Persian Food and Drink


Guide to Persian Food

Food can represent the rich customs and traditions of a nation, and eating a delicious local meal can create a sweet memory for the tourist. Thus, most of the people are interested in trying traditional dishes when they travel to a new destination. If you belong to this group, and even if you don’t, visiting Iran brings you a variety of Persian food and traditional cuisine as well as a sweet memory.

During your Iran trip, you will notice that food is very important to Iranians. As a result, the Persian table is always colorful and full of different foods and drinks. Moreover, Iranians prefer to eat their meals with the whole family at a determined time. And, despite the entanglement in modern life, this valuable tradition still stands.

Iran’s long history, the crossing Silk Road and Spice Road trade routes, and access to open waters have made a great variety in Persian foods. On the other hand, the diverse geography and climate of this vast country have shaped various Iranian cuisines and ingredients. In other words, Persian food reflects the history, culture, tradition, and lifestyle of the Iranians.

There’s a vast spectrum of Persian dishes: Juicy stews with slices of meat, juicy barbecues with saffron, sweets filled with delicious creams are among the most famous Persian dishes. Along with food, there are different Persian drinks, including warm and cold beverages. In this regard, the typical Persian cold drink is Dugh, while the traditional warm drink is black tea.

"What is the most popular Persian food?"

Since as a tourist you stay in Iran for the short term, you should know the most popular Iranian food of each city to get the most out of your Iran trip. So, we have prepared the list of the most famous Persian food and drinks that you should try when you’re visiting Iran.

Table of Contents

Persian Food & Drinks Menu

* The prices are rough and based on a qualified dish served in a popular traditional restaurant in major cities. Usually, the prices are a little lower in casual dining restaurants and in small towns.

The Best Persian Foods with Ingredients

Kabab (Persian Kebab)

Kebab (barbecued meat) is one of the famous Persian dishes not only among Iranians but also outside of Iran’s borders. Notably, this delicious Persian food originally came from Caucasus during the Qajar period and the Persian chefs changed its cooking style. Therefore, today’s Persian Kebab is known as entirely Iranian food.

Kebab is more diverse than you can imagine in Persia and Iranians mostly serve it with rice (Chelow or Kateh). So, the famous “Chelow Kabab” is a Persian dish of rice and a kind of Kebab. In addition to rice, the Kebab’s side dish is fresh basil, lemons, barbecued tomato, and a traditional Persian drink called Dough (yogurt drink). Here are the most famous Persian Kebabs.

Ingredients: a kind of meat (based on Kebab’s type), onion, black pepper, sumac, fresh lemon, yogurt or saffron (based on Kebab’s type)

Kabab Koobideh

Kabab Koobideh

This is the most famous Persian food and a mixture of ground meat, chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Also, It is the most popular Persian food at Iranian weddings and parties.

Joojeh Kabab
(arbecued chicken)

This traditional Persian dish is made of barbecued chicken pieces. The Iranians marinate the sliced chicken in lemon juice and onions and cover them with saffron and butter.

Kabab-e Barg

Kabab Barg

It is another type of Kebab made from lamb or beef slices. In the restaurants, they marinate the sliced meat in lemon juice and onions and cover them with saffron and butter.

Lari Kebab

Lari Kebab
(Kabab Lari)

it is a famous Persian food, especially in the south of the country. The professional cook marinate the chopped meat (lamb, chicken or beef) in sour yogurt and slices onions for long hours. due to the use of yogurt, The texture of Lari Kebab is softer than the other kinds of Kebab.

Shishlik (Shashlik)

it is the barbecued ribs of the sheep. You can find the best of this popular Persian dish in Mashhad. Also, it is called Dandeh Kabab in the west of the country.

Jigar

Jigar (Grilled Liver Kebab)

It is the lamb liver kebab served with fresh basil and lemon. You can also try lamb kidney Kebab and lamb heart kebab.

Khoresht (Khoresh)

The Persian word “Khoresht” or “Khoresh” means a kind of stew that is mostly served with rice. The combination of stew and rice, called “Chelo Khoresh”, is one of the main Iranian dishes. There are numerous Persian stews, which mostly contain a kind of meat. However, you can omit the meat from Khoresh dish and prepare a vegetarian-friendly traditional Persian food. Also, the inhabitants of different cities in Iran cook numerous types of Khoresht with diverse cooking methods and their local herbs and spices. Here are the most popular Persian Khoresht dishes with their ingredients.


