Vegetarian Food in Iran

Finding vegetarian food in Iran can pose a challenge, largely due to the country’s cultural and historical context. Historically, most of the population were pastoralists, with meat and dairy being staple components of their diet. Additionally, consuming meat was once a symbol of higher social status, showcasing the ability to afford such luxury.

This perception extended to white rice and white bread, which were once scarce commodities. Today, some older generations still hold the belief that refined grains are healthier than whole grains.

Fear not, vegetarians! This guide is designed to help you navigate Iran’s culinary landscape, ensuring your journey is both enjoyable and stress-free. Whether you’re exploring bustling city streets or the serene countryside, you’ll discover a variety of vegetarian options that are as delicious as they are diverse. Get ready to experience the flavors of Iran in a whole new way!

Restaurant Or No?

Walking into a regular restaurant in Iran, you might find limited vegetarian options. However, the landscape is changing. Nowadays, Tehran boasts a selection of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, easily discoverable with a quick Google Maps search. In major cities, some high-end restaurants also cater to vegetarian tastes.

Street food offers delightful alternatives, like the unique Iranian Falafel sandwich, slightly different from its Lebanese counterpart, or Sambuseh, reminiscent of India’s Aloo Samosa.

Yet, for a true vegetarian feast, head to the province of Gilan, especially the city of Rasht, known as the Food Heaven of Iran!

Here, your culinary exploration reaches new heights, with an array of delicious vegetarian dishes that are often best experienced in the warm, welcoming environment of Iranian homes. Rasht offers a unique window into Iran’s diverse and rich vegetarian cuisine.


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Yatimcheh is traditionally made on the stovetop with eggplants, zucchini, onions, garlic. Photo:

Eggplant Based Vegetarian Food in Iran

Iran’s culinary world offers a delightful array of vegetarian foods, with eggplant featuring prominently in many recipes. Here are some popular eggplant-based dishes that are a must-try for vegetarians:

  1. Kashk-e Bademjan: This dish combines the rich, smoky flavor of eggplant with a tangy whey sauce, creating a dip that’s both flavorful and satisfying.
  2. Boorani Bademjan: Here, eggplant meets creamy yogurt sauce, offering a refreshing and delicious dip option.
  3. Yatimcheh: A delightful mix of eggplant and tomato sauce, Yatimcheh brings together the earthiness of eggplant with the sweetness and acidity of tomatoes.
  4. Naz Khatoon: Unique for its slightly sour taste, this dish blends eggplant with herbs, offering a dip that’s both aromatic and appetizing.

Egg-Based Vegetarian Dishes in Iran

Kookoo Sbzi
Kookoo sabzi is an Iranian egg-based dish similar to an Italian frittata. Photo:

Iranian cuisine offers a variety of egg-based vegetarian dishes, reminiscent of the Spanish Tortilla or Omelette, but with unique Persian twists. Here’s a list of must-try egg-based dishes:

  1. Kookoo Sibzamini: A delightful blend of eggs and potatoes, this dish is both comforting and filling.
  2. Kookoo Sabzi: A fragrant mix of eggs with mixed herbs, walnuts, and barberries, offering a rich tapestry of flavors.
  3. Kookoo Kadoo Sabz: This version combines eggs with zucchini for a light and healthy meal option.
  4. Kookoo Loobia: Featuring green beans, this dish is a wonderful example of simple ingredients creating a flavorful meal.
  5. Tomato Omelette: The Iranian twist on an omelette, packed with more tomatoes than eggs, offering a juicy and flavorful experience.
  6. Khagineh: A versatile dish made with yogurt that can be tailored to be either sweet or savory depending on your preference.
  7. Nargesi: Combining eggs with spinach and onions, this dish is both nutritious and delicious, offering a perfect blend of textures and flavors.

Rice-Based Persian Vegetarian Dishes

Baghali Polo
Baghali polo – Photo:

In Iranian cuisine, rice is not just a side dish; it’s a culinary staple transformed into an array of exquisite dishes. There are three primary methods of cooking rice:

  1. Chelo: Plain white rice, often served with stew or kebabs.
  2. Polo: Rice mixed with various ingredients.
  3. Dampokht (or Dami): Similar to Polo but with a different cooking method. Most Dampokhts are meatless, making them great options for vegans.

Here’s a list of Polo and Dampokht dishes that are a vegetarian’s delight:

  1. Dampokhte Baghala and Baghali Polo: A fragrant combination of rice with broad beans and dill.
  2. Dampokhte Gojeh: This dish features rice with tomatoes and, occasionally, potatoes.
  3. Estanboli: A variation of Dampokhte Gojeh, Estanboli includes green beans or potatoes in some regions.
  4. Dampokhte Mash: A healthy mix of rice with mung beans.
  5. Adas Polo: A sweet and savory blend of rice with lentils and raisins.
  6. Havij Polo: This dish combines rice with carrots and walnuts for a crunchy and flavorful experience.
  7. Loobia Polo: Depending on the region, this can refer to Dampokht with pinto beans or Estanboli with green beans.

Each of these dishes showcases the diversity and richness of Iranian vegetarian cuisine, offering an array of flavors and textures that cater to every palate.

