Iranian Rice Pilaf (Shirin Polow)

  • Serves

    serves 8-10


This rice pilaf is famed for its thick, crisp tah dig crust and crown of sweet garnishes. This recipe first appeared in our March 2012 issue, with Anissa Helou's story The Land of Bread and Spice.


  • 12 cup sugar
  • 34 tsp. crushed saffron
  • 34 cup thinly sliced orange peel
  • 1 tbsp. rose water
  • 4 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 12 cup milk
  • 12 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 34 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 12 cup slivered almonds
  • 12 cup chopped pistachios


Step 1

Bring sugar, 1⁄2 tsp. saffron, and 1⁄2 cup water to a boil in 2-qt. pan over high heat. Add 1⁄2 cup orange peel; cook until tender, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, and stir in rose water; set aside.

Step 2

Make the rice: Rinse rice in a strainer under water until water runs clear. Place rice in a 6-qt. pan. Add salt and 4 cups water, and cover; soak for 2 hours. Place pan over high heat; boil. Cook until rice begins to rise to the surface, about 12 minutes; drain. Return pan to medium-high heat; add remaining saffron, milk, and oil. Return rice to pan, forming it into a mound; using handle of a wooden spoon, poke 5 holes in the mound (to let steam escape); cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Step 3

Pour butter and 1 cup boiling water over rice; cover. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until a golden crust forms on bottom, 30–35 minutes. Transfer rice to a platter, separating the grains as you go; break up crust from bottom of pot, and stir into rice. Garnish rice with candied and remaining raw orange peel, carrots, almonds, and pistachios.

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