Ghormeh Sabzi is among the most essential Persian recipes. It is often considered to be the national dish of Iran and its rich, aromatic flavor is celebrated in Persian communities around the world. Consisting of flavorful herbs and lamb, ghormeh sabzi is a cornerstone of Persian cuisine.
When it comes to Persian recipes, we have them all here for you. From gheimeh (Persian split chickpea stew) and fesenjan (Persian pomegranate and walnut stew), to our popular zereshk polo morgh (Persian rice and barberry rice with chicken, there is a delicious Persian recipe for everyone here. Today we are sharing one of the Persian classics with you: ghormeh sabzi, a delicious herb stew that Persian families know by heart and often describe as their favorite dish.
What is ghormeh sabzi?
Known to some as "Iran's national dish", ghormeh sabzi is a stew made of several types of herbs, red kidney beans, Persian dried limes and lamb. The base of this amazing dish is herbs sauteed in oil and mixed with lamb and beans, cooked over medium heat to perfection, then served with Persian rice and tahdig or kateh.
What does ghormeh mean?
Ghormeh means fried with an old fashioned Persian method coming from Turkish word kavurmak which means "braised". Sabzi means herbs in Farsi and together they form the word ghormeh sabzi which literally means braised meat with herbs.
The significance of ghormeh sabzi
Like having fresh bread in the morning, having this Persian herb stew on Fridays has been a ritual in our family (and many other Iranian families) for generations, just like a Sunday pot roast or a Friday night pizza to many Americans.
In Iran, Friday is the last day of the week. Iranians don't work on Fridays and usually stay home. We always had ghormeh sabzi on Fridays because the best part of this beautiful dish is being hypnotized by its aroma while it's simmering to perfection for hours.
Ghormeh Sabzi Ingredients
Let's take a look at the ingredient list. To make this delicious stew you will need herbs and lamb, as well as some other Persian pantry staples. Here are some notes about each ingredient:
- Herbs: parsley, cilantro, chives and fenugreek (known as Shanbalileh in Farsi). If fresh fenugreek is not available, you can always find dry ones (affiliate link), which will work just as well. Make sure you don't use too much fenugreek as it will make your stew taste bitter.
- Meat: Traditionally, ghormeh sabzi is made with lamb chunks that are cut into 2-inch pieces. However, it tastes great with beef stew meat, too. Also, if you want to make this dish vegetarian, you can easily leave the meat out.
- Beans: Most recipes call for at least one of three different types of beans: pinto beans, kidney beans or black eyed peas. I grew up with the kidney beans version but I've tried pinto beans and black eyed peas (which are more common in Tabriz, a city in the north west of Iran) and they're amazing, too.
- Persian Dried Limes: These give an amazing subtle sour flavor to the dish. They are different from regular limes as they're dried and the color is light brown. You can order them online on Amazon (affiliate link).
How to make ghormeh sabzi
Making ghormeh sabzi doesn't require any special skill and it's actually pretty simple if you follow the recipe closely. Be sure to watch our step-by-step video tutorial.
- If using dried kidney beans, soak them in water for 3 to 8 hours.
- Wash the herbs and dry them thoroughly. Chop them finely and set aside.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large pan and once it's hot, saute herbs for about 15 minutes, until they are a bit dark in color and aromatic. Turn the heat off and set the herbs aside.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large pot and saute onion until golden brown. Add in the lamb and the turmeric. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the lamb is seared on all sides.
- Add in water, and bring it to simmer. Rinse the soaked beans and add them to the lamb (check our information below on using canned beans). Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add in sauteed herbs to the stew. Cover and cook for another 1 to 1 ½ hours, until the lamb and beans are fully cooked.
- Pierce the dried limes using a fork and add them to the stew. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
- Serve warm with rice.
