Last Updated on December 16, 2019 by Audrey Scott
Although this ultimate guide to Iranian food could also be entitled Persian Food, today’s Iran is ethnically broader than its Persian roots. So too is its cuisine. Influences on Iranian food draw from across Central Asia, Turkey, former Mesopotamia, and from Iran’s own Azerbaijani Turkish population. This yields a cuisine that is influenced by it all, yet is distinct. This Iranian food guide is drawn from our experiences traveling across Iran — including visits to local markets, meals in restaurants and family homes, and street food adventures. It offers an extensive list of traditional Persian food, modern day Iranian food specialties and tips on what to eat and drink when you visit.
Traditional Iranian food combines the savory of fresh herbs and spices like saffron, merges it with the sweet of pomegranate, barberry and cinnamon and tops it all off with a flourish of nuts, dried fruits and beans. The result: a taste profile which does not present one distinct flavor, but instead serves up layers that keep the taste buds guessing as to what is and what’s coming next.
The following is an extensive list of Iranian dishes, including notable and common traditional Iranian dishes that we found in our weeks traveling in Iran. To give a sense of the culinary mindset, here are words of wisdom from one of our guides on the subtle appreciation of eating one’s way through Iran: “Eat an onion from each new place you visit to adjust your body to the local cuisine.”
Let’s eat! Nusheh jân!
Note: This post was originally published on January 16, 2014 and updated on December 8, 2018.
Traditional Iranian Food
Kebab (kebabs) is taken very seriously in Iran – so much so that a restaurant kebab menu alone may run a few pages and feature every style and cut of skewerable grill-worthy meat imaginable. The first few times someone invites you to dine with them in Iran, you'll be tempted to think that all of Iran and its restaurants are powered solely on kebab.
Lamb, minced or in chunks, is the most popular meat you'll find in Iranian kebab. Chicken and beef also make a frequent appearance. In Iran, kebab skewers are often served alongside grilled tomatoes, a healthy plate of rice and flat bread, and a pile of raw onions. (Yes, raw onions. One roadside kebab stand thought us crazy for suggesting our onions be grilled.) You'll also find that one kebab order is likely more than enough for two people to share.
Our favorite kebab: kebab koobideh, minced lamb meat blended with herbs and spices.
Khoresht (Iranian Stew)
After kebabs, stews are the most common dishes you’ll find on the menu at local restaurants in Iran. Most often, Iranian khoresht will feature some sort of vegetable blend (e.g., lentils, spinach, mixed vegetable sabzi, beans, tomato, or eggplant) with a bit of meat thrown in. Khoresht is often served with rice and serves as a comfort food (e.g., as in chelo khoresht, rice and stew).
Some khoresht favorites include: Khoresht-e-Ghorme-sabzi, a stew of meat, vegetables and beans that features a bit of a greenish appearance; and Khoresht-e-Ghymeh, a stew of meat, potato, tomato and split peas.
Though technically a khoresht, fesenjan (Khoresht-e-Fesenjan) stands alone. At turns tart, sweet and savory, fesenjan is a stew composed of ground walnut and pomegranate juice turned with your meat of choice (chicken is most common). Fesenjan knows some regional variation in Iran, with sour and savory fesenjan prevailing in Northern Iran, while slightly sweeter versions appear elsewhere.
Fesenjan takes some time to make, which is why in Iran it is typically only served during holidays and on special occasions. Because you won't find it on the daily menu in most restaurants in Iran, you may have to make arrangements to have it prepared specifically for you or your group. Ask around, since the flavor of a well-made fesenjan is worth the effort. Good news: because fesenjan is among the best-known and most popular Iranian dishes, it's a staple in Iranian restaurants around the world.
Literally, barberry rice. However, quite often served with grilled chicken or served alongside kebab.
Note: The red berries served atop this dish (you can see in the image below) are barberries (berberries), a berry from the barberry shrub that is quite often mistaken at quick glance for pomegranate.
Dizi / Abgoosht (Stone Pot Iranian Stew)
Dizi and abgoosht are competing names for the stone pot Persian stew that's consumed following an almost ritualized eating procedure.
Dizi, named for the stone pot in which it's prepared, is a hearty, heavy dish fit for the mountains. featuring mutton soup broth thickened with chickpeas, onion, potato, tomatoes, turmeric and various other white beans, all cooked in ceramic pot. The liquid is then strained away and served in a bowl on the side. As an interactive bonus, you’re given a pestle-type instrument with which you are expected to crush and mash to a pulp the solid bits (gusht-e kubideh) which happen to remain in your stone pot. Dizi (abghoost) is typically served with flat bread (piti) and the occasional side of pickled vegetables.
