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Iranian cuisine

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Iranian cuisine

Iranian cuisine, also widely referred to as Persian cuisine, includes the foods, cooking methods, and food traditions of Iranians.


Iranian culinary styles have shared historical interactions with the cuisines of the neighboring regions, including Caucasian cuisine, abroad Kurdish cuisine, Turkish cuisine, Levantine cuisine, Greek cuisine, Central Asian cuisine, and Russian cuisine. Through the Persianized Central Asian Mughal dynasty, aspects of Iranian cuisine were adopted into North Indian cuisine.

Typical Iranian main dishes are combinations of rice with meat (such as lamb, chicken, or fish), vegetables (such as onions and various herbs), and nuts. Fresh green herbs are frequently used, along with fruits such as plums, pomegranate, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Characteristic Iranian flavorings such as saffron, dried lime, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed and used in some special dishes.

Iranian cuisine is gaining popularity in multicultural cities such as London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Vancouver, and Toronto, which have significant Iranian populations. Los Angeles and its environs, in particular, are well known for the number and quality of Iranian restaurants which are usually centered around kebab, but also serve various Iranian stews and other traditional dishes.


The usage of rice, at first a specialty of Safavid court cuisine, evolved by the end of the 16th century CE into a major branch of Iranian cookery. Traditionally, rice was most prevalent as a major staple item in northern Iran and the homes of the wealthy, while bread was the dominant staple in the rest of the country.

Varieties of rice in Iran include gerde, domsia, champa, doodi (smoked rice), Lenjan (from Lenjan County), Tarom (from Tarom County), anbarbu, and others.

The following table includes three primary methods of cooking rice in Iran.


Second only to rice is the production and use of wheat. The following table lists several forms of flatbread and pastry-bread commonly used in Iranian cuisine.

Fruits and vegetables

Agriculture of Iran produces many fruits and vegetables. Thus, a bowl of fresh fruit is common on Iranian tables, and vegetables are standard sides to most meals. These are not only enjoyed fresh and ripe as desserts, but are also combined with meat and form accompaniments to main dishes. When fresh fruits are not available, a large variety of dried fruits such as dates, fig, apricots and peach are used instead. Southern Iran is one of the world's major date producers, where some special cultivars such as the Bam date are grown.

Vegetables such as pumpkins, spinach, green beans, fava beans, courgette, varieties of squash, onion, garlic and carrot are commonly used in Iranian dishes. Tomatoes, cucumbers and scallion often accompany a meal. While the eggplant is "the potato of Iran", Iranians are fond of fresh green salads dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, chili, and garlic.

Fruit dolma is probably a specialty of Iranian cuisine. The fruit is first cooked, then stuffed with meat, seasonings, and sometimes tomato sauce. The dolma is then simmered in meat broth or a sweet-and-sour sauce.

Verjuice, a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes or other sour fruit, is used in various Iranian dishes. It is mainly used within soup and stew dishes, but also to simmer a type of squash dolma. Unripe grapes are also used whole in some dishes such as khoresh e qure (lamb stew with sour grapes). As a spice, verjuice powder (pudr e qure) is sometimes reinforced by verjuice and then dried.

Typical spices

Advie or chāshni refers to a wide variety of pungent vegetables and dried fruits that are used in Iranian cuisine to flavor food.

One of the traditional and most widespread Iranian spices is saffron, derived from the flower of Crocus sativus. Rose water, a flavored water made by steeping rose petals in water, is also a traditional and common ingredient in many Iranian dishes.

Persian hogweed (golpar), which grows wild in the humid mountainous regions of Iran, is used as a spice in various Iranian soups and stews. It is also mixed with vinegar into which lettuce leaves are dipped before eating.

Some other common spices are cardamom—made from the seeds of several Elettaria and Amomum plants, shevid—an annual herb in the celery family Apiaceae, mahleb—an aromatic spice made from the seeds of Prunus mahaleb, and limu amani—lime that has lost its water content.

There are also several traditional combinations of spices, two of which are arde—made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds, and delal sauce—made of heavy salted fresh herbs such as cilantro and parsley.

