Iranian national cuisine is very diverse and nutritious. A rice-based diet is commonly used by all people throughout the country. The current work aimed at documenting the ethnic and traditional rice-based foods prepared and consumed in Iran.


The data were collected by individually interviewing people from 15 cities in five districts of Iran (north, south, west, east, and central parts), as well as searching literature and scientific sources.


A list of 100 ethnic and traditional rice-based foods of Iranian cuisine is presented in three categories: main meals, soups/pottages, and sweets/desserts.


The main ingredient of traditional and ethnic Iranian foods is rice. Iranian people develop many ways to create and consume rice-based foods.


ethnic food ; Iran ; rice

1. Introduction

Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is the second most important staple food crop in the word after wheat [1]  and [2] . It is a main source of carbohydrate and provides proteins, fibers, vitamins, and minerals [3] . Generally, rice provides the bulk of daily calories for more than half the people throughout the world [1]  and [4] . Rice production by the top 50 countries has been increased from 586 million metric tons (MMT) to about 738 MMT from 2003 to 2013 [5] . The largest producer of rice in the world is China with a production of about 205 MMT [5] . The other principal rice producers are Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines [5]  and [6] .

Iran is also a producer of rice in Asia with a production of 2.4 MMT [5] . The food consumption pattern of people in Iran shows that Iranians consume an average of 100 g of rice per day [7] . Rice is the second most popular and favorite food in Iran after bread. The most famous and common rice-based food products in Iran are chelow kebab , chelow gheimeh , ghormeh sabzi , and joojeh kebab . Each of these foods can be served as a main rice dish with side dishes. Rice can be also used in a vast range of Iranian rice-based food products such as soups, stews, sweets, and desserts [6] . Furthermore, it can be utilized as an ingredient of different kinds of ethnic and traditional foods in Iran.

Today, there is an increased interest in ethnic food throughout the world. By definition, ethnic food can be considered as a countrys cuisine that is accepted by people outside of that country. For example, Iranian food is introduced as ethnic food outside of Iran [8] . The world is focusing more on traditional and ethnic food because many people from different countries tend to eat not only for survival, but also for pleasure [8]  and [9] .

Adding ethnic foods to the consumption pattern of people around the word is necessary for a pleasant workplace, healthy life, as well as having a favorite leisure time activity [9] . In recent years, many researchers have worked on traditional and ethnic foods [10] , [11] , [12] , [13] , [14] , [15] , [16] , [17] , [18]  and [19] . They have put time and effort into scientific research and the introduction of ethnic foods to the global community [8] .

For example, Kwon and Tamang [20] have defined religious foods and briefly introduced some of them. Kwon et al [21] have also considered old Korean documents for historical reviewing of some Korean traditional fermented foods. Shin and Jeong [22] have investigated Korean traditional fermented soybean products. They also analyzed the fermentation process used in the preparation of different types of sauces in Korea. The ayurvedic and traditional foods of Indian origin were introduced and classified by Sarkar et al [23] . The authors described the preparation method of these traditional foods. Some nonfermented ethnic foods of India were also introduced by Tamang and Thapa [24] . Ma [25] expressed the relationship between food, culture, and eating behavior in Chinese society.

Simatenda et al [26] have reviewed the preparation methods of traditional fermented foods in Swaziland. Khojimatov et al [27] have introduced some wild growing plants of Uzbekistan, which are used in the common local cuisine. Ray et al [28] have provided an explorative overview of traditional rice-based fermented beverages and foods in Indian cuisine.

Generally, Iranian ethnic foods are divided in two groups: wheat-based and rice-based foods. A wheat-based food in Iranian culture is a foodstuff that is served accompanying wheat bread, as well as foods made by wheat or wheat flour. Similarly, a rice-based food contains rice as the main ingredient. Iranian people usually eat a rice-based food once or twice a day, although their main rice meal is consumed at noon. In many Iranian families, a meal is not considered a food unless a rice-based dish is included, even if plenty of other foods are prepared for the meal. To the best of the authors knowledge, there is not enough research on the ethnic and traditional foods of Iran. Due to the great diversity of rice-based foods and its popularity, further studies on these types of foods are required. The objective of this study is to introduce and document some of the ethnic and traditional rice-based foods consumed in Iran.

