Zireh Polo – Cumin Turmeric Rice Pilaf layered with Chickpeas and Potatoes

Today I found myself wanting to stay close to home and do all kinds of domestic things. After the chores had been knocked off one by one, I was still longing to do something comforting and truly homey.

Naturally, I ended up in the kitchen, and I started to explore some less well-known Persian recipes. I found myself changing them around just a little to suit my craving for comfort food.

The result of this pursuit was this rice pilaf, based on a dish that originated in the Kerman province of Iran, on the eastern side of the country. The recipe I came across doesn’t have any meat or beans in it; as it is traditional with Persian dishes, the protein is often cooked separately and served alongside the dish. Alternatively, I can totally see this dish accompanied by a couple of sunny side-up eggs, with turmeric sprinkled on top, of course!

I opted to make this dish vegetarian by using chickpeas, but I would venture out and say you could also use lamb, beef, chicken, or prawns for the protein. Enjoy exploring while blending cultures and flavors!



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Zireh Polo

Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef
Cumin turmeric rice pilaf layered with chickpeas, potatoes and caramelized onions with bread tahdig
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Servings 4


Potato and Chickpeas

  • 4 tablespoons ghee or butter,
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 large yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons cumin, seeds
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric ground
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, ground


  • 8 1/4 cups water
  • 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for one hour and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons salt, for parboiling the rice and will be rinsed out
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 1 bread, tortilla or lavash


Potato and Chickpeas

  • In a medium sized frying pan, add 4 tablespoons of ghee and saute the onion over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  • Once the potatoes have partially cooked and have become slightly golden, add chickpeas, spices, salt and pepper and saute for 2 additional minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.


  • Bring 8 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil.
  • Add the rinsed rice and boil on high heat uncovered for about 6-8 minutes. The rice should still have some texture and density to it.
  • Drain the rice in a large colander and set aside while you prepare the pan.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a nonstick pot and place the thin flat bread on the bottom. This will be the crispy bread tahdig!
  • Begin by layering a 1/3 of the partially cooked rice and a 1/3 of the potato-chickpeas mixture into the pot and repeat until all of the rice and the potatoes-chickpeas have been layered in the pot. Gently mix the rice mixture to create a uniform mixture.
  • Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter evenly over the top of the rice and pour in a 1/4 cup of water over the rice.
  • Wrap the lid with a clean towel and place on top of the pot. Allow the rice to steam over a medium-low to medium heat for about 45 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Select a large tray or platter to place on top of the pan and carefully and swiftly invert the rice onto the platter.
  • Serve the rice with a side of yogurt or Torshi, Persian pickled eggplants.
Keyword chickpeas, rice, vegan
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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