, in the provinces near the Persian Gulf, where the climate is drier, the season for fresh ingredients is much shorter and the variety available is not as great.

There is also a long tradition of trade through the sea routes with spice-rich countries like India. The resulting cuisine is more complex in taste than in the north of the country, with long notes of spices, tamarind and chillies.

In this post I’m going to take you through top foods you must try when you’re visiting Iran. So get your Iran visa and visit Iran!

Top 10 dishes you must try in Iran

Khoresht-e fesenjan

This iconic stew, an essential part of every Persian wedding menu. Khoresht-e fesenjan traditionally made with duck, this dish also works well with chicken or lamb. In the north of Iran it is sometimes made with fish. It is a relatively easy khoresht to make, but it must be cooked slowly to allow the flavours to develop in the sauce. The consistency should be thick and creamy and the colour almost black. The distinctive flavour combines the nutty taste of ground walnuts with the sweet and sour flavour of pomegranate syrup.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken legs, cut up
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound walnuts, toasted and finely ground in a food processor
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

Khoresht efesenjan

Zereshk polo

The sweet and sour flavour of zereshk (barberries) and the glistening ruby red berries set against the white and saffron tinged grains make this a feast for the taste buds and the eyes. Zereshk polo is served at weddings and other celebrations because it is impressive and easy to make in large quantities. It is usually served with chicken, but it is also delicious with Saffron yogurt lamb

Ingredients
1 medium onion
2-3 chicken breasts
Liquid saffron
Sugar (3-4 spoons usually is enough)
3 cups rice – soak in salt water after washing the rice
1 cup zereshk (barberries)
Salt/Pepper
Turmeric
Oil

Persian Zereshk Polo

Khoresht-e ghormeh sabzi

Khoresht-e ghormeh sabzi is sour and full of herbs. A popular favourite throughout Iran, this is a meal for both festive occasions and family meals. Recipes from different regions vary slightly. The Azerbaijani version, for example, uses black-eyed beans instead of red kidney beans. Recipes in the south of the country add chilli and garlic, while in Shiraz potatoes are sometimes used instead of beans. The recipe here departs from tradition by adding spinach to enhance the taste and give the dish a softer texture. Fenugreek gives a very distinctive aroma and flavour.

Ingredients
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 lb. stewing meat
4 dried Persian limes
1/3 cup kidney beans, dried
4 cups fresh parsley, packed
2 cups fresh cilantro, packed
1 cup fresh fenugreek
2 cups fresh chives
Salt/Pepper
Oil

Khoresht eghormehsabzi

Sabzi polo

For the Persian New Year (Norouz) celebrations it is traditional to serve this rice dish with fish – traditionally fillets of smoked white fish from the Caspian Sea. However, fresh fish is now widely available. In the north of Iran it is marinated in lemon juice and saffron and fried, while in the south the fish is stuffed and baked. This rice goes well with most fish and meat dishes.

Ingredients
2 cups basmati rice
Salt
8 cloves garlic
Vegetable oil
Smidgen ground saffron
1 package frozen Sabzi Polo
2 Tbsp dried dill weed

Sabzi polo

Chelo kabab koobideh

Kebabs have more variety than you might think. First, there’s Koobideh, ground meat seasoned with minced onion, salt and pepper. It sounds simple, but the taste is sublime. There is kebab-e Barg, thinly sliced lamb or beef, flavored with lemon juice and onion and basted with saffron and butter. Chicken kebab, known as Joojeh, is traditionally made from a whole chicken, bones and all, for more flavor (although in American restaurants it’s often made from skinless chicken breast), marinated in lemon and onion, and basted with saffron and butter. If you’re lucky, you’ll find jigar, lamb liver kebab, garnished with fresh basil leaves and a wedge of lemon.

Ingredients
3 lbs (1360 g) Ground Beef (85% Lean)
2 Small Onions
1 Tbsp (Approximately) Salt or as preferred
1 Tsp (Approximately) Black Pepper Powder or as preferred
1 Tsp Turmeric
1 Tsp (Approximately) Ground Sumac.
1/4 Tsp Saffron

Persian Kabab Koobideh

Khoresht-e gheimeh

Before the introduction of electric fridges, families in the colder, northern provinces of Iran such as Azerbaijan devised ingenious ways to preserve meat for consumption during the winter months. The meat would be cut into small pieces (gheimeh), fried with onions, flavoured with turmeric and other spices and put into big earthenware vats. A thick layer of solidified fat on the top ensures a good seal against micro-organisms. These vats were kept in dark, cold basements over the winter. Each day, a small amount would be taken to add to the khoresht. Khoresht-e gheimeh is diced meat combined with yellow split peas, dried limes and saffron with fried potatoes. It is very popular all over Iran and can be cooked all year round; the combination of meat and pulses, served with rice, provides a nutritious meal.

