Zereshk Polo ~ Iranian Barberry Rice



The first recipe post of the year 2017… Alhamdulillah, I am starting enthusiastically, but how much I will continue that enthusiasm throughout the year needs to be seen. Some excitement coming up on the blog this month – should I say it or should I let it surface by itself? I guess I will go with the later… That will ensure that you all stick to my blog this month… I can afford to be a bit selfish, right? πŸ˜‰




I have already mentioned how much I love Persian food. I have shared some recipes on the blog too, and having a big list of many many more to try. One of the recipes I really wanted to try was this rice I am sharing with you. Zereshk Polo is basically a pilaf with dried barberries. This was one rice that used to feature for our lunch during my first job at an Iranian company. I use to love the intermittent bites of the tart “zereskh” in between. It was my wish to recreate this dish in my kitchen, but not knowing the name of these red rubies, I had given up my hope. All of a sudden, a blogger had posted this on her blog – I really don’t remember who! – and that’s when I got the Persian name. During our visit to the Global Village last year, I had tracked down this ingredient from the Iranian pavilion – obviously! πŸ˜€ I was really excited to try this dish, and finally I did! Such a simple dish, yet looks all so complicated. Later I did find these dried barberries at the Iranian shops in Rolla, Sharjah. I am sure the ones in Deira side must also be stocking them.




If you have had Iranian food, you will realize how separated their grains are. You can literally count them in your plate! This is because of the technique of steaming that they use. You cook the rice just around 80%. Then the rice is arranged in a dry platter and few holes are done in between. Then the saucepan is cooked on high for a few minutes, before reducing the flame to the lowest, covering the lid with a cloth, so that the steam doesn’t vaporize and make the rice clumpy. It is literally like the dum process we follow while making biriyani. After using this technique, I have now started doing the wrapping up for all my pulaos as well! πŸ˜€


The Zereskhk Polo is normally served with some grilled or steamed chicken, and nice douse of Mast-o-Khiar. You can have it on its own with a salad as well. It definitely continues to be one of my favorite rice dishes in Iranian cuisine. If you are able to find dried barberries, then definitely give it a try. I am sure you will enjoy it as much I do. πŸ™‚ Off to the recipe…




5 from 2 votes

Zereshk Polo ~ Iranian Barberry Rice

Course Rice
Cuisine Iranian/ Persian
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 4
Author Rafeeda


  • 2 cups basmati rice soaked for at least one hour
  • 1 cup barberries zereshk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 potatoes thinly sliced
  • 10 strands of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water


  • To prepare the saffron water, crush the saffron and sugar using mortar and pestle till powdery. Add the hot water and mix. Set aside.
  • Drain the soaked basmati rice and set aside.
  • Boil around 10 cups of water with some salt. Add the drained rice and cook for around 5-7 minutes. Drain. The rice will only be partly cooked. Wash well in cold water.
  • Wash the barberries well till it is clean. Remove off stems if any. Allow to drain on a kitchen towel.
  • Heat the butter in a small pan. Add in the barberries and sprinkle the sugar.
  • Toss well. You will see the barberries slightly puffing up. Take off the heat. Add 2 tbsp of the saffron water and mix well.
  • Heat up a saucepan till dry. Take off the heat.
  • Sprinkle in the olive oil and 2 tbsp of the saffron water.
  • Line up the sliced potatoes at the bottom. This will make up the crust called "tahdig".
  • Arrange half the rice on top, spread the barberries, and then spread the remaining rice.
  • Poke in several holes in between, for steam to escape. Close the lid.
  • Keep on high flame for five minutes.
  • Now lower the flame to the lowest possible, take off the lid and sprinkle in the remaining saffron water.
  • Cover the lid with a kitchen towel and keep it tightly closed.
  • Cook undisturbed for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Just before serving, take off the lid, and give it a good mix. The potato would look crusty.
  • You can serve the mixed rice with the potatoes, or serve the potato crust separately.


For the tahdig, you can utilise the rice. But since I don't like crusted rice, I opted for potatoes, which is another choice.

Join the Conversation

  1. Perfectly cooked ,With a blend of lovely flavors it is just awesome!!

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thank you so much Sharmila…

  2. This looks awesome …We get this here in a very famous Iranian restaurant ..Always wanted to try it home but these barberries aren’t available here …

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thank you so much Gloria…

  3. Lipsmacking!!!love Iranian cuisine for its simplicity and taste.recently saw this on Ranveerbrar’s show.Hunting for barberries .

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Hope you find them soon… thank you so much Nusrath…

  4. looks so delicious. barberry is new to me.. Sounds interesting

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thank you so much Veena…

  5. Trying to recreate a dish and hunting for ingredients not readily available needs a lot of perseverance.. Great Job!!

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thank you so much Ria…

  6. Wow, that looks yumm rafee, would love to try sometime!

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thanks a lot Priya…

  7. This is a stunning pulao! Looks so delicious!!

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thanks a lot Kanak…

  8. Wow this looks delicious. I once read that iranians make the best rice dishes no wonder right!? .

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Yes, their rice and stews are amazing! Thanks a lot Nammi…

  9. Interesting recipe. Sweets could u please do a video of that cloth wrapping and layering?

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Next time I will try to add a step by step, dear… video is a nightmare for me… hehe… You just wrap a cloth on your lid and keep it closed, just like you see in the picture… πŸ™‚

  10. lovely recipe Rafee, have never tasted it…..looks yum

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thanks a lot Faseela…

  11. 5 stars
    A new ‘thing’ for me! It looks so fluffy and fabulous that trying not would be a shame. So, definitely I’d give it a try insha allah.
    Love <3

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thank you so much Nusrath… πŸ™‚

  12. a different & delicious way to cook rice……….

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thanks a lot Sudha…

  13. It looks yum and pretty too….If I get hold of barberries I shall for sure make it… and thanks for introducing barberries to me.. I never knew they existed

  14. I have so many must try persian dish and most of them are rice. πŸ˜› Iranian cuisine always look has saffron – why not! they are worlds largetst producer of saffron! πŸ˜€ I have not had or seen barberries – does it come anywhere close to goji berries? I got a pack of that and am yet to try something. πŸ˜›

  15. 5 stars
    Very interesting recipe Rafeeda. I am a sucker for saffron and this dish is right up my alley πŸ˜€

  16. This sounds like such a delicious dish! I’ll have to try and find some barberries so I can give this a try!!

  17. The rice looks delicious..Interesting rice cooking process!

    1. Rafeeda AR Author says:

      Thank you so much Ruxana…

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