9 Dishes to Try for the Persian New Year


Pictured: Fesenjan Redux recipe from CHOW

For Iranians, March 20 isn’t just another day. It’s the vernal equinox, which is a big event: the start of Nowruz, the festival of spring. This non-religious holiday is considered by many to be the start of the New Year, a time to set good intentions for the year to come.

If you don’t know much about Persian food, Nowruz is the perfect excuse to become more acquainted with everything about it: its flame-grilled meats, complex stews, and, of course, signature rice dishes, which use fragrant ingredients like sumac, rose petal, and pomegranate molasses for flavor. Nooshe jan!

1. Fesenjan

Turmeric & Saffron

Iran’s most famous stew is fesenjan (sometimes referred to as fesenjoon), which consists of meat—often duck or chicken—simmered in a pomegranate and walnut sauce. This sweet and sour flavor profile is one of the most recognizable in Persian cuisine. Get the recipe here.

2. Tahdig

Spice Spoon

Tahdig is saffron-encrusted basmati rice that’s been cooked in a pot until a crisp crust develops. It’s a staple at the Persian dinner table. Get the recipe here.

3. Kuku

CHOW

Sabzi, the Farsi word for fresh herbs, is big during Nowruz, as it represents new life. For that reason, kuku, a baked egg dish with green herbs, is popular fare during the holiday. Get our Kuku recipe.

4. Saffron-Scented Eggplant Stew

Spice Spoon

On chilly days, serve this eggplant stew, better known in Iran as khoresht bademjaan, with strained yogurt and tahdig on the side. Get the recipe here.

5. Persian Lamb Stew

Della Cucina Povera

Ghormeh sabzi, a lamb stew with fresh herbs, beans, and lime, is often described as Iran’s national dish. Get the recipe here.

6. Doogh

Spice Spoon

Yogurt drinks are widely popular in this corner of the world, and Iran is no exception. There, the thirsty cool down with doogh, a drink made with yogurt, water or club soda, and salt. Get the recipe here.

7. Jeweled Rice

Food52

Jeweled rice—sometimes referred to as morasa polow—is a stunning Persian centerpiece that involves steaming rice with fragrant additions like barberries, currants, candied orange peel, saffron, almonds, and pistachios. Get the recipe here.

8. Noon Berenj

Spice Spoon

Serve another Nowruz specialty, noon berenj, for dessert. The thumbprint cookies are scented with rosewater and saffron, and made with rice flour so they’re naturally gluten-free. Get the recipe here.

9. Roast Duck Breasts with Quince, Pomegranate, and Walnut Sauce

CHOW

Unlike traditional fesenjan, this contemporary take on the dish calls for roasting duck and its sauce separately to achieve a cleaner-tasting dish. Get our Fesenjan Redux recipe.

Susannah Chen is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. When she's not cooking or writing, she's on the hunt to find the world's best chilaquiles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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