Persian rice is the key element of Persian cuisine. This post will help you master the essential Persian rice with a crispy golden crust, known as tahdig.
Rice is one of the staples in our kitchen and we have many recipes revolving around rice such as Persian tomato rice, dill rice with peas and tahchin. Today’s rice recipe with tahdig is one of the most essential recipes in Persian cuisine.
A fluffy Persian rice recipe
It’s time to get around to one of the most important components of Persian cuisine: The glorious rice with tahdig! I bet you’ve heard of 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 master this staple of our food culture.
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 pay attention to the details below to ensure a perfect pot of rice every time.
The classic recipe for Persian-style rice and tahdig
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 or kebabs like joojeh kabab are served with it and there are also many mixed rice dishes such as adas polo (rice with lentils) and zereshk polo (rice with barberries). Indeed, there are so many rice-based Persian recipes that I would love to share with you. The good news is that the basic process to make all these different rice recipes is the same as this Iranian rice; other rice dishes simply involve the addition of ingredients, such as nuts and herbs.
What rice should I use to make Persian rice?
To make Persian white rice, you need a 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.
What is tahdig?
That crispy bottom layer of an Iranian rice dish is called tahdig. It’s probably the most delicious part of any Iranian dish. Trust me, people fight over it! In the olden days, tahdig was used to preserve the rice and avoid burning. However, over the years, this bottom layer became the most savored part of any rice dish.
Different types of tahdig
Tahdig can be made with rice, bread, potatoes and even lettuce, including a Persian herb rice called sabzi polo. Tahdig is usually crispy and very flavorful, as it forms at the bottom of the pot while the rice is being cooked. You can find the detailed tahdig recipe below alongside the full description on how to make Persian rice. Let’s take a look at different types of tahdig recipes:
- Rice tahdig: The most basic types of tahdig, rice tahdig is made simply by pouring some oil into the pot and add the rice all at once. There will be a crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pot.
- Potato tahdig: One of the most popular tahdig recipes out there, potato tahdig (Tahdig sibzamini) is made with golden potatoes placed at the bottom of the pot. The result is crispy golden potatoes flavored with saffron. I have written a complete tutorial on how to make potato tahdig on epicurious.
- Lettuce tahdig: An interesting twist on the classic tahdig, lettuce tahdig is mostly common to serve with Persian herb rice. Please check out our Persian herb rice recipe for the complete recipe for making lettuce tahdig.
- Bread tahdig: The most common type of tahdig usually made with thin bread such as lavash or tortillas. The crispy bread at the bottom is super tasty. The full tutorial for this bread tahdig is in the recipe card.
How do I ensure a golden crust?
Making Persian rice might seem intimating but it’s actually quite easy. Rice, water, oil and salt are the basic ingredients for this recipe. Here are the steps that lead to a tasty pot of rice, Persian-style:
Par-cook the rice
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 seven 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.
Prepare tahdig and cook the rice
To make tahdig with bread place a flour tortilla (or Lavash) 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 prevent the 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 of 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.
Saffron rice topping
To make the saffron topping, take four or five tablespoons of completely 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.
Flipping the rice and tahdig
Through the internet, you see many recipes and photos of a flipped rice and tahdig. It’s important to know that flipping the rice is not the only way to serve Persian rice. To be able to flip the rice, you need to press the rice in the pot so it sticks a bit together. This might result in the final cooked rice to be a bit stickier. Also, some find it intimidating to flip the rice. It’s totally okay to serve the rice in a large platter and then break the tahdig into smaller pieces and serve it on another plate or on the side of the rice.
What to serve with Persian white rice
Iranian traditionally serve this rice with a stew. Some of the popular stews to serve with rice are:
- Ghormeh sabzi (Persian herb stew)
- Fesenjan (Persian pomegranate and walnut stew)
- Khoresh Karafs (Persian celery stew)
- Khoresh Gheimeh (Persian split chickpea stew)
Notes and tips:
- Some advise soaking the rice in water overnight. I don’t do that, especially with Basmati rice as its texture is different from the rice one would find in Iran.
- Choosing the right pot in which 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.
- It’s best to serve tahdig immediately. However you can store the rice in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Looking for more rice recipes?
Tools and Ingredients for make Persian Rice and Tahdig:
Persian Steamed White Rice - Chelow
- 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)
- 1/4 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 1/4 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.