Ghormeh Sabzi with dried herbs
It's interesting to know that you can make ghormeh sabzi using dried herbs. You can find dried herbs to make this Persian stew here (affiliate link). I personally prefer using dried herbs to fresh herbs for two reasons: first, it's much easier than washing the herbs, drying and chopping them and second, using dried herbs reduces your total cooking time.
You need 5 tablespoons of ghormeh sabzi dried herbs mix per person. Soak dried herbs in water for 10 minutes and squeeze hard so all the water is released. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and once hot, saute the herbs for 5 minutes until the excess water is evaporated. Then add about ⅓ cup vegetable oil and saute for 15-25 minutes until they herbs are aromatic and a little dark in color. Turn the heat off and set it aside.
Heat vegetable oil in a large pot and saute onion until golden. Add in cubed lamb and turmeric. Sear until it's golden on all sides. Add in water and bring it to a simmer. Rinse the soaked beans and add them to the stew. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add sauteed herbs to the stew and give it a nice stir. Cover and cook for about 2 hours. Poke holes into the dried limes and add them to the stew. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with white rice.
Can I use canned kidney beans instead of dried beans?
Absolutely. Even though dried kidney beans are used in ghormeh sabzi recipes but canned beans can be used as well. If using canned beans, make sure you add them right before adding Persian limes to the stew. As they're already cooked, we don't want them cook in the stew for long.
Instant pot ghormeh sabzi
I love using my instant pot to make this Persian stew since it takes less than an hour to make it from start to finish. To make ghormeh sabzi in instant pot. It's best to use canned kidney beans so the beans can keep their shape.
- Press the saute button on the instant pot and pour in the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, saute onion in vegetable oil until golden. Add in lamb cubes and brown on all sides.
- Heat a large pan over medium heat. Saute the herbs (fresh or dried and soaked) in the pan for a few minutes. Add in vegetable oil and saute for 15 minutes until the herbs are darker.
- Add the herbs to the lamb and onion. Pour in water and lock the lid. Press the pressure cook button and set the timer for 20 minutes. Add more time your the lamb pieces your using are larger than 1.5 inch.
- Once the time is up, let the press release naturally.
- Open the lid, press the saute button and add rinsed canned kidney beans to the stew.
- Poke the Amani limes and add the to the stew. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Serve warm with rice.
Using a slow cooker
It's also common to use slow cooker to make ghormeh sabzi since Iranians believe that the longer it simmers, the tastier it will be. Please make sure you use canned kidney beans if you're making this stew in the slow cooker.
If using a slow cooker, prepare the sauteed herbs, onion and lamb as instructed in the recipe card. Place seared lamb and onion, and herbs in the slow cooker and add in water. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8 hours. Once the lamb is fully cooked, add in rinsed canned kidney beans and poked Persian dried limes. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Then serve it warm with some white rice.
How can I make vegetarian ghormeh sabzi?
Easy! You simply leave the meat out and proceed with the recipe. Start with preparing the sauteed herbs (dried or fresh method). Then heat some oil in a pot and saute some chopped onion until golden brown. Once the onion is ready, add in the turmeric and give it a nice stir. Next, add in water, bring it to boil and then add the beans (if not already cooked). Once the beans are half cooked, add in the sauteed herbs, bring to simmer again and let it cook for an hour. Lastly, add in the poked Persian limes and cook for another 15 minutes.
I've seen my vegetarian friends adding mushrooms to ghormeh sabzi and I think it is really delicious. If you're planning to leave the meat out, you might want to saute some mushrooms with the onions.
Notes and tips for this recipe:
- Ghormeh sabzi tastes best the day after you cook it. I love to mix it with some rice and then heat it in a pan over medium heat. Comfort food, Persian style!
- Traditionally, Persian ghormeh sabzi is served with rice and tahdig. However, you can also serve it with instant pot white rice or instant pot brown rice.
- Ghormeh sabzi, or any other Persian stew for that matter, is served with rice. You can serve the rice in a large platter and the stew in bowls to be shared by two or three people at each side of the table. You can also serve it in a large serving dish, or divide it into individual bowls for each person.
