16 Dishes That Reveal the Pleasures of Persian Food

March 14, 2017

The cuisine of Iran and its diaspora is more aromatic and rich than any I know. It pivots around the flavors of saffron, nigella seeds, cardamom, turmeric, dried raisins, and, my personal favorite, rosewater—in other words, the kinds of ingredients that inspire people to write about food.

Still, Iranian cuisine’s pleasures strike me as too frequently unsung. The food of Iran, its history stretching back centuries and impressing itself on other cuisines across the globe ("Mughal" cuisine, served in so many Indian restaurants, is derivative of Persian cooking), is so much more textured than hearty kebabs and fluffy pilafs.

I suspect that, in the ensuing years, Iranian cuisine's champions will have to fight even harder to advocate for and preserve its beauty, as its very purpose—along with the culture of Iran, and the value of its history—comes under attack. Here are some of my favorite Iranian dishes we have in our archive.

This article originally ran on January 30, 2017, but we're republishing it today in observance of Norooz.

Shop the Story

What's your favorite Persian dish? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mehdi
  • G
  • Avery Garland Cassell
    Avery Garland Cassell
  • Noghlemey
  • Christina LaVecchia
    Christina LaVecchia
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


mehdi December 9, 2018
when we see these pictures at around noon, we get hungry! and really want them but it's impossible!!!!!
G March 15, 2017
Thank you for your beautiful writing. The aromas and scents of a Persian kitchen are difficult to capture in writing. How to describe the scent of herbs being freshly chopped just so, or the crispy sound of rice becoming tah-dig , that you can only hear if you stand above the pot? There are the national foods, and regional treasures that change from each corner of the country to the next. Most especially worth mentioning is the Gilak cuisine, from the northern provinces. I especially recommend Mirza Ghasemi.
creamtea March 15, 2017
I for one would like to hear more about Gilak cuisine! I visited Iran during college and traveled around the country with an Iranian friend. I loved the sights and the food.
G March 15, 2017
UNESCO declared gilaki cuisine as a world heritage, I forget the exact term in English? But gilaki food should be had in Gilan with fresh beautiful product!
Avery G. February 4, 2017
Ghormeh sabzi or greens stew. This is indescribably wonderful!
Proportional P. February 4, 2017
I have the best recipe if you want's from my mom.
Noghlemey February 1, 2017
That was a beautiful statement! Thank you so much for sharing!
I post some Persian recipes on my profile such as Ash-e Reshteh and Persian Jeweled Rice. :)
Christina L. January 30, 2017
Thank you so much for sharing this piece—both for the statement, and for my newfound knowledge that there's a barbari recipe in here. :)

Actually, my favorite Persian bread is gata—sweet, dense, perfect for breakfast with a cardamon tea. I also love lubia pollo (saffron rice, mixed with green beans and beef or lamb), but my all-time favorite dish (despite my MIL telling me it's not terribly traditional) is joresh bademjan, a stew made of tomatoes, eggplant, beef/lamb, and yellow split peas.
E January 30, 2017
<3 <3 <3
Connor B. January 30, 2017
Seconding this sentiment!
Whiteantlers January 30, 2017
What a delightful (and delicious) way to make a statement! *high five* Thanks for this. : )
Kunjali P. January 30, 2017
Thanks for raising your voice so elegantly!
Greenstuff January 30, 2017
I'm cooking from Naomi Duguid's newest book, A Taste of Persia, for the first time this week. Fesanjun khoresh, pomegranate walnut chicken stew. It's a beautiful book, as are all of hers. (Though not written by a native Persian. Duguid is Canadian and writes from the point of view of an interested visitor.)
Kate K. January 30, 2017
Thanks for this. It lifts my spirits a little to see this article here.
Mayukh S. January 30, 2017