Believe it or not, many visit Iran just to taste unique yet less known Iranian cuisine. Even if you’re not a food aficionado, you’ll most likely enjoy eating Iranian main and side dishes, drinks, and observing food customs like table manners, and cooking festivals. So, buckle up for a little tour of the Persian cuisine.

breakfast | Iranian cuisine

Traditional Persian breakfast (tea, flatbread, cheese, butter, fruit jam, honey, nuts, and cucumbers)

Introduction to Persian food

Iran is the land of world’s greatest ancient empires. Many might have heard about Persian carpets, Saffron, pistachio, historic monuments, etc., but less is known about its well-established, mysterious cuisine.

Iran’s diverse culture and climate have been reflected in its cuisine. In Iran, food resources and ingredients vary to a great extent depending on where the food is originated. But, despite the differences, there are still some common features and ingredients amongst all Persian dishes. These include: rice, meat (mostly lamb or beef), local herbs and vegetable, pomegranates, raisins, plums, dried lime, saffron, cinnamon, and turmeric are widely used in Iranian cuisine. Having all these ingredients in hand, here is a list you can rely on to taste most out of diverse Iranian cuisine.

Read also: 7 Myths That Are Holding You Back from Traveling to Iran

Persian Rice Tahdig Tahchin |‌ Iranian cuisine

Zareshk Polo (barberry rice, usually served with chicken)

Must try Iranian cuisine

Main courses

  • Haleem

A thick delicious porridge comprising wheat and meat (turkey, lamb, or beef). It is a quite popular breakfast in Iran served hot with sugar/salt, cinnamon powder, sesame, and melted butter.

haleem |‌ Iranian cuisine

Haleem or Halim a Persian breakfast

  • Tahchin (Persian baked rice cake)

A delicious traditional Persian food served for dinner or lunch consisting of layers of saffron, rice, and tender chicken/lamb/beef.

Persian Savory Saffron Cake Tahchin |‌ Iranian cuisine

Savoury Persian baked rice cake

  • Ghormeh Sabzi

Literally meaning ‘fried herbs’, it’s a herb stew cooked with kidney beans, dried lime, served with cooked rice (‘Polo’). Ghormeh Sabzi is very popular and is perhaps on the list of every Iranian’s top 5 favorite dishes.

Ghormeh Sabzi Persian Herb Stew |‌ Iranian cuisine

Ghormeh Sabzi, the famous Iranian herb stew

  • Sabzi Polo ba Mahi

Literally meaning “herb rice “ and “ fish”, this food is served traditionally for the Persian new year (Norooz) with side dishes like pickled vegetables.

sabzi polo ba mahi |‌ Iranian cuisine

Fried fish and Sabzi Polo (herb rice)

  • Dizi (Abgusht)

An Iranian stew made with lambchickpeas, white beans, onion, potatoes, tomatoes, turmeric, and dried lime. It is usually served with flatbread (‘Lavash’, ‘Sangak’ or ‘Taftoon’), fresh vegetables, Doogh, and pickled vegetables.

dizi |‌ Iranian cuisine

Abgusht, a Persian meat stew

  • Kabab Koobideh

A Persian meat kebab made of ground beef or lamb, salt, black pepper, and grated onions. The mixture is shaped on special skewers and is grilled over hot coal. It is served with Polo and is accompanied by grilled tomatoes, onions, and pickled vegetable.

kabab koobideh |‌ Iranian cuisine

Kabab Koobideh (Persian meat Kabab) with Jooje Kabab (Persian chicken Kabab), grilled tomatoes and rice

Read also: 5 Persian Customs to Know Before Visiting Iran

Drinks

  • Tea

Black tea, or “Chai’i” as Iranians call it, is Iran’s most popular drink. Iranians drink Chai’i several times a day as well as with breakfast. It is usually served with sugar cubes, raisins, or traditional pastry.

chaii |‌ Iranian cuisine

Black tea with Nabat (sugar candy)

  • Doogh

A mixture of sour yogurt, water, and dried herbs (usually mint and rose). It is perhaps one of Iran’s most well-known traditional drinks served with most foods.

doogh |‌ Iranian cuisine

Doogh, a sour Persian yogurt drink

  • ‘Sharbat’s

Sharbats are Iranian traditional sweet drinks served in summer. There are many different types of sharbats, but some famous ones are Khak-e-Shir, Sekanjabin, Tokhm-e-Reyhan, and Bahar Narenj. Depending on your taste, you might fall in love with one or all sharbats but make sure to try some of them because they are not only thirst-quenching but also have many health benefits.

khak e shir |‌ Iranian cuisine

Khak e Shir, a sweet Persian summer drink

Desserts

  • Sholeh Zard

Persian saffron rice pudding garnished with cinnamon and slivered pistachios.

sholeh zard |‌ Iranian cuisine

Sholeh Zard, a famous Iranian desert

  • Bastani Sonnati

Traditional Persian saffron ice-cream made with extra cream chips in it.

Bastani Persian Saffron Ice Cream |‌ |‌ Iranian cuisine

Persian ice-cream usually served alongside Faloodeh

  • Faloodeh Shirazi

It is a cold Persian dessert made of rice starch noodles in a semi-frozen syrup containing rose water and sugar. It is often served with lime juice and ate together with Bastani Sonnati.

faloodeh |‌ Iranian cuisine

Faloodeh, a semi-frozen noodle desert

  • Baghlava

A very sweet layered pastry filled with nuts and held together with a syrup or honey. It is usually served with Chai’i.

Baghlava |‌ Iranian cuisine

Baghlava or Baklava, perhaps the sweetest Persian desert served with tea

 

By Niloofar Emami

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