December 19, 2008

Zereshk Polow - Rice with Barberries

Zereshk Polow

زرشک پلو Zereshk Polow with chicken makes a great meal for any occasion and is a favorite among most Iranians. Barberry (zereshk), grows in clusters like grapes. They are tangy, tiny, and deep red in color. I prefer to store the barberries in a zip-lock plastic bag in the freezer to maintain its freshness and color.

Zereshk Polow

Zereshk Polow - Rice with Barberries

Serves 4-6

2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup dried barberries (zereshk), can be found at most Iranian or Middle Eastern stores
1 teaspoon crushed saffron, dissolved in 3-4 tablespoons of hot water
1- 2 tablespoons sugar
Vegetable oil
Slivered almonds or pistachios for garnish

  1. Rinse the rice with cool water a few times. Soak the rice in 8 cups of cool water, add 4 tablespoons of salt, set aside for at least an hour.
  2. Pick over dried barberries (zereshk), wash and rinse a few times, soak in cool water for ten minutes. Drain. 
  3. Place 2 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan, add zereshk to the pan, heat it up over medium-low heat for five minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of liquid saffron and 1-2 tablespoons of sugar to balance the sour taste of zereshk (if you prefer a more sweet taste, add more sugar to the mixture). Mix thoroughly. Set aside. I usually sprinkle very little sugar to this dish. I like the sour taste of zereshk polow.
  4. In a large non-stick pot that has a tight-fitting lid, bring 3 quarts of water to a rapid boil on medium-high heat. Drain and pour into boiling water. Bring water back to a boil for about 7 minutes. Test to see if the rice is ready. Rice grains should be hard in the center and soft on the outside. Drain the rice in a mesh colander and rinse with cool water a few times.
  5. Wash the pot and return to heat, add 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil, and a tablespoon of liquid saffron. With a large spatula place the rice into the non-stick pot, building it into a pyramid shape. 
  6. To release the steam make 3-4 holes in the rice with the bottom of the spatula. Cook for 7-10 minutes on medium heat until rice is steaming, when the steam starts to come out, pour 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/4 cup of water over the rice, cover, lower heat and steam the rice for 50 minutes.
  7. With a large scoop take some rice and mix in with the remaining saffron and set aside.
  8. Serve rice on a platter, layer with barberries, and the mixture of rice and saffron. 
  9. Gently remove the crusty bottom (tahdig) and serve on a separate plate.



  1. Azita, I made your recipe (well, a slight cross between your recipe and the one in "Food of Life") for my dear one (who is Iranian) the other night and he enthusiastically approved. :) We love your blog and seek it out when we are looking for Persian recipes, always! Merci, merci, for posting all of these.

    1. Elise, thank you very much for your kind words! I'm so glad you like my blog.:)

  2. Where can you get the Zereshk????

  3. This site and this wonderful dish just showed up in my research about berberine. So here it goes.
    I wished Persian knew that barberry, aka, Zereshk, has a compound called, Berberine. In khorsan region, they know about berberine and use it in the traditional medicinal regimes.
    This compound is a super antioxidant and has many many medicinal effect like anti-obesity, liver protection, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory skin diseases, etc. Regret we Persians consume too much white rice and white bread which eventually kills us, it is called diabetes and atherosclerosis ladies. How about making a zereshk paste, no sugar added please, and apply it on to chicken as a sandwich or turkey during this coming thanksgiving, adding a Persian zest to an American dish. Or just have a spoon or two in a smoothy. I make a paste from zereshk, date, fig, and 100% pomegranate juice. No sugar, ladies. I use few spoon of this majoon every day. You could put it in soups, sandwiches, roasted chicken, or just use it like tomato paste.

    it every day

  4. Wonderful to see how a private blog can inspire people into Iranian cuisine from all over the world. Thank you so much for helping me!

    All the best from Sweden,

    1. Sassan, thank you very much for your kind words!

    2. This looks Great!!!! Thank You!!!!

  5. How do you cook the chicken that goes with zeresk polo???