Barberry rice (zereshk polow) recipe – Iranian (Persian) Cuisine

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Known as "celebration rice" or "jewelled rice", this is often cooked for weddings. It is made with wild, red barberries (zereshk), which give the dish its jewel-like appearance and an exotic, slightly tart taste. It is usually served with chicken, as it is in this recipe – the chicken, while delicious, is considered the accompaniment and the rice is the centrepiece.


4 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
3 tbsp salt, plus 1 tsp salt extra
3 pinches saffron threads
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp baharat
¼ tsp pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp lemon juice
250 ml hot water
1 chicken, quartered
1 onion, sliced
olive oil
1 large potato, sliced (like potato scallops)
4 tbsp butter
1 cup dried barberries, rinsed
2 tbsp almonds, cut into slivers, for decoration
2 tbsp pistachios, cut into slivers, for decoration
Cook's notes
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time 1 hour

Put the rice and salt in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for 1–2 hours.

Meanwhile, place the saffron and a generous pinch of sugar in a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Place in a cup and fill three-quarters full with hot water. Set aside.

Combine the spices, pepper and extra salt in a small bowl. Add the garlic, lemon juice, hot water and 1 tbsp of the saffron water. Stir well.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Wash the chicken pieces, pat dry and place in a deep baking tray. Scatter with the onion and pour over the spice and garlic mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Drain the rice, add to a pot or large saucepan and cover with water. Add 2–3 tbsp of olive oil if desired to stop the grains sticking to each other. Boil the rice for 10–15 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander.

Put the pot back on the stove and add 3–4 tbsp of oil. Lay the sliced potato in the base (to protect the rice, but also to create a delicious edible crust of rice and potato). Top with the drained rice and cover with a lid. Cook until the rice begins to steam (about 3–5 minutes), then turn the heat to low and wrap the lid in a tea towel (covering the underside) and place back on the pot. The tea towel catches the condensation, stopping it from dripping back onto the rice. Leave to steam for 45–60 minutes. By the end you should have perfect, fluffy, separated rice.

Heat half the butter in a frying pan and add the barberries. Sauté for a few minutes then add 2 tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of the saffron water. Stir briefly then remove from the heat.

Place a layer of rice on a serving platter, followed by a sprinkling of barberries, nuts and a little saffron water. Keep layering, mounding up into the shape of a cone. Leave some barberries and nuts for the top. Melt the remaining butter and mix together in a bowl with the remaining saffron water. Mix in a cup of rice.

Arrange the chicken quarters around the platter then spoon the saffron rice on top of the mound. Add a final sprinkling of barberries and nuts.

27 thoughts on “Barberry rice (zereshk polow) recipe – Iranian (Persian) Cuisine

    1. Blackfire Vatsal
      If we back to 2000 years ago so you are Iranian and basmati is Iranian
      I am iranian. And I didnt hear before 20 years old any about basmati rice. Beacuse we had our rice every where. After that government sold gas to India and they gave rice instead of money Indian rice intered to market.I respect to your good foods. Its very coloring and old. you know Iranian rice is not easy to cook for all restaurant and its expensive. Thats why some body dont use Iranian rice. Middle class like me use our rice beacuse its healthy and aromatic and delicious Any way we like Indian foods too my friend.Thanks God to all foods

    2. Roshanak Sadeghi Bro the trade books and records between Persian and Indian civilization shows we used to sell rice to Persian traders but I don’t wanna Argue over that have fun & long live our friendship​. ✌

  1. Oh my gosh I’m so excited to make this dish! Lol. This brightened up my day even more!✨🤗🌟🤗

  2. I live in Bulgaria for the moment ..please tell me what kind of spice I can put it stead of persian mix ..if it’s possible?

  3. I don’t know whats the argument between BlackfireVatsal and Roshanak Sadeghi about. I love both Persian and Indian food. Both people make food to die for. Please guys don’t fight over food or who makes it better. All I know is that my mom used to cook food that I still have the taste in my mouth. And I make mac and cheese better than both of you. Thanks.

  4. Wow MashaAllah looks too good to eat like a work of art so beautiful all the bright colours 😍😍

  5. Just ate this and searched it on Youtube. So now I know that sour sweet on rice was a barberry.

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