Ingredients
100 g/3½ oz. yellow split peas
1 medium onion
4 dried limes
300 g/11 oz. leg of lamb
50 g/2 oz. butter
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons powdered dried lime
Salt and black pepper
1 litre / 1¾ pints boiling water
1 tablespoon tomato purée/tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons liquid saffron

10 Best Persian Foods That You've Got to Try -Khoresht egheimeh

Tahchin

Tahchin is an Iranian rice cake that includes rice, yogurt, saffron, egg, and chicken fillets. It is also possible to use vegetables, fish, or meat instead of the chicken fillets. Tahchin is composed of two different parts: The thin Tahdig part which includes the chicken fillets, saffron, and other ingredients at the bottom of the cooking pot and the second part which is the white rice. In restaurants, Tahchin is mostly prepared and served without the white rice part.

Ingredients
600 g/1 lb. 5 oz. basmati rice
4 tablespoons salt
8 chicken pieces
1 large onion
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons liquid saffron
Salt and black pepper
500 ml/just under 1 pint water
50 g/2 oz. butter
400 g/14 oz. Greek-style full-fat/whole milk yogurt
1 egg (optional)

Tahchin

Abgoosht

This is a rich and nutritious dish, suitable for cold winter days. It combines complex carbohydrates, protein and fat, and with side dishes of fresh herbs and yogurt it makes a healthy balanced meal. Traditionally a poor man’s dish, it has come into its own in recent years for informal family meals. It used to be made with the cheapest cuts of lamb and animal fat. In the old tea houses and caravanserai, specially made individual clay pots were used to make Abgoosht. All the ingredients were put into the pot, a small quantity of water added and the lid was then sealed with mud. The pots were buried in the ashes of the wood stove and left to cook slowly. Today, better-quality cuts of lamb such as leg or shoulder shanks are used. Traditionally, the broth is strained off and served as a soup with pieces of bread floating on the surface like croutons. The meat and pulses are pounded together and eaten with fresh herbs and warm flat bread. The ingredients of Abgoosht vary from region to region. The most common version uses only chick peas and no tomato purée/ tomato paste. The recipe given here includes potatoes, red kidney beans and split peas, as well as tomato purée. It is a very easy dish to make, but it has to be cooked slowly in order for the flavours to develop. You can make it a day in advance to the stage of adding the red kidney beans; to serve, reheat it, then add the lemon juice and saffron just before serving.

Ingredients
3 lbs (1360 g) Beef Shank
1 Can 15 oz. (425 g) Chickpeas
1 Can 15 oz. (425 g) White Beans
3 Garlic Cloves
1 Large Onion
5 Dried Limes
2 Bunches Cilantro
5 Small Potatoes
5 Small Tomatoes
1-2 tbsp Savory
Turmeric, Black Pepper Powder, Salt

Abgoosht is one of the most traditional Iranian foods.

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36 replies
  1. parsa
    parsa says:

    I’d like to adjust or correct from the introduction of this article:

    “From the earliest times Persians have been known for their hospitality, whether that of the tribesman offering rest and refreshment to a weary traveler, or that of the urbane city dweller offering a sumptuous repast to his guests.”

    Tribesman? Iranian civilization is non-clanic and non-tribal. It has been that way since the time of the Persian Achaemenids 2500 years ago, the first Persian Empire.

    Tradition requires that guests or visitors be served only the finest food available, and always in the most bountiful manner possible. Accounts of early travelers to Iran indicate that the dishes served have not changed appreciably over the centuries.
    “Persia’s geography, history and cultural influences have shaped the diversity of ingredients and the methods of cooking in one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cultures.”

    There are no non-native or foreign elements to be found in Persia’s ancient culture or cuisine.

    Culinarily, all the ingredients to prepare Iranians dishes with are native to the Iranian Plateau.

    Geographically, Iran is a Western Asian country located on the Eurasian Plate.

    No other country in the region is located on the Eurasian Plate which explains Iran’s uniqueness in terms of culture and cuisine.

    Iran is a Plateau, hence the entire country is covered in mountains.

    The mountainous Iranian Plateau has functioned as a natural fortress against invaders, especially from the South with the help of the Iranian Zagros mountain range.

    “Persia – or Iran – has been subjected to repeated invasions, but it has maintained its culture, language and identity throughout the centuries.”

    I mean this bizarre statement has been already answered a few lines above by the article itself:

    “Accounts of early travelers to Iran indicate that the dishes served have not changed appreciably over the centuries.”

    Nothing changed basically.

    Invaders come and go. What remains are Iranians, Iran’s ancient civilization and Iranian culture.

    Invaders in Persian history only functioned as a minority elite group ruling over a majority Iranian population. They had no influence on Persian culture, cuisine or traditions. This should give one a basic idea on Iran’s strength as an ancient civilization.

    “The northern regional cuisine features simple, fresh notes of taste and aroma, and there is a preference for sweet and sour flavours, as opposed to spicy.”

    Iranian cuisine is characterized by its herbal, sweet, sour and bitter nature. It is never spicy. Iranians are literally known for not handling spice.

