January 03, 2010

Haleem: A Wheat and Meat Persian Breakfast


حلیم Haleem/Halim is a favorite traditional meal in Iran and it's usually served for breakfast. The main ingredients for haleem are wheat and meat ( beef, lamb, or turkey). Haleem is a hearty and filling morning meal that is cooked slowly and requires some patience. In Iran, some restaurants serve haleem in the early hours of the morning or sell it as take-out. Some cooks insist on cooking haleem the old-fashioned way by cooking the wheat and stirring it all night long to have it ready for the hungry early risers. However, thanks to modern technology, which has brought about food processors and hand mixers, we can make haleem much faster.

Growing up in the south of Iran, I would witness the vast fields of wheat every spring and the harvesting of crops months later. I wish my New York-born and raised children could experience and witness the process of ground cultivation by hard-working farmers, and observe the blossoming wheat sprouts and the harvesting and all the work and effort that goes into it all. That has been an amazing childhood memory that has helped keep me connected with nature ever since and makes me appreciate what the earth generously offers us each season and in every corner of the world.

Haleem is a dish that is usually made to serve more than one or two people. After putting time, effort, and some love into making this porridge you will want to have your family and friends join you in enjoying this creamy, nutritious and satisfying meal. In Iran, they send out haleem bowls to the neighbors. I remember my mother spooning some haleem into my bowl and talking about how at the time of creation the wheat grain was cut in half to symbolize the equality of humankind and the sharing of food for generations to come. The cultivation of wheat dates back thousands of years ago and has been one of the staples in Iranian cuisine. Now, thousands of years later,  I end this post with a well-known poem by Saadi/Saadi Shirazi,  Iran's very famous poet:

The children of Adam are limbs from one body
having been created of one essence.
When the hardship of time afflicts one limb
the other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no compassion for people's suffering
you cannot be called a "human being."


Serves 6-8

3 cups pelted wheat, rinsed, soaked 6-8 hours or overnight in 6 cups of water. Drain. 
2 pounds lamb neck or turkey breasts
1 medium onion, quartered
1cup of milk
Salt to taste



  1. Place the meat in a medium-sized pan, add onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and add enough water to cover the meat by 2 inches. Cover and cook for about 1-1/2 hours on medium heat or until the meat is tender. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove and separate meat from bones if using the lamb neck and shred into small pieces.
  2. Place wheat in a heavy bottom large stew pot on medium heat, pour in 8 cups of water, bring to a gentle boil for a few minutes, reduce heat to low and cook for about 1-1/2 hours. Add more water if needed. Stir frequently. Using a wooden spoon is recommended. Set aside to cool. 
  3. Pour the cooked wheat in a food processor in small batches and pulse until it becomes of a creamy and smooth texture or you can use an immersion blender.
  4. Combine the meat and the wheat mixture and return back to the heavy bottom pot on medium to low heat. Add the milk. Simmer for an additional 30-40  minutes until it reaches the desired consistency and becomes a sort of supple and stretchy. Taste and add a little more salt and water if needed. 
Serve warm in individual serving bowls or a large serving bowl. Top with cinnamon, sugar, and drizzle with melted butter. 



  1. Happy New Year to you and your family Azita. May this year bring lots of happiness.

    Loving this type of breakfast.

  2. I love your breakfast haleem recipe.We make it too ,with lots of spices :D

  3. Elra, Thank you and wish you all the best for 2010!

    Yasmeen, Thanks. What kind of spices other than cinnamon do you put in haleem?

  4. My grandpa was a sugar-beet and wheat farmer in Iran. I must say, I've never heard of haleem or beet yogurt. . . which is odd because my grandma never stops cooking. I'll have to ask her to make some haleem sometime, sounds delicious.

  5. 4saj, I'm sure your grandmother knows about haleem and how to cook it. My guess is that since it is a dish that requires some time to make, people would rather buy it from small cafes/food vendors that specialize in making haleem, ash, etc. Please do ask your grandmother to make it for you. it's worth the try, especially if you help her out too! :)

    As for the beet and yogurt, it may not be a popular side dish in Iran. Cooked beet is very popular though. But not many people enjoy the combination of yogurt and beet.Give it a try you might like it!
    Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  6. Awesome..I used to live in Hyderabad, India for a while; I remember how people would flock to get this during the fasting season. I went through the entire post and you have explained it all very well. Thank you!

