We know Iran has Persian roots and still depicts the old civilization of Persian culture, traditions, and Persian food. Iranian food and culture are also a combination of traditions of Central Asia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Mesopotamia. Despite these facts about Iran, the country still shows distinction in every aspect.
While walking around the local markets and Grand Bazaar, you can feel like you are living in history. Iran will take you to a whole new world of beautiful architecture, astonishing carpet-making skills, and irresistible Iranian dishes. People here are so welcoming that you will not feel like you are visiting the country for the first time.
What Is Special About Persian Food?
When it comes to Iranian cuisine, no matter where you eat and what you eat, you feel like revisiting again. Iran is famous for kebabs, but other dishes, you will try in restaurants or family homes, are no less short of any iconic meal. Iran will give you a complete food adventure.
The country also offers an extensive selection of Iran street food and light and refreshing drinks. Traditional Iranian food is a combination of sweet and savory herbs and spices. Fresh herbs and spices are merged with barberry, cinnamon, and pomegranate to give typical sweetness to dishes.
Persian dishes are usually topped with nuts and dry fruits to complement the spices and sweetness with a roasted nutty taste. This combination of flavors gives the food a layer of flavors that keeps your taste buds excited for the coming flavor.
Here are some traditional Iranian and Persian foods in Iran that can give you a good introduction to the cuisine.
Most Popular Iranian Food
Chelo Kebab (Steamed Rice With Kebab)
Chelo kebab is one of the national dishes of Iran. Essentially, it is steamed rice paired with any variation of the kebab. The most popular version is the Kubideh.
Kebab Kubideh is made with ground meat, flavored with onion, salt, pepper, and Persian spices. Finally, it is served with hot rice, onion, and barbeque sauce. Kebab or barbeque is one of the delicious meat-based food in Iran.
An interesting thing about the dish is that you can experience a variety of tastes across different restaurants. It is because every chef uses slightly different techniques and recipes to cook meat and rice to create their specialty version.
This dish is served with a slight sprinkle of lemon on top. Some places also place a raw egg on top of rice for a rich taste. A spoon full of mashed grilled tomatoes, rice, and kebab on top tastes heavenly.
Rice Dishes In Persian Food
Tahdig (Crispy Persian Rice)
Tahdig is another popular dish Iranians always recommend to international visitors. It requires real cooking skills to get the right texture for this iconic side.
This Iranian food is a crispy layer of rice, bread, or potato fried in a pan. Then the ingredients are put in the bottom of the pot for the final cooking. This gives the fluffy and buttery rice dish an exciting golden crust.
Finally, it is garnished with saffron and drizzled with orange zest. It is usually served as a side dish to various meals, but you can also enjoy it on its own.
Kateh (Traditional Iranian Rice)
Kateh is an Iranian food that comes from the Caspian region of Iran. Although it is a rice dish, it is stickier and very different from traditional polao or cholo. The rice is stickier and doesn’t have any tahdig.
This Persian food takes less time to prepare compared to polo-style rice. It is usually cooked in salted and oiled water. The added butter and oil give a denser texture.
Because of its high demand, this rice-based dish is considered the most popular food in Persia. It is a common meal option for the casual dinner. You can enjoy the refreshing taste of this dish on its own or with Iranian stews or kebab.
Baghali Polo Ba Mahiche (Broadbean Rice With Lamb Shanks)
Baghali Polo is one of the classic Persian dishes made with rice and fava beans. It is tasty and melts down in your mouth smoothly. This dish is mostly made for special occasions, weddings, gatherings, and cultural festivals.
It contains rice and green broad fava beans. Then it is layered with dill in a pan and baked in the oven. Finally, the rice is graced with saffron which gives it a classic touch.
The most popular version is made with lamb shanks which are incredibly tasty and tender and served with other meat-based Iranian dishes. In south Iran, it is made with deep-fried fresh fish and served with Persian rice.
Traditional Iranian Food For Breakfast
Kaymak And Honey (Clotted Cream With Honey)
Kaymak is a popular Iran street food often eaten at breakfast. This Iran delicacy is a creamy dairy product similar to clotted cream made from milk. It has a rich taste with a thick consistency.
The Persian food is traditionally made from slow-boiled raw milk. Then the milk is simmered for two hours over low heat. After this, the cream is left to chill for hours to days.
