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Persian cuisine

Iranian cuisine or Persian cuisine refers to the traditional and modern styles of cooking related to Iran. Situated in the Middle East, the Iranian culinary style is unique to Iran, though has historically both influenced and has been influenced by Iran's neighbouring regions at various stages throughout its history. Specifically, these have been mutual culinary influences to and from Mesopotamian cuisine, Anatolian cuisine, and especially the Central Asian cuisine. Many foods famously associated with Middle Eastern, and indeed World cuisine have their origins in Iran, such as kebab and ice cream.

It includes a wide variety of foods ranging from chelow kabab (rice served with roasted meat: barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh), khoresht (stew that is served with white basmati or Iranian rice: ghormeh sabzi, gheimeh, fesenjān, and others), āsh (a thick soup: for example āsh-e anār), kuku (vegetable souffle), polo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs, including loobia polo, albaloo polo, sabzi polo, zereshk polo, baghali polo and others), and a diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetizers and desserts is extensive.

Fresh green herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Typical Persian main dishes are combination of rice with meat, lamb, chicken, or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavorings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes.

National cuisine


Tah-chin, a savory saffron rice-cake with a filling, commonly marinated chicken fillets.

The ubiquitous Persian Kabab is often served with both plain rice and Tah-chin.

Sweet pilaf or shirin polo

It is believed that rice (berenj in Persian) was brought to Iran from the Indian subcontinent in ancient times (about 4000 years ago). Varieties of rice in Iran include champa, rasmi, anbarbu, mowlai, sadri, khanjari, shekari, doodi, and others. Basmati rice from India and Pakistan is very similar to these Persian varieties and is also readily available in Iran. Traditionally, rice was most prevalent as a major staple item in the rice growing region of northern Iran, and the homes of the wealthy, while in the rest of the country bread was the dominant staple. The varieties of rice most valued in Persian cuisine are prized for their aroma, and grow in the north of Iran.

Cooking methods

There are three primary methods of cooking rice in Iran:



Polo (pilaf)

Rice that is prepared by soaking in salted water then boiling it. The parboiled rice (called chelo) is drained and returned to the pot to be steamed. This method results in an exceptionally fluffy rice with the rice grains separated and not sticky. A golden rice crust is created at the bottom of the pot called Tah-deeg (literally "bottom of the pot"). Tah-deeg is served plain, with thin bread such as lavash or slices of potato. Meat, vegetables, nuts and fruits are sometimes added in layers or completely mixed with the chelo and then steamed, such as Baghali Polo, Lubia Polo, Zereshk Polo and Sabzi Polo. When chelo is in the pot the heat is reduced and a piece of thick cloth or towel is place on top of the pot to absorb excess steam.

Chelo is plain rice served as an accompaniment to a stew or kebab (chelo khoresh badenjan, chelo kabab), while Polo is rice mixed with something (such as Baghali Polo, Zereshk polo, Loubia Polo). They are otherwise cooked in the same way.


Rice that is cooked until the water is absorbed completely. This is also the traditional dish of Gilan Province (described in detail below).


Rice that is cooked almost the same as Kateh but at the start ingredients that can be cooked thoroughly with the rice are added such as grains and beans such as lentil in "Adass Polo". In making Kateh the heat is reduced to minimum when the rice and other ingredients are almost cooked. If kept long enough on the stove without burning and over-cooking Damy and Kateh can also produce Tah-deeg. Damy literally means "steaming". A special form of Damy is Tah-chin, that is a mixture of yogurt, lamb (or chicken) and rice plus saffron and egg yolks. However, chicken Tah-chin is more common than lamb Tah-chin.



Sholezard (with calligraphy of "Ramazan"), Sangak bread, Barbary bread and some other breads for Eftar.

Bread is called نان (nān) in Persian, which has been borrowed as Naan in English. There are four major Iranian flat breads:



Nan-e barbari

Thick and oval-shaped, also known as Tabrizi Bread or Nan-e Tabrizi, for its origins in and links to the city of Tabriz.