2. Materials and methods

In the current study, the data were collected randomly from people from 15 cities in five districts of Iran: North (Rasht, Sari, Babol), South (Bandarabbas, Shiraz, Bushehr), West (Tabriz, Urmia, Ahvaz), East (Mashhad, Quchan, Nishabur), and the Central Iran (Tehran, Karaj, Esfahan).

The data gathering process was carried out by a face-to-face questionnaire-based survey. The required information was obtained by interviewing housewives and domestic people. Furthermore, some parts of information were provided from literature and scientific publications as well as by researching historical documents [24]  and [27] .

3. Results

3.1. Rice cultivars

Iran is situated in west Asia and borders the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, and the Gulf of Oman. It is subdivided into 31 provinces. Mazandaran, Guilan, Golestan, Khuzestan, and Fars provinces are the most important producers of rice in Iran. These provinces differ in terms of temperature, precipitation rate, relative humidity, and sunshine hours. Also, the soil properties in these regions are not the same. As a result, there are many diverse varieties of cultivated rice in different provinces. The most widely-grown rice varieties in Iran are listed in Table 1 .

Table 1. The most widely-grown varieties of rice in Iran.
No. Province Planted area (ha) Cultivars
1 Mazandaran 238,000 Khazar, Tarom-Mahalli, Fajr, Sahel, Amol3, Bahar1
2 Guilan 238,000 Sadri, Hashemi, Ali-Kazemi, Hasani, Sepidrud, Kadus, Dorfak
3 Golestan 70,000 Domsiyah, Sange-Tarom, Neda, Nemat, Shafagh
4 Khuzestan 51,337 Champa, Anburi, Ahavaz1
5 Fars 49,360 Ghasrodashti, Anbarbu, Garde-Shahri, Champalenjani
6 Esfahan 15,170 Sazandegi, Sorkhe, Nokaran, Lanjan, Garde-Lanjan
7 Kohgiluyeh & Boyer-Ahmad 9,000 Champa-Mahalli, Charam1, Charam2, Charam3, Yasuj1, Yasuj2, Yasuj3
8 Lorestan 5,896 Mahalli, Tarom-Hashemi
9 Chaharmahal & Bakhtiari 4,138 Garde-Mahalli, Koohrang
10 Zanjan 3,817 Garde, Binam

3.2. Rice-based foods

Most Iranian people have three meals a day. Although the foods eaten for these meals vary in different regions, rice is commonly consumed by all people throughout the country. Table 2 introduces 100 types of traditional and ethnic rice-based foods produced and consumed in Iran. The table shows the Persian name, the English equivalent, the main ingredients of each food, and the medicinal uses and properties of the rice-based foods. The most common and popular of these foods are also shown in Fig. 1 . The list of ethnic and traditional Iranian rice-based foods can be categorized into main meals, soups/pottages, and sweets/desserts. In addition, the rice-based main meal can be subdivided into six categories (cooked rice, mixed pilaf, rice and stew, rice and high protein dish, stuffed vegetables and kofta, and tahchin ).

