August 10, 2014

Estamboli Polow - Persian Tomato Rice with Potatoes

Estamboli Polow

This recipe is perfect all year round since most pantries are always stocked with fresh tomatoes and canned tomato products. However, I waited for the weather to warm up and for the peak tomato season to arrive to hopefully cook with vine-ripened tomatoes and not the dull and tasteless tomatoes that are picked green. This recipe is loosely based on my grandmother's recipe who was known for her delicious cooking. For a more tart استامبولی پلو - estamboli polow recipe, I searched the vegetable markets for a good torsh (tangy) tomato but to no avail. Among all the different varieties of tomatoes that were available, I settled on the beefsteak tomatoes due to their great flavor. I prefer outdoor cooking in the hot summer months and try to minimize my standing in the kitchen as much as I can but this tomato rice is a perfect summer dish that goes well with grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables.

There are many recipes for estamboli polow from plain tomato rice to a platter of rice complete with meat and green beans, depending on what part of the country you are from and how this was prepared in your home. For us, growing up in Khuzestan, estamboli meant کته تماته/گوجه فرنگی - kateh-ye tamate which is slow-cooked rice in tomato puree with the addition of small cubed potatoes using the long and narrow type of potato called estamboli in Iran. For a simpler estamboli you can even make it without adding the cubed potatoes. If you prefer a less acidic dish you can skip the tomato paste. Ultimately, it depends on your taste, diet, and food restrictions.

Estamboli Polow

Serves 4

2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well, and drained
7 ripe medium tomatoes, blanched and peeled
6 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (for added color and a bit of an extra sour flavor) *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A good pinch of crushed red pepper
Vegetable oil or butter


  1. In a pot of boiling water blanch, the tomatoes for 5 minutes or until the skin comes off. Let cool, remove the skin, core the tomatoes, and puree using a food processor. Yields about four cups.
  2. In a medium bowl wash the rice thoroughly until completely clean, drain completely. 
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the well-drained rice with the tomato puree, mix well and let it soak for 20-30 minutes before cooking the rice. Do not drain.
  4. In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat, add the onions, cook until golden. 
  5. Add the potatoes, cook for about 5-7 minutes or until golden on all sides. add turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir well.
  6. Push the potatoes to the side and add the tomato paste in the center of the pan and cook for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently using a wooden spoon until it changes color. 
  7. Remove the pan away from the heat source, add the rice and tomato mixture to the pot, add 1/4 cup of water, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of red pepper, stir well.
  8. Return the pan to heat and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of butter or oil. Stir. Reduce the heat, cover the lid with a paper towel or a clean dishcloth, close the lid tightly and cook on low heat for 40 minutes. Overcooking and adding too much water make the rice too mushy.
Serve with plain yogurt or  mast o khiar, sabzi khordan with a bunch of fresh mints, and salad shirazi.



  1. Azita jan - beautiful photos! I've actually never had estamboli polo and given my love for potatoes I don't know why that is! I am bookmarking to make this as soon as possible!!! :)

  2. Hello! I love this dish!
    I need to clarify- when making kateh, we usually use 3c. water for 2c. rice but this recipe calls for one cup water. So do the tomatoes yield the remaining 2c. liquid?
    Thank you, Azita. I've been attempting to cook Persian food for 25 year, but it wasn't till I found your blog that my food really began tasting authentic. Your recipes are down to earth and easy to follow.
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Penny, ripe summer tomatoes are juicy and grinding in a blender/food processor liquefies them and gives you enough juice to cook the rice with. The idea is to primarily cook this rice with tomatoes rather than with water.

  3. I love love love this dish. I also spy salade shirazi and maast o khiar, no? Delicious spread!

  4. There's a cornelian cherry tree in the common area of my community garden. This is my first year trying them. I found your website when googling for recipes. I'll be trying out this recipe after my next garden visit as I'm growing both tomatoes and potatoes. Thank you!

  5. This is so special. I have tried pineapple rice, pumpkin rice or long bean rice. But all these are not cooking the rice with the puree. It sounds great, maybe I can try to use pumpkin too. But guess tomatoes are the best because of the sweet and sour taste. I use to mix tomato sauce with fried rice, and it tastes so good. Now I found a new way of eating tomatoes with rice. :)

  6. Azita joon.
    I really want to thank you for your amazing blog. Ive been following your blog for about a year now. Im Persian born and raised in the US. I grew up with an amazing mom which was an even more amazing cook. Shes passed away now 16 years and I was 17 when she passed so I never had the chance to learn from her. Your blog has helped me tremendously. I thank you for that. And so does my husband ;)
    Khaste nabashi va always nooshe jan ♡

  7. I could eat this EVERY day, Azita joon, and not get tired of it!
    Yours doesn't have any meat, which I actually prefer.
    Can't wait to taste it! xo

  8. This turned out so good! My husband has wanted this dish for a long time and I never could get it right! Finally I understood the secret--soaking and cooking the rice in the pureed tomato juice! I never would have guessed it.
    Thanks for this and more! I also made your kahsk-eh badamjan a week ago and it came out so delicious. Whenever I don't want to go wrong with my Persian cooking, I come here first.

  9. Azita can I use canned tomato puree and soak rice in that if I'm strapped for time?

  10. this is one of my favorite dishes and now im really really hungry thanks to your delicious-looking pictures...I love that you paired it with salade shirazi...thank you for posting this recipe...I feel this dish is often overlooked by Iranian cookbooks and sites

  11. Hello, and thank you. How can I add chicken (grillrd) to it? Thank you

    1. Hi, you can serve the grilled chicken along side the estamboli polow. Thank you.