Rice

How to Make Tahdig (Persian Stuck-Pot Rice)

by:
March 25, 2015

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Persian food expert Louisa Shafia teaches us how to (successfully) make tahdig, or pot-stuck rice.

When you think of a Persian feast, what comes to mind? Kebabs, stews, yogurts, fruit? An abundance of saffron? And rice, always rice. No Persian meal is complete without it, and the crowning glory of Persian rice is tahdig

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Tahdig (pronounced tah-DEEG) is a crispy, browned layer of rice formed at the bottom of a pot by frying parboiled rice to a crisp while the rice on top steams. Louisa Shafia, Persian food expert and winner of the 2014 Piglet, says that “practically every rice-eating culture” has a variation of tahdig (Korean nurungji, Dominican concón, Spanish socarrat, Chinese guo ba, etc.). 

In her book, The New Persian Kitchen, Shafia writes, “At Iranian feasts, tahdig is the one dish that will disappear entirely from the table -- there are simply no leftovers.” But tahdig -- meaning "bottom of the pot" in Farsi -- isn't relegated just to holidays. It is eaten whenever rice is part of a meal -- which is to say, very very often.

The basic premise of making a successful tahdig is that a portion of parcooked rice on the bottom of the pan gets golden and crispy while the rice above gets steamed -- it's essentially two dishes at a time. Variations include bottom layers made with the addition of yogurt, bread, onions, or potatoes, which each add their own binding qualities and flavors to the final product, but most tahdigs are simply made with just rice and oil. For the best results, make the effort to use Indian basmati rice and a heavy pot or pan with a tight-fitting lid.

Here’s what you need to know to make a basic tahdig (adapted from The New Persian Kitchen):

Makes approximately 5 1/2 cups rice and one 10-inch disk of tahdig

Ingredients:

2 cups white basmati rice
2 heaping tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

3 tablespoons coconut oil, ghee, or grapeseed oil

Tools:

Large stockpot
10-inch heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, preferably a cast-iron pan, a nonstick skillet, or an enameled pot
Tea towel big enough to wrap your lid 
Flame tamer or skillet ring (optional)
Offset spatula or wooden spoon
Chopstick

  

Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes to an hour. Swish it around in the water a few times, then drain and rinse it until the water runs clear. In a large stockpot, combine 8 cups of water and the 2 heaping tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil. Add the rice and bring to a boil again. Pay attention, as this has a tendency to boil over. After 5 minutes, test to see if the rice is done by breaking a grain in half. It should be soft in the center but still opaque and not totally cooked through, which may take up to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse the rice under cold running water to stop the cooking. Measure out 2 cups of the rice and set aside. 

  

Heat the pan over low heat for a few minutes. Add the oil (if your pan is bigger than 10 inches, add an additional 2 tablespoons of oil) and swirl it around; add the 2 cups of rice. Spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan and pack it down tightly, using an offset spatula or a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the rice.

  

Add the rest of the rice to the pot and shape it into a pyramid. Using a chopstick, poke several holes into the rice to let steam escape. Cover the pot and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook the rice for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to as low as your stove will allow. Place a clean dish towel under the lid to catch the condensation from the rice, and cover the pan. If you have a flame tamer, slide it between the heat and your pan. Cook for 50 minutes.

  

Lift the lid from the pan. There will be condensation trapped under the lid, so try not to tilt the lid so that the condensation drips back into the rice. Gently scoop the rice from the pyramid onto a serving platter, making sure not to disturb the tahdig at the bottom of the pot. Loosen the sides of the tahdig with a butter knife or a small offset spatula, place a plate on top of the pan, and flip onto the plate. 

Serve the tahdig immediately, whole or broken into pieces. Serve the steamed rice with a pat of butter, if you'd like.

Photos by James Ransom

16 Comments

Marion June 10, 2016
I was trying to send my recipe for Persian rice and tahdig to a friend and found it too complicated for me to compose. Your version of the recipe is exactly the way I had learned it from my husbands aunt many years ago. <br />Wonderful. Thanks.
 
krikri June 9, 2016
Tonight, my first attempt: didn't really work. I mean, the result tasted good, but it was very, very fluffy (kind of like couscous) and it didn't get the golden bottom crust.<br />I think I did 2 things wrong: I cooked it too long in the first cook; and our low burner is probably too low to use a flame tamer with. So next time I'll cook it shorter and not use a flame tamer, or use it on the next bigger burner. <br />Another site describes "the art of making tahdig" - so I'll keep practising. :)
 
Carrie R. March 16, 2016
I LOVE America's Test Kitchen, but their method for making this was terribly complex, messy, and for me resulted in a nasty combination of burned and soggy rice. This method seems to make much more sense, especially with the additions of saffron or turmeric as mentioned in other comments. I often achieve this already (crusty bottom, fluffy above) when I make rice; I didn't realize it had a name!
 
HungryGypsy March 16, 2016
Horrible photo! Apparently that's what you guys deem as tahdig. Wish this article had been written by someone with Persian heritage. And yes I will be politically incorrect and say that it does make a difference. And whoever cooked that tahdig did a disservice to Persian cuisine. You guys should have known better than to present this as tahdig. I sent this to several Persian and Armenian friends who all said the same thing. Expected better from you F52.
 
jena B. March 16, 2016
Love this rice. My first boyfriend was from Iran and taught me how to make rice this way. From what he told me, the tahdig showed the skill of the chef. The picture is not so great. (sorry) It should be dark golden brown and evenly colored from edge to edge. Getting the tahdig out in one piece also shows the chefs skills. He never put tumeric or saffron. They take out about 1/4 cup of the rice and mix with a little saffron water, then sprinkle over the top. When it was served, the rice was steaming hot and an egg yolk was put on top then mixed with the hot rice which cooks it.
 
Wendall March 16, 2016
Years ago, decades ago, a friend with a Persian husband cooked this for me and I always wanted to eat it again. I kept meaning to ask her what it was called but I didn't get around to it and here it is! I'm going to do this, this week! Thank you!<br />
 
Denise P. March 26, 2015
carmelized onions for color and taste; they practically disappear as the rice cooks! This taught to me by an Afghani
 
ariel A. March 25, 2015
Interesting! I'm Persian, and I've never encountered tahdig prepared without turmeric or saffron stirred into the oil at the bottom of the pot like in this recipe. I'd definitely recommend the addition; it makes the tahdig a beautiful, even golden brown color with an incredible aroma.
 
Author Comment
Mei C. March 26, 2015
So interesting! I bet that the rice is BEAUTIFUL that way. Thanks for the tip!
 
Kashy March 25, 2015
As a Persian dude, I think this is sub par, but a good start maybe?
 
Nozlee S. March 25, 2015
This is a great guide! I love that you focused on the often-overlooked (and delicious) rice tahdig, instead of the kind with bread at the base.
 
Author Comment
Mei C. March 26, 2015
Thank you!
 
David A. March 25, 2015
tahdig needs to be dark brown consistent across the bottom and the thicker the better. The idea is that it can stand the heavy stew and still be crunchy. Low heat add Tumeric to the oil to get more color.
 
alexia S. March 25, 2015
My childhood best friend's family is Persian -- now I dream of this stuff and have added it to my own repertoire with kebabs and grilled tomatoes. Delish!
 
Hector L. March 16, 2016
Yes! With lamb Kebabs, grilled tomatoes and grilled onions. Just as I remember from my travels to Iran way back when. As the guest, I always got plenty of crust. Wonderful.
 
Catherine L. March 25, 2015
I've always wanted to know how to do this! Can't wait to try it to applause at my next dinner party.