Tahchin – Persian Savory Rice Cake

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Tahchin is a classic Persian dish made with saffron rice and chicken layered and baked to perfection. Follow my recipe to learn how to make this classic savory saffron rice cake that’ll be a showstopper at any gathering.


showing inside of the tahchin.


 

If you’re familiar with Persian recipes, you know that rice is a key element of this beautiful cuisine. From classic Persian rice and tahdig and potato tahdig to saffron rice and sabzi polo (herb rice), this humble grain is cooked in different ways that result in different flavors. Today, I’m showing you one of my favorite rice recipes called tahchin, aka Persian savory saffron rice cake.

What is Tahchin?

Tahchin is a combination of two words: Tah+Chin. “Tah” means bottom and “chin” means arrange. This dish is made of two elements: rice and the filling, which can be chicken, beef, lamb or vegetables.

The golden color of this saffron rice cake is a result of bloomed saffron which makes it so aromatic and full of flavor.


overhead shot of tahchin topped with barberries and pistachios.

Not to be confused with tahdig (crispy rice), tahchin has a dense texture and can be sliced using a spatula or a knife. While tahdig is what we call the bottom of the rice dish, where there is usually a crispy layer of rice, bread, or potato, tahchin is the name of the dish in its entirety.


To make tahchin you need rice, saffron, chicken, onions, spices, oil, eggs and yogurt.

The Ingredients

  • Long grain rice: I prefer basmati for this recipe since it just has enough starch and the perfect texture.
  • Yogurt: We use yogurt in this recipe to help the grains stick together. Whole milk yogurt is always preferred but you can definitely use low fat or non fat yogurt as well. 
  • Eggs: Some recipes call for only yolks to make tahchin. However, I have found that the dish will have a better texture if made with whole eggs. 
  • Saffron: The bright flavor and color of this dish comes from saffron which is an essential of the Persian pantry. You only need a few strands of saffron to make this dish and can keep the rest to use later. Keep in mind to always grind the saffron using a pestle and mortar before blooming it.
  • Vegetable oil: For this recipe, vegetable oil or other neutral oils work best.
  • Onion: To make the filling, use one large yellow or white onion and thinly slice it.
  • Chicken: For the filling, use chicken boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Spices: I used a combination of turmeric, paprika, salt and pepper. You can also add a bit of bloomed saffron if desired.
  • Barberries: If you’re not familiar with barberries, now is the time. They are a bit tart and are usually used to top rice dishes. You need to saute them in some butter before using them as garnish.

How To Make Tahchin

Step 1: Bloom the saffron

Grind the saffron using a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle the ground saffron over 2-3 cubes of ice in a small bowl or cup. Let it melt at room temperature.

bloomed saffron in a cup.

Step 2: Prepare the filling

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion until golden and soft. Add in the chicken followed by the spices. Cook for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Add 1 tablespoon bloomed saffron, turn the heat off and set the filling aside.

Saute the onion with chicken and spices.

Step 3: Par-cook the rice

Rinse rice a few times and set it aside. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the rice. Boil for about 5 to 7 minutes until it’s half-cooked, meaning the grains are soft on the outside and still hard on the inside. Drain and set the rice aside. 

Parcook the rice until the exterior is soft but inside still is hard.

Step 4: Make the egg and saffron mixture

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, yogurt, vegetable oil and saffron until combined. Add the par cooked rice and stir until the mixture covers all grains.

Mix the eggs, yogurt, oil, saffron and salt with the par cooked rice.

Step 5: Layer

Brush the bottom of a 9×9 pan (preferably glass/pyrex) with oil and spread half of the rice mixture in the pan. Top with the chicken mix and finish with the rest of the rice mixture.

Layer the rice and chicken.

Step 6: Bake in the oven

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 20 minutes until the top is set and golden with bits of golden brown rice.

Step 7: Flip and serve

Let the tahchin cool for 20 minutes undisturbed. Loosen the rice from all sides, place a large platter over the pan and flip it quickly and confidently. The rice should fall off the pan onto the platter without a problem.

Flip the tahchin and remove the dish.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the oil. Add in the barberries and sugar. cook on medium for 3 to 5 minutes until the barberries are shiny. Keep a close eye so they won’t burn. Turn the heat off.

Cook the barberries in oil and butter with sugar.

Top the tahchin with sauteed barberries, slivered almond and pistachios. Slice and serve.

close up look of tahchin.

Can I Make Tahchin Without The Chicken Layer?

Yes, it’s common to make tahchin without chicken. Simply transfer all the rice and saffron mixture into the greased pan, cover and bake for about 1 hour. The dish is ready once the top is set and the bottom is completely golden brown.


