How To Eat Your Way Around Iran

Guest post by Ellie Cleary of Soul Travel Blog

Persian Cuisine.

Think about travel in Iran, and your mind might jump to the country’s beautiful mosques, Silk Road Caravanserais and desert scenes.

Compared to its architectural wonders, the food in Iran barely gets a look in.

But that doesn’t mean that food and gastronomy are not a huge part of Iranian culture.

Chances are, while traveling in Iran you may well be overwhelmed with the charm and welcoming nature of Iranian people — who, contrary to what the news might have us believe, are widely acclaimed as some of the friendliest people in the world.

Iran is also a safe country to visit, so don’t remove it from your bucket list just because the media has told you otherwise.

You’ll experience this if you get the chance to visit an Iranian home, which will also reveal the importance of food in Iranian culture and family life.

So, what food in Iran shouldn’t be missed?

Without further ado, here are some culinary highlights to look out for when traveling around the beautiful country of Iran.

Nooshe jan! (Bon appétit!)

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Interested in Iran travel? One aspect of the trip you won't want to miss is the Iranian food, a true highlight of any Middle Eastern travel journey. Read this post to learn more about the food in Iran, and watch videos showcasing yummy Persian recipes! #iran #persian #middleeast

The Best Food In Iran

Iran is not an Arab country, but rather it’s where the Middle East meets Asia.

This is reflected in its cuisine. Meat kebabs, rice and stews are staples of the diet, saffron abounds, chai stalls populate street corners — though plenty of street-side falafel vendors can be found, too.

Just make sure you save space for the delicious Iranian deserts and sweets!

at the spice bazaar - food in iran at its best.

At the spice market in Kerman.

Kebabs. Meat Kebabs are a staple of the Iranian diet, and are almost always served with rice, a grilled tomato and a chunk of raw onion — something of a staple in its own right in Iran!

The most popular meats are lamb / mutton and chicken, with duck sometimes being served, too.

Note you won’t find pork on menus in Iran. This is because Iran is a muslim country, and eating pork goes against Muslim beliefs.

Koobideh is one of the most common forms of kebab, made up of ground mea. On the other hand, Juje Kebabs feature chunks of grilled chicken, while Bakhtyari is grilled filet of barbecued lamb or veal.

Flatbreads. The Iranians love their breads, and while some types are far more familiar to the western eye — baguettes can often be found — the Lavash and Sangak look far more interesting.

Both are flatbreads, presented in sheets in either rectangular or oval shape. This Iranian bread looks slightly akin to bubble-wrap, with raised dots of air in them.

Rest assured, they taste much better!

Food in iran consists of some delicious rice dishes

Barbery rice with chicken

Barbery Rice. Normally an unexciting dish, the Iranians have managed to transform the ordinary into something memorable with barbary rice.

Served with pomegranate seeds and butter, this rice is traditionally served at weddings, but also makes its way onto many Iranian restaurant menus, served with kebabs. Enjoy!

Khoresh. Another staple of Persian cuisine is Khoresh, or stew. Almost always meat-based, stews often include prunes, spinach, potatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans and even dried limes.

My favorite was Khoresh e alu-esfenaj, made from spinach, kidney beans and prunes supposedly without the meat. See more on vegetarian food in Iran below!

The Spices. Just like its Middle Eastern and Asian neighbors, spices are an integral part of Iranian cooking, and a visit to any bazaar in Iran will support this.

Perhaps the most quintessential Iranian spice of all — saffron — is also its finest. From ice cream to Iranian sweets, to rice you’ll find saffron abounds, and I couldn’t get enough of it!

Some great food in Iran can be found in the teahouses

Must-Try Drinks In Iran

When you’re thirsty, there are a few Iranian drinks you’ll want to sip to quench your thirst, including:

Persian Chai. To enter an Iranian tea house is arguably to see Iranian society at its best.

Tea houses are often beautifully decorated. They’re also a natural meeting point for everyone in a country where alcohol is not allowed.