Tabriz Köfte / Koofteh Tabrizi (Tabriz-Style Persian Meatballs)
When offering Iranian food recommendations, a good Iranian friend said of Tabriz Köfte: “A huge meatball with surprises inside…very nice if you can find it.” Our experience: exactly.
We were fortunate to try it twice, once in a restaurant and once homemade served to us by our guide's wife at a makeshift picnic at St. Stephanos church. The latter was the clear winner for freshness and taste.
Tabriz Köfte can be found mainly in northwestern Iran, where the city of Tabriz is the provincial capital. Tabriz koofteh offer a variation on the traditional Turkish köfte (minced meatball). The Tabriz köfte is essentially an oversized meatball made from either minced meat and spices or barley and spices (for vegetarians), served with piles of fresh greens and herbs. After all the kebab you'll eat in Iran, Tabriz köfte strikes the body as refreshing, particularly when served on flatbread with all those greens.
Loobia Sabz (Iranian Green Bean Stew)
Vegetarians in Iran, look for loobia sabz. We list this dish not because we had the good fortune to eat it, but because in retrospect we should have made a greater effort to seek it out. We traveled with a vegetarian during a part of our trip, and she had a notably difficult time finding vegetable dishes untainted by meat. If you are vegetarian and traveling in Iran, ask for loobia (beans) and in particular, loobia sabz.
Mirza Ghasemi / Mirza Qasemi
Mirza ghasemi (or mirza qasemi) is a tasty vegetarian appetizer which hails from the Northern Iranian Caspian region. It's made with roasted skewered eggplant which is seasoned with garlic, tomato, turmeric, oil or butter, and salt. The seasoned eggplant is then turned with eggs. The whole thing is then mixed and served with bread or rice. Mirza ghasemi is another dish to watch our for, especially for vegetarians traveling in Iran.
Ash (Iranian Soup)
Ash is a thick, almost stew-like soup. However, you’ll find ash in all varieties of thin and thick depending on where you are in Iran and who happens to be stirring the pot. We enjoyed one of our favorite bowls of ash with a bunch of guys crammed into a soup cafeteria on their lunch break in the northwestern Iranian town of Tabriz.
Another tasty variety of ash is Ash-Reshteh, known as Persian noodle soup. Ash-reshteh typically features noodles, vegetables and herbs. We had the good fortune to enjoy this restorative meal-in-a-bowl in the mountain village of Masouleh.
READ MORE: Traveling to Iran as Americans: All You Need to Know
Iranian Rice Dishes
To say that rice — a 4,000 year old staple of Persian food and Iranian eating — is hugely important to the Iranian food landscape is a culinary understatement. In our cursory examination, sampling and research of the subject of Iranian rice, it’s clear that a full-length dissertation could be written about the subject, after which arguments of clarification on the terms and names of Iranian rice dishes would ensue.
Note: For a delightful and detailed layman’s guide to properly preparing Iranian/Persian rice at home, check out this article and recipe.
Chelo (Iranian Steamed White Rice)
Trademark fluffy white Iranian rice, typically served with kebab, stews and other main dishes.
Note: Chelo Kebab is the traditional Iranian dish of kebab (above) served on a plate with chelo, white steamed rice.
Tah Dig / Tah Deeg (Scorched or Crunchy Rice)
Tah dig is Iran's somewhat famous scorched, crunchy rice specialty. It's made from the bottom of the pot rice crust and is served by itself or with the rice crust merged with slices of potato, flats of bread, meat, vegetable, fruit and nuts like pistachio.
Baghali Polo (Persian Dill and Fava Bean Rice)
Like its cousins pilaf and plov), polo is a generic term for rice mixed or blended with nuts, vegetables, beans and dried fruits.
Take polo up a notch and add dill, saffron and fava beans (broad beans) and you have the specialty known as Baghali Polo. Baghali is the Persian/Farsi word for fava beans. Baghali polo will often be referred to as Persian dill rice.
Abkesh (Baked, Layered Rice)
Abkesh consists of srained, sieved rice cooked until its moist, then layered with bread or potato and blended with oil in the bottom of pot. It's typically topped with a bit of saffron and small minced pistachios.
Kateh is soft, typically found in northern Iran, consists of clumped rice served with a slight crust. Kateh polo is softer than abkesh and is usually served in traditional restaurants in villages and rural areas.
READ MORE: Persepolis: Ancient Persia, Modern Lessons
Iranian Street Food Snacks
Baghali Pokhteh / Baghali Pokhte (Steamed, Spiced Fava Beans)
Baghali pokhteh (or, baghali pokhte) — steamed spiced fava beans — are a popular street snack, especially in the mountains of Iran. Baghali pokhteh are particularly delicious when served with vinegar, red pepper and marjoram. After all the meat we'd eaten in Iran, our group was thrilled to inject some legumes into the diet. We ate almost the entire stash of baghali pokhteh below. We're kidding…kind of.