Khoraak: Vegetarian Delights of Iran

Adasi – Photo:

Exploring the world of Khoraak in Iranian cuisine reveals a treasure trove of Persian vegetarian dishes. Each dish, bursting with unique flavors and textures, offers a delightful experience for vegetarians and food enthusiasts alike.

  1. Do Piazeh Aloo: This dish brings together potatoes, onions, and tomato paste in a harmonious blend. Its simplicity belies its rich flavor, making it a staple in vegetarian diets.
  2. Eshkeneh: Not just your average soup, Eshkeneh combines potatoes and eggs with a mix of herbs, resulting in a soup-like dish that’s both nutritious and satisfying.
  3. Kale Joosh: Standing out with its whey sauce, walnut, and herb combination, Kale Joosh offers a unique taste adventure.
  4. Khorak Loobia: A hearty and thick soup made from pinto beans and tomato sauce, this dish is as filling as it is delicious.
  5. Adasi: Showcasing lentils in their purest form, Adasi is a testament to the versatility and appeal of this humble ingredient.
  6. Daal Adas: A Persian twist on Daal, cooked with tomato sauce, onions, and potatoes, offering a symphony of flavors that delight the palate.

Each of these dishes not only caters to vegetarians but also invites all food lovers to experience the rich diversity of Iranian vegetarian cuisine. Simple ingredients come together to create meals that are both wholesome and flavorful, proving that vegetarian fare can be just as indulgent as any other cuisine.


Ash Balghour
Ash Balghour – Photo: Ghazaland

Ash represents a significant category of traditional dishes in Iran, resembling thick, hearty soups. Each region of Iran boasts its own unique variety of Ash, reflecting the local flavors and culinary traditions. Here are some of the most notable types of Ash that vegetarians and food enthusiasts should explore:

  1. Ash Reshteh: A classic Iranian dish, this Ash combines legumes, herbs, and noodles, served with a tangy whey sauce. It’s a staple in Iranian cuisine, known for its rich flavors and comforting qualities.
  2. Ash Gandom: This variety includes legumes and wheat, complemented by a range of herbs, offering a wholesome and hearty meal.
  3. Ash Jo: Featuring legumes and barley, Ash Jo is a nutritious and satisfying option, perfect for those chilly days.
  4. Ash Balghour: A lesser-known but equally delicious variety, Ash Balghour brings together unique ingredients in a flavorful blend.
  5. Ash Doogh: Yogurt-based Ash, known for its refreshing and tangy taste, offers a delightful twist on traditional soup recipes.
  6. Ash Anar: A unique combination of rice, lentils, and pomegranate sauce, this dish is both visually appealing and bursting with flavors.

Cold Dishes

Abdough Khiar
Abdough Khiar translates as “water, yogurt drink, cucumber,”

Cold dishes are mainly for hot summer days and usually have yogurt because of its cool nature

  • Ab Doogh Khiar (Yogurt, cucumber, walnut and dried mint)
  • Boorani Esfenaj (Spinach and yogurt)
  • Mast o Khiar (Yogurt and cucumber)

Vegetarian Gilani Dishes You Must Try!

Baghala Ghatogh
Baghala Ghatogh

The Gilan province, known for its lush landscapes and rich culinary heritage, offers a plethora of vegetarian dishes that are a true delight for the palate. Here are some Gilani vegetarian dishes that are an absolute must-try:

  1. Mirza Ghasemi: A celebrated dish of eggplant mixed with tomato, garlic, and eggs. While popular throughout Iran, its Gilani version is particularly renowned.
  2. Baghala Ghatogh: A unique blend of Rashti fava beans, eggs, and dill, this dish is a testament to the simplicity and flavor of Gilani cuisine.
  3. Torshi Tareh: A herb stew with eggs, characterized by its sour taste, offering a delightful blend of flavors.
  4. Paneer Boroshteh: Combining cheese, eggs, and dill, this dish is both nutritious and comforting.
  5. Kaal Kabab: This dish features eggplant and pomegranate juice, creating a sweet and tangy flavor profile.
  6. Sir Vavij or Sir Ghelieh: A simple yet flavorful mix of green garlic and eggs.
  7. Shish Andaz: A delightful combination of eggplant, walnut, and pomegranate paste, offering a rich and tangy experience.
  8. Bagnala Khoshkabij: Broad beans paired with eggs, showcasing the versatility of these ingredients in Gilani cooking.
  9. Kooyee Khoresh: A butternut squash dish with lentils and walnuts, providing a hearty and wholesome meal.
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Finding Vegetarian Foods In Iran

Contrary to popular belief, finding vegetarian foods in Iran is easier than you might think! Despite a common saying in Persian gastronomy that equates a meal without meat to a fatherless child, the concept of vegetarian dishes is gaining traction in Iran. While meat is a significant ingredient in many traditional dishes, the rise of vegetarianism has led to an increase in restaurants catering specifically to vegetarians.

Here, I’ll guide you through some of the best vegetarian restaurants in Iran’s tourist cities. Whether you’re a lifelong vegetarian or simply looking to try Persian cuisine meat-free, these eateries will provide a delightful culinary experience.