Tea is traditionally served black, with (lots of) sugar and spices like cardamom, cinnamon and rose water.

Iranian tea houses often also have musicians playing in the background, and have shisha (Ghaliyan, which means water pipe) on offer — although in some places such as Isfahan, the Ghaliyan is being clamped down on by the authorities.

Doogh. Say what?

Yes, Doogh!

Or as I think it’s pronounced… “duur”.

Iranians please feel free to correct this!

This Iranian drink is simply fresh buttermilk, often served with mint that I found to be just perfect for cooling me down from the scorching heat of Iranian summer. More Doogh please!

fresh buttermilk with mint in Iran

The famous Iranian Doogh – with mint this time.

Must-Try Iranian Desserts

Craving some Iranian sweets? Here a few that will satisfying your sweet tooth while bringing you deeper into Iranian culture.

Faloudeh. Perhaps one of the most famous sweet treats of Iran, Faloudeh is a speciality from the beautiful and literary city of Shiraz.

Rice noodles are served in a semi-frozen syrup with rose water and more than a few spoons of sugar.

Lime is added to lessen the sweetness as needed. Yum!

Halva. Iranian Halva is slowly toasted with sugar, rosewater and saffron, giving it a unique flavor compared to other Halva found across the Middle East and even in India.

Halva is traditionally served during religious holidays at funerals, but it’s delicious texture and taste is bound to have you calling for more at any time!

Saffron Ice Cream. Last but not least, for those on the go or in a hurry, pick up a saffron ice cream for a cooling sweet with a truly local touch.

Food in Iran doesn't get much better than saffron ice cream

Saffron Ice Cream selfie!

Food In Iran For Vegetarians

Ah, my fellow vegetarians, I wish I had better news for you about food in Iran.

Unfortunately for us, the diet is heavily meat-focused.

During my two weeks of traveling as a vegetarian I had to be flexible.

Most restaurants — especially outside of major cities — are not used to catering to the meat-free, but will usually come up with an option or two.

The number one vegetarian option is aubergine (eggplant).

The second option:

More aubergine.

After a few days, you may start to crave more variety!

Some stews can also be served without the meat — although I found myself fishing out chunks of meat that had been “missed” on more than one occasion.

Falafel stands are a great go-to option in the evenings for a tasty snack, and as a worse-case scenario you may need to stick to rice and salads for some meals.

In big cities like the capital of Tehran, finding a vegetarian meal or even cafe is not a problem.

Food in Iran is perhaps most famous for its sweet dishes like faloudeh

Shirazi Faloudeh with Chai

How To Eat Persian Food

Persian food is usually served “family style” with dishes placed at the center of the table. It’s usual for most guests to share and try a bit of everything.

Where bread is provided, it’s picked up with the right hand and used as a vessel for picking up meat or vegetables.

Spoons and forks are usually also provided and commonly used to eat rice, stews and other liquid dishes.

Important:

Do avoid eating with your left hand! In Persian culture,  the left hand is regarded as the “bathroom” hand.

Persian Recipes On YouTube

If you’re wanting to try to make a few of the above Iranian dishes yourself, there are some helpful Persian food recipes on YouTube.

A few to get you started:

How To Travel To Iran

After visiting for myself, I genuinely feel Iran is a beautiful, safe and welcoming country. It’s also one of the most fascinating places for exploring Islamic culture.

Do you want to travel to Iran?

For most nationalities a trip is relatively simple to arrange, but for Americans, British and Canadian citizens there is some red tape and conditions you need to meet to be able to go.

You can read all about how to travel to Iran for Americans, British and Canadian Citizens here.

What food in Iran would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below!

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Planning a trip to Iran? Make savoring Iranian food a top theme of your journey. Exploring Iran culture will likely be the focus of your trip, and the cuisine is an important part of this. Read this post to learn more, and to steal some delicious Persian recipes! #recipes #persianfood #thingstodoiniran

What to eat in Iran

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Ellie Cleary

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4 Comments

  1. Lovely Post! Such a travel in Iran, and your mind might jump to the country is so beautiful desert scenes. All the dishes is very good. I will definetely visit the Iran for next month. Thanks for sharing this post with us.