  7. Nostalgia, Thank yo so very much for reading the entire post and taking the time to comment. You made my day!

  8. oh this looks delicious thanks for visiting my blog I adore yours and can't wait to learn Iranian cooking from you I had some in Dubai at a restaurant and loved it, would you like to do a guest post on chow and chatter?
    rebeccasubbiah at yahoo dot com

    Love Rebecca

  9. Thank you Rebecca, I'd love to guest post for your wonderful blog. I'll contact you very soon.

  10. Oh, thank you sooooo much for posting this, Azita. Last time I visited my dad, he was enjoying this very dish. I didn't remember it from the time we spent in Iran as a child. Now I can make it for him someday. What a beautiful childhood memory you shared, too. Lovely!

  11. Thanks Bria, you are so kind. That is such a lovely idea to cook haleem for your dad. Hopefully soon.

  12. I hope so too. He would be quite amused!

  13. Hi Azita! Thank you so much for this, I'm going to make haleem for the first time, and I am planning to make it over night, so we'll have haleem for breakfast first thing in the morning (like what out grandmothers would do, remember?) I wasn't sure how much bulgar I needed and thanks to you, now I know! Wish me luck!

  14. Laleh, it's great that you are making haleem the old fashion way by cooking it over night. I haven't done that yet. Good luck to you and thank you for visiting and leaving a comment.

  15. Hi Azita,
    I have enjoyed reading your blog, since I love Persian food. A former office mate, who is Persian, often brought home-cooked meals and shared the food with me. Good times and good eats!
    By the way, if you want to see wheat harvest in the States, go to Western Kansas the middle of summer :) http://www.kswheat.com/

  16. Hi
    I have been reading your weblog near two years and enjoy it alot. thank you for your nice Work.

    Can I make it with couscous?

  17. Anonymous, thank you so very much for taking the time to read my blog! I have never made haleem with couscous and I'm not sure that it would be a good substitute. If you decide to try it please let me know how it turns out.

    Best wishes,

  18. I love your breakfast haleem recipe.I will make it too

  19. This is a perfect recipe for after thanksgiving leftover turkey. I'm making this for our Sunday breakfast. So excited!!

  20. Me and my fiancee made tonight this delicious dish for our parents. It`s now 4 o'clock in the morning and we are going now to sleep...and dream about haleem. It has been 14 years that I tasted haleem since I left my country, Afghanistan. Thanks for your recipe!

  21. I made this today after craving it for so long! ! It was my first time making it and I was quite pleased with the results! Just wondering, though, what ingredient gives haleem its stretchiness? I feel that mine wasn't as stretchy as I remember having it in Iran. I used pelted wheat, but only had chicken breast at home.


    1. Haleem is traditionally made with lamb or turkey and it requires lots of stirring to make it stretchy.

  22. Azita joon...I loooove your blog. I come from Denmark and are marriged an iranian.. i often follow your blog and this reciepe is just amazing. Thank you for making it easier for me as a danish to follow the iranian kitchen and giving me a very happy husband ;-)

  23. I can't wait to make this, but I do have a question. Should I use pelted wheat, cracked wheat, or bulgur wheat? Is difference?
    Thanks so much for your lovely recipes!

    1. Melissa, thank you! You should use pelted wheat.

  24. in the traditional recipe there is no milk used to make haleem

  25. i am indian n my girlfriend is persian...we do have our own north india haleem but it is no where close to persian n often we end up discussing food...i love ur blog

  26. Thank you Azita. I have been looking to see what ingredients were in Haleem other than turkey and wheat. I am English and my husbands Iranian-I spent some time in Tehran when we first married 39 years ago and loved this early morning treat. I make mine with oatmeal and it turns out quite authentic I will try adding some chick peas to see how they taste. Thank you again

  27. it is 3.42 AM in the morning and I have been awake because of my nose is blocked. doing some eucalyptus steaming.
    All of a sudden, I felt like eating the famous iranian haleem, and then found your amazing well written recepie.
    couldnt be more happier. I have a pressrue cooker at home and moght use that to speed up the cooking process.
    thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  28. Hello Azita,
    i absolutely love haleem but i stopped eating any meat. So how do you suggest i tweak the recipe if i want to leave out the protein part? i know it's not the same, but i'll try to enjoy the taste of cooked wheat and the toppings :) Thank you

  29. Hi, you can make haleem without meat. Just cook the wheat, add salt and cinnamon. You can add a small handful of toasted sesame seeds if you like and butter.

  30. can we make this one day in advance? or can the meat and the wheat be prepared (cooked and mashed) couple of days on advance?