Typical food and drinks

Typical Iranian cuisine includes a wide variety of dishes, including several forms of kebab, stew, soup, and pilaf dishes, as well as various salads, desserts, pastries, and drinks.


In Iran, kebabs are served either with rice or with bread. A dish of chelow white rice with kebab is called chelow kebab, which is considered the national dish of Iran. The rice can also be prepared using the kateh method, and hence the dish would be called kateh kebab.

The following table lists several forms of kebab used in Iranian cuisine.


Khoresh is an Iranian form of stew, which is usually accompanied by a plate of white rice. A khoresh typically consists of herbs, fruits, and meat pieces, flavored with tomato paste, saffron, and pomegranate juice. Other non-khoresh types of stew such as dizi are accompanied by bread instead of rice.

Several Iranian stew dishes are listed within the following table.

Soup and āsh

There are various forms of soup in Iranian cuisine, including sup e jow ("barley soup"), sup e esfenaj ("spinach soup"), sup e qarch ("mushroom soup"), and several forms of "thick soup". A thick soup is referred to as āsh in Iran, which is an Iranian traditional form of soup. Also, shole qalamkar is the Iranian term for "Hodge-Podge" soup, a soup made of a mixture of various ingredients.

The following table lists a number of soup and āsh dishes in Iranian cuisine.

Polow and dami

Apart from dishes of rice with kebab or stew, there are various rice-based Iranian dishes cooked in the traditional methods of polow and dami.

Polow is the Iranian word for pilaf. A polow dish includes rice stuffed with cuts of vegetables, fruits, and beans, usually accompanied by either chicken or red meat. Dami dishes are simply the same thing cooked using the dami method.

The following are a number of traditional Iranian rice-based dishes.


In 400 BC, the ancient Iranians invented a special chilled food, made of rose water and vermicelli, which was served to royalty in summertime. The ice was mixed with saffron, fruits, and various other flavors. Today, one of the most famous Iranian desserts in the semi-frozen noodle dessert known as falude, which has its roots in the city of Shiraz, a former capital of the country. Bastani e zaferani, Persian for "saffron ice cream", is a traditional Iranian ice cream which is also commonly referred to as "the traditional ice cream". Other typical Iranian desserts include several forms of rice, wheat and dairy desserts.

The following is a list of several Iranian desserts.


Cookies appear to have their origins in 7th-century Iran, shortly after the use of sugar became relatively common in the region. There are numerous traditional native and adopted types of snack food in modern Iran, of which some are listed within the following table.


Iran is the world's 7th major tea producer, mostly cultivated in its northern regions. In Iranian culture, tea (čāy) is so widely consumed, and is typically the first thing offered to a guest. Iranians traditionally put a lump of rock sugar in the mouth before drinking the tea. Rock candies are also widely used, typically flavored with saffron.

Iran's traditional coffee (qahve, or kāfe) is served strong, sweet, and "booby-trapped with a sediment of grounds". In 16th-century Safavid Iran, coffee was initially used for medical proposes among the society. Traditional coffeehouses were popular gatherings, in which people drank coffee, smoked tobacco, and recited poetry—especially the epic poems of Šāhnāme. In present-day Iran, cafés are trendy mostly in urban areas, where a variety of brews and desserts are served.

Wine (mey) has also a significant presence in Iranian culture, and is widespread among Iranians. Since the 1979 Revolution, alcoholic beverages have been prohibited in Iran; though non-Muslim recognized minorities (i.e. Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) are allowed to produce alcoholic beverages for their own use. While non-alcoholic beer (ābjow) is available from legal outlets, other citizens prepare their alcoholic beverages illegally through the minority groups and largely from Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey.

The following table lists several Iranian cold beverages.

Regional cuisine

The method of kateh is the predominant style of cooking rice in the Caspian region. In Gilan, Mazenderan, and Golestan, this type of rice dish is also eaten as a breakfast meal, either heated with milk and jam or cold with cheese and garlic. Caviar and Caspian fish roes hails from that region, and is served with eggs in frittatas or omelettes. In general, the cuisine of this region has the most affinity with the cuisine of the Caucasus region.

Among the Iranian Turkmen in Golestan and North Khorasan, there is a dish made of rice, meat, and tomato paste known as chegderme, which is comparable to dampokhtak and arroz rojo. Kalle jush, which contains boiled Kashk, meat, and beans, is a form of soup in North Khorasan.