The added cream and honey have a sticky and sugary flavor. Its waxy texture makes a perfect combination with traditional Iranian bread. Enjoy this delicious, light, and wholesome breakfast to the fullest with some hot milk.
Kuku Sabzi (Persian Baked Omelette)
Kuku sabzi is a vegetable omelet that features five ingredients, including herbs, spices, veggies, and eggs. It is one of the popular Persian dishes that will typically be prepared during the New Year.
This Iranian food is served in a hot pan which looks like a thick frittata. It is eaten with flatbread, feta cheese, fresh herbs, and eggplant pickles. All these side dishes give an excellent balance of sweet and spicy flavors. The different food items also offer a pleasing blend of soft and crunchy textures.
Traditional Iranian Food – Meat Dishes
Jaghoor Baghoor (Lamb Liver)
Jaghoor Baghoor is a traditional food in Iran originating from Zanjan province. The food is also known by the name Jaghool Baghool. It is an offal dish made with the liver, lungs, intestine, and heart of sheep.
You will find this Iran food on the breakfast menu of many restaurants. This delicious treat will be ready in minutes. So you don’t need to wait for long to taste its incredible flavor.
The juicy and tender lamb dish is enjoyed with traditional Iranian bread known as roti. The roti is very thin and looks like a bubble wrap. You can wash down the fattiness of the liver and intestines with hot Iranian tea.
Tabrizi Koofteh (Tabrizi Meatballs)
Tabrizi Koofteh is a huge meatball and the best Persian food. The dish is named after the capital province “Tabriz” as it is the specialty of this region. Therefore, you will find it more commonly in the northern part of Iran.
The dish is a Persian version of Turkish kofte. The meatballs are stuffed with rice, saffron, eggs, lentils, and dried peach giving it a typical taste of Iranian foods. The meatballs are then cooked in rich sauce to give them a juicy and soft texture.
Finally, the meatballs are topped with barberry. The dish is served with greens and herbs and traditional Iranian bread.
Soups And Stews In Iranian Food
Khoresht-Fesenjan (Walnut And Pomegranate Chicken Stew)
This is a traditional Iranian food originating from the Gilan province. This northern dish made its way throughout the country and delighted the hearts of many. Now, it is considered the pride of Persian cuisine.
Khoresht-Fesenjan is a pomegranate and walnut chicken stew. The chicken is cooked in pomegranate and walnut sauce, resulting in tender meat with divine flavor.
It has a sweet, sour, tangy, and rich taste with a slight nutty hint. All these exciting flavors also deliver a mouthwatering aroma. Once you try it, you will know how magical this famous food of Iran is.
Haleem (Wheat And Meat Porridge)
Haleem is another mouthwatering delicacy in Persian cuisine, popular in South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. It is a meat porridge with a pasty character. The dish is made with wheat, barley, spices, and shredded meat, further garnished with cinnamon on top.
The staple Iranian food offers a rich satisfying taste. You can also find it in the breakfast menu of local restaurants during winter.
In Iran, this stew dish is also made for large gatherings and religious festivals. During Muharram and Ramadan, haleem is cooked in large quantities and then shared with the community. This practice of sharing symbolizes the strong bonding among the natives.
Gormeh Sabzi (Green Herb Stew)
Gormeh Sabzi is another classic vegetarian food Iranian loves to eat. The dish is considered an Iranian national dish with a sweet, savory, and slightly sour flavor.
The stew is loaded with herbs, kidney beans, lamb, and dried lime. It takes hours to prepare; but the more time it takes, the more flavorful it will be.
This is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling Persian foods to try. It is served over fluffy white rice. If you prefer, you can also enjoy it with Iranian bread, called lavash.
Dal Adas (Lentil Stew)
Dal adas is one of the appetizing vegetarian food in Iran that resembles Indian lentils. It has a thick, sticky character with a slightly soupy texture.
The dish mainly consists of red dal, gently boiled in fried garlic and onion, mashed tomatoes, and chopped potatoes. Cinnamon, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, and salt are added for seasoning.
Finally, it is served with a sprinkle of red chili on top. The optional addition of tamarind paste and lime juice will further add to its taste. You can enjoy it with hot bread or Iranian rice.
Khoresh Bademjan (Eggplant Stew)
Khoresh bademjan is another tasty vegetarian stew in Persian cuisine. It is basically an eggplant stew with a heavenly addition of tomato sauce. The combination of tomatoes and grape juice gives this stew a tangy flavor that goes well with the meaty texture of eggplants.