Table 2. The most popular and common ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in Iran.
Category No. Persian name English equivalent Main ingredients Medicinal use(s)/property(ies) Image
Main meals 1 Adas polow Lentil-pilaf Rice, lentil, minced meat, onion, spices Anemia treatment Fig. 1 A
2 Albaloo polow Sour cherry-pilaf Rice, sour cherry jam, minced meat, onion, saffron Improving nervous system Fig. 1 B
3 Anar polow Pomegranate-pilaf Rice, pomegranate, coriander, sliced pistachio Appetizing Fig. 1 C
4 Baghali polow Fava beans-pilaf Rice, fava beans, dill Diarrhea remedy Fig. 1 D
5 Berenj masti Yogurt-pilaf Rice, Yogurt, yolk egg, saffron Diarrhea remedy
6 Berenj sorkh shodeh Fried rice Rice, pea, corn, ginger, spring onion, egg, butter, capsicum, soy sauce Appetizing
7 Berenj zaferani Saffron rice Rice, saffron, sugar, oil Appetizing Fig. 1 E
8 Bilhar polow Dorema aucheri-pilaf Rice, veal, artichoke/Dorema aucheri , onion, corn oil, turmeric, pepper Strengthening body
9 Chelow dizi Pilaf-dizi Rice, mutton, black-eyed pea, onion, turmeric Nourishing
10 Chelow fesenjan Pilaf-fesenjan Rice, minced meat, onion, sugar, walnut, pomegranate paste Energizing, improving nervous system Fig. 2 A
11 Chelow gheimeh Pilaf-gheimeh Rice, split pea, mutton, potato, dried lemon, onion, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste Strengthening body, boosting immune system Fig. 2 B
12 Chelow gosht Pilaf-meat Rice, mutton, lemon, onion, turmeric, pepper, saffron, tomato paste, cinnamon Sexual ability enhancement, energizing Fig. 2 D
13 Chelow kebab Pilaf-kebab Rice, minced meat, onion, pepper Sexual ability enhancement, energizing Fig. 2 E
14 Chelow mahi Pilaf-fish Rice, fish, onion, turmeric, saffron Iron deficiency anemia treatment, improving nervous system Fig. 2 F
15 Chelow mahiche Pilaf-lamb shank Rice, lamb shank, onion, garlic, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon Sexual ability enhancement, energizing Fig. 2 G
16 Chelow-khoresh alu Pilaf-plum stew Rice, plum, split pea, sugar, mutton, onion, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste Weakness treatment, constipation remedy
17 Chelow-khoresh bamiye Pilaf-okra stew Rice, okra, mutton, onion, lemon, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste Sexual ability enhancement Fig. 2 C
18 Chelow-khoresh beh Pilaf-quince stew Rice, quince, split pea, mutton, onion, lemon, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste Appetizing, exhilarating
19 Chelow-khoresh goje-sabz Pilaf-green plum stew Rice, green plum, mutton, onion, mint, parsley, turmeric, pepper Constipation remedy
20 Chelow-khoresh gol-kalam Pilaf-cauliflower stew Rice, cauliflower, mutton, onion, mint, parsley, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste, lemon, spices Cancer prevention
21 Chelow-khoresh kadu-halvaie Pilaf-pumpkin stew Rice, pumpkin, split pea, tamarind, mutton, onion, garlic, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste Cancer prevention, constipation remedy
22 Chelow-khoresh kangar Pilaf-artichoke stew Rice, artichoke, herbs, mutton, onion, pepper, tomato paste, saffron, spices Sexual ability enhancement
23 Chelow-khoresh karafs Pilaf-celery stew Rice, celery, mutton, onion, mint, parsley, pepper, lemon, saffron, spices Boosting immune system
24 Chelow-khoresh lubia-sabz Pilaf-green beans stew Rice, green beans, mutton, onion, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste, cinnamon Boosting kidney health
25 Chelow-khoresh rivas Pilaf-rhubarb stew Rice, rhubarb, mutton, onion, pepper, saffron Improving digestive system
26 Dale-adas polow Red lentil-pilaf Rice, red lentil, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, coriander, mustard powder Boosting immune system
27 Dami Cooked rice Rice, water, oil, salt Improving nervous system
28 Dandeh polow Rib-pilaf Rice, rib, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper Sexual ability enhancement, energizing
29 Dolmeh barge mo Stuffed grape leaves Rice, grape leaves, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, dill, parsley, mint, tarragon, sugar Improving digestive system Fig. 3 A
30 Dolmeh badenjan Stuffed eggplant Rice, eggplant, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, spring onion, mint, tarragon, lemon, tomato paste Iron deficiency anemia treatment Fig. 3 B