A piece of tahchin cut and on the platter.

Variations

There are a few variations of this dish and all are very delicious. A common one if lamb and eggplant where lamb is previously cooked, then sauteed with some onion and is layered with roasted or fried eggplant between the two layers of rice.

For a vegetarian version, use a combination of sauteed mushrooms and onions layered with roasted eggplant.

Serving Suggestions

I love serving tahchin with chicken cooked in a delicious thick tomato sauce or saffron chicken. A couple of side dishes such as salad shirazi and mast o khiar will turn this into the ultimate Persian feast! 


Front shot of Persian savory saffron rice cake.

Storage

Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. It’s best to reheat the leftovers in the oven.

I don’t recommend freezing tahchin since the flavor and texture would change and would become slightly grainy.


Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between tahchin and tahdig?

Tahdig is the crispy bottom of the part deliciousness that is made with Persian rice. It’s made with rice, potatoes or flatbreads like lavash. Tahchin on the other hand, is a complete meal on its own and is usually served with chicken. You might see it referred to as tahchin morgh on a menu when served with chicken.

Can I leave out the eggs in tahchin?

Egg are what bind the rice and yogurt and give the dish its dense texture. In order to make this dish egg-free, you need to use egg substitutes such as flax eggs or Just Eggs (plant based eggs). Cooking time may vary.

Can I make tahchin dairy-free?

Yes, you can use Greek style vegan yogurt to make this dish dairy-free.

More Persian recipes

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Tahchin is a classic Persian dish made with saffron rice and chicken layered and baked to perfection. Follow my recipe to learn how to make this classic savory saffron rice cake that'll be a showstopper at any gathering.
4.77 from 21 votes

Persian Savory Saffron Cake – Tahchin

Tahchin is a classic Persian dish made with saffron rice and chicken layered and baked to perfection. Follow my recipe to learn how to make this classic savory saffron rice cake that'll be a showstopper at any gathering.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 40 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Servings: 8 servings
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Ingredients 

Bloomed Saffron

  • 12 strands Saffron
  • 3 cubes Ice

Chicken Filling

  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Yellow onion, sliced
  • 12 oz Chicken breast, about 2 pieces
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt

Rice Mix

  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil, or any other neutral flavored oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp Bloomed Saffron

Barberries

  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 Cup Dried Barberries
  • 1/2 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Rose Water

Garnish

  • 2 tbsp Slivered Almonds
  • 2 tbsp Slivered Pistachios

Instructions 

Prepare the saffron

  • Grind the saffron using a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle the ground saffron over the ice cubes in a bowl or a cup and let it melt completely. This will be your bloomed saffron.

Prepare the chicken

  • Heat the olive oil in a pan. Saute the onion for 5 to 10 minutes until tender and slightly golden.
  • Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and add to the onion. Add in the turmeric, paprika and salt. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked completely. If desired, add 1 tablespoon bloomed saffron to the chicken. Turn the heat off and set it aside.

Prepare the rice

  • Rinse the rice a few times and set it aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with kosher salt.
  • Add rice to the boiling water, cook for 8 minutes until the rice is soft on the outside but firm on the inside. 
  • Drain the rice through a colander and set it aside.

Assemble

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan with oil.
  • Place the yogurt, oil, eggs and salt in a large bowl whisk until combined. Stir in the bloomed saffron.
  • Gently fold in the parboiled rice.
  • Spread half of the rice mixture in the baking pan. Top with the chicken and onion mix. Add the remaining rice mixture and spread it evenly to cover the chicken.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and poke holes into the aluminum foil using a toothpick.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The dish is ready once the bottom is golden brown and top is slightly golden and dry. A toothpick inserted into the rice should come out clean.
  • Let the tahchin cool for 10 to 20 minutes.

Prepare the barberries

  • Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add in the oil as well.
  • Add in the barberries, stir until coated with butter. 
  • Stir in the sugar and rose water. Cook for a minute or two until the barberries are shiny.

To Serve:

  • Once the Tahchin is cool enough to handle, loosen the sides with a knife or spatula. Place a platter over the pan and flip it quickly and confidently. Top it with barberries, slivered almond and slivered pistachios. 

Video

Notes

  • I recommend using a glass (pyrex) dish so you can see the bottom when the dish is done. However, you can also use ceramic or metal pans
  • For a vegan option, use flax eggs (equivalent to 3 eggs) and vegan Greek style yogurt. As for the filling, you can use roasted eggplant and sauteed mushrooms. 
  • Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven. 

Nutrition

Calories: 546kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 1418mg | Potassium: 343mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 322IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 1mg

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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