Some restaurants also serve a non-veg version by adding lamb, chicken, or beef. The stew makes a perfect pair with boiled saffron rice or Persian tahdig which soaks up the delicious tomato sauce.
If you are craving vegetarian food during your trip to Iran, there is no better option than this spicy and tangy Persian food.
Aush Reshteh (Persian Noodle Soup)
After tasting so many heavy Persian dishes, you might need something light on your stomach such as soup. Iranian cuisine offers a range of over 50 soups. Among these selections, Aush Reshteh is one of the most popular.
Aush Reshteh is a noodle soup dish made with dried yogurt, herbs, and leafy greens. It is mainly a vegetarian dish but some places add meat for flavoring. Finally, it is garnished with mint oil, crunchy onion, and sour Kashk.
This satisfying Iranian food is always a crowd-pleaser. It is served in a large bowl and is perfect to enjoy in any season.
Popular Street Food In Persian Cuisine
Sibzamini Tokhm-e Morgh (Baked Potato And Egg Wrap)
Despite the long name, it is one of the most common and popular Iran street foods. This Persian dish is especially popular in Urmia, Azerbaijan, and Tabriz region. Here it also goes by the name of Yeralma Yumurta.
This warm potato and egg Iranian food can be found in any nook and cranny of the country. The vendors have a pan full of steaming hot potatoes and eggs. These boiled eggs and potatoes are mashed and mixed with butter, pickles, salt, and dried mint.
Everything is wrapped in thin bread and eaten without any additional sauce making it a little dry. If you prefer saucy wraps, this might not be an ideal snack for you. Still, you should try it once as it comes highly recommended by locals.
Dolmeh Barge Mo (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Dolmeh Barge Mo translates to stuffed grape leaves. And it is basically a Persian version of stuffed grape leaves paired with delicious fillings. In Iran, this dish is more commonly available during the spring season when the leaves are fresh.
The Iran street food is usually filled with rice, yellow split peas, herbs, and meat. Some chefs also add bell pepper, cabbage, and tomatoes for flavoring. In the end, everything is packed in grape leaves and tied in square shapes.
This traditional Persian food is cooked at low temperatures. It is then poured with plum sauce and topped with caramelized crispy onions. To enjoy the snack to the fullest, try it with a simple yogurt dip.
Falafel (Fried Or Baked Fritters)
Falafel has no boundaries of class and status in Iran. People in every region love this delightful vegan snack. There is no doubt that falafel is on the list of the top 10 most delicious Iran street foods.
A big red sign at the shops of falafel easily attracts you. Inside the shop, brimming bowls of vegetable pickles are placed on each table. You can see people standing at the tables and stuffing their falafel sandwiches with mustard sauce, pickles, and Liteh.
Falafel is especially popular among children and the working class because it comes at a very reasonable price. It is prepared with a mixture of chickpeas and herbs and fried or baked in the shapes of little balls. The popularity of falafel as a fast food can be compared to fish and chips and American hot dogs.
Persian Samboose (Stuffed Puff Pastry)
You might have heard of Indian or Punjabi samosa, Persian samboosa is somewhat similar to that. The stuffed pastry is one of the favorite local Iranian street food.
Samboosas are prepared with different ingredients. There is a wide range of varieties you can find in Persian cuisine. Just like Indian samosas, these are also stuffed with chicken, potatoes, spinach, or a combination of meat and different vegetables.
Among all the variations, potato samboose is arguably the most popular and filling. It is stuffed with cooked and mashed potatoes with different flavorings. You can even get fried or grilled potato samosas.
Iranian Food – Salad
Salad Olivieh (Persian Chicken Salad)
Salad olivieh is the most popular salad in Iranian cuisine and other Eastern countries. It is inspired by the world-renowned Russian salad. Persians love this extraordinary salad because they have been eating it since childhood, at parties, picnics, and family gatherings.
Salad olivieh contains boiled chicken breast, carrots, peas, dill pickles, and eggs. The ingredients are chopped and mixed with mayonnaise, spices, and some lemon juice. It has a creamy texture with a simple appearance and taste.
One of the best olivieh salads is served at a deli shop in Tehran, called André. They sell freshly made salad in little takeout plastic containers with crusty French baguettes.