31 Dolmeh felfel sabz Stuffed capsicum Rice, capsicum, minced meat, onion, parsley, mint, tarragon, turmeric, pepper, lemon, tomato paste Cancer prevention Fig. 3 C
32 Dolmeh gojeh farangi Stuffed tomato Rice, tomato, minced meat, onion, parsley, dill, tarragon, coriander, turmeric, pepper, lemon Appetizing, weakness, & fatigue treatment Fig. 3 D
33 Dolmeh kahoo Stuffed lettuce Rice, lettuce, minced meat, onion, parsley, tarragon, turmeric, pepper, saffron, savory Improving nervous system
34 Dolmeh kalam barg Stuffed cabbage Rice, cabbage, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, parsley, dill, tarragon, coriander, lemon, tomato paste, sugar Anti-colds, improving nervous system Fig. 3 E
35 Esfenaj polow Spinach-pilaf Rice, spinach, mutton/chicken, onion, garlic, saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper Cancer prevention, boosting immune system
36 Estamboli polow Green beans-pilaf Rice, green beans, minced meat, onion, turmeric Arthritis prevention Fig. 1 F
37 Ghormeh sabzi Herbs stew-pilaf Rice, mutton, parsley, fenugreek, turmeric, pepper, dried lemon, onion Strengthening body
38 Havij polow Carrot-pilaf Rice, carrot, minced meat, onion, sugar, saffron Strengthening body
39 Joojeh kebab Grilled chicken-pilaf Rice, chicken, onion, lemon, saffron, pepper Improving nervous system, osteoporosis prevention Fig. 2 H
40 Kadu polow Pumpkin-pilaf Rice, pumpkin, minced meat, onion, butter, sugar, saffron, spices Weakness & fatigue Treatment
41 Kalam polow Cabbage-pilaf Rice, cabbage, minced meat, onion, turmeric, lemon, tomato paste Anemia treatment
42 Kary polow Curry-pilaf Rice, chicken, curry, green pea, turmeric, pepper, saffron, potato Depression prevention
43 Kateh Cooked rice Rice, water, butter, salt Diarrhea remedy Fig. 1 G
44 Keshmesh polow Raisin-pilaf Rice, raisin, chicken, onion, saffron, sour orange paste, pepper Weakness & fatigue treatment
45 Khorma polow Date-pilaf Rice, date, raisin, milk, butter, saffron Energizing, sexual ability enhancement Fig. 1 H
46 Koofteh Kofta Rice, minced meat, split pea, onion, lemon, egg, tomato paste, dill, parsley, tarragon, mint, savory Strengthening body Fig. 3 F
47 Labu polow Beet-pilaf Rice, beet, chicken, spinach, onion, saffron, pepper Cancer prevention, anemia treatment
48 Lakh lakh Lakh lakh Rice, fish, garlic, onion, turmeric, pepper, coriander, dill, fenugreek, tamarind Anemia treatment
49 Lubia polow Beans-pilaf Rice, beans, mutton, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon Anemia treatment
50 Mani polow Mani-pilaf Rice, raisin, split pea, barberry, mutton, noodles, onion, turmeric, pepper, saffron, caraway Anemia treatment
51 Meygoo polow Shrimp-pilaf Rice, shrimp, fried onion, turmeric, pepper, coriander, parsley, fenugreek Cancer prevention Fig. 1 I
52 Morasa polow Jeweled rice Rice, chicken, raisin, barberry, sliced pistachio, sliced almond, sliced orange, saffron, onion, pepper Energizing Fig. 1 J
53 Nokhod polow Green pea-pilaf Rice, green pea, minced meat, onion, tomato paste, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper, Cancer prevention
54 Polow Rice, pilaf Rice, water, oil/butter, salt Improving nervous system
55 Polow balghur Bulgur-pilaf Rice, wheat bulgur, lentil, onion, pepper, caraway Improving digestive system
56 Polow bandari Bandari-pilaf Rice, capsicum, garlic, onion, green pea, canned fish, coriander, pepper Anemia treatment
57 Polow cheshm bolboli Black-eyed pea-pilaf Rice, black-eyed Pea, dill Diarrhea remedy Fig. 1 K
58 Polow ghormeh Fried meat-pilaf Rice, mutton, dried lemon, fenugreek, parsley Sexual ability enhancement
59 Polow goje Tomato-pilaf Rice, tomato, onion, turmeric, pepper Appetizing, improving nervous system Fig. 1 L
60 Polow sabzijat Vegetables-pilaf Rice, potato, carrot, onion, garlic, mushroom, tomato, capsicum, saffron, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, pepper, rose Appetizing
61 Polow se-rang Three-color rice Rice, chicken breast, tomato, yogurt, onion, saffron, plum, egg, tomato paste Cancer prevention
62 Polow shirazi Shirazi-Pilaf Rice, chicken, eggplant, yogurt, barberry, saffron Strengthening body
63 Polow tond Spiced rice Rice, minced meat, mushroom, turmeric, pepper Cancer prevention
64 Polow zireh Cumin-pilaf Rice, cumin, mutton, barberry, saffron Improving digestive system Fig. 1 M
