Albaloo Polo (Persian Sour Cherry Rice)

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Albaloo polo is a traditional Persian rice dish with sweet and sour flavors. The vibrant color and bright flavors of this dish come from the sour cherries mixed with rice and topped with saffron rice, pistachios and almonds.

Overhead shot of albaloo polo with meatballs.


 

When it comes to Persian recipes, mixed rice dishes are one of my favorites. Rice is a staple in a Persian home and, while classic Persian rice and tahdig is probably the most popular Persian rice dish, I consider mixed rice dishes to be my favorite. Loobia polo (green bean rice), sabzi polo (herb rice) and of course, dami gojeh farangi (one pot tomato rice) are just a few examples of how you can turn simple white rice into a vibrant and delicious dish that’s packed with flavor. This sour cherry rice is another unique and delicious Persian recipe that I cannot wait to share with you today.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Flavors: Sour cherries mixed with a small amount of sugar make a tasty sweet and sour combination that complements saffron rice very well. Topped with pistachios and almonds and served with small meatballs, the whole dish is a celebration of flavors.
  • Versatile: You can easily adjust the sugar depending on how sweet or sour you’d like the albaloo polo to be.
  • Unique: Looking to impress your guests? This dish is the way to go. This classic Persian dish is such a showstopper with its one of a kind flavor and bright colors.

Ingredients To Make Albaloo Polo

To make this recipe you need sour cherries. rice, sugar, oil, ground beef, spices and onion.
  • Sour cherries: Make sure you’re using sour cherries or tart cherries for this recipe and not regular cherries. You can use fresh or frozen sour cherries, if using frozen, make sure they’re fully thawed.
  • Sugar: You can use 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar in this recipe depending on how sweet or sour you’d like the dish to be.
  • Rice: Basmati rice works best in this recipe. Make sure to rinse it a few times to remove the excess starch.
  • Oil: You can use any neutral flavored oil to make this dish.
  • Ground beef: To make the meatballs, you need ground beef, I recommend using 90% lean meat.
  • Onion: To add to the meatball mixture, the onion should be grated and squeezed to remove the excess juice.
  • Pistachios and almonds: For the final garnish, I use slivered pistachios and almonds which you can find online or at Middle Eastern shops.
  • Saffron: We mix some cooked rice with bloomed saffron for garnish and more flavor.

How To Make Albaloo Polo

Cook the sour cherries, prepare the rice, layer and cook. Serve with meatballs.
  1. Place the pitted sour cherries in a saucepan with the sugar over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes until the sour cherries have softened. Remove them from the saucepan and simmer the liquid for another 10 minutes until it has thickened. Turn the heat off and set it aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 1 tablespoon salt to it. Add the rice and boil it for 6 to 7 minutes. You’ll know the rice is ready when you can break a grain with your fingers, the edges are soft but the middle remains firm.
  3. Drain the rice and quickly rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process. Cover the bottom of the pot with oil and arrange pieces of lavash or pita at the bottom. Add a third of the rice to the bottom of the pot, then add 1/2 cherries and a few tablespoons of the syrup. Top with more rice and the rest of the cherries as well as a few tablespoons of the syrup. Add the rest of the rice and drizzle some syrup on top.
  4. Heat the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is slightly bubbling. Pour the mixture all over the rice and around the edges. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke 5 holes on top of the rice for the moisture to escape. Wrap the lid in a towel and place it on the pot.
  5. Place the pot on medium low heat and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the rice is fluffy and tender. Meanwhile, mix the ground beef and onion with salt, pepper and turmeric. Make small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter and sear them in olive oil so they’re fully cooked and golden brown on all sides.
  6. Once the rice is ready, turn the heat off and let it sit for 10 minutes. Gently fluff it, reserve 1/2 cup of the rice, mix it with bloomed saffron and transfer the rest to a serving platter. Arrange the meatballs on the platter and top the sour cherry rice with saffron flavored rice, slivered almonds and pistachios.

Serving Suggestions

There are two ways to serve albaloo polo: with small meatballs or with saffron chicken. Both would be absolutely delicious so the choice of protein really comes down to your personal preference. Some restaurants offer albaloo polo as a side for kebabs like kabob koobideh.

We love serving albaloo polo with pickled vegetables, mast o khiar (yogurt and cucumber), plain yogurt or sabzi khordan (herb platter).

Front shot of sour cherry rice.

Storage and Freezing

Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat in a pan or saucepan over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until warm.

Sour cherry rice freezes very well. Simply transfer it to a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw in the fridge overnight and then reheat in a pan over medium heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make sour cherry rice ahead of time?

Yes, you can make this dish up to a day in advance and heat it when you’re ready to serve.

