There are plenty of Persian vegetarian dishes one must try upon visiting Iran. Persian cuisine is a whole lot more than kebabs and lamb chops. There is a misconception that Iranian food is very meaty. Although the majority of households in Iran often cook with meat and poultry, vegetarian meals have always been on demand amongst Persians. In this article, 15 popular Persian vegetarian dishes are introduced and classified as vegetarian dips, vegetarian side dishes, rice, vegetarian stews, vegetarian light bites, and desserts.
Persian Vegetarian Dips
Dips are amongst the most popular dishes on Iranian spreads. Therefore Persians usually enjoy dips as side dishes with main meals or as appetizers with flatbread.
Eggplant dip or ”KASHK-E-BADEMJAN” is a traditional Persian vegetarian dish. It is as simple as mixing eggplant puree, walnuts, onion, garlic and Kashk together. Kashk is a Persian yogurt derivative, produced through a long process. Kashk adds a similar taste like sour cream or thick Greek yogurt to the dip.
Smoked Eggplant or ”MIRZA-GHASEMI” is another Persian vegetarian dish specific to the north of Iran. To achieve an authentic smokey flavour, Iranians prefer to grill eggplants on charcoal. Then they peel off the skin and mix the flesh with eggs and fresh peeled tomatoes. finally add lots of garlic and cook the mix on the stove. Crack some fresh eggs on top as an extra topping and cook the mix lightly for added flavour. Enjoy this dish with Persian flatbread like Lavash or with plain rice.
”BORANI” dips are yogurt dips mixed with various vegetables or herbs. Mix spinach, eggplants, zucchini and/or cucumber into natural yogurt. Moreover, add some fresh or dried herbs and spices for extra flavour. Borani dips make great healthy vegetarian dishes. as a result, they are great as appetizers or side dishes.
Persian Vegetarian Side Dishes
Persians often enjoy their traditional side dishes as appetizers or alongside main meals. You can almost always find yogurt dips and Persian Chimichurri style pickles on every Persian spread.
”Sabzi-Khordan” refers to a fresh bite-sized assortment of herbs, such as chives, parsley, Persian watercress, basil, spring onion and red radish. Iranians enjoy Sabzi-Khordan with most meals.
Cold cucumber and yogurt soup or ”ABDOOGH-KHIAR” is a light and refreshing soup that is mostly enjoyed during warmer months of summer. Although It makes a great side dish or appetizer, it can be as satisfying as a main meal. It is a very simple dish consisting of diced cucumbers, yogurt, and fresh herbs all mixed into a bowl. Some add raisins and walnuts to this dish. Lastly add water, ice and garnish like rose petals. Some Persians add cracked pieces of flatbread and mix it into the bowl for a hearty meal.
Persian vegetable and noodle soup or ”AĀSH-RESHTEH” is a Persian vegetarian dish. This dish is traditionally very popular during religious months such as Ramadan. AĀSH is a hearty soup, filled with legumes and herbs. Noodles (RESHTEH) add lots of richness to this meal. It is not only enjoyed as an entrée, but it is the main meal for some in colder months of winter in Iran.
Polo or Polow is a term used for rice in Iran. Persian rice is not only boiled but steamed and cooked with different kinds of herbs, spices, and ingredients such as beans and legumes. These kind of rice are delicious and great vegetarian or vegan meal options.
Persian Vegetarian Stews
Persian Stews or ”KHORESH” as we call them, are an integral part of Iranian cuisine. Although many Persians consider adding chicken or meat into these traditional stews, vegetarian and vegan variables are also as rich and flavorsome. To cook vegetarian Persian stews, mix different kinds of beans or legumes, herbs and spices. To add extra flavour, use dried lemons, verjuice, and vegetable stock and leave to simmer. Iranians typically serve stews over plain rice.
Persian Vegetarian Light Bites
Stuffed grape leaves or ”DOLMEH-BARG” is a Persian vegetarian dish that is very popular amongst the Azeri people of Iran. To prepare the stuffing, mix an assortment of fresh herbs, legumes, spices, and grains together. Then, place the stuffing in the middle of thinly picked grapevines. Lastly, wrap the four corners of the leaves. Place the grape leaves at the bottom of a pot and simmer to cook.
Persian herb frittata or ”KUKU-SABZI” is another Vegetarian dish which is light and delicious. The main herbs used in this dish are chives, cilantro, and dill. Mix the herbs and add eggs to the paste to bind. Iranians often bake KUKU-SABZI in a large disk shape. They then cut the disk into wedge slices. Adding barberries and walnuts as a garnish on top creates visual appeal and deliciousness.
Eggplant frittata or ” KUKU-BADEMJAN” is filled with lots of vegetables. It makes a very light vegetarian Persian dish. It is very similar to cooking KUKU-SABZI, however using eggplants and lots more veggies like zucchini and potatoes.
Persian Vegetarian Desserts
Persians are amongst the sweetest tooth in the world. Persians often enjoy their sweets as snacks or with Iranian black tea. It is almost rare not to find traditional sweets in any Persian household. There are so many Vegetarian Persian dessert dishes that are symbolic and cooked during religious ceremonies or for special occasions.
Saffron Rice Pudding or ”SHOLEH-ZARD” is a Persian vegetarian light dish made up of rice and ground saffron, sugar and rosewater. Persians add slivered almonds or pistachios as garnish on top. Ground cinnamon is also added for extra flavour.
Rice Pudding or ‘‘SHIR-BERENJ” is another traditional Vegetarian Persian dessert. It consists of white rice and milk. Firstly, Simmer the rice until it becomes sticky and creamy. When the pudding is ready, add drizzles of honey, syrups or jams over the top and mix it with the pudding for sweetness.
#14 PERSIAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Persian butternut squash is a vegetarian dessert dish which is heartwarming during colder months in Iran. As the name suggests, Butternut pumpkin is the main ingredient of this dish. Firstly, cut butternut squash into thin slices and cook. Then add a mix of sugar syrup and saffron to the slices in the frying pan. This is a perfect vegetarian dish to satisfy those winter sugar cravings.
#15 PERSIAN HALVA
Persian Halva is a traditional sweet dish, served during funeral ceremonies or holy months of the year. It is, however, a favourite vegetarian dish amongst locals. Mix flour and butter, Sugar, cardamom, saffron, and rosewater to create an aromatic paste. Then cook this paste and let it cool off or enjoy it at room temperature.
In conclusion, with the rise of vegetarianism and veganism in recent years, more Persians are becoming aware of this culinary movement. Whilst contemporary Persian cooking is on the rise, nuances of vegetarian cooking are explored with traditional dishes.