From Tehran’s bustling streets to the serene beauty of Shiraz, each city offers unique vegetarian options that capture the essence of Persian flavors.

Vegetarian Restaurants

As the capital of Iran and most populated city, you have numerous options for eating vegetarian foods in Tehran. These options range from the most economic ones to more expensive places.

Ananda Restaurant

Ananda is one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the city which tries to offer vegetarian foods, both among Iranian dishes as well as international ones. In addition to the good quality, Ananda offers a very pleasant ambient and the menu consists of many, many delicious options.

Khane Honarmandan (Iranian Artist Forum) Restaurant, Tehran

Khane Honarmandan restaurant, located in Artists’ park in Tehran is another great option which will satisfy you in regard to vegetarian foods. Zamin is another restaurant located in the west part of the city and also has a small store for those who wish to buy special vegan foods or ingredients.

Tilit, Tehran

Other options in Tehran consist of Tilit, where you can try the vegetarian version of  Dizi, one of the most typical Iranian dishes, and Khoshbin, which mostly serves food from northern part of the country and offers traditional dishes without meat. For a more luxurious option, I suggest Pure restaurant which is located in ASP towers in Tehran and serves high-quality vegetarian dishes.

Partikan Traditional Hotel-restaurants in Isfahan

Partikan traditional hotel-restaurant is where you can try typical Persian foods like khoresh without meat in Isfahan. Hermes is another option located in Jolfa district where you ask for vegetarian foods as well as Italian dishes for those companies who are not vegetarians. Another great option is Zima, where you can try some vegetarian fast foods as well as buying organic products.

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Joulep Cafe Restaurant in Shiraz

To eat a totally vegetarian dish, Joulep Cafe Restaurant can be a great option, because as well as delicious vegan food, the atmosphere is so vibrant and lovely. In Haftkhan restaurant, which is one of the most famous restaurants in Shiraz, you have plenty of options, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. What I also recommend in Shiraz, is to try different types of Ash here, as it is a typical food made without any meat inside and would be a great option, especially in colder seasons of the year. Shams is one of these places which I definitely recommend you to try.

Yazd Art House Café

You can find a great vegetarian meal in Oriental hotel and enjoy your healthy meal in its beautiful roof terrace. Yazd Art House Café is another option where you can find high-quality, totally vegan dishes. The options here are limited, but super delicious, like lentil soup. Both restaurants are popular among tourists and foreigners. In Yazd, you have another vegan option in the street behind Amir Chakhmakh complex, where you can find delicious falafels. Karbala falafel is a recommended one in this part of the city!


Vegan Home and Kolbeh-e Mohabbat in Mashhad

In this city, I suggest you to try Khaneh restaurant which is one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants of Mashhad and uses organic products to prepare a healthy dish. Vegan home and Kolbeh restaurants are other options for vegetarian travelers in Mashhad.

Other Options

Kinowa restaurant in Bandarabbas, Greenland in Karaj and Eshan Historical Guesthouse in Kashan are other places for vegetarian travelers to have their meal while traveling in Iran.

Final Words about Vegetarian Foods in Iran

As I mentioned above, total vegetarian food is not that common yet in Iran and therefore, the options are limited. Nevertheless, in any restaurant there are some typical dishes made without meat and in case you can’t find any special place to have a vegan dish, you can ask for  Kashk-e Bademjan (eggplant with whey sauce dip), Boorani Bademjan (eggplant with yogurt sauce dip), Kookoo Sabzi (with mixed herbs, walnut and barberry) or Mirza Ghasemi (eggplant with tomato, garlic and eggs).

Vegetarian Foods in Iran: FAQs

What vegetarian options are commonly available in Iranian cuisine?

Vegetarian options in Iranian cuisine include a variety of dishes like Ash Reshteh (noodle soup), Kashk-e Bademjan (eggplant dip), and Dolma. Rice-based dishes like Adas Polo (rice with lentils) are also popular.

Are there vegetarian restaurants in major cities of Iran?

Yes, major cities like Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz have vegetarian and vegan restaurants. These can be easily found with online searches or local guides.

Can traditional Iranian dishes be made vegetarian?

Many traditional Iranian dishes can be adapted to vegetarian preferences upon request, especially in restaurants that cater to tourists or in larger cities.

What are some street food options for vegetarians in Iran?

Vegetarian street food options include Falafel sandwiches and various types of flatbreads with vegetarian toppings.

Is it easy to find vegetarian food in rural areas of Iran?

While rural areas may have fewer dedicated vegetarian restaurants, many dishes in local eateries can be prepared vegetarian upon request.

Can I find vegan options in Iran?

Yes, vegan options are available, especially in larger cities and tourist areas. Traditional dishes like salads, rice, and stews can often be prepared vegan.

What are some common ingredients in Iranian vegetarian cuisine?

Common ingredients include eggplant, lentils, beans, herbs, nuts, fruits, and a variety of spices.

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Fereshteh Sabetian

Fereshteh Sabetian is a World Heritage Studies graduate, a solo traveler, a coffee enthusiast and a cat lover :)

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