  2. Thanks for sharing this and i’m really glad that you had a nice time in my country! I hope more not arab visitors come here and know us better !
    For foods i would ŕecommend these foods but they are not vegan(you can miss the meat in some of them cause they are khouresht(stew))
    Ghourmeh sabzi(khoresht) / khoresh karafs(celery khoresht)
    Gheyme (khoresh)
    Abgusht or dizi (stew served with bread and not vegan )
    Kale pache and sirabi (noþ vegan at all ! The name means head and hands of sheep!!!!)
    Ghalie mahi(with fish)
    Zereshk polo /tah chin (can be made with any meat)
    Mahiche (lambs foot/ higher meat part!!!!bad eng ; but in translate it would be muscle )
    Kufte Tabrizi (rice meat balls)
    * Fesenjun (khoresht with walnuts, it is hard to cook it right so you need to find the right restaurant or house!)
    Bagheli polo!( can be vegan but also it can be served with anymeat )
    Salad olvie and macaroni
    Shole it’s a special food in mashhad and we(mashhad people) kill for it its our meme)
    For vegan foods, you can mostly have rice with different beans like polo adas(which can be served with fried raisin ) polo bagheli, lubia chesh bolboli !, polo mash, (polo is rice and all the last ones were almost the same just has different beans ) kashke bademjam(eggplant), eshkene(my favariout is sabzi) ,…..
    for vegans its a shame to come to Iran and not try one of the only foods which is comepletly vegan!! And its name is ……

    ASH (spelling is like mall! Its not like the word ash in eng) ( though u can find it with meat too ! But mostly is served without it and ash with meat or other kinds are different from this )
    Iran is a country with many cultures and old cities ,so just try to guess how many delicious food or just one food with different recipes you can find !

  3. I loved the article. I was looking for recipes to cook for some Persian friends and I came to the right place the first time. It was all explained well and now I can cook for them intelligently and will have answers should they ask questions. They will be so excited, that is if I can find all the ingredients in my home town.

  4. Thanks for the very interesting article. By the way, on the daily basis, Iranians mostly eat stews with very little meat in them. Most families eat kebab only on holidays and weekends, and for that they usually go either to restaurants or they order it to be delivered. Regarding vegetarian food, I need to say that unfortunately it is hard to find vegetarian food in restaurants. Traditionally Iranian restaurants serve mostly kebabs, and some have also may have one or two daily stews. To get them you need to ask for “ghazaye rooz” means daily menu. However, they are many vegetarian dishes in Iranian cuisine, which are cooked at home.

    Gilan, in the north of Tehran is famous for its delightful and delicious cuisine with many meatless/vegetarian plates. But you need to go to traditional restaurants and ask for “ghazaye mahaly”, which means local food. There is one at Hotel Cadus that is excellent. The name of some of the dishes are: Torshi tareh, Baghala ghatogh, Mirza ghasemi. They are also several Gilani Restaurants in Tehran and they are listed on Google, such as: Gilaneh, Gileh-Gol, Gilar, Milakoy, White Fish, Mahi Mahi: https://www.google.com/search?tbm=lcl&ei=GWZGXbrsBcS05gLN7p_oBQ&q=restaurants+with+gilani+food+in+tehran&oq=restaurants+with+gilani+food+in+tehran&gs_l=psy-ab.3…44797.72597.0.73278.28.28.0.0.0.0.322.2684.23j4j0j1.28.0….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.10.978…33i10k1j33i299k1j33i160k1j33i22i29i30k1.0.T70qnPied0U#rlfi=hd:;si:7575874726618646269,y,U3nkNkAX8qM;mv:!1m2!1d35.814821099999996!2d51.4453052!2m2!1d35.7026077!2d51.3934309!3m12!1m3!1d54366.01089202419!2d51.41936805!3d35.758714399999995!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i152!2i403!4f13.1

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