Chicken Dishes,  Persian Classics,  Persian Rice

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh – Persian Saffron Barberry Rice with Chicken

Hello fellow foodies and connoisseurs of good Persian cuisine!

I’m sorry about the radio silence. Sometimes life gets busy but I finally managed to bring you another classic Persian dish: Zereshk Polo ba Morgh.

It’s such a popular dish, especially amongst European friends, I found. I mean, tender chicken with a delicious sauce and aromatic saffron rice with sweet, slightly sour barberries? What’s not to love! So this is a great dish to cook for your friends and family.

In this recipe I switched things up a bit. I added potato slices to the tadig (tadig is the crispy part of the rice from the bottom of the pan, that people usually fight about). This is not common for Zereshk Polo, so feel free to skip this if you want the authentic dish.

I made the Aabkesh version of Zereshk Polo, which means I pre-boiled the rice and then let it steam until cooked. If you prefer the easier (and more nutritious) version of Kateh rice, feel free to prepare it that way. You can find my Kateh rice recipe here. Simply use that one and return to this page for the additional steps you need in order to cook a delicious Zereshk Polo.

I made my Khoresh-e Morgh with tomato puree this time. This makes the chicken sauce or stew more, well, tomatoey. If you prefer Saffron Chicken, simply ditch the tomato puree and use 1/4 tsp saffron instead. Actually, I have a separate recipe for this, which you can find here. It is essentially the same though.

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh | Persian Recipes | igotitfrommymaman.com

So without further ado, let’s get to it:

Ingredients (Serving 4 people):

For the Zereshk Polo

1 1/2 cup basmati rice

1/2 cup dried barberries

2 tbsp slivered pistachios

1 potato/ 3 baby potatoes (optional / if you want to make potato tadig)

5 tbsp ghee (cleared butter) or vegetable oil

3 tsp sugar

3 tbsp salt + extra to taste

For the Chicken

2.2lbs / 1 kg chicken (I used 2 poussins but you could use 4 chicken legs or any part of the chicken you like)

4 tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup tomato puree

1 medium onion

2 cups water

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp black pepper

Salt to taste

Time

Prep: 15 min

Cook: 1h 15 min

Total: 1h 30 min

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh | Persian Recipes | igotitfrommymaman.com

Instructions

Prepare the Khoresh-e Morgh

Skin off the chicken. If you use poussin like I did this time, you can leave it on if it doesn’t bother you. It’s very thin, so I personally don’t mind it, plus it looks nicer when served whole with the skin on.

Heat a frying pan and add the vegetable oil. When the oil is sizzling hot put in the chicken/poussin and fry it on all sides until golden brown. This is just to brown the outside. It will have plenty of time to cook through later. Be careful not to burn yourself with the sizzling hot oil.  

Skin off the onion and carve into it from the top as if you wanted to quarter it, not completely cutting through it. This lets the juices of the onion cook with the stew but the whole onion can be removed after the chicken is cooked.

Transfer the golden brown chicken to the pan you want to cook it in, together with the onion. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of freshly boiled water to it. Also add the tomato puree (alternatively 1/4 tsp of saffron), turmeric, black pepper, and salt and stir until everything is combined.

Put on the lid and put the pan over low heat. Now it’s time to prepare the Zereshk Polo. The chicken is taking care of itself from here on out, all that’s left for you to do is turn it over after about 30 minutes. Put the lid back on and let it simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes.

Prepare the Zereshk Polo

Combine the saffron with a few tbsp freshly boiled water and let it sit in a warm place.

I made a potato tadig (crispy part of the rice from the bottom of the pan) this time. This is not usual for Zereshk Polo but I felt like it today, plus potato tadig is the best imo. 🙂 If you want to do the same, peel the potato now (or several baby potatoes) and cut it into 0.5cm/0.2″ thin slices. Set them aside for later.

Wash the rice by transferring it to a bowl, adding water, moving it around with your hand, rinsing the water, and repeating these steps 3 to 4 times.

Bring a pan of water to boil and dissolve 3 tbsp of salt in it. Don’t worry, you will wash most of the salt off the rice later. Trust me, if you use any less your rice will taste bland.

Add the rice to the pan and keep the water boiling. Let it pre-cook until the rice corns are soft on the outside but still have bite in the centre. How long this process takes depends on your rice. I’m using Tilda basmati rice and it only takes 3 minutes for the rice to cook to this stage. It might take anything from 3 to 7 minutes.

Once your rice is pre-cooked, drain it in a colander and rinse it with cold water to interrupt the cooking process and wash off the excess salt.

Transfer about 1/4 of the rice into a small bowl and combine it with half of the saffron water until it’s evenly yellow.

Cover the bottom of a coated pan with 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil. Add 1 tbsp of water to it and give it a quick shake. If you like, you can lay the potato slices on the bottom of the pan for the tadig. Then add the saffron rice. You can taste the rest of the rice to see if it needs any additional salt and if so season it now. Transfer the white rice into the pan, on top of the yellow.

Combine 1 more tbsp of vegetable oil or ghee with 1 tbsp of water and pour it over the rice.

Poke a few holes through the rice to the bottom of the pan using the back of a wooden spoon. This way the moisture can evaporate more easily. Cover the lid with a clean kitchen towel and firmly close the pan with it. Let the rice steam over low heat for at least 60 minutes. 

Wash the dried barberries and heat a small pan with 2 tbsp of ghee. Briefly fry the barberries together with the sugar in the hot ghee. Don’t let them fry any longer than 30 seconds. Combine the sweet fried barberries with the slivered pistachios and set them aside for later.

Arrange and serve the Zereshk Polo

After 1 hour you can touch the outside of the pan with a wet kitchen towel. If it makes a sound like ‘tshhh’ your rice is done.

Before turning the pan upside down onto your serving plate, transfer a small part of the rice from the top of the pan into a bowl and combine it with the remaining saffron water and the barberry pistachio mix.

You can submerge the bottom of the pan in a sink filled with cold water to make the rice and tadig come off easily. Just a fair warning, this might not be the best practice when using expensive coated pans. If you have a good quality pan, the rice shouldn’t stick and if you have a less valuable pan you might as well risk it – at least that’s what I’ve been doing and the coating is still intact.

Place your serving plate upside down onto the pan and carefully flip the pan around using both hands. Arrange the saffron rice with the barberries and pistachios on or around the rest of the rice.

Now you can serve your Zereshk Polo with the chicken and sauce (khoresht-e morgh). You can serve some yogurt with it, too. Enjoy!

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh | Persian Recipes | igotitfrommymaman.com

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh

Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Keyword Barberry Saffron Rice, Chicken, Khoreshe Morgh, Persian Chicken, Zereshk Polo
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

For the Zereshk Polo

  • 1 1/2 cup basmati rice (300g)
  • 1/2 cup dried barberries (75g)
  • 2 tbsp slivered pistachios
  • 1 potato (optional)
  • 5 tbsp ghee (cleared butter) or vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp salt + extra to taste

For the Chicken (Khoresh-e Morgh)

  • 2.2 lbs chicken or poussin (1kg)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree (55g)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups water (500 ml)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Prepare the Khoresh-e Morgh

  1. Skin off the chicken. If you use poussin like I did this time, you can leave it on if it doesn’t bother you. It’s very thin, so I personally don’t mind it, plus it looks nicer when served whole with the skin on.

  2. Heat a frying pan and add the vegetable oil. When the oil is sizzling hot put in the chicken/poussin and fry it on all sides until golden brown. This is just to brown the outside. It will have plenty of time to cook through later. Be careful not to burn yourself with the sizzling hot oil.  

  3. Skin off the onion and carve into it from the top as if you wanted to quarter it, not completely cutting through it. This lets the juices of the onion cook with the stew but the whole onion can be removed after the chicken is cooked.

  4. Transfer the golden brown chicken to the pan you want to cook it in, together with the onion. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of freshly boiled water to it. Also add the tomato puree (alternatively 1/4 tsp of saffron), turmeric, black pepper, and salt and stir until everything is combined.

  5. Put on the lid and put the pan over low heat. Now it’s time to prepare the Zereshk Polo. The chicken is taking care of itself from here on out, all that’s left for you to do is turn it over after about 30 minutes. Put the lid back on and let it simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes.

Prepare the Zereshk Polo

  1. I made a potato tadig (crispy part of the rice from the bottom of the pan) this time. This is not usual for Zereshk Polo but I felt like it today, plus potato tadig is the best imo. 🙂 If you want to do the same, peel the potato now (or several baby potatoes) and cut it into 0.5cm/0.2″ thin slices. Set them aside for later.

  2. Wash the rice by transferring it to a bowl, adding water, moving it around with your hand, rinsing the water, and repeating these steps 3 to 4 times.

  3. Bring a pan of water to boil and dissolve 3 tbsp of salt in it. Don’t worry, you will wash most of the salt off the rice later. Trust me, if you use any less your rice will taste bland.

  4. Add the rice to the pan and keep the water boiling. Let it pre-cook until the rice corns are soft on the outside but still have bite in the centre. How long this process takes depends on your rice. I’m using Tilda basmati rice and it only takes 3 minutes for the rice to cook to this stage. It might take anything from 3 to 7 minutes.

  5. Once your rice is pre-cooked, drain it in a colander and rinse it with cold water to interrupt the cooking process and wash off the excess salt.

  6. Transfer about 1/4 of the rice into a small bowl and combine it with half of the saffron water until it’s evenly yellow.

  7. Cover the bottom of a coated pan with 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil. Add 1 tbsp of water to it and give it a quick shake. If you like, you can lay the potato slices on the bottom of the pan for the tadig. Then add the saffron rice. You can taste the rest of the rice to see if it needs any additional salt and if so season it now. Transfer the white rice into the pan, on top of the yellow.

  8. Combine 1 more tbsp of vegetable oil or ghee with 1 tbsp of water and pour it over the rice.

  9. Poke a few holes through the rice to the bottom of the pan using the back of a wooden spoon. This way the moisture can evaporate more easily. Cover the lid with a clean kitchen towel and firmly close the pan with it. Let the rice steam over low heat for at least 60 minutes. 

  10. Wash the dried barberries and heat a small pan with 2 tbsp of ghee. Briefly fry the barberries together with the sugar in the hot ghee. Don’t let them fry any longer than 30 seconds. Combine the sweet fried barberries with the slivered pistachios and set them aside for later.

Arrange and serve the Zereshk Polo

  1. After 1 hour you can touch the outside of the pan with a wet kitchen towel. If it makes a sound like ‘tshhh’ your rice is done.

  2. Before turning the pan upside down onto your serving plate, transfer a small part of the rice from the top of the pan into a bowl and combine it with the remaining saffron water and the barberry pistachio mix.

  3. You can submerge the bottom of the pan in a sink filled with cold water to make the rice and tadig come off easily. Just a fair warning, this might not be the best practice when using expensive coated pans. If you have a good quality pan, the rice shouldn’t stick and if you have a less valuable pan you might as well risk it – at least that’s what I’ve been doing and the coating is still intact.

  4. Place your serving plate upside down onto the pan and carefully flip the pan around using both hands. Arrange the saffron rice with the barberries and pistachios on or around the rest of the rice.

  5. Now you can serve your Zereshk Polo with the chicken and sauce (khoresht-e morgh). You can serve some yogurt with it, too. Enjoy!


I hope you enjoyed this recipe! If you have any questions please let me know in the comments, I’m always happy to help. 

I’d love to see your Zereshk Polo! Feel free to tag me with @igotitfrommymaman on Facebook or Insta so I can take a look and give you a thumbs up!

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Looking for more Persian recipes? Here are my Persian classics!

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Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your meal!

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