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Nowruz & Persian Bitter Orange Syrup | Sharbat-e Porteghal

Persian bitter oranges, the narenj fruit, are a specialty during Nowruz. They are served with fish and can also be used to make this Persian sour or bitter orange syrup.

Overhead shot of Persian Bitter Orange Syrup (Sharbat-e Porteghal) by FamilySpice.com

We are officially in the month of March and that means spring is not far off. Time seems to be zipping by for me. How about you? The first day of Spring is March 20th, and that means Nowruz, the Persian New Year is here.

Every year I put together our family sofreh and every year I mix things up and prepare it differently. Nowruz is one of my favorite holidays, and I am always thrilled to see that spring has arrived.

And just when I think my kids don’t care about these such things, while I frantically clean and prepare our haft sin, I can see their faces glow with excitement.

They might reluctantly help with the spring cleaning around house, but they still love to sneak sweets off the sofreh and celebrate the new year at their grandparents’ house for the traditional meal.

Narenj fruit (sour or bitter orange) by FamilySpice.com

The narenj fruit

Bitter orange, or narenj in Farsi, is that bumpy looking ugly orange that is not sweet at all. Some Americans refer to them as ornamental oranges, because they are not sweet and they don’t see any use for them.

But Persians love the narenj as it is another sour fruit profile for Persian cooking. The narenj fruit is in season for nowruz, the Persian new year. We use it instead of lemons with our traditional new year meal of sabzi pollo ba mahi (dill rice with fish).

The bitter orange is used in many aspects of Persian cooking, from syrups to soups. The flavor is a cross between a lemon and an orange.

A large bottle filled with Persian Bitter Orange Syrup (Sharbat-e Porteghal) by FamilySpice.com

Bitter Orange Syrup

Today’s recipe is a bitter orange syrup made with oranges, lemons and narenj. My grandmother would make this syrup and keep it in her refrigerator, where it would last for months. Anytime they wanted to enjoy a refreshing citrus drink, they would add a tablespoon of the bitter orange syrup to water.

My grandmother was ahead of her time. When added to seltzer or club soda, you would have a fun orangey soda!

Closeup of two glasses made with Persian Bitter Orange Syrup (Sharbat-e Porteghal) by FamilySpice.com

About Nowruz

I have shared with you the many traditions and foods associated with Nowuz in past posts. I am happy to say, that I have written an ebook that has everything you need to celebrate Nowruz.  You can learn more about my Nowruz ebook here.

I partake in another Nowruz tradition by celebrating with Persian bloggers from all over the world. It is our hope to spread the love and goodwill that comes out of this secular and non-political holiday to everyone.

Yield: 32 servings

Persian Bitter Orange Syrup | Sharbat-e Porteghal

Persian Sour Orange Syrup (Sharbat-e Porteghal) by FamilySpice.com

Before supermarkets were around, Persians would make this sweet and sour bitter orange syrup. They would keep it in their refrigerators and add it to water to make a refreshing orange drink during the spring and summer months.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, approximately 3 oranges
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, approximately 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed sour orange (narenj), approximately 2 sour oranges
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 TBS grated orange zest


  1. Combine juices and sugar in a small pot and stir over low heat.
  2. Stir until sugar is dissolved and syrup thickens, approximately 10 minutes. Do not boil.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in 2 TBS orange zest.
  4. Let mixture cool to room temperature then transfer to bottles. Top with 1 TBS orange zest.
  5. Syrup will keep in the refrigerated, sealed in a bottle for up to 2 months.


Serving Suggestions: Use approximately 1 TBS of orange syrup for every 6-8 ounces of water. It can also be added to club soda.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 67Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 0g
And please visit all of my Persian blogging friends and learn more about Nowruz here: