Zereshk Polo Morgh – Persian Barberry Rice with Chicken

4.72 from 49 votes
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Zereshk polo morgh is one of the most famous dishes in Persian cuisine. It’s full of wonderful flavors such as saffron, turmeric and barberry.

Zereshk polo morgh is a dish full of amazing flavors including saffron!


 

Many of you have raved about our Persian recipes and tried so many of them. Some of our popular Persian recipes are joojeh kabab (Persian saffron chicken kabobs), Persian rice and tahdig and Persian chicken with saffron. This Persian chicken and rice recipe is another beloved classic. Saffron rice topped with delicious chicken strikes a perfect balance between being easy enough for a weeknight dinner and fancy enough for an elegant Persian feast!

An easy protein to work with

Chicken is such a simple yet mighty protein that you can use for any kind of meal from comfort food to a fancy date night dinner. With a little creativity and good selection of ingredients, you can turn this humble protein to a wonderful meal! You can turn it into a sheet pan Mediterranean chicken for a quick dinner, or make delicious harissa chicken and serve it with some couscous. Chicken is also perfect for one pan meals such as Greek chicken and rice. To say the least, the sky is the limit when it comes to cooking with chicken.

Persian saffron barberry rice

If I had to choose only one flavor for the rest of my life, that flavor would definitely be saffron. Something about it makes it festive, magical and dreamy. It’s sweet, it’s savory and it comes from a gorgeous flower.  And it travels a long way to be ready for use in our kitchens.  That’s why I respect this spice so much.  It has a special place in my spice drawer.  I keep it in a special jar and I always say that it’s the best spice of them all.  

Ingredients

1- Saffron

There are a couple of different methods to bloom saffron. First of all, you should make sure to grind it finely and never use the whole threads. The method we use to bloom saffron is to place one cube of ice in a very tiny cup, sprinkle a few (1/8 – 1/4 tsp) grinds of saffron on it and let it sit at room temperature until the ice is fully melted and saffron is dissolved. You have the perfect bloomed saffron if the liquid has a bright orange color. Check out our post about blooming saffron to read more about saffron and its benefits.

2- Barberries

Barberry is an ingredient that we use often have in a Persian pantry. You can find it in Middle Eastern stores or online (affiliate). I will post another recipe using barberries soon. It is sour and tasty, we usually mix it with some sugar to give it a sweet kick too. To make the barberry topping for zereshk polo morgh, we mix them with a little water, oil, sugar and saffron, then cook them over low hit for some minutes until they are dark red and shiny. Be very careful not to overcook them because they will stick to your teeth!

3- Rice

This recipe will require you to make some rice. You can easily make my Persian style rice and take some of the rice off the top, mix it with saffron and serve the rest on a plate and top it with saffron rice mixed with barberries.

Zereshk polo morgh is a dish full of amazing flavors including saffron!

Preparation instructions

Zereshk polo morgh is a full meal that has two parts:

Zereshk polo: Barberry (Zereshk) saffron rice.

Morgh: Chicken which is cooked in an easy flavorful tomato sauce. 

Like many other Persian dishes, methods of cooking depending on the maman cooking it, the method I am posting here is how my maman makes it and to me, it’s the best and most delicious in the world. 

To make the tomato paste sauce, heat some olive oil in a small sauce pan and lightly heat black pepper, turmeric and salt in it. Add in the tomato paste and cook it for a few minutes. Then, add in water and bring it to a low simmer. Cook for about 3 minutes and turn the heat off.

Like Persian chicken with saffron, it’s best to sear spiced chicken first until golden brown, take it out of the pan, sautes onions, carrots and peppers in the same pan, add salt, pepper, turmeric and saffron (you can also use your homemade advieh here) and then places the chicken on top and add the tomato paste sauce to the chicken and veggies and let everything simmer and cook for almost 40 minutes. If we want it really super delicious, we add a tad bit of butter to it too.

“Butter Makes Zereshk Polo Morgh Better!”

Serving suggestions

To serve this beautiful recipe, we sometime place the rice and chicken in two different big serving dishes and pour the sauce with the veggies over the chicken. If we serve them in individual plates, we serve the sauce in a separate bowl so everyone can pour it on their chicken as desired. You can also serve it with some salad shirazi or mast o khiar (Persian yogurt and cucumber) on the side!

Zereshk polo morgh is a dish full of amazing flavors including saffron!

Zereshk polo morgh is so delicious that it is worth every second spent in the kitchen making it. It’s a story of spices, homemade food, family and love, all in one spoonful of deliciousness!

Tools and ingredients used in making this recipe

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4.72 from 49 votes

Zereshk Polo Morgh – Persian Barberry Rice with Chicken

Zereshk polo morgh is one of the most famous dishes in Persian cuisine. It's full of wonderful flavors such as saffron, turmeric and barberry.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
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Ingredients 

Liquid Saffron:

  • 1/2 tsp ground saffron
  • 4 ice cubes

Tomato Paste Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup water

Chicken:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • 1.5 lb chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-off
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp liquid saffron

Veggies:

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 tbsp liquid saffron

Barberries:

  • 3 tbsp barberries
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp liquid saffron

To serve:

  • 2 times the recipe of Persian Style Rice, on the blog
  • 2 tbsp liquid saffron

Instructions 

Liquid Saffron:

  • Place the ice cubes in a very small cup and sprinkle saffron on top. Let it sit in room temperature until fully melted and saffron is dissolved. For more details, check out how to bloom saffron.

Tomato Paste Sauce:

  • Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Add turmeric, salt and pepper and let the spices mix for 30 seconds.
  • Add tomato paste and saute until dark red.
  • Add water and bring to boil, let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Put it aside.

Chicken and Veggies:

  • Sprinkle the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a big pan over medium heat.
  • Add butter and let it melt.
  • Put the chicken thighs in the pan, skin side down.
  • Pour liquid saffron all around the pan, tilt the pan a bit so the saffron gets to the skin.
  • Sear the chicken until the skin is golden brown and crispy, about 7 minutes.
  • Flip the chicken thighs so the other side also gets golden brown. About 5 minutes.
  • Take the chicken thighs out of the pan, add onion, bell pepper and carrots to the pan. There is no need for more oil as the chicken thighs have rendered fat.
  • Saute the veggies for 2 minutes and place the chicken on them, skin side up.
  • Add the tomato paste sauce to the pan and add the liquid saffron.
  • Bring to simmer and let it cook on low heat for 40-45 minutes until veggies are soft and the chicken is fully cooked.
  • Meanwhile make the rice. (Recipe on the blog)
  • minutes before serving, prepare the barberries:
  • Put the barberries, water, oil, sugar and liquid saffron. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • Put the pan on low heat and cook the barberries until bright red and shiny.

To Serve:

  • Take 4-5 tbsp of Persian style rice and mix it with 2 tbsp liquid saffron, set it aside. You can mix some cooked barberries into it or just serve the barberries on top.
  • Serve some Persian style rice on a plate and add the saffron barberry rice on top of it.
  • Serve the chicken on the side with some sauce drizzled on top and some served in a bowl for additional taste.

Notes

  • To make the rice, check out our tutorials on Persian rice and tahdig, easy Persian style rice or instant pot white rice.
  • You can find barberries at any Iranian or middle eastern shop. 
  • Don’t overcook the chicken as it might dry out. The chicken is ready once the internal temperature registers at 165ºF.
  • Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. 

Nutrition

Calories: 562kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 168mg | Sodium: 1131mg | Potassium: 671mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 6358IU | Vitamin C: 44mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 2mg

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

Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

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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4.72 from 49 votes (18 ratings without comment)

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59 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The spices on this chicken make this a fantastic meal for when you are looking for lots of flavors. Perfect for date night.

  2. 5 stars
    I just made this on Quarantine Day 15 🤣🤣🤣🤣 Its amazing!!! Just like the Persian restaurant by my house. Thank you. I love the carrot added in. It adds a little sweetness.

  3. 5 stars
    Thanks, I want to clarify about the saffron. Doesn’t it always come in whole threads, so I should use the threads in water? Is it bad to just use threads in a sauce?

    1. Hi Cindy, yes, saffron always comes in threads but when it’s crushed into powder, the aroma, flavor and color will be stronger therefore I suggest you use a pestle and mortar to grind the threads.

  4. 5 stars
    This sounds amazing! I can’t wait to give it a try soon. Thank you for sharing this authentic and delicious recipe.

  5. 3 stars
    I like how it has vegetables. I didn’t even know that you can do it like that. When I get this dish at Persian restaurants it’s literally just rice and the chicken. However, I feel it’s not spicy enough with just the half a tablespoon of turmeric and very stingy on the saffron.

    1. Hi Dennis, thank you for your comment. Did you try this recipe? Persian food is not supposed to be spicy and a little bit of saffron goes a long way. You want all the flavors to balance together, not one spice overpowering the others.

  6. 5 stars
    Hello. This recipe looks and sounds delicious. I am missing a very dear friend who was Persian and look forward to making this in her honor. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Whitney. Thank you for your kind comment. It’s a very nice thing you’re going to do honor of your friend <3 I really hope you enjoy this recipe.

  7. 5 stars
    There are SO many great tips in this post! I love the way you bloom the saffron – I need to try that soon! My father brought some Persian saffron for me the last time he visited from Iran and I’ve been rationing it very carefully. I also have barberries that I bought from my local Middle Eastern market but haven’t used them yet. This dish will most definitely be on our dinner menu soon!

    1. Hi Ashley! Thank you for your kind comment! I try my best to mention all the tips and tricks for Persian cooking 🙂 Hope you make zereshk polo soon and love it! <3

  8. 4 stars
    Morgh does not traditionally have bell peppers and carrots in it. Also the order of making the chicken is all wrong. First sauté onions, then add the chicken to the pot along with the spices. Saute until the chicken is slightly brown, then add your water/broth. Let stew until the chicken is ready.

    to make the saffron liquid your grind up the saffron (use salt or sugar to grind and weigh down the saffron) and then dilute the powder with hot water.

    1. Hey Leyla 🙂 Looks like you’re an expert in Persian cooking 🙂 You know, everyone has their own approach to these classic recipes… if your method works for you, go for it! Thanks for sharing!

  9. 5 stars
    Shadi joon, I really enjoyed reading your perfect recipe of Zereshk polo. Thanks for sharing it.