    “The resulting cuisine is more complex in taste than in the north of the country, with long notes of spices, tamarind and chillies.”

    Not true at all. Southern regional Iranian food is still not spicy just like counterpart in the North.

    I would suggest to revise the introduction of this article.

    Reply
  2. Mina
    Mina says:

    What an introduction this article had, only further contributing to ‘ .

    “From the earliest times Persians have been known for their hospitality, whether that of the offering rest and refreshment to a weary traveler, or that of the urbane city dweller offering a sumptuous repast to his guests.”

    ? Iranian civilization is – and -. It has been that way since the time of the rule of the , the first Persian Empire 2500 , by the way.

    “Persia’s geography, history and cultural influences have shaped the diversity of ingredients and the methods of cooking in one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cultures.”

    . There are – found in Iranian cuisine or culture.

    More like the opposite way around: .

    Iran is a country located on the . No other country in the region is.

    “Persia – or Iran – has been subjected to repeated invasions, but it has maintained its culture, language and identity throughout the centuries.”

    You even answered this insincere statement yourself, when you stated the obvious:

    “Accounts of early travelers to Iran indicate that the dishes served appreciably .”

    .

    Invaders come and go. They only function as a minority elite group ruling over a majority native population. Their existence as Persia’s ruling force never changed Iran’s cuisine, people, language, culture or traditions. ‘ ‘ .

    “The resulting cuisine is more complex in taste than in the north of the country, with long notes of spices, tamarind and .”

    Some rare regional dishes do not represent the overall Iranian cooking culture.

    .

    Iran’s cuisine is the complete opposite to anything spicy.

    , , , .

    That is literally what Iranian dishes are internationally known for.

    – – .

    Reply
  3. Dayana Tousi
    Dayana Tousi says:

    Salam I really L O V E LOVE iranian foood bc I’m from I R A N IRAN but born in A M E R I C A AMERICA aka Los Angeles but I love Iranian food ,such as polo gheime,polo ghormesabzi,reshte polo and tahdik

    Reply
  4. Donna
    Donna says:

    I have had the best Persian food made by a Persian woman. I think Americans are really missing out on some of the most fragrant delicious food ever! Full of flavor but not spicey.
    I’m making Gormeh Sabzi today.

    Reply
    • Parsa
      Parsa says:

      Finally, some non-Iranian said it! Persian cuisine is NOT spicy.

      Sour, bitter, herbal and sweet? YES!

      But never spicy. Iranians are literally known for not heing able to handle spice.

      Reply
  5. Doniako
    Doniako says:

    Making Iranian foods are so hard but they are so tasty if you want to go past you should try them because they come from old culture

    Reply
  6. Mahdi
    Mahdi says:

    Hello
    I am iranian man and thachin was better than all of them and you have to try kalam polo shirazi its the best foid in iran

    Reply
  7. Shirin
    Shirin says:

    Polo addass is another fragrant and delicious Persian dish…but if I had to pick the nation’s favourite dish it would have to be Ghorme-sabzi!!

    Reply
  8. PUNE
    PUNE says:

    It is not widely used for foreign travelers in northern Iran, but in Mazandaran province and the city of Sari, which is located in the contemporary (Diwan forest) in northern Iran, you can see delicious food and the main flavors of the region and be sure. Which are not materials. The food of the people of this region is natural, local and healthy

    Reply
    • Mina
      Mina says:

      It’s called Divan forest. The letter ‘w’ does not exist in Persian.

      And all Persian dishes and Iranian cuisine are nutritious, healthy and delicious.

      Reply
    • Mina
      Mina says:

      It’s called Divan forest. The letter ‘w’ does not exist in Persian.

      And all traditional and regional Iranian dishes are characterized by their healthy, nutritious, delicious and natural nature.

      Reply
    • alexa
      alexa says:

      my great grandma is the only one that can perfectly make all these dishes, if i follow these recipes do you think it’ll turn out the same as hers

      Reply
      • odinn
        odinn says:

        try to follow what your grandmother does… each family has their own way of cooking these dishes. If you can not learn from her, look up various recipes of each dish…… the flavours are so subtle. GOOD LUCK!

        Reply
      • fatemeh
        fatemeh says:

        hi alexa
        I’m iranian.
        Try typing the names of foods in Google in Persian and translating their recipes from Google Translator so that you can make food like us.

        Reply
  9. masumehbayat
    masumehbayat says:

    Of course, in addition to these foods, you can enjoy the taste of authentic Iranian and northern dishes by staying with women artists by staying in the eco-tourism resorts of the north.

    Reply
    • mika
      mika says:

      Persian dishes are wonderful.

      Regional Iranian dishes from the North and South of Iran are all delicious and are characterized by their herbal, bitter, sour and sweet nature.

      Iranian cuisine is not spicy as this author erreneously has written. Iranians are quite literally known for not being able to handle spice.

      Reply

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