Laboo (Red Beets, Roasted)
Laboo is the Persian word for red beets. We aren't certain if roasted red beets are typical to the Iranian street food scene, but this display of roasted beets on a stick in the Northern Iranian town of Ardabil was one of the more beautiful and unique street food presentations we’d seen in a while during our travels.
Street beets, who knew?
READ MORE: A Flight to Tehran: The Full Story
Interesting how the Farsi word for bread (nan) is similar to the Indian term. Linguistic history often gives a sense of how much we all have in common and how far back that shared history really goes. Especially when kebab, stews and soups are involved, Iranian breads are a staple of the Iranian table and culinary experience.
The thin, flaky, sometimes almost paper-y (wallpaper-y) bread found widely throughout the Middle East and neighboring regions.
Sangak is a stretchy elliptical bread usually baked on a bed of small stones or pebbles. Sangak is among the most common type of bread you’ll find served across Iran, and comes plain or in varieties topped with sesame or other seeds. If you’ve done everything right, you should have secured a few slabs of sangak as gifts (that is, for free from local bakers) along your travels across Iran.
Barberi is a thick oval-shaped bread. It's also the ubiquitous bread staple of the northwestern Iranian town of Tabriz. Barberi is perfect to bring along and share on train ride from Tabriz to Istanbul. Our guide, Ali, knew this and bought us a bagful to help us survive our 60-hour journey.
READ MORE: Midnight Express: Iran to Turkey by Train
Iranian Desserts and Sweets
Faloodeh Shirazi / Falooda Shirazi (Persian Sorbet)
Faloodeh, one of Iran's most unique and most popular desserts features vermicelli noodles sloshed in a cold syrup of sugar and rose water. You can also ask for a sweet lemon juice variety of faloodeh. A specialty of the town of Shiraz. In the short time that we hung out in the old Shiraz bazaar we were offered so many bowls of faloodeh that we'd begun to turn them away. Locals are proud to share this with visitors.
Iranian Ice Cream
Iranian ice cream gets its own entry since rumor has it that Iran is the birthplace of the miracle we've come to know as ice cream. We’re not here to dispute or affirm that rumor. Instead, we'll share our experience with Iranian ice creams. Local varieties of Iranian ice cream we tasted were sweet, often fruity, not especially creamy, and somewhat strappy compared to the ice cream and gelato we’ve come to love. In any event, do as the locals do and take a dip of flavors, especially saffron and pistachio.
Aab Havij Bantani (Carrot Juice Ice Cream Float)
Carrot juice ice cream float, often garnished with cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices. In full disclosure, we thought the mixture was a bit sweet and preferred to drink the carrot juice plain, sans ice cream. But it's worth trying at least once.
Halva is a popular dessert across this part of the world, especially in neighboring Turkey and the Middle East. A sweet made from ground sesame paste (tahini), halva not only satisfies the sweet tooth but it's also packed with protein. One might call halva the original power bar.
Nokhodchi (Persian Chickpea Cookies)
Nakhodchi, Persian chickpea cookies, are amazing and fabulously unique to Iran. Four leaf clover-shaped cookies are made from finely sifted chickpea flour, rose water, powdered sugar and sweet spices like cardamom — and topped off with finely chopped pistachios. The result: melt in your mouth magic. Nokhodchi taste like nothing you've ever had.
When you visit Iran, be certain to buy kilos of nokhodchi, for as easy as they might be to make at home, to make them well is an art exquisitely executed by only the finest bakeries in Iran.
Gaz (Persian Nougat)
Gaz is a traditional Persian nougat confection based on the milky sap collected from Angebin, a plant of the Tamarisk family found only in the dry outskirts of the Iranian city of Esfahan. Gaz is spun with various ingredients including rose water, pistachio, almond kernels and saffron.
Gaz is a specialty in the tourist center of Esfahan where you'll find shops selling all variations and qualities. Hint: Look for and purchase the gaz varieties with the highest pistachio count.
Lavashak (Fruit Leather)
Iran is a dried fruit mecca, so fruit leather (or fruit roll-up) fits. The taste, consistency and value of Iranian lavashak is absolutely nothing like you’ll get from packaged fruit roll-ups in your local grocery store. The sweet-tart fruit flavor of genuine Iranian lavashak will make your mouth pucker like never before, after which you won't be able to stop tearing off strips and eating large chunks like an animal.
Some of our favorite lavashak flavors include pomegranate, apricot and sour plum. Beware of lavashak vendors, however. You may think you're buying only a small piece, but you'll end up with enough fruit leather to make an outfit.
Koloocheh are decorative yet tasty cookies known best by the designs stamped on top. Though you'll find koloocheh throughout Iran, the original — and in our opinion tastiest — version of this Persian cookie hails from the town of Fuman in northwestern Iran. Fuman is flush with bakeries selling only these cookies. Koloocheh are stuffed with a cinnamon, walnut and sugar filling. When they are fresh and warm just out of the oven, they are special packages of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Reshteh-Khoshkar / Reshte Khoskhar
If you come across a pastry-ish cookie-like confection resembling a gauze bandage, you’ve found reshte khoshkar, specialties of the Caspian area (and specifically the town of Rasht). The khoshkar bandages or leaves are stuffed with walnut, sugar and cinnamon, are typically fried and soaked in a sweet liquid. As we were told by friends in Rasht, reshteh are similar to khoshkar, but come without the filling.
Our good friend from Rasht highly recommends these delights be consumed with a good cup of black tea.
READ MORE: Western Iran Snapshots and Experiences
Doogh (Persian Yogurt Drink)
Doogh is a chilled thin plain yogurt drink, often served with mint and other dried herbs sprinkled on top. Doogh is surprisingly refreshing on a hot day. It also serves as a perfect complement to stomach-plunging, meat-heavy meals like a piled-high plate of kebabs.
Although Iran is a dry country — that is, consumption of alcohol in Iran is forbidden by law — every restaurant features a listing of something very generously referred to as “Iranian beer,” which is essentially a non-alcholoic fruit malt beverage, which under no circumstance ought to rightly be referred to as beer. Perhaps the only approximations outside of Iran would be drinks such as root “beer” and ginger “beer.”
Note that Iranian beer comes in all different flavors, with pomegranate being our fitting favorite. Once you come to terms with the fact that you aren't really drinking beer, you might actually find Iranian beer refreshing.
Fresh Fruit Juice
Fresh fruit juice abounds on city streets, especially in southern Iran. Our visit to Iran happened to coincide with pomegranate season and we drank generous glasses of it at every opportunity. Pomegranate consumption in volume feels both cleansing and invigorating. Our other juice favorites include carrot and melon. Usually very reasonably priced.
Chai (Persian Tea)
Iranian tea rooms are hubs of social gathering. In Iran, it’s not just about drinking tea, but about lounging back on pasha-worthy cushions on the ground and spending hours with friends and colleagues. Tea houses may also offer qalyan (large water pipes or hookah), in which you can smoke shisha, sweet-flavored tobacco in vanilla, apple, orange and mint flavors.
Typically, black tea is served with crystalized raw sugar on a stick. Stir your tea with your crystalline staff and watch the sugar crystals melt away. A magic wand, of sorts.
Alcohol in Iran
When it comes to alcohol, Iran is about as bone dry as it comes. You will likely find it difficult or impossible to find alcohol at all. Having said that, rumors have it that alcohol such as locally brewed wines can be had behind closed doors and in the back corners of private affairs such as weddings. We don't recommend you actively seek it out.
Vegetarian Food in Iran
Iran, unfortunately, is not an ideal destination for vegetarians as vegetarianism is primarily understood on the level of “a little less meat in the stew” or “we'll just pick the chunks of meat out.”
Can you find and eat vegetarian food in Iran? Certainly. Having said that, you might be limited to street snacks, breads, yogurt, salads and picking in and around main dishes. In addition, falafel is usually available in most towns and is inexpensive.
Vegetarians traveling to Iran should also consider learning the names of a few key vegetarian dishes. Know how to clearly say “I am a vegetarian” in Farsi so that you are able to request them and be understood. A quick list of other dishes (featured above) which might be vegetarian friendly as you travel in Iran: vegetarian khoresht (stew), the vegetarian version of Tabrizi koofteh, loobia sabz (green beans), mirza ghasemi (eggplant), baghali polo (dill rice with fava beans) and snacks like roasted red beets (laboo). this list) may also help. See also this article for additional strategies and advice on traveling as a vegetarian in Iran.
If you are traveling on a tour in Iran let your guide know in advance that you are vegetarian. He or she might be able to convince some of the restaurants you visit to cook a special vegetarian option for you.
Regardless of what you prefer to eat and when you prefer to eat it, allow your curiosity to guide the culinary dimension of your trip through Iran. You'll likely find yourself amidst conversations you'd never imagined having while traveling there.
79 thoughts on “Iranian Food: A Culinary Travel Guide to What to Eat and Drink”
Always a JOY to read and marvel at Dan’s photos. Iran may well be
a travel destination for me. Your post on Iran is suburb!
A New Year filled with joy and all best things. Marylouise
So much of this looks mouth-wateringly delicious! I’m not so sure of the street beets, but I’ll definitely take some saffron ice cream, please. I would love to get to Iran and try many, many of these flavors! Tasty post! Thanks
@marylouise: Big thank you and happy new year to you. When you go to Iran, eat heartily!