Dande kebab refers to a traditional grilled rib meat dish among the Kurdish people in Iran. In Kurdistan Province, there is a variation of khoresh e qeyme known as qeyme tarre, which includes wild leek. Sib polow, rice with baked apple, is another distinctive traditional dish among the Kurdish people in Kermanshan.

Iranian Azerbaijanis, living primarily in the provinces of Azerbaijan and Aderbil in northwestern Iran, also have a number of distinctive traditional dishes, including bonab kebabi—a variation of kebab kubide, zezbez—a savoury pudding dish known in Persian as cheqor peqor, and dushbara—a dish of dumplings. In Ardebil, there is also a form of khoresh e qeyme which is called pichagh qeyme. Azeris also have a type of dessert known as shekerbura, which is identical to Khorasan's shekarpare. They also make Tabriz köftesi, a meatball dish.

Mahyawa is a tangy sauce made out of fermented fish in southern coastal regions of Iran, including Bushehr, Hormozgan, and Khuzestan. In southern Khuzestan, there is also a variation of kufte known as kibbeh, which is made of ground meat, cracked wheat, and various spices.


The basic traditional Iranian breakfast consists of a variety of flat breads, butter cubes, white cheese, whipped heavy cream (sarshir; often sweetened with honey), and a variety of fruit jams and spreads.

Many cities and towns across Iran feature their own distinct versions of breakfast dishes. Pache, a popular traditional dish widely eaten in Iran and the neighboring Caucasus, is almost always only served from three in the morning until sometime after dawn, and specialty restaurants (serving only pache) are only open during those hours.

Lunch and dinner

Traditional Iranian cooking is done in stages, at times needing hours of preparation and attention. The outcome is a well-balanced mixture of herbs, meat, beans, dairy products, and vegetables. Major staples of Iranian food that are usually eaten with every meal include rice, various herbs, cheese, a variety of flat breads, and some type of meat (usually poultry, beef, lamb, or fish). Stew over rice is by far the most popular dish, and the constitution of these vary by region.

Traditional table setting and etiquette

Traditional Iranian table setting firstly involves the tablecloth, called sofre, and is spread out over either a table or a rug. Main dishes are concentrated in the middle, surrounded by smaller dishes containing appetizers, condiments, and side dishes, all of which are nearest to the diners. When the food is perfectly served, an invitation is made to seat at the sofre and start having the meal.

Historical Iranian cookbooks

Although the Arabic cookbooks written under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate—one of the Arab caliphates which ruled Iran after the Muslim invasion—include some recipes with Iranian names, the earliest surviving classical cookbooks in Persian are two volumes from the Safavid period. The older one is entitled "Manual on cooking and its craft" (Kār-nāmeh dar bāb e tabbāxī va sanat e ān) written in 927/1521 for an aristocratic patron at the end of the reign of Ismail I. The book originally contained 26 chapters, listed by the author in his introduction, but chapters 23 through 26 are missing from the surviving manuscript. The recipes include measurements for ingredients—often detailed directions for the preparation of dishes, including the types of utensils and pots to be used—and instructions for decorating and serving them. In general, the ingredients and their combinations in various recipes do not differ significantly from those in use today. The large quantities specified, as well as the generous use of such luxury ingredients as saffron, suggest that these dishes were prepared for large aristocratic households, even though in his introduction, the author claimed to have written it "for the benefit of the nobility, as well as the public."

The second surviving Safavid cookbook, entitled "The substance of life, a treatise on the art of cooking" (Māddat al-ḥayāt, resāla dar ʿelm e ṭabbāxī), was written about 76 years later by a chef for Abbas I. The introduction of that book includes elaborate praise of God, the prophets, the imams, and the shah, as well as a definition of a master chef. It is followed by six chapters on the preparation of various dishes: four on rice dishes, one on qalya, and one on āsh. The measurements and directions are not as detailed as in the earlier book. The information provided is about dishes prepared at the royal court, including references to a few that had been created or improved by the shahs themselves. Other contemporary cooks and their specialties are also mentioned.


Iranian cuisine Wikipedia

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