There is more to Persian cuisine besides kabob. This page is your one-stop resource for over 60 Persian recipes, from soups to stews, rice dishes to desserts and yes, even Persian kabob!
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About Persian food
Whenever I introduce my friends to Persian food, they are always surprised by what I put before them. Persian food tantalizes all of your senses. You smell the saffron and rosewater. You taste the herbs and sumac. You see the bright colors upon your plate.
Persian food is not spicy. It is not a peppery cuisine with chiles or hot peppers. But Persian food does use all kinds of flavors and spices.
A staple of Persian cuisine is rice. It is served alone or as a side dish. It is prepared with saffron, vegetables, meat and/or herbs. We stuff it in our grape leaves and we add it to our soups. We even make a dessert with it!
Most Persian families eat khoresht, or stew, with their rice. Again, Persian stews come in all varieties, usually featuring a vegetable like green beans, okra, eggplant or squash. Our stews use a variety of meats too from beef, lamb, chicken and duck.
Persian kabobs are another popular aspect of Persian food. We skewer everything from beef to lamb, chicken, fish, vegetables… everything.
I have over 60 Persian recipes here on my blog, whether they are traditional recipes or modernized with a twist. I have several recipes and videos showing you how to make some classic Persian recipes in the instant pot, too.
We use all kinds of spices in Persian cooking. They are meant to enhance the meal and not overpower it. Here are a few spices that are common in Persian cooking:
- turmeric (زردچوبه zard chūbeh)
- saffron (زعفران zafarān)
- cinnamon (دار چین dār chīn)
- sumac (سماق somāk)
- cardamom (هل hel)
- cumin (زیره zīreh)
- Persian all spice (ادویه advīeh)
- dried lime (لیمو عمانی limū āmānī)
- rosewater (گلاب golāb)
- Persian hogwood (گلپر golpar)
- fennel seed (رازیانه rāz yāneh)
Persian cuisine also heavily uses herbs, both fresh and dried. They are used both in the cooking process, as well as served with the meal. A tray of fresh sabzi khordan is almost always accompanied with the main meal. And some lavash, with feta and herbs? Heaven!
Some of our favorite herbs include:
- basil (ریحان reyhān)
- mint (نعناع na’nā)
- tarragon (ترخون tarkhūn)
- cilantro (گشنیز gishnīz)
- parsley (جعفری ja’farī)
- green onions (پیازچه piyāzcheh)
- dill (شوید shevid)
- watercress (شاهی shāhī)
- fenugreek (شنبلیله shanbalīleh)
All things sour
Most Persian recipes (excluding desserts) typically contain a sour element to it. The degree of sour involved is up to your own personal taste. In some dishes, there is a sweet and sour element to it. This is usually done using fruits like pomegranate concentrate or dried plums.
Some of the items you see on the list below might be unusual, but don’t knock it ’til you try it! Persians also love their pickles (torshi). From traditional pickled cucumbers to pickled vegetables. Torshi is served with the main dish.
- lemon juice
- dried Persian limes (whole and powder)
- sour grapes (fresh, pickled or powdered)(pictured below)
- pomegranate concentrate (not to be confused with pomegranate molasses which contains sugar)
- sour cherries
- sour plums
- green almonds (chaghaleh badoom)
- sour orange
- yogurt (not the sweet stuff)
- kashk (fermented yogurt with much of the liquid evaporated off)
Persian rice recipes
When we are talking about Persian rice, we are always talking about one specific kind of rice: long grain basmati rice. White rice (chelo) is served as a base for kabob and stews. The rice is usually garnished with some saffron, giving it that bright yellow color.
Other rice dishes (pollo) can contain vegetables, herbs, dried fruits, lentils and meat. These types of rice dishes are served as standing meals or part of a large buffet for parties. These dishes are fragrant and full of all kinds of flavors.
Brown basmati rice can be used instead of white, but the texture is completely different. Brown basmati rice is more sticky than white.
Persian rice can be made traditionally in a pot or in a rice cooker. Only certain rice cookers create the crispy crust everyone fights for. This crust, tadigh, can be made with rice, potatoes, onion slices, pieces of lavash or even tortillas.
Persian kabob recipes
Persian kabob recipes, like the rest of Persian cuisine, are not super complicated. But they are full of flavor and that is thanks to its preparation and marinades. This is our version of barbecue!
Marinades vary on the type of meat you are using, so chicken kabob marinade (for joojeh kabob) is different from the filet marinade (for kabob barg). And Persian ground beef kabob (kabob koobideh) has no marinade at all.
All Persian kabobs are cooked directly over fire not over a grate. The meat never touches a grate or pan when grilled, this way it has direct contact with the heat. The skewers lie directly across the grill, so make sure your skewers are long enough!
Persian dessert recipes
Desserts are always a welcome sight after a wonderful meal, but Persian desserts are absolutely incredible. Like the main dishes, Persian desserts excite all of your senses. The use of saffron, cardamom and rosewater make for an incredible treat.
There is a lot of French influence in Persian sweets, but with a touch of exotic. From saffron rice pudding to cakes baked with rosewater, there’s baklava, cookies and rosettes. So many varieties to choose from and you won’t be disappointed.
And one thing you always find in a Persian house for dessert: fresh fruit. A fruit bowl is always sitting on my counter and you bet that it is filled with seasonal fruits when we have guests coming over.
Persian New Year (Nowruz)
The first day of spring marks the first day of the Persian New Year, known as nowruz (aka norouz/noruz). This celebration is over 3000 years old and is celebrated in many parts of the middle east, besides Iran. It is a beautiful holiday celebrated by Muslims, Jews, Christians and Baha’i from this area.
There are many traditions celebrated for this holiday, and of course many foods. The foods for nowruz are also listed below with other Persian recipes. I have written an extensive post if you want to learn more about nowruz and the foods for nowruz.