@Corinne: Saffron ice cream, good choice! Next up on the blog: our street beet ice cream recipe. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.
Wow! Now I want to go to Iran 🙂 I just came across your site via a Twitter RT that came up in my feed – I’m sure glad I clicked on it. I’m always fascinated by different cuisines when I travel. I plan to follow along with more of your adventures. Happy Travels!
Oh my! All I (thought I) knew about Iranian food before reading this was that they used pomegranate in ways I wouldn’t and liberal amounts of saffron. What a lovely introduction! Yum yum yum.
Aha.. Iranian foods are delicious, very tasty yummy, and also about the kebabs, the waste range of kebabs are available in Iran.
@Lauren: Great to see you here. Glad we’re in touch. If you go to Iran, be sure to let us know!
@Sam: Thank you!
Well, saffron and pomegranate are certainly the most noteworthy and unique elements of Iranian cuisine (though some may argue with me on that). Barberry is also one of those special ingredients that seems to pop up quite a lot.
In any event, I’m glad we were able to further widen your horizons about Iranian / Persian cuisine. Enjoy!
Great pictures! It all looks delicious. I don’t know whether I could visit a country without beer, though. 😉
@Natalie: Iran was our second dry country (Bangladesh was the first). Once you’re in country, you go with the flow. Or should I say lack thereof?
@Joe: Women must wear headscarves in Iran. Here’s some more background and information on wearing a headscarf in Iran from one of Audrey’s comments on a previous article. I hope that helps.
Having said that, people are helpful and friendly, as our Flight to Tehran story indicates.
Thank you for the beautiful pictures. I always wanted to visit Persia but my wife has concerns about a few issues including wearing a head scarf. Did you find the country restrictive in the way you dress or act?
Iran is the country of best experiences, food, nature, people, great houses and etc. Hijab is obligatory in Iran, however, it’s no big deal. women must cover their hair (not completely actually) and their body. Please come to Iran, we are so hospitable. 🙂
@The Guy: And as any Iranian will tell you, it’s probably only the beginning of Iranian food.
What an interesting range of foods you’ve shown there. Kebabs are well known in many places but the rest looks interesting especially the Iranian stew.
Such a shame they don’t cater well for vegetarians, but that shouldn’t be a problem for me.
I always love how detailed your food posts are! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
@Rebecca: Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. Particularly with food posts, like eating, once you get writing, it’s difficult to stop!
Great shots, great post. the food looks so yummy, if i happen to visit Iran, i will all.
@Ali: “Mom made” — I absolutely love that tag. Everything mom-made is better. Everything.
Salty and sour pickles. Love the sound of that. What are the most common Iranian pickles made from?
@Rebecca: I know. Food is a fun entry point into the culture and language. We were in a Iran for 3 weeks — mentioned at the conclusion of the post, but I’ll include it again for good measure. The first two weeks were with G Adventures on their Discover Persia tour. The final week was spent with an independent guide (an English teacher, actually) arranged with G Adventures’ tour partner in Iran. Any questions, please let us know!
That food looks surprisingly tasty haha thanks for the awesome visuals
Thanks for your nice report about Iranian foods. As an Iranian cook I have to say 2 things:
– If you just try Iranian foods in restaurants it seems that Kebab is the most famous food, but it’s wrong. Kebabs are easy making foods, but the main Iranian food is different types of Khoresht. It’s hard to find other khoreshts except the two mentioned ones. A well done Khoresht needs hours of simmering which is hard for the restaurants. You should try a mom-made khoresht. And even just about Ghorme Sabzi different regions have their our recipes.
– What you really missed in Iran is diverse types of our salty or sour vegetable and fruit pickles. Definitely something hilarious 🙂
whilst I can’t pronounce any of those names I really enjoyed this article! I specially took note of the Tah Deeg (Tah dig) and well…. once I started taking notes of food I couldn’t try or pronounce I have made it a thing to do on my bucket list to go on this eating tour. Dont know if I missed if you mentioned who the tour was done with… the food just looks amazing!!
Wow! You really love Iranian food! The kebab looks delicious. I hope one day I will have the opportunity to try it 🙂
Everything looks super tasty! So many spices! I love Iranian food
Nice, thorough post. I had no idea what food is like in Iran.
i am from Iran.I invite Americans to visit Iran.
here is no gun,no violence,
people are lovely
even i wanna host americans and guide them
if you planning to travel Iran,Tabriz send me a mail
Wonderful! My wife is Iranian and went back to visit family last Spring. Iranian food is the best, and the pictures you have are amazing – and are making me hungry. My mother-in-law makes the kebabs, rice, khoreshts, etc. My favorite khoreshst is eggplant. Gaz kermooni (gaz from Kerman) is my favorite dessert.