65 Polow zorat Corn-pilaf Rice, corn, minced meat, onion, capsicum Cancer prevention
66 Reshteh polow Noodles-pilaf Rice, noodles Energizing, strengthening body Fig. 1 N
67 Sardi polow Sardi-pilaf Rice, minced meat, carrot, raisin, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, caraway, coriander Weakness & fatigue treatment
68 Shirin polow Sweet rice Rice, sugar, chicken, pistachio, almond, carrot, saffron, sour orange Energizing, exhilarating Fig. 1 O
69 Sholeh amiri Sholeh amiri Rice, mung, onion, turmeric Weakness & fatigue treatment
70 Sib polow Kermanshahi-pilaf Rice, potato, minced meat, onion, date, raisin, butter, saffron Strengthening body
71 Sibzamini polow Potato-pilaf Rice, potato, minced meat, onion, dill Strengthening body Fig. 1 P
72 Tahchin gharch Mushroom-tahchin Rice, mushroom, yogurt, yolk egg, saffron Exhilarating
73 Tahchin goosht Meat-tahchin Rice, mutton, yogurt, egg, saffron Energizing, sexual ability enhancement
74 Tahchin mahi Fish-tahchin Rice, fish, yogurt, yolk egg, dill, coriander, butter, saffron Improving nervous system, anemia treatment Fig. 4 A
75 Tahchin morgh Chicken-tahchin Rice, chicken, yogurt, egg, saffron Osteoporosis prevention, improving nervous system Fig. 4 B
76 Vanoushak polo Pistacia atlantica-pilaf Rice, Pistacia atlantica , minced meat, fried onion, tomato paste, saffron Appetizing
77 Yakhmeh torsh Sour-yakhmeh Rice, plum, apricot, quince, sugar, mutton, turmeric Nourishing, strengthening body
78 Zereshk polow Barberry-pilaf Rice, sliced pistachio, sliced almond, barberry, saffron, chicken Strengthening body Fig. 2 I
Soups & pottages 79 Ash anar Pomegranate pottage Rice, split peas, pomegranate, minced meat, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, angelica Strengthening body Fig. 6 A
80 Ash berenj Rice pottage Rice, mutton, fried onion, lentil, spinach, coriander, pepper Healing colds
81 Ash halav Halav pottage Rice, white bean, chickpea, mutton, onion, parsley, mint, spring onion, chard, turmeric, bulgur, lemon Boosting immune system
82 Ash kadou Pumpkin soup Rice, lentil, pumpkin, sugar, lemon, mint Strengthening body
83 Ash mash Mung soup Rice, mung, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, pepper Strengthening body
84 Ash miveh Fruit soup Rice, chickpea, red bean, minced meat, apricot, greengage, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, turmeric Improving digestive system
85 Ash mostafa Mostafa pottage Rice, chickpea, chard, kashk (a thick liquid similar to whey), mint, onion Strengthening body
86 Ash sabzi Herb soup Rice, mutton, tarragon, dill, onion, chickpea, red bean, lentil, turmeric, pepper Healing colds
87 Ash somagh Sumac soup Rice flour, sumac, minced meat, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, tarragon Improving gums Fig. 6 B
88 Ghalieh ash Ghalieh pottage Rice flour, white bean, chickpea, minced meat, onion, carrot, parsley, mint, raisin, beet, coriander, sugar, vinegar, pepper Strengthening body
89 Ghateghli ash Ghateghli pottage Rice, yogurt, spinach Improving digestive system
90 Mashab Mashab Rice, mung, black-eyed pea, wheat, potato, pumpkin, lentil, mutton, fried onion, mint, turmeric, pepper, kashk Strengthening body
91 Soup sib Apple soup Rice, apple, almond, garlic, butter, sugar, cream Exhilarating
Sweets & desserts 92 Digcheh Digcheh Rice, sugar, milk, saffron, sliced pistachio, cardamom Nourishing, sexual ability enhancement Fig. 5 A
93 Fereni Rice flour pudding Rice flour, milk, sugar, rose-water Energizing Fig. 5 B
94 Halva Halva Rice flour, sugar, saffron, water, oil, rose-water Nourishing, energizing Fig. 5 C
95 Harireh badam Almond gruel Rice flour, almond powder, sugar, water Osteoporosis prevention
96 Nan berenji Rice bread Rice flour, water, wheat flour, sugar, cumin, walnut Nourishing, exhilarating
97 Shir berenj milk-rice pudding Rice, milk, water, sugar, rose water Nourishing, sexual ability enhancement Fig. 5 D
98 Shirini berenji Rice cookies Rice flour, sugar powder, egg, nigella, rose water Exhilarating Fig. 5 E
99 Shole zard Saffron rice pudding Rice, water, sugar, rose-water, saffron, oil, sliced almond, cinnamon, pistachio powder, cardamom powder Energizing, nourishing Fig. 5 F
100 Yakh dar behesht Ice-in-heaven Rice flour, starch, sugar, rose-water, milk, water, sliced pistachio Nourishing, exhilarating