Khoresht-e Ghormeh Sabzi
(Ghormeh Sabzi Stew)

Khoresht-e Ghormeh Sabzi is a traditional Persian food whose unique aroma is fantastic. This stew is popular not only among Iranians but also outside of Iran's borders. It is interesting to know that Ghormeh Sabzi pizza is served in some countries. Mainly, Khoresht-e Ghormeh Sabzi is a stew that is full of herbs and vegetables. But in each city, every cook prepares it uniquely. Insofar as you will not find two dishes of Ghormeh Sabzi with the same flavor in two different houses or restaurants. For instance, in some cities, they use tomato paste or pomegranate paste while some add potato to this dish. Also, Some make it with black-eyed beans, while others use red kidney beans. Even in different cities, there are distinctions in the types of vegetables and herbs of this traditional Iranian food. Finally, Iranians always serve Khoresht-e Ghormeh Sabzi with rice.
Ingredients: sliced lamb or beef meat, onion, dried red or black-eye beans, turmeric, Persian dried limes, fresh vegetables (garlic, fenugreek, cilantro, parsley, spinach, chives), other local green vegetables or herbs

Khoresht-e Fesenjan -Fesenjan Stew

Khoresht-e Fesenjan
(Fesenjan Stew)

Fesenjan, one of the most famous Persian dishes, consists of sour pomegranate paste and seeds with chicken or duck meat. To prepare this dish, we cook walnuts, pomegranate paste, and onions to create a thick, fragrant sauce. This stew's cooking time is as long as Ghormeh sabzi's and should be cooked for hours to be well-simmered. However, in each city of Iran, they uniquely prepare this Persian food. For instance, some add some sugar to make it sweet or sour-sweet while the others prefer it sourer. Moreover, in some cities, the locals have some saffron or cinnamon in their traditional cuisine. Moreover, Khoresht-e Fesenjan is one of the oldest Iranian cuisines. Accordingly, the archaeologists have found inscriptions belong to 515 BC containing a list of Iranian foods in the remains of Persepolis. The food list includes walnuts, chicken, and pomegranates, which are the main ingredients for cooking Fesenjan. Finally, Iranians serve Fesenjan with rice.
Ingredients: chicken or duck meat, onion, ground walnuts, pomegranate juice or paste, cardamom, cinnamon or saffron (optional), sugar (optional)

Khoresht Gheymeh

Khoresht Gheymeh
(Gheymeh Stew)

Khoresh Gheymeh (Gheimeh) is a kind of Persian stew that is cooked all around the country. Accordingly, People in different cities in Iran have their own methods to cook this stew. In other words, different types of Khoresht Gheymeh have become a kind of local food in different regions of Iran. Insofar as this traditional Iranian dish is served in most of the ceremonies. The Persian word “Gheymeh” means “chopped meat” which is the main ingredient of this popular Persian food. To prepare this stew, at first, they cook mutton with onions and then add split-peas to the pot. Meanwhile, they make French fries and put it aside. Afterward, they add tomato paste or chopped tomatoes and saffron to the stew and let it cook completely. Finally, they serve the stew and garnish the dish with fried potatoes. Like other Iranian stews, Khoresht Gheymeh is served with rice. Moreover, Khoresht-e Fesenjan is one of the oldest Iranian cuisines. Accordingly, the archaeologists have found inscriptions belong to 515 BC containing a list of Iranian foods in the remains of Persepolis. The food list includes walnuts, chicken, and pomegranates, which are the main ingredients for cooking Fesenjan. Finally, Iranians serve Fesenjan with rice.
Ingredients: chicken or duck meat, onion, ground walnuts, pomegranate juice or paste, cardamom, cinnamon or saffron (optional), sugar (optional)

Khoresh Bademjan - Persian Eggplant Stew

Khoresh Bademjan
(Persian Eggplant Stew)