Wonderful photos! More people need to see Iran for what it is – wonderful people, delicious food, great culture, etc.
Did you smoke the hookah? You didn’t say 🙂
@Mike: Yep. We enjoyed some hookah/qalyan, including with the women pictured here in Kermanshah (Western Iran). Now that was fun!
@cherishka: Big Iranian community in LA for sure. While in Iran, we even met a few of them who’d traveled back to Iran to visit family.
Love this post!!! I love Iranian food since I lived in LA and befriended the gigantic Iranian community. I hope to travel to Iran soon.
Love your photos and, yes, I’m a fellow Iranian food lover as well.
I haven’t yet managed to get to Iran, but it’s on my list as my father worked there for several years before the revolution and absolutely loved the country, the people and, of course, the food 🙂
Nice blog, btw.
@Rachel: Thank you. Where did your father work in Iran? I trust he ate well.
Let us know when you decide to go. And be sure to give us a report on any new Iranian food discoveries you make!
Dear Dan & Audrey I hope you enjoyed the trip.
which city did you like the most ?
I heard Shiraz is a great city to visit !
My uncle says a lot about their hospitality .
@Jessica: Oh, it’s difficult to say which city in Iran we enjoyed the most as they are surprisingly diverse. Shiraz was great and was probably among the best in terms of interaction with locals and also Iranian visitors, many of whom invited us to spend time with them or even in their homes.
Thanks for your nice report about Iran. I invite every one to visit my country.I promise our people treat you as well cause we believe that we should respect our guests and make them feel comfortable and happy 🙂
@Fahime: And thank you for the warm invitation to visit your country and the greeting of respect for everyone!
Eat an onion at every place you go to adjust yourself to the local cuisine
That there is the best advice i could give anyone as onions are almost always part of any local foods.
@Rob: For all the food we’ve eaten in the world, onions included, Iran was surprisingly the first time we’d heard the “eat an onion advice.” Now it’s a keeper.
Do not forget about Ghormeh Sabzi. It is one of the most famous and popular dishes to come out of Iran. It also happens to be incredibly delicious.
We refer above to Khoresht-e-Ghorme-sabzi. Do you know what the difference is between the two? I suppose that version has some meat thrown in.
I really want to try Kebab, my friend always ate that and he told me that it’s one of his favorites. Unfortunately, we don’t have Kebab here in our place, they only sell shawarma.
Get thyself to Iran and you will have plenty of kebab — full meat chunks and minced meat kebab — to choose from.
Awesome, Richmond Hill in Toronto has many restaurants however had the opportunity to try Fesenjen in a small hol in the wall iranian restaurant run by an older gentleman who cooks and serves all his food himself.The fesenjen was thick, slightly sweet and presented with the option of meat for extra. A completely different experience . Call it the Mole of Iran.
Thanks, Izzy. This sounds really terrific. Fesenjen, the mole of Iran. Love that concept. Especially like the idea of an old guy in a hole in the wall serving his own version of it. Will definitely check that out!
My father lived in Iran just before the revolution and my mother visited him a number of times. I couldn’t go as I was finishing up university. Still regret it to this day but I’ve eaten more than my fair share of Iranian food since.
Have to say it’s still one of my top 3 cuisines. In fact, in decades of eating Iranian cuisine I’d venture to say I’ve never eaten a dish I didn’t like.
Lovely photos, btw.
Thank you, Michelle. Glad you enjoyed our photos and the piece. Iranian cuisine is pretty remarkable.
I understand you could not visit Iran because of university, but are you considering a visit to Iran one of these days?
Well, we have two things which both are pickle in English: Torshi (sours) and Shoor (salties).
Iran is a dry land and in people needed to save fruits and vegetables in different ways for winter like keeping vegetables in salty water or vinegar. Torshi has a lot of verities, basically it’s chopped vegetables, herbs and spices with vinegar. For shoor we use salty water instead of vinegar, although we use a bit of it for taste. The combination and the spices are different from one region to another. The southern ones are more spicy with stronger vinegar. You can find some recipe on youtube.
Thanks so much for your contribution to our Iranian food discussion. Aside from the addition of another food item, I particularly like the background and context that you provide.
I love this weblog. Your photos look great and your writing is informative, and witty. Thanks for it. You make me feel hungry.
I’m a persian but I lived most of my adult life abroad. I find you travel account of Iran very realistic and true. I only wish more open minded like you would travel to Iran and would tell people that the media image of Iran is very biased and distorted.
I lived in Iran for about 2 decades and I never saw any classmate, friend, relative or neighbour who disliked Americans, never. In fact very often you hear “oh they are Americans! They are cool like us ” !
