How to cook Persian rice

This is a step-by-step guide for cooking perfect Persian rice. Iranian cuisine is famed for its rice dishes where the grains are so expertly steamed that they elongate and stay perfectly separated whilst cooking. It is also famed for its tahdig, a saffron infused rice crust that forms at the bottom of the rice pot. Always looking for a way in which to insert some glamour into any occasion, Iranians like to serve their rice dishes turned upside down so they look like a elegant rice cake. The pleasure of hearing the quiet crackle of a tahdig being broken open at the dining table is second only to the deeply satisfying crunch of the golden, buttery, crust as you bite into it.

As there is no specific water-to-rice ratio  you can cook any amount of rice by following this method, you’ll just need a large, non-stick, pan with a snugly fitting lid and some kitchen paper or tea towels to line to lid of the pot with.

For a vegan version of this Persian rice recipe, simply omit the butter and substitute with vegetable oil of your choice.

Serves 4 people

  • 350g white rice
  • 1/4 tsp saffron strands
  • 20g butter
  • 1  tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt
  1. Wash your rice under cold running water until the water runs clear. This removes the excess starch which will help your grains separate.
  2. Soak the rice in a large bowl of water for about 20 minutes
  3. Bring a large pot of water to the boil with 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the rice and boil for 4-5 minutes until the rice is half cooked – you want it to be soft on the outside but still firm in the middle. Drain and rinse the rice with some cold water and set aside.
  4. Make some saffron liquid by grinding 1/4 teaspoon of saffron strands with a pinch of sugar and then