Nan-e lavash

Thin, flaky and round or oval, and is also the oldest known bread in the Middle East and Caucasus.

Nan-e sangak

Triangle-shaped bread that is stone-baked.

Nan-e taftoon

Thin, but thicker than lavash, soft and round.





Nan-e Shirmal

Made like barbari, except with milk instead of water, in addition to a bit of sugar, and is eaten during breakfast or with tea.

Nan-e Gandhi

Sweet bread made like taftoon, and is eaten during breakfast or with tea.

Nan-e gisu

A sweet Armenian bread, and also is eaten in the morning or with tea later in the day.

Nan-e dushabi

Bread made with grape syrup

Nan-e tiri

Like lavash

Nan-e tokhme-ru

Breads with sweet-smelling seeds on them

Nan-e khoshke-shirin

Sweet brittle bread baked in gentle heat

Nan-e khoshke-tanur

Brittle bread baked in gentle heat

Nan-e kopoli

Any kind of thick bread

Second only to rice is the production and use of wheat. There are said to be more than forty types of wheat breads from very dark to very light. From crisp to limp, and at least one type of flat bread will be a part of every meal. Nan-e lavash is an example of the thin crisp bread with good keeping qualities, while nan-e sangak is a fresh yeast bread, baked on hot stones and eaten while still warm.


Fruits and vegetables

A bowl of Ash-e anār, a soup made with pomegranates.

Iran's agriculture produces many fruits and vegetables, including what some other countries may consider “exotic”. A bowl of fresh fruit is common on most Persian tables and dishes of vegetables and herbs are standard sides to most meals.

Iran is one of the top date producers in the world; some special date cultivars, such as Rotab, are grown in Iran.

For generations, Iranians have been eating fruits, vegetables, and herbs for health benefits that have recently been discovered in other parts of the world. For example, onions and garlic, pomegranate, and sabzijat (various green herbs) are regular ingredients in many Persian dishes.

The climate of the Middle East is conducive to the growing of fruits, and the orchards and vineyards of Iran produce fruits of legendary flavour and size. These are not only enjoyed fresh and ripe as desserts but are also imaginatively combined with meats and form unusual accompaniments to main dishes. When fresh fruits are not available, a large variety of excellent dried fruits such as dates, figs, apricots and peaches are used instead. The list of fruits includes fresh dates and fresh figs, many citrus fruits, apricots, peaches, sweet and sour cherries, apples, plums, pears, pomegranates and many varieties of grapes and melons.

While the eggplant (aubergine) is "the potato of Iran", Iranians are fond of fresh green salads dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a little garlic. Vegetables such as pumpkin, spinach, green beans, broad beans, courgettes, varieties of squashes and carrots are commonly used in rice and meat dishes. Tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions often accompany a meal. A small sweet variety of cucumber is popularly served as a fruit.

The term dolma describes any vegetable or fruit stuffed with rice or a rice-and meat mixture: grape vine leaves, cabbage leaves, spinach, eggplant, sweet peppers, tomatoes, even apples and quince. The most popular dolmas in Iran today are stuffed grape leaves, which are prepared by lightly parboiling the fresh leaves in salted water, then stuffing them with a mixture of ground meat, rice, chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, split peas, and seasoning. The dolmas are then simmered in a sweet-and-sour mixture of vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, and water. Fillings vary, however, from region to region and even from family to family. Stuffed cabbage and grape leaves are the only dolmas that can be served hot or cold. When intended to be served cold they generally do not contain meat, however. Fruit dolmas are probably a specialty of Persian cuisine. The fruit is first cooked, then stuffed with meat, seasonings, and sometimes tomato sauce; the dolmas are then simmered in meat broth or a sweet-and-sour sauce. In recent decades new variations have been introduced, largely under Western influence: Potatoes, artichokes, green peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables are also stuffed.