Some types of Iranian cooked rice or mixed pilaf. (A) Lentil-pilaf. (B) Sour ...

Fig. 1.

Some types of Iranian cooked rice or mixed pilaf. (A) Lentil-pilaf. (B) Sour cherry-pilaf. (C) Pomegranate-pilaf. (D) Fava beans-pilaf. (E) Saffron rice. (F) Green beans-pilaf. (G) Cooked rice. (H) Date-pilaf. (I) Shrimp-pilaf. (J) Jeweled rice. (K) Black-eyed pea-pilaf. (L) Tomato-pilaf. (M) Cumin-pilaf. (N) Noodles-pilaf. (O) Sweet rice. (P) Potato-pilaf.

Therefore, rice as a main ingredient of Iranian cuisine can be consumed in one of the below groups.

3.2.1. Cooked rice

Cooked rice is one of the most popular traditional foods prepared and consumed in Iran (Fig. 1 G). The rice cooking process is performed in different manners. Generally, there are three types of cooked rice, namely, dami , kateh , and polow (Numbers 27, 43, and 54 in Table 2 ).

Dami is the traditional dish of the Iranian people, which is prepared by boiling and cooking the rice in water. Before or during its preparation, salt and a little oil/butter are added. The water/rice volume ratio is about 2:1 and it changes depending on which variety of rice is used. Housewives obtain the proper ratio through trial and error. At the end of the process, the rice is cooked well and the water is completely absorbed. Kateh is the other type of cooked rice that is similar to dami . In this traditional food, using a greater water/rice volume ratio results in the production of cooked rice in a sticky and pasty form. Traditionally, the people of the Northern provinces of Iran use the glutinous varieties of rice for the preparation of kateh . Polow is also a very common Iranian food that is prepared in three steps. Firstly, the rice is soaked in salted water for 5–15 hours and then it is boiled for 20–50 minutes. Finally, the parboiled rice is drained and returned to the pan to be cooked. This technique leads to fluffy rice with nonsticky separated grains.

3.2.2. Mixed pilaf

Mixed pilaf is a type of cooked rice that is prepared by mixing a diverse range of ingredients. Meat, chicken, fruits, vegetables, cereals, and even nuts can be added in layers or mixed well with the soaked or parboiled rice and then cooked (Numbers 1–5, 7–8, 26, 35, 36, 38, 40–42, 44, 45, 47, 49–53, 55–68, 70, 71, and 76 in Table 2 ). When the mixed pilaf is cooking in the pot, a towel is set on top of the pot to absorb the excess steam. Some types of Iranian cooked rice or mixed pilaf are shown in Fig. 1 .

3.2.3. Rice and stew

There are many different types of stews in Iranian cuisine that are traditionally served with rice (Numbers 9–12, 16–25, and 37 in Table 2 ). Although the consumption of stews with bread can be seen in dietary patterns of households in Iran, the obtained results indicate that the serving of stews with rice is very more common and popular. Figs. 2 A–2C show the three most common of these rice-based foods.

The most popular and common ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in Iran. (A) ...

Fig. 2.

The most popular and common ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in Iran. (A) Pilaf-fesenjan. (B) Pilaf-gheimeh. (C) Pilaf-okra stew. (D) Pilaf-meat. (E) Pilaf-kebab. (F) Pilaf-fish. (G) Pilaf-lamb shank. (H) Grilled chicken-pilaf. (I) Barberry-pilaf.