Should I sauté the slivered almonds and pistachios?

For me, this is an optional step. You can lightly sauté them in some butter if desired.

Can I use regular cherries instead of sour cherries?

Regular cherries are too large and sweet for this recipe, so I don’t recommend using them to make albaloo polo.

How can I make this dish vegetarian?

While it’s not traditional, you can use vegetarian meat alternatives to make this recipe. Make the meatballs using mashed chickpeas or lentils. You can also use alternatives such as impossible meat if desired.

Sour cherry rice with meatballs and saffron rice on top.

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please comment and leave a 5-star🌟 rating below. You can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or subscribe to our newsletter to get a free e-Cookbook!

albaloo polo Persian sour cherry rice
5 from 5 votes

Albaloo Polo (Persian Sour Cherry Rice)

Albaloo polo is a traditional Persian rice dish with sweet and sour flavors. The vibrant color and bright flavors of this dish come from the sour cherries mixed with rice and topped with saffron rice, pistachios and almonds
Prep: 35 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 8
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Ingredients 

  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron
  • 1 lb sour cherries, cleaned and pitted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil , or any other neutral flavored oil
  • 1 lavash bread
  • 4 tbsp butter

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil , or any other neutral flavored oil

Garnish

  • 2 tbsp slivered pistachios
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds

Instructions 

  • Sprinkle the saffron over 2 cubes of ice and let it melt. This will be your bloomed saffron.
  • Place the sour cherries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes until the cherries have softened but have kept their shape. Remove them from the sauce pan and simmer the syrup for another 10 minutes to thicken. Turn the heat off and set it all aside.
  • Wash the basmati rice a few times to get rid of the excess starch. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the salt. Add the rice and boil for 6 to 7 minutes. You'll know the rice is ready once you can break it between your fingers but the middle is still firm. Drain and quickly rinse with running cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Pour the oil into the same pot and place the lavash pieces at the bottom of the pot. Add 1/3 of the rice to the pot and top it with 1/2 sour cherries as well as 4-5 tablespoons of the syrup. Add another 1/3 of the rice and the remaining sour cherries and 4-5 tablespoons syrup followed by the remainder of the rice and another 3 tablespoons of the syrup. With the end of a wooden spoon, poke 5 holes into the rice for the moisture to escape.
  • Melt the butter with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour it all over the rice and around the edges. Wrap the lids in a kitchen towel and place it on the pot. Cook over medium low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until the rice is fluffy and tender.
  • Meanwhile, make the meatballs. Grate the onion and squeeze it well to get out all the excess juice. Discard the juice and mix the grated onion with the ground beef, salt, pepper and turmeric, Make small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat and sear the meatballs for about 10 minutes so they're fully cooked and golden brown on all sides.
  • Once the rice is ready, turn the heat off and let it sit for 10 minutes. Gently fluff it, reserve 1/2 cup of the rice, mix it with bloomed saffron and transfer the rest to a serving platter. Arrange the meatballs on the platter and top the sour cherry rice with saffron flavored rice, slivered almonds and pistachios.

Video

Notes

  • Make sure to use sour cherries and not regular cherries. Regular cherries are too large and sweet for this recipe. 
  • You can add more sugar if you like the dish sweeter. The amount of sugar mentioned in the recipe will give you balanced sour cherry rice. 
  • If desired, you can saute the pistachios and almonds before adding them to the rice. 
  • Make sure you’re using bastamti rice, medium or short grain rice won’t work well with Iranian recipes. 
  • Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat in a pan or a saucepan over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  • You can also freeze albaloo polo for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat as instructed. 

Nutrition

Calories: 621kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 1286mg | Potassium: 375mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 212IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Shadi HasanzadeNemati

I'm here to show you how to make delicious Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food at home. My easy to follow recipes will bring exciting new flavors to your table!

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7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wow – what an amazing flavor combo! I love using cherries in savory dishes and this was such a fantastic flavorful dish!

  2. 5 stars
    I love this unexpected (to me) flavor combination. Not only is the rice gorgeous, it’s delicious too! And, it pairs perfectly with the meatballs. Thanks for a great recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    I can’t wait to make this! Our store has sour cherries every year when they come in season, and this is going to be so good!

  4. I would love to try this dish! But, alas, I’ve never seen fresh or frozen sour cherries here in Maine. In Germany (I am from Hamburg) I had a tree in my garden and could buy fresh ones in the supermarket.

    1. Hi Karin, This is the season for sour cherries, please check your local U-pick farms and see if they have any. I’m also sure you can find them in Turkish or Mediterranean shops in the frozen section. The name in Turkish is Visne if it helps. Hope you can find some and try this dish!