Khoresh Bademjan is a delicious Persian stew that you can find all around the country. However, its recipe slightly varies in different regions of Iran. For example, Some add lime juice or dried limes (Limoo Amani) to make the stew sourer. While the others use sour grapes and call the dish "Ghooreh Bademjan". Sometimes, Iranians add split peas to Khoresh Bademjan and call the stew “Gheymeh Bademjan”. Even in some cities, the locals add Alooche ( the Persian sour plum) to Khoresh Bademjan, to make this Iranian food more flavored. In other words, the different types of Khoresh Bademjan have become, various kinds of local food in different cities of Iran. To prepare this Persian food, at first, they cook mutton with onions and spices. Meanwhile, they slice the eggplant and fry them. Afterward, they add the fried eggplants and fresh tomatoes or tomato paste, sour grapes, and saffron. Finally, they serve the stew with rice. Ingredients: Mutton, Eggplant, Onion, Tomato or Tomato Paste, Turmeric, Abghooreh (Verjuice), or Ghooreh (Sour Grapes), Saffron (Optional) Moreover, Khoresht-e Fesenjan is one of the oldest Iranian cuisines. Accordingly, the archaeologists have found inscriptions belong to 515 BC containing a list of Iranian foods in the remains of Persepolis. The food list includes walnuts, chicken, and pomegranates, which are the main ingredients for cooking Fesenjan. Finally, Iranians serve Fesenjan with rice.
Ingredients: chicken or duck meat, onion, ground walnuts, pomegranate juice or paste, cardamom, cinnamon or saffron (optional), sugar (optional)

Polo (Polow)

Generally, you can find rice in most Persian cuisines. Iranians cook rice with different styles that the most popular ones are Chelo and Polow. To cook “Chelo” or ”Chelow” the Iranians first boil the white rice with salt and oil and then brew it. On the other hand, The Persian word “Polo” or “Polow” means steamed rice that is mixed and cooked with other ingredients. Usually, these ingredients are herbs, meats, legumes or different kinds of vegetables.

There are numerous “Polo”s in Persian cuisines, such as Zeresk Polo, Loobia Polo, Adas Polo, Baghali Polo, etc. However, you can omit the meat from Polo and prepare a vegetarian-friendly traditional Persian food. Also, the inhabitants of different cities in Iran different cook numerous types of Polow with diverse cooking methods and their local herbs and spices. Here are the most famous Persian Polow dishes with their ingredients.

 

Persian Rice with Fava Beans and Dill

Baghali Polo
(Persian Rice with Fava Beans and Dill)

The Persian word “Baghali” means fava beans and Baghali Polo is the mixture of steamed rice with fresh fava beans and dill. Usually, the People of Iran serve Baghali Polo with chicken or lamb. When Baghali Polo is served with chicken, it is called “Baghali Polo ba Morgh” and when it is served with lamb its name is “Baghali Polo ba Mahicheh”.To Prepare this delicious Persian food, the Iranians first remover the fava beans’ skins and cook them. Meanwhile, they boil the rice in a separate pot. Next, they mix the rice with fava beans and chopped dill and brew them for about one hour. Traditionally, they garnish this Persian dish with saffron.
Ingredients: Rice, Fava Beans, Dill, Saffron

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh - Barberry Rice with Chicken

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh
(Barberry Rice with Chicken)

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh is classic Persian food, which you can find on every Iranian restaurant menu as well as ceremonies. Actually, it is a mixed rice dish (Polo) that is served along with the saffron chicken. To prepare this Persian dish, the Iranians steam the Persian rice. In the meantime, they cook the chicken separately with saffron and tomato sauce. Next, they mix the brewed rice with Barberry (Zeresh) and golden fried onions. Finally, they garnish the dish with sliced almonds and pistachios and serve it with the Pieces of chicken. Traditionally they serve a bowl of chicken broth along with Zereshk Polo ba Morgh.
Ingredients: Rice, Chicken, Tomato Paste, Barberry, Lime Juice, Saffron, Onion, Sliced Almonds, Sliced Pistachios, Turmeric, Black Pepper

Morasa Polo - Persian Jewelled Rice

Morasa Polo
(Persian Jewelled Rice)

