Persian Rice is the key element of Persian cuisine. Learn the easiest method with details once and make perfect Persian rice with a crispy golden crust called Tahdig every time.
This post was first published on April 16th, 2016. This is an updated recipe and post.
It’s time to get around to one of the most important components of Persian cuisine: The glorious rice with Tahdig! Bet you’ve heard about it, right? The fluffy rice flavored with saffron served with a crispy magical bread (or slices of potatoes) which you would always wonder about. How do these people make it so perfectly? Well, It’s time for you to learn how to make it perfectly.
No, you don’t need a Persian by your side to make the perfect Persian rice. Yes, you do need to go through this post very carefully and read all the details about how to make Persian rice with Tahdig in order to perfect it every time.
Thanks to you, my dear readers and your amazing interest in Persian cooking, I’m here with another very detailed Persian recipe that answers all your potential questions about how to make Persian rice which is also called chelow. Rice is the most important part of Persian dishes as stews such as ghormeh sabzi are served with it and there are also many mixed rice dishes such as adas polo (Persian rice with lentils) and zereshk polo (Persian rice with barberries). There are various types of Persian rice recipes that I would love to share with you. Good news is that the process to make different rice recipes is the same as this Iranian rice and only extra ingredients such as nuts and herbs are added in the further steps.
What rice should I use to make Persian rice?
To make Persian white rice, you need long grain rice such as Basmati. Long grain rice keeps its shape while steaming and doesn’t get mushy or sticky easily. Short grains tend to stick together whereas what we need is rice that ends up being fluffy and having separated grains. If you live in an area that you have access to Persian supermarkets that sell Persian rice, go for it. Otherwise Basmati is the best choice. I always use Basmati rice and I’m very happy with it.
How to make Persian rice with golden crust?
Making Persian rice might seem intimating but it’s actually quite easy. Rice, water, oil and salt are the basic ingredients that this Persian rice recipe calls for. Start with washing and rinsing the rice twice. This will help getting rid of extra starch in rice. Next, bring water to boil in a large pot and once it’s boiling, add some salt and pour in the rice. Cook the rice for about 7 minutes. Take a grain out and try to break it into half using your fingertips. The rice should be soft on the edges and firm in the middle. We don’t want the rice to cook completely as we are going to cook it again.
Using a colander with small holes, strain the rice and immediately pour cold water over it. This will stop the cooking process for now. Dry the pot, put it on the stove and pour 1/8 cup vegetable oil in it, covering the bottom completely. If you like, add some bloomed saffron to the oil. Place a flour tortilla or two (depending on the size of the pot) at the bottom, covering the bottom of the pot entirely. Transfer the par cooked rice slowly to the pot and shape it like a mountain. Using the end of the spatula, make 4-5 holes in the rice, this will help the steam escape and prevents rice from becoming sticky. Pour some water around the edges. Cover the lid in a towel and place it on the pot. Place the pot over medium high heat for 7 to 10 minutes until the steam comes up.
Once the steam is up, pour 4 tablespoons vegetable oil on the rice and cover again. Turn the heat to medium low and steam the rice for another 30 to 40 minutes until it’s cooked. If after 30 minutes the rice is not cooked, add 1/4 cup water to help it steam more. Cooking the rice first on medium high makes the tahdig crispy and golden. Don’t steam the rice over medium high heat for more than 10-15 minutes as it might burn. Also, don’t start steaming over medium low or even medium because the tahdig will end up being soft and not crunchy.
To make the Persian saffron rice on the top, take four or five tablespoons of cooked rice and place it in a bowl. Add in one to two tablespoons bloomed saffron to the rice and mix using a spoon. Once you transfer the white rice to the serving platter, spread the saffron rice mixture on top. To serve Tahdig, reach to the bottom of the pot, take the Tahdig out and either serve it whole or break it into pieces.
Notes and tips to make Persian rice:
- Some advise soaking the rice in water overnight. I don’t do that, especially with Basmati rice as its texture is different from Iranian rice.
- Choosing the right pot to make Persian rice is very important. Non-stick pots work best here (usually a 6 quart). Dutch ovens are not suitable for this recipe as they keep too much moisture which will make the Tahdig soft and the rice sticky.
- Make sure the vegetable oil covers the entire bottom of your pot. This is the key to a good crispy Tahdig.
- The reason we cover the lid in a towel before putting it on the pot to start steaming is that the towel will absorb the steam so it won’t drip into the rice.
- Tahdig is best served immediately. However you can store the rice in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Persian Steamed White Rice - Chelow
Persian Rice is the key element of Persian cuisine. Learn the easiest method with details once and make perfect Persian rice with crispy golden crust called Tahdig every time.
- 3 cups Basmati Rice
- 8 cups water
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp bloomed saffron
- 2 Flour tortillas Lavash or any type of thin bread (whole or cut into pieces)
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
Rinse Basmati rice twice and let it aside. This will help reduce the amount of starch in the rice.
Fill a large pot with 8 cups water and bring it to boil over high heat.
Add rinsed Basmati rice and salt to water and let it boil for 7 minutes. Check one grain of rice, the grain should be soft on the edges and you would be able to break it into two using your finger tips but the grain should still be firm in the middle.
Place a colander in the sink (sink should be clean) and pour the rice and water into the colander, let the water drain.
Pour some cold water on the rice to stop the cooking process.
Dry the same pot, pour 1/8 cup vegetable oil at the bottom of the pot. Make sure it cover the bottom of the pot completely. Heat on medium heat.
Pour saffron at the bottom of the pot (This would give more flavor and aroma to the crispy bottom - Tahdig, but it's optional)
Place tortillas at the bottom of the pot, cover the bottom entirely.
Scoop the rice back into the pot, try to bring most of the rice in the middle, making a mountain shape.
Using the end of a spatula, make 5 holes in the rice to let the steam out. This helps the rice not to be sticky and lets the steam come out.
Add 1/2 cup water around the edges of the rice. Cover the lid in a towel and put it on the pot.
Cook over medium high heat for almost 7 to 10 minutes, until the rice starts steaming.
Once the rice starts steaming, pour 4 tbsp vegetable oil on the rice, cover again and let it steam for another 30-40 minutes on medium low until fully cooked.
Check again and if the rice was not cooked fully, add 1/4 cup more water. Then let it steam for another 10 minutes.
To serve, turn the heat off. Transfer the rice into the serving platter using a spatula or a large spoon. Then reach to the bottom of the pot and take the flour tortilla (Tahdig) out. Cut it into pieces and serve with rice.
Serve warm with a delicious Persian stew, or as a side for grilled meat and veggies.
To serve, you can mix some of the white rice with a table spoon of bloomed saffron and top the white rice with it.