3.2.4. Rice and high protein dishes

There are several high protein dishes in Iranian cuisine that are usually served with rice (Fig. 2 ). These national and traditional dishes may include lamb shank, mutton, minced meat, rib, fish, and chicken (Numbers 13–15, 28, 39, and 78 in Table 2 ).

3.2.5. Stuffed vegetables/kofta

Dolmeh is the name of a group of stuffed vegetable dishes popular in Iranian cuisine. Common vegetables for stuffing include eggplant, tomato, lettuce, cabbage, capsicum, and grape leave ( Fig. 3 ). The filling usually consists of soaked or parboiled rice, spices, and minced meat (Numbers 29–34 and 46 in Table 2 ).

Some types of traditional rice-based stuffed vegetable and kofta. (A) Stuffed ...

Fig. 3.

Some types of traditional rice-based stuffed vegetable and kofta. (A) Stuffed grape leaves. (B) Stuffed eggplant. (C) Stuffed capsicum. (D) Stuffed tomato. (E) Stuffed cabbage. (F) Kofta.

There is also another type of riced based food called kofta, whose ingredients are similar to those of dolmeh ( Fig. 3 F). In a simple form, kofta are balls of minced meat combined with parboiled rice, onion, and spices. Kofta is prepared after bringing the balls to the boil and simmering for a few minutes.

3.2.6. Tahchin (“arranged at the bottom”)

Tahchin is a traditional Iranian rice-based food that looks like a cake. This popular food includes rice, egg, yogurt, saffron, and mutton. It is very common to use lamb shank, fish, chicken fillets, or vegetables instead of the mutton. Tahchin is composed of two different layers. The first part is a thin layer composed of nonrice ingredients that are arranged at the bottom of the cooking pot. The second layer includes white or saffron rice that is placed on the first layer (Numbers 72–75 in Table 2 ). Fig. 4 shows the two most popular types of this rice-based food.

Two types of Iranian tahchin. (A) Fish-tahchin. (B) Chicken-tahchin.

Fig. 4.

Two types of Iranian tahchin . (A) Fish-tahchin . (B) Chicken-tahchin .

3.2.7. Sweets and desserts

There are various types of traditional rice-based sweets and desserts in Iranian cuisine (Numbers 92–100 in Table 2 ). These foods can be prepared and consumed to celebrate spring festivals or important events. Some of them are often produced for religious ceremonies, as well as being consuming by pilgrims and religious tourists during special times of the year. Rice in the form of flour, grain, or powder can be used for the preparation of rice-based sweets and desserts. Fig. 5 shows some common types of traditional sweets and desserts.

Some types of traditional rice-based sweets and desserts. (A) Digcheh. (B) Rice ...

Fig. 5.

Some types of traditional rice-based sweets and desserts. (A) Digcheh . (B) Rice flour pudding. (C) Halva . (D) Milk-rice pudding. (E) Rice cookies. (F) Saffron rice pudding.

3.2.8. Soups and pottages

Iranian traditional rice-based soups and pottages are rich and diverse (Numbers 79–91 in Table 2 ). Some of these foods can be served thin and soupy and some of them are prepared very thick. A thin rice-based soup can become thick by adding too much rice flour, too many starchy vegetables, or other thickeners, as well as boiling the soup for too long. The two delicious types of this traditional rice-based food are shown in Fig. 6 .

Two types of traditional rice-based soups and pottages. (A) Pomegranate pottage. ...

Fig. 6.

Two types of traditional rice-based soups and pottages. (A) Pomegranate pottage. (B) Sumac soup.

3.3. The cultural aspects of rice-based foods

As a well-accepted principle of Iranian culture, the eating should be done on the basis of a balanced system of hot–cold foods. The hot or cold nature of a food is determined by the preparation method, main ingredients, and the characteristics such as taste. As a general and practical formula, it is believed that the cold foods should be eaten accompanying hot foods or constituents, and vice versa. For instance, pilaf-fish is a popular rice-based food of Iranian cuisine that is usually cold. In the most parts of the country, the use of dates, saffron, pepper, and other hot spices is very common for equilibrating the meal, while the consumption of foodstuffs of a cold nature such as yogurt is avoided.

