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Iranian Zereshk Polo Recipe

Iranian Zereshk Polo Recipe

Zereshk Polo (or Zereshk Polow) is a saffron flavored rice dish topped with barberries, popular in Iran. The rice is cooked in a pot, letting the bottom develop a crust. This crispy layer is called tahdig. The rice is then carefully flipped onto a plate keeping its shape intact. The top of the rice is decorated with barberries. Zereshk Polo can be made with or without meat.

Barberries are small, red oblong berries which grow on shrubs. It is a common ingredient in Persian cuisine. It has a tart flavor, somewhat similar to unsweetened cranberries.

Origin & Cultural Significance

Polo refers to a rice dish and Zereshk is the Persian name for barberry. Zereshk Polo is a well-loved dish in Persian culture. It is used to welcome guests, served at weddings and banquets, eaten during the celebratory period of Eid and presented at religious ceremonies.

Zereshk Polo

Persian Zereshk Polow Recipe

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes

Zereshk Polo (or Zereshk Polow) is a saffron flavored rice dish topped with barberries, popular in Iran.



  • Onion, diced - 1
  • Olive oil – 3 tbsp
  • Turmeric, ground – ½ tsp
  • Black pepper, ground – ½ tsp
  • Chicken, large pieces – 4
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Tomato paste – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp


  • White basmati rice, soaked and rinsed – 2 cups
  • Water – 8 ¼ cups
  • Salt – 2 tbsp
  • Neutral oi – 4 tbsp
  • Saffron water - 1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water


  • Butter – 2 tbsp
  • Barberries, rinsed – ½ cup
  • Sugar - 4 tbsp
  • Saffron water – 1 tbsp



  1. In a large frying pan, saute the onions in 2 tbsp oil, until translucent.
  2. Add turmeric and pepper and continue to saute for 2 additional minutes.
  3. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the chicken on medium high heat for 5 minutes on each side.
  5. Return the onions and add the water to the chicken. Cover and cook over low heat for 60 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste and salt and mix well.
  7. Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until the chicken is fork tender.


  1. Wash the rice thoroughly and put aside to soak for at least one hour then rinse.
  2. In a large covered pot, bring 8 cups water and salt to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and boil on high heat uncovered for about 6-8 minutes, or until the rice has slightly softened.
  3. Drain the rice and set aside while you prepare the pan.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a non-stick pot.
  5. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the lightly cooked rice with 1 tablespoon of saffron water mixture, gently mix and spread evenly in the bottom of the pot. This will be the crispy layer.
  6. Pour the remainder of the rinsed rice to the pot and lightly fluff with a fork.
  7. Evenly drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the top of the rice.
  8. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of water over the rice. Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean towel then cover the pot. This will allow the rice to steam.
  9. Steam over medium-low heat for 45 minutes.
  10. Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon saffron water over the top of the rice. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.


  1. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the rinsed barberries, sugar and saffron water.
  2. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved and barberries have plumped up. This will take about 3 minutes - do not overcook the berries.


  1. Use a large serving platter to place on top of the pan and carefully and swiftly invert the rice onto the platter.
  2. Decorate with barberries around the edges. Optionally, add slivered almonds or pistachios.
  3. Arrange the chicken pieces around the rice and serve.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 538Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 4243mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 3gSugar: 20gProtein: 25g

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