To underline both the skill and imagination of Iranian cookery, a few examples of the main ingredients in Iranian specialties would include duck, pomegranates and walnuts; lamb, prunes and cinnamon; spinach, orange and garlic; and chicken and sliced peaches sautéed in onions and butter, seasoned with cinnamon and lemon juice. Khoresht Beh (quince stew) is an example of using fruits in Iranian cooking: chunks of lamb are stewed with slices or cubes of tart quince and yellow split peas; this dish is always served with rice.

The above are only a few examples of the combination of meats and vegetables, or meats and fruits plus seasonings that may go into chelo khoresh, a favorite Iranian dish that is served at least once daily. This is a dish of crusty baked rice topped by one of the stews listed, or any one of dozens more, limited only by price and availability of ingredients.

Ab ghoreh, the juice of Ghoreh (unripe grapes) or Verjuice is used in various Iranian dishes. For example, it is an ingredient in Ash e sagh, a soup prepared with spinach, leeks, yellow split peas, and seasonings. Ab ghoreh is also used to simmer dolma-ye Kadu, stuffed summer squash. Ab ghoreh flavors several types of Khoresh like Khoresht-e Alu Esfenaj (stewed lamb with spinach and prunes), Khoresht-e Havij (stewed lamb with carrots), and Khoresht-e Chaghaleh badam (stewed lamb with fresh, unripe almonds). Unripe grapes are used whole in some dishes, such as Khoresht-e ghoreh (lamb stew with sour grapes). Ab ghoreh was frequently used until not too long ago also as a souring agent for a number of pickles, dried pickles, and spices. As a spice, Ghoreh powder (gard-e Ghoreh) was sometimes reinforced by Ab ghoreh and then dried.


Regional cuisine





Southern Iran



Ghalieh Mahi

"Fish Stew"

Bushehr and Khuzestan and Hormozgan

Koloocheh and Masgati

"brittle biscuit" and "Rose water confection"


Central Iran




Cotton candy






Jeweled rice


Iranian Kurdistan




Khoresht-e Khalal




Gheimeh Tarreh

Ash-e Shalami


Iranian Azerbaijan


East Azerbaijan





Rahatol holgum

West Azerbaijan


Girdakan Halvasi


Northern Iran

Kateh is the traditional dish of North of Iran (provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan) and is simply Persian rice cooked in water, butter and salt until the water is fully absorbed. This method results in rice that is clumped together and is the predominant style of cooking rice in the Caspian region. In Gilan, Golestan and Mazandaran, kateh is also eaten as a breakfast meal, either heated with milk and jam, or cold with Persian cheese (panir) and garlic. Kateh is commonly eaten in other parts of Iran because of its short cooking time and easy preparation, and is prescribed widely as a natural remedy for those who are sick with the common cold or flu, and also for those suffering from stomach pains and ulcers. Some of the foods like Chegdermeh are only used in Turkmen region of Golestan Province, but many other dishes are used in all parts of Iran .

Reshteh Khoshkar with its origin in Gilan, is a notable syrup-soaked pastry of ground walnuts & cinnamon.

Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan provinces variety of rice is considered one of the best in Iran, where it has been in use since the fourth century BCE.

Eating fresh raw of Golestan and Mazandaran broad beans is common in Gilan, Mazanderan and Golestan provinces, either alone or with cooled Kateh, salted fish eggs (Ashpel ); but selling and enjoying (especially by people of the lower classes) of hot cooked broad beans (bāqelā-garmak) sprinkled with salt and powdered Persian marjoram (golpar) are not an uncommon street scene in cold weather almost everywhere in Iran. The Gilani dish Baqali Qatoq is cooked with dill garlic, and turmeric, into which eggs are emptied at the end



Seafood is the most important part of Khuzestani cuisine, but many other dishes are also featured. The most popular Khuzestani dish is Ghalieh Mahi, a popular fish dish that is prepared with heavy spices, onions and cilantro. One of the fish used for grilled fish is locally known as mahi soboor (shad fish), a species of fish found in the Arvand river ( Arvand rood ) . Other provincial specialties include Ghalieh Meygu ("shrimp stew"), ashe-mohshala (a Khorramshahri breakfast stew), sær shir (a Dezfuli breakfast of heavy cream), hælim (a Shushtari breakfast of wheatmeal with shredded lamb), and kohbbeh (a deep-fried rice cake with ground beef filling and other spices of Arabic origin, a variant on Levantine kibbeh). Also see Iranian cuisine.