I strongly hope one day the two countries: the super power of the ancient world and the super power of the modern world can have freindly relationships and people can travel between the two countries easily. It will bring a lot of peace and humanity to the world.
there is an Iranian proverb saying ” a guest is friend sent by GOD” . YOU ARE WELCOME ANYTIME
Thank you, Majid!
Great article. Looks like you really got a chance to get into what Tehran has to offer. Once you’ve been the only problem is that you can’t wait to go back again!
Thank you so much for your wonderful blogs on Iran. My husband and I are thinking of travelling to Iran next year. As we are New Zealanders we are (I think!) able to travel to Iran without an official guide. I know that you have no direct experience of travelling in Iran without a guide, but from what you saw do you think it would be do-able/enjoyable? Or do you think we’d be better off sticking with a guide? I would say we’re reasonably adventurous and generally enjoy independent travel, but we have no experience of travelling in the Middle East. Very interested in your thoughts!
Rebecca, thanks so much for your kind words regarding our blog posts on Iran. I do think that it would be enjoyable to travel in Iran without a guide or tour. You’ll be very safe and you’ll find that you’ll have no shortage of local people wanting to take care of you and offer you advice 🙂 I would recommend hiring a guide for Persepolis and other ancient sites that you might be visiting as the historical/cultural context that a guide can bring enhances the experience and understanding of what you are seeing around you. But if you enjoy independent travel then you shouldn’t have any problem in Iran 🙂
It’s wonderful to see how other people from western countries with a complete cuisine, like our food. I strongly invite and welcom you all to Iran, as it would be one of the marvelous trips in your life. Hospitality is the main and most common feature in Iranian.
I’ll be glad to guide you if I’m free at the moment. [email protected]
Do not hesitate to visit Iran. Ignore the negetive media:-)
Thanks for your enjoyable blog.I think you missed some vegetarians food in iran like kashke bademjan , koko sabzi, koko sib zamini ,…. . Although i should admit you can’t find all these food in normal restaurants. They just serve in a few ones.
Thanks, Farid. I had to look these up because we did not find them anywhere in Iran. Koko sabzi (or kuku sabzi) looks incredible…all those herbs in a frittata sound incredible. Kashk bademjan looks great too. Next time we travel to Iran, I think the idea is to travel with a list of these vegetarian Iranian (or Persian vegetarian) dishes written in Persian.
Thank you so much for your wonderful article on Iran, and especially Iranian cousin. It’s so nice to show Iran, it’s people, and our food in that light, when the media is portraying Iran in such a negative light. I live in United States, and am married to an America citizen, who loves and appreciates Persian food. His favorite is Chelo Kabob, and rice tadig. I can never make enough of that in our house.
Your kindness is greatly appreciated. Truly love reading all your articles.
Thank you for a kind and thoughtful comment, Nastaran. We’re glad if our articles can help others understand the world in a different light — that includes Iran, its people and its food.
hi there,i am from Iran.it is our honor that you like our foods but our culture is so bigger then a skewer of kebab.Iran have one of the biggest and best culture in the world.the next time you want to visit our country please search more about our culture i promise you that you would be amazed when you see our old places or read about our old and wealthy culture .I like to tank you that u create a website and show my country to the world .
Seyed, please read through the above Iran food article. I believe we are pretty fair to the diversity of Iranian food. If there are any dishes that we’ve missed, please let us know which ones they are.
As for the diversity of Iranian culture and experiences, I encourage you to read the rest of the articles about our experience traveling in Iran:
hi. wow you even know the recipe of mirza ghasemi ! i live in north of iran . thank you for your complete information
You are welcome, Mahsa. We definitely aimed for a complete recounting of our experience with Iranian food.
Are you a vegetarian thinking you’ll be left stranded for food in Iran? Well think again – you just need to know what to look for.
Check this link for Persian veggie dishes.
Hi, I’m Iranian; so glad to find your enjoyable blog. It’s been about three months since I has started to translate your experiences for my telegram channel. That’s my pleasure to do that. My channel’s members love your amazing pictures and the way you wrote about Iranian foods.
I myself love your blog because you teach me how many blessings we have.
Hi. It’s my pleasure translating your experiences for my telegram channel. Actually, your point of view on Iranian cuisine encouraged me to do that. Thank you for amazing pictures and wonderful article. They all helped me thinking about the diversity and taste of what we cook and eat every day. My friends liked your experiences too.
Thanks, Mahsa. Glad we could inspire and re-inspire an appreciation of your home cuisine, Iranian food.
Wow you described persian food very well. I am from Shiraz and now live in canada.I really miss my town and persian food as I saw your nice pics. April is the best time for visiting Shiraz.
Belated thanks, Tara. I’m glad we gave a fair and accurate description of Persian food, in your opinion. If there’s any Iranian food dish missing from this our list or particularly special to you, please let us know.
I flew from Tehran back to Sydney less than 12 hours ago so my experience is very fresh! People keep talking about Kebabs when talking about Iran but there are so many other delicious things to eat there especially if you have a sweet tooth!
If you ever get to go to Tehran make sure you buy and eat Kolooche Fuman (a cookie filled with walnuts, cinnamon and brown sugar), mixed roasted dried nuts from Tavazo store in Valiasr Street (or Duty Free at the air port), Reshte Khoshkar (made of rice papers, cinnamon, sugar etc), Ashe Dough [yogurt soup] (you can find this in North Iran. Drive from Tehran to the north via Chaloos road for 3 hours and you will find yourself in the Ash heaven), Fesenjoon (slow cooked chicken with walnuts), traditional ice cream (bastano sonnati) which looks yellow as it contains saffron and so many more!
Also expect meeting the nicest politest and kindest people on earth, as well as the scariest driving and car traffic on the planet!
Thanks so much for sharing your experience in Iran, Asaf. Thanks also for the specific Iranian food suggestions and where to get them. I think we included most of the items in our list already, but we just spelled them a little differently than you did. Agreed, we had a good time in Iran. The people and their kindness complemented the cuisine quite nicely.
Does anyone know what fruit is used in Northern Iran for the savory version of fesenjoon?? I know it’s not pomegranate but I can’t figure out what it is. My family has the paste sent over from Iran.
Good question, Amin. Fesenjoon (or fesenjan) uses barberry (or berberry, depending on the spelling).
Barberries are pictured in the photo of Zereskh Polo (literally, barberry rice) in this article…just above the fesenjan entry.
Hmm, are you totally sure?? My mother is from Kasma (right outside of Rasht) and she has no idea what the name of the fruit is that they use for fesenjoon. She describes it like a small plum like fruit that they process down into a paste.
We make zereskh polo all the time, so I feel like she’d remember if it was a barberry… Could be wrong though!
Great comment, Amin. Thanks.
Traditionally, it’s pomegranate that’s used in fesenjoon / fesenjan. However, other regional varieties of the dish may use different fruit to flavor the dish. That may depend on family recipe preference. As we note, northern Iranian versions of the dish are more sour and savory I would not be surprised to hear of varieties of the dish that use some kind of regional plum or sour plum to flavor it.
As for zereshk polo, our understanding is that the barberry defines the dish. However, as with other dishes, regional varieties may prevail.
If you find out the name of the actual fruits or berries your mom uses, please let us know.
One of the main ingredients of Fesenjan is chopped walnut then we add pomegranate paste exactly one hour before it gets ready..we add a bit Saffron last…☺☺ I’m a cook from North of Iran..
Thanks, Mahnaz, for the additional details on the ingredients and process to make Fesenjen.
Although legally speaking there is suppose to be no alcohol allowed in Iran, you can find all kinds of alcoholic beverages in Iran everywhere, everyday. You just have to know somebody and keep it under the lid,
During my one month visit there with relatives I had some every day. And even had a bottle of Smirnof vodka with me on the train ride from Tehran to mashhad.
Thanks for sharing your experience in Iran, Sam. For us, I suppose we just ended up forgetting about alcohol. Though I can imagine it’s possible (and even easy) to obtain if one wants it.
Hello Dear Danielle. I’m from Tehran. I read your page last night and returned today to say for you about many Iranian vegetarian foods. You can’t usually see them I restaurant menues but I you be a guess in a family you can request them to cook for you. Some of vegetarian our foods that I remember this hour are: Do piazeh, Baghala-ghatogh, Yatimcheh, Khorak e loobia sabz, shekam pareh, khagineh, Adas polo (lentil and rice that you can eat with tomato or date), Albaloo polo (specially eating in houses, kind of restaurant is not so good), soup e reshteh, soup e joe, soup e shirt (milk soup), kinds of Ash, kinds of Abgoosht, Mirza ghasemi, Nargesi, omlette (tomato and egg), Ghormeh ghoosht (not ghormeh sabzi), Ghelieh kadoo halvaii (pumpkin), Dàm pokhtak, ghelieh dal adas, reshteh polo, dast-pich e morgh & sabzijat, Halim bademjan, Fereni (similar to shir berenj) and ect.
For during a day you can eat this foods that are like dessert: Hàlim (my Favorite ,with some sugar), Sholeh zard, Kachi, Adasi, Sambooseh, Khorak e Loobia, kinds of Ash, halva, Bàrãti (special bread that baked in Yazd), Shirmal (kind of a bread), and ext
Enjoy! Bona petit!
Thank you, Sara. This is such an excellent list of Iranian vegetarian food options!
I’d love to get a description of each of these dishes. I love the sound of Adas polo. And I know reshteh is good.