Morasa Polo is a fancy Persian rice dish with a sweet and sour taste. This delicious Persian food has a wide range of colors and flavors. The Persian word “Morasa” means jewels, and this Iranian dish is called Morasa Polo because of its colorful decorations. The traditional way of cooking this Iranian food requires preparing every ingredient separately. So the Iranians fry the sliced onions, crushed pistachio, crushed almond, the orange’s peel, barberry, raisins, and the chicken filets separately. Some add some sugar to the barberry to give the dish a sour-sweet flavor. Meanwhile, they brew the rice and mix a portion of it with saffron. Finally, they serve the rice and garnish it with saffron rice, sliced chickens, and other ingredients. Notably, the decoration is very important in preparing Morasa Polo.
Ingredients: Rice, Saffron, Onion, Crushed Pistachio, Crushed Almond, Orange’s Peel, Barberry, Raisins, Chicken, Sugar, Cardamom (optional)

Estamboli polo - Persian tomato rice

Estamboli polo
(Persian tomato rice)

Estamboli polo is a famous Persian food, which looks like Spanish rice. It is a mixed rice dish (Polo) that usually contains potato and tomato. However, the recipe of this Iranian dish varies in different cities of the country. Some people make it with rice and tomato, the other add potatoes to it, and some use meat and green beans to make it. For instance, in Tehran and some cities, the mixed rice with green beans and meat is called "Loobia Polo", while in other cities like Shiraz Loobia Polo is a different dish. Here, we want to introduce its tomato and potato version. To make Estamboli Polo, the Iranians cook the rice with tomatoes, potatoes and onions and brew them together. Traditionally, they serve this Persian dish with Salad Shirazi or Yoghurt.
Ingredients: Rice, Tomato, Potato, Onion, Turmeric

Sabzi Polo Mahi - Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi

Sabzi Polo Mahi
(Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi)

Sabzi Polo is the “Persian Herbed Rice” that is a popular Persian food especially for the first day of the new year (Nowruz). And, Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi is the mixture of rice and chopped herbs that is served along with fish. To prepare this Persian dish, the Iranians cook the rice with the fresh chopped herbs (dill, parsley, leek, and coriander). Meanwhile, they grill or fry the pieces of fish with saffron and spices. Finally, they garnish the rice with saffron and serve it with the pieces of fish.
Ingredients: Rice, Fish, Herbs (Dill, Parsley, Leek, and Coriander), Saffron, Spices

Adas Polo - Persian Rice with Lentils

Adas Polo
(Persian Rice with Lentils)

The Persian word “Adas” means lentil and Adas Polo is the mixture of steamed rice with lentils. Usually, the People of Iran serve Adas Polo with chicken or lamb. To Prepare this delicious Persian food, the Iranians first cook the lentils. Meanwhile, they boil the rice in a separate pot. Next, they mix the rice with lentils and brew them for about one hour. Traditionally, they garnish this Iran food with fried onions and raisins.
Ingredients: Rice, Lentils, Onions, Raisins

Persian Soup (Ash)

Iranians are professional in making diverse kinds of soups. Also, the inhabitants of different cities in Iran different cook numerous types of soups with various cooking methods using local herbs and spices. The Persian word “Ash” includes all kinds of soups that mostly are thick and full of ingredients. Usually, these ingredients are herbs, meats, legumes and rice or a type of grain.

There are numerous “Ash” in Persian cuisine, such as Ash Reshteh, Barley Soup, and Ash Doogh (Yogurt Soup), etc. On the other hand, the Iranians are used to prepare numerous kinds of Haleem and porridges. Here we present the most famous Persian Soups with their ingredients.

Ash Reshteh - Persian Noodle Soup

Ash Reshteh
(Persian Noodle Soup)

Ash Reshteh, a thick vegetable and noodle soup, is a most famous Persian Ash (Soup). This classic Iranian dish is usually prepared during family gatherings and some festivals in the large amounts. Ash Reshteh consists of two main ingredients, noodle (Reshteh) and curd (Kashk). To make this delicious soup, Iranians cook the legumes different kinds of beans, chickpeas and lentils. Then they add the chopped vegetables (leek, parsley, coriander, spinach) to the pot. Next, they pour the curd and the noodles to the pot and let the noodles get cooked. Finally, they serve the soup and garnish the dish with Kashk, fried onions, fried mint and fried garlic. Notably, as there is no meat in this Persian food, it is a nutritious vegetarian soup.
Ingredients: Persian Noodle, Legumes (Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils), Leek, Parsley, Coriander, Spinach, Kashk (Curd), Onion, Mint, Garlic