Iranian Berian (Isfahan)

Iranian Berian Chef

Isfahan in Central Iran is home to dishes and delicacies such as:



English name


well known and/or culturally significant


a casserole with a thickly tart sauce containing the two base ingredients: pomegranate purée and ground walnut. It cooked with either chicken, duck, lamb or beef and served with rice.


the name given to Persian nougat using the sap collected from angebin, a plant from the Tamarisk family found only on the outskirts of Esfahan. It is mixed with various ingredients including rose water, pistachio and almond kernels and saffron.


Honey Toffee

A brittle toffee made from honey and butter, flavoured with cardamom and saffron, and coated with slivered almond and pistachio kernels.


Yogurt Stew

Unlike other stews it is not served as a main dish and with rice; since it is more of a sweet pudding it is usually served as a side dish or dessert. The dish is made with yogurt, lamb/mutton or chicken, saffron, sugar and orange peels. Iranians either soak the orange peels in water for one week or longer or boil them for few minutes so the orange peels become sweet and ready for use. This dish often accompanies celebrations and weddings. This dish differs from the Shirazi dish with the same name.



This dish is made of mutton or lamb which is ground/minced and then cooked on one side in a special small pan over open fire. Berian is generally eaten with a certain type of bread, known as "nān-e-taftun".



Kufteh Tabrizi is a Tabrizi traditional food

Kufteh Rizeh is a Sarabi variant of Kufteh that is small and sweet

  • Ghormeh sabzi (Herb Stew) and Gheimeh (Split-pea Stew) are traditional stews of Azerbaijan.
  • Ghabli

This traditional dish in Azerbaijan is made of rice, lentil, meat, potato and groats.

"the torn abdomen" in Azeri

A kind of Kofteh that unusually large.

  • Tabriz is notable for its delicious cookies in Iran, some of which are
    • Ghorabiye
    • Eris
    • Nogha ( نُوقا in Persian and Azeri) :That's a special kind of Gaz made mainly in the Azeri regions of Iran. Nogha is almost exclusively made with walnuts instead of pistachios and almonds which are usual for other types of Gaz. The making of Nogha is very much the same as any other Gaz. The difference is that Nogha is usually spread between two very thin layers of wafers and cut into 10x5x5cm sections which are larger than ordinary Gaz cubes.

Tabrizi Nogha, Iranian variant of Nougat




  • Āsh (Thick soup) is popular in Azerbaijan.The word Āsh had passed from Persian into the Central Asian Turkic languages.
  • Bozbash ( green vegetable stew ): That is a kind of Abgoosht, it is made with meat (usually lamb), red or white beans, green vegetables, herbs (e.g., parsley, fenugreek, mint), onions and leeks, dried limes (limo-ye ʿomani), and spices (mainly salt, pepper, and turmeric). These ingredients are simmered together in water over low heat for several hours. As with most Abgooshts, when the ingredients are thoroughly cooked, the solids are usually removed and mashed to a pulp, known as gusht-e kubideh. The broth and the pulp are then served separately with flat bread and a pickled green-vegetable relish.

Traditional table settings and etiquette


Typical table setting and elements of a popular Iranian dish.

The traditional Iranian table setting firstly involves the tablecloth, called sofreh, and is spread out over a Persian rug or table. Main dishes are concentrated in the center, surrounded by smaller dishes containing appetizers, condiments, side dishes, as well as bread, all of which are nearest to the diners. These latter dishes are called mokhalafat (accompaniments). When the food has been served, an invitation is made to all those seated at the sofreh to help themselves. Many Iranians continue to use bread or rice to eat their meals.