- Ghormeh sabzi should be almost as thick as chili. It shouldn't be watery. If you notice that the stew is too watery, just turn up the heat and wait for the excess water to evaporate.
- Don't forget to add salt and pepper to the stew before serving.
What I hear a lot from people is that Persian food looks complicated and difficult to make. They say that there's just not enough time to make these beautiful dishes!
What if I tell you that it's not difficult to make Persian recipes? They're just new.
Persian food isn't difficult to make!
New might seem scary or intimidating. But it's not impossible. Have fun challenging yourself to try new foods. Persian food shouldn't be just the lunch your Persian coworker brought to the office and offered you a bite of, or a faded memory from you 3rd grade Persian friend's school lunch which was probably ghormeh sabzi when everyone else had PB&J. Persian food can be a delicious soup you make on a winter evening or a delicious fresh pot of ghormeh sabzi on a Sunday with your non-Persian family in the comfort of your home.
With a little direction and help, which I hope I can provide, you can make amazing Persian recipes at home and enjoy a new aspect of Middle Eastern food that's beyond everything you've ever tried. It's new, it's exciting, exotic and so fun!
And if you're in the mood for Persian food, here are some of my favorites:
- Persian One Pot Tomato Rice - Dami Gojeh Farangi
- Kabab Tabei - Persian Pan Kebab
- Persian Spinach and Eggs - Nargesi
- Persian Eggplant Soup
- Kuku Sabzi (Persian Herb Frittata)
- Sabzi Polo (Persian Herb Rice)
Ghormeh Sabzi - Persian Herb Stew
- 1 cup dry kidney beans See the notes for using canned beans
- 4 bunches parsley
- 3 bunches cilantro
- 2 bunches chives
- 1 bunch fenugreek or 1 tbsp dry fenugreek leaves
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil + 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1.5 lb beef or lamb cubed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 4-5 cups water
- 4-5 Persian dried limes Limoo amani
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak kidney beans in a bowl of water for 2-3 hours.
- Wash parsley, cilantro, chives and fenugreek. Pat dry and chop very finely.
- Heat a dry pan on low heat and saute the herbs for about 10 minutes until they dry out a bit. Add ⅓ cup vegetable oil and saute for 15 more minutes on low heat. Set aside.
- Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent.
- Add cubed beef or lamb and turmeric, Saute until the color is light brown.
- Add 4-5 cups of water and bring to boil, then turn the heat to medium-low so it simmers lightly.
- Rinse kidney beans and add it to the stew.
- Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add sauteed herbs and cover. Cook for 1 - 1 ½ hour on low heat.
- Poke Persian dried limes with a fork and add them to the stew. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 15 minutes.
- Serve with Persian Steamed White Rice
- In case of using canned kidney beans, rinse them and add them in the end right before Persian dried lime.
- You can make ghormeh sabzi using dried herb mix. Soak the herb mix in water for 10 minutes, squeeze out the water and saute the herbs in vegetable or olive oil. Then proceed with the recipe. (more information in the post)
- To make ghormeh sabzi in instant pot:
- Press saute button on instant pot and heat the vegetable oil. Saute onion until golden brown and add the lamb and turmeric. Sear until brown.
- In a large pan, cook the herbs with oil for about 15 minutes until dark in color.
- Add the herbs to the lamb and onion. Add water and lock the lid. Set the timer for 20 minutes. When the time is up, do a natural release.
- Open the lid and add rinsed canned kidney beans and poked Persian dried limes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Press the saute button and simmer with the lid off for about 15 minutes.
- To make ghormeh sabzi in slow cooker:
- Follow the recipe up until having sauteed onion and lamb and sauteed herbs.
- Place them in the slow cooker and add water.
- Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8 hours.
- Add in rinsed canned beans and Persian dried limes.
- Cook on high for about 30 minutes.
- Serve warm with rice.