Khoresh Albaloo – Sour cherry and chicken meatballs in saffron broth

I can’t help but smile when I think of sour cherries! Cherries are a highly prized fruit that has found its way into many parts of Persian cuisine, both as a savory and as a sweet ingredient. This dish is another Caspian Sea regional specialty that integrates sour cherries into a stew in the company of small chicken meatballs, all in a gloriously beautiful and tasty saffron broth.

In Farsi, small meatballs are called Ghel Gheli or Kalleh Gonjishki which literally translates to “little bird’s head”! When preparing this dish, be patient and make your meatballs the size of a little bird’s head or anywhere the size of a hazelnut to a walnut.

For the photo I used one large meatball

My challenge has always been maintaining uniformity in the meatball size. Even though I start with the right size meatballs, to my surprise, they seem to get progressively larger as I get impatient!


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Khoresh albaloo

Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef
Sour cherry, chicken meatballs in saffron broth
4.91 from 10 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Servings 4



  • 1 lb ground chicken thighs, or breasts or combination
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour, rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons ghee, or olive oil


  • 3 tablespoons ghee, or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups water, hot
  • 3 cups cherries, pitted fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron, ground dissolved in 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 1-2 tablespoons lime juice, fresh , optional
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar, optional


  • 1 tablespoon ghee, or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rose petals, optional


  • Place all the ingredients for the meatballs with the exception of the oil in a large mixing bowl. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients to create a smooth paste and form the paste into a small walnut-sized (about 2 tablespoons) balls.
  • Chicken meatballs tend to get sticky so plan on having a small bowl of water to wet your fingers as you make the meatballs or wash your hands frequently when they get too sticky.
  • In a large skillet, melt the ghee over medium-high heat and begin to lightly brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Because of the small size of meatballs, you might have to repeat this process a few times depending on the size of your skillet.  Set aside.
  • In a dutch oven, melt the ghee and saute the onions for 15 minutes over medium heat until they are lightly golden and softened.  
  • Add the salt, pepper, and spices and saute for an additional minute before adding the water and the sauteed meatballs.  Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes. 
  • Add the cherries and the saffron dissolved in hot water, cover and continue to cook over low heat for an additional 30 minutes. 
  • Adjust the stew by adding sugar and lime juice to your taste.
  • For the garnish, melt the ghee in a small saucepan and saute the pistachios and almonds over low heat over 1 minute.
  • Pour the stew in a serving bowl and garnish with the toasted nuts and sprinkle the rose petals on top.  Serve with steamed basmati rice.


This dish can also be made with lamb, beef, or ground turkey.  
Keyword chicken, sour cherries, stew
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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