Structure of meals


Breakfast is called sobhāneh (Persian: صُبحانِه) or nāshtāyi (Persian: ناشتايى). The basic traditional Iranian breakfast consists of a variety of flat breads (nān-e sangak, nān-e lavāsh, and others), butter, Tabrizi white cheese (panir), feta cheese, whipped heavy cream (Sarshir, often sweetened with Sabalan honey), or a variety of fruit jams and spreads.

Other popular traditional breakfasts (which require far more preparation) include haleem (wheatmeal served plain or more commonly with shredded lamb or turkey - similar to Western oatmeal in some respects), āsheh mohshālāh (thick soup). These latter breakfasts are typically regional specialities, and many cities and towns all across Iran feature their own distinct versions of these dishes. Both āsheh mohshālāh and haleem are typically prepared the night before, to be served the next morning, and haleem is usually only served at certain times of the year (haleem specialty restaurants are only open during those times), except in southern parts of Iran, where haleem is always present. Kaleh paacheh(lit. sheep's entire head and its hooves) is almost always only served from three in the morning until sometime after dawn, and specialty restaurants (serving only kaleh paacheh) are only open during those hours.

Lunch and dinner

Lunch and dinner (naahaar or shaam) are not distinguished in Persian. Traditional Persian cooking is done in stages, at times needing hours of preparation and attention. The outcome is a well-balanced mixture of herbs, meat, beans, dairy products, and vegetables. Major staples of Iranian food that are usually eaten with every meal include rice, various herbs (mint, basil, dill, parsley), cheese (feta or Persian panir, derived from goat or sheep's milk, and sometimes cow's milk), a variety of flat breads, and some type of meat (usually poultry, beef, lamb, or fish). Stew over rice is by far the most popular dish, and the constitution of these vary by region. Tea (chai) is the drink of choice on nearly every occasion, and is usually served with dried fruit, pastries, or sweets.

You can usually find tea brewing throughout the day in most Iranian homes. Doogh, a yogurt drink, is also quite popular. One of the oldest recipes, which can trace its existence back to the time of Persian empire, is khoresht-e-fesenjan, consisting of duck or sometimes chicken in a rich pomegranate-and-walnut sauce that yields a distinctive brown color, most often served with white rice.

Using dairy products in Iranian cuisine has an old historical background, as an example, Kashk (dried condensed whey) is used in dishes like Kallajush. It consists of fried onions, dried herbs, and boiled Kashk, eaten with bread (crumbled or in pieces). Foods containing kashk, including kallajush, have been common among tribal peoples and villagers for centuries, especially in wintertime, as it is both easily prepared and affordable for low-income families. Kashk is quite nutritious and contains protein and calcium. Kashk processing was one of the easiest and most effective ways of conserving dairy products in hot climates during pre-modern times.


Fast food, imported and adapted foods

Popular fast food items in Iran include Chelow kabab (literally "rice and kabaab"), Jujeh kabab (the same, but substituting grilled or broiled chicken), nān o kabāb (literally "bread with kabab"), kabab sandwiches, and a number of different derivatives of traditional slow-cooked meals. An increasing preference for American style food amongst a younger generation of Iranians has resulted in the establishment of many pizza, steak, hamburger, and fried chicken establishments, but Western food is sometimes served alongside staples such as those mentioned above, and is often prepared differently (most notably with pizza). Chinese and Japanese cuisine has also become popular in recent years, primarily in Tehran, and Italian and Mediterranean restaurants are also featured. The noted influence of European and American culture before the Islamic Revolution has also imparted preparations such as bechamel, gigots, milanesas and others to Iran.The outstanding characteristic of modern Iranian cookery is its conservatism. The much discussed craze for Western things (Gharb-zadagi) has had little or no effect on the people’s eating habits. In this field, Iranian cultural resistance to Western influences has shown particular strength.


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