The consumption of a rice-based food in the daily diet of Iranian people is very common and should be expected. In other words, the centerpiece of Iranian meals is rice. In Iran, most of the garrisons, prisons, hospitals, universities, big companies, and star-rated hotels have a restaurant providing rice-based dishes on the daily menu. The ethnic and traditional Iranian rice-based foods are not limited to just those listed in Table 2 . However, the preparation and eating of these foods by families at any time and location is possible and usual.

In certain regions along the Caspian Sea coast, the people consume rice or a rice-based food at every meal, even for breakfast. Glutinous and sticky rice is preferred in the northern areas of the country, while fluffy, long-grain, and nonsticky rice is consumed in the other parts. The popularity and generality of ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in different provinces of Iran is shown in Fig. 7 . The other rice-based foods are common throughout the country, and their popularities are not limited to a special province.

The popularity and generality of ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in ...

Fig. 7.

The popularity and generality of ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in different provinces of Iran.

Furthermore, the meal cycle in Iranian culture includes feasting and fasting. A feast is usually an abundant meal often accompanied by a celebration, entertainment, or ceremony. Iranian secular holidays such as Nowruz (traditional Iranian festival of spring) celebration, traditional ceremonies such as Yalda night (the longest night of the year) celebration, religious holidays such as Tasua (the 9th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar which is the day before Ashura ), and Ashura (the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, when Imam Hussein was martyred), and even personal events such as family celebrations, family parties, a childs birth celebration, deaths, and marriages are observed with special and appropriate rice-based foods.

Fasting is voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time. During the holy month of Ramadan (the 9th month in the Islamic calendar), Iranian Muslims are obligated to fast from dawn to sunset. However, many types of foods are consumed daily, before dawn and after sunset. Table 3 shows the most common feasting and fasting events of the Iranian people, and the popular rice-based foods that are served in these ceremonies.

Table 3. The most popular and common rice-based foods in the Iranian ceremonies.
Family celebration, family party Official ceremony Wedding ceremony Yalda night celebration Nowruz celebration Religious ceremony Ramadan Funeral, death, anniversary
Lentil-pilaf Fava beans-pilaf Fava beans-pilaf Pomegranate-pilaf Pilaf-fesenjan Lentil-pilaf Almond gruel Fava beans-pilaf
Fava beans-pilaf Saffron rice Saffron rice Stuffed eggplant Pilaf-fish Fava beans-pilaf milk-rice pudding Pilaf-gheimeh
Saffron rice Pilaf-gheimeh Pilaf-fesenjan Stuffed cabbage Stuffed grape leaves Pilaf-fesenjan Saffron rice pudding Pilaf-meat
Pilaf-fesenjan Pilaf-meat Pilaf-gheimeh Cabbage-pilaf Stuffed cabbage Pilaf-gheimeh Pilaf-kebab
Pilaf-gheimeh Pilaf-kebab Pilaf-meat Kofta Noodles-pilaf Pilaf-meat Pilaf-lamb shank
Pilaf-meat Pilaf-fish Pilaf-kebab Shirazi -pilaf Rice cookies Pilaf-kebab Grilled chicken-pilaf
Pilaf-kebab Pilaf-lamb shank Pilaf-fish Fish-tahchin Grilled chicken-pilaf Barberry-pilaf
Pilaf-fish Grilled chicken-pilaf Pilaf-lamb shank Pomegranate pottage Barberry-pilaf Halva
Pilaf-lamb shank Barberry-pilaf Grilled chicken-pilaf Fruit soup Herb soup
Herbs stew-pilaf Jeweled rice Digcheh
Grilled chicken-pilaf Three-color rice Saffron rice pudding
Raisin-pilaf Sweet rice
Jeweled rice Barberry-pilaf
Meat-tahchin Rice cookies

4. Discussion

The main ingredient used for preparing ethnic and traditional Iranian foods is rice. Iranian people and rice have an inseparable relationship. Therefore, Iranians have developed many ways to create rice-based foods. A rice-based food is an important part of Iranian cuisine and consumed in main or side dishes by all members of the household. One hundred of the most popular ethnic rice-based foods prepared in Iran were introduced and documented in this article. Detailed investigations and further studies on the characteristics and the methods of preparation of rice-based foods are ongoing.

Conflicts of interest

The author has no conflicts of interest.


All the support by the Quchan University of Advanced Technology is acknowledged and much appreciated.


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