Persian Barley Soup (Ash-e Jo)

Persian Barley Soup
(Ash-e Jo)

Barley soup is one of the most nutritious and delicious traditional Iranian dishes, and the Persian barley soup is thicker than the regular barley soup. In addition to the barley, the Iranians add some legumes, fresh herbs and sometimes curd (Kashk) to this traditional Persian dish. To Prepare this Persian food, Iranians first cook the beans, chickpeas, barley and then the meat. When the legumes and the meat are cooked, they add the chopped vegetables, fried onions and garlic to soup and let it cook for one hour. At the last step of cooking, they pour some Kashk to the soup (this step is optional). Finally, they decorate the dish with fried onion, fried garlic, fried mint and curd (Kashk). Notably, the Iranians either use meat in this soup or cook it without meat as a Persian vegetarian dish.
Ingredients: Barley, Chickpeas, Beans, Meat, Onions, Garlic, Mint, Leek, Parsley, Coriander, Curd (Kashk)

Iran Travel FAQ

Here we present the list of top ten Persian foods that you should try on your Iran tour:
1) Chelow Kabab (Persian Rice and Kebab)
2) Khoresht-e Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Herb Stew)
3) Khoresht-e Fesenjan (Persian Chicken Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate)
4) Tahchin (Baked Persian Rice)
5) Tahdig (Crispy Rice)
6) Dizi or Abgoosht (Persian Broth)
7) Ash Reshteh (Vegetable and Noodle Soup)
8)  Baghali Polo (Persian Rice with Fava Beans  and Dill)
9) Khoresht  Gheymeh (Yellow Split Peas Stew)
10) Zereshk Polo ba Morgh (Barberry Rice with Chicken)

 

The diverse geography and climate of the vast country of Iran have shaped various cuisines and ingredients. So, you can find different kinds of Persian food in distinct flavors, including sweet, sour-sweet, sour, fruity, and spicy. However, there is a balance in the characters and tastes in Persian cuisine. In other words, one Persian dish doesn´t contain distinct spices and different flavors at once.

 

Although the inhabitants of different regions in Iran have their local foods, most of the main Iranian dishes contain rice. Accordingly, the stew and rice called “Chelow Khoresht” is the most favorite Persian food. Also, Iranian’s consume a variety of flatbreads and meats (lamb, beef, chicken, fish …).

 

Usually, a Persian breakfast can be eggs, cheese with walnut and greens, jam or honey with butter, along with a kind of traditional flatbread. Also, the Iranians are used to drink Persian black tea with breakfast. There is also traditional Persian food that is served for breakfast, such as Kaleh Pacheh, Halim, Adasi, or Ash.

 

The most favorite hot dink in Iran is black tea (Chai). Also, different kinds of Damnoosh (Herbal tea) are consumed in Iran.

On the other hand, there is a variety of non-alcoholic Persian drinks such as Doogh (Persian yogurt drink), different kinds of Sharbat (a drink prepared from fruits or flower petals), and Araghijat (herbal liquid extract). However, you can order Pepsi or Coca kola in all the restaurants of Iran.

Generally, selling, serving, or drinking alcohol in Iran is illegal either for the citizens or for the tourists. It means that alcohol is not available in Iran legally. So, restaurants, cafes, or hotels do not serve alcoholic drinks. Also, there is no bar in Iran.

The answer is Yes. Regarding Islamic law, eating pork is forbidden. So, selling, buying, serving and eating pork in Iran is illegal either for the citizens or for the tourists.  

A Persian dish, especially a traditional one consists of different nutritious aliments. Iranians use rice and diverse kinds of nourishing bread in their meals. Also, they have meat, legumes, dried and fresh herbs, natural spices and dairy products such as yogurt in their diet. Moreover, Iranians are accustomed to cooking their food thoroughly to kill the bacteria of the raw ingredients.

Due to Iran regulations, all kinds of alcoholic beverages are illegal in Iran. So, drinking, serving or selling beer is banned in Iran. However, non-alcoholic beers are available in this country.