Drinks In Iranian Cuisine
Iran is famous for its wide variety of food options, and that also extends to beverages that always win the hearts of consumers. The most popular drink in Persian cuisine is black tea which is consumed widely by the natives.
Irani black tea is made with loose-leaf and served with crystallized raw sugar on a stick. This stick is stirred in the tea until it melts. The resultant is a sweet and delicious drink ready to warm up your soul.
This is a common beverage for gatherings as natives enjoy it with their friends and colleagues. You can also indulge in this Iranian beverage from tea houses, found everywhere in the country.
Doogh (Yogurt Drink)
Doogh is a refreshing and flavourful beverage that is popular among the locals. It is a significant part of Iranian cuisine and culture.
The ingredients of this Iranian drink are similar to the world-famous Indian lassi. It is made with yogurt, fizzy water, and mint. The result is a fizzy yogurt drink with a pleasing minty flavor.
Doogh has a rich buttery taste with a slight sourness. This cool and rejuvenating drink is perfect for hot weather. The added mint also works great to wash down heavy Iranian foods.
Desserts And Sweet Persian Food
Sholezard (Saffron Rice Pudding)
Sholezard is a traditional Iranian rice pudding with exceptional saffron flavor. The addition of saffron also gives an eye-catching yellow color to the rice.
The rice is dusted with cinnamon to create different designs or write different words. This unique character makes it an ideal way for kids and adults to show their creativity. Almonds silvers are then sprinkled over the pudding to give a final touch.
If you visit Iran during the month of Ramadan, you will see this Persian rice dessert all over the country. During religious occasions, sholezard is made in large batches at home and shared with friends and family. It is usually consumed as an evening dessert, but you can have it at any time of the day.
Zoolbia-Bamieh (Persian Doughnuts With Saffron And Rose Water)
Zoolbia is a deep-fried dessert very similar to Indian Jalebi or churros but without the extra sugar dust. These Iranian sweets are like funnel cakes, made of thick and sticky dough.
Although the dough is very thick, it turns into light and crispy pillows after frying in hot oil. The fried cakes are soaked in sweet rosewater and saffron syrup. The syrup is very simple, containing only water, sugar, and aromatic saffron.
This Persian dessert is especially popular during the month of Ramadan as people like to have something sugary after fasting. The sugary burst of zoolbia can be washed down with a cup of freshly brewed hot Iranian tea.
Bastani Sonati (Iranian Ice Cream)
Bastani sonati is what gives Iranian adults memories of a carefree childhood. It is one of the favorite Iranian sweets of most adults and almost all children. Locals remember eating this traditional ice cream during the hot summer days, particularly on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The ice cream actually doesn’t have anything particularly special. The ingredients are usually the same ones used for ice creams you have eaten in other countries. But a simple combination of rosewater, vanilla extract, and mastic will keep you coming back for it.
The addition of mastic in the ice cream gives a typical gooey and stretchy texture to this Iranian dessert. This one character makes it similar to the traditional ice creams of the Middle East. Finally, it is studded with green pistachios and flakes of frozen heavy cream.
Faloodeh (Vermicelli Dessert)
Faloodeh is a local and regional dessert in Iran. It is a classic cold Iranian treat, with thin vermicelli as its key ingredient. The vermicelli is made from starch and soaked in semi-frozen rosewater and sugar syrup.
Like many other Iranian sweets, faloodeh is also topped with chopped pistachios and sometimes lime juice. Another essential part is sour cherries and sour cherry syrup, which are drizzled over to create a beautiful color contrast. It is also served with traditional Persian ice cream.
The unique combination of textures makes it different from other Persian desserts. You can find faloodeh at almost every Iranian ice cream shop. It is especially popular in the country during summer.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Delicious Persian Food
Many people believe that the traditional food of Iran is all about kebabs and rice. Although Iranian kebabs are loved by everyone, there is a lot more diversity in Iranian culinary traditions. Based on the geographical environment, every region has its own traditional Persian food.
Iranian foods have ample use of fresh herbs and local spices. Persian spices with sweet flavors of barberries and pomegranate give a divine flavor.
Vegetarianism is not big in the country. Some restaurants tend to just pluck out the meat from stews and call the dish vegetarian. If you are a vegetarian, it will be useful to learn the names of a few vegetarian dishes before visiting Iran.