Zereshk Polo ba Morgh recipe | Persian Saffron Barberry Rice with Poussin | igotitfrommymaman.com #persianfood #persianrecipes
Chicken Dishes Persian Classics Uncategorized

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh – 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 recipe

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


Prep: 15 min

Cook: 1h 15 min

Total: 1h 30 min

Persian Saffron Barberry Rice with Chicken


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 Persian Recipes

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh recipe | Persian Saffron Barberry Rice with Poussin | igotitfrommymaman.com #persianfood #persianrecipes
5 from 2 votes

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


For the Zereshk Polo

  • 2 cup basmati rice (400g)
  • 1/2 cup dried barberries (30g)
  • 2 tbsp slivered pistachios
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds
  • 1 potato (optional)
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt

For the Chicken (Khoresh-e Morgh)

  • 2.2 lbs chicken or poussin (1kg)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (55g)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups water (470 ml)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste


Bloom the saffron for the rice

  1. Grind the saffron threads using pestle and mortar. Alternatively you can use the bottom of a glass and crush the saffron threads on a plate. Transfer the ice cubes into a glass. Sprinkle the ground saffron for the rice over the ice cubes. Set it aside in a warm place. This will allow the melting ice cubes to absorb the maximum amount of colour and flavour of the saffron, giving the rice a bright yellow colour.

Prepare the chicken

  1. Heat a frying pan and add the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot carefully place the chicken legs or poussin in the pan. Turn them after a few minutes using kitchen tongues and let the other sides brown for a further couple of minutes.

  2. Peel and quarter the onion. Transfer what is left of the vegetable oil you used to brown the chicken into the pot you want to stew the chicken in. Let it heat up to medium temperature and add the onion quarters to it. Sauté them for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste, turmeric and black pepper. Stir the paste for a few seconds, then add the freshly boiled water. Stir until well combined.

  3. Add salt to taste, give it a quick stir and place the chicken legs in the sauce, top side down. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the temperature to low/medium and put on the lid. Let the chicken simmer gently while you prepare the rice.

Parboil the rice

  1. Wash the rice by moving it around in a bowl of water, draining the water, adding fresh water and repeating this process a couple of times.

  2. Boil the water in a pot, together with 2 tbsp of salt. Then pour in the rice. The temperature of the water will drop. Bring it back to boiling as soon as possible. Let the rice parboil for 4 minutes, then drain it in a colander and rinse it with cool water. This will wash off any excess salt and interrupt the cooking process.

  3. Put a non-stick pot over medium heat and add 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Swirl the pot to distribute it evenly. Transfer the parboiled rice into the pot in a heap shape and poke three holes in it using the back of a wooden spoon. This helps the rice cook evenly. Don’t add any water. The moisture in the rice corns is enough to steam it, resulting in amazingly fluffy rice. 

  4. Once you see steam rising from the pot cover the lid with a clean kitchen towel, which will absorb the steam. Firmly close the lid, reduce the temperature to low and let the rice steam for 45 minutes without opening the lid.

Turn the chicken

  1. Turn the chicken legs in the sauce, allowing them to cook evenly. 

Caramelise the barberries

  1. Rinse the dried barberries in a sieve and let them drain dry. Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a small pan over low to medium heat. Add the barberries and sugar to it and stir swiftly for about a minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the slivered pistachios and almonds to them and set them aside for later.

Arrange the rice

  1. Once the rice has steamed transfer half of it into a bowl and add the saffron water that has by now melted. Carefully combine both until the rice is evenly yellow.

  2. Transfer the other half of the rice to a serving plate. In the bottom of the pot you will find some mouth-watering tahdig, the crispy part of the rice that Iranians fight over. You can serve it separately.

  3. Arrange the yellow rice on top of the white rice. Decorate the rice with the caramelised barberries, pistachios and almonds.

Serve and enjoy

  1. The chicken is cooked to perfection by now. If the sauce is too watery simply let it simmer without lid for a couple of minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Remove the onions and serve the Saffron Chicken with its sauce and the Zereshk Polo. 

  2. 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!

Wanna save this recipe for later? You can print out the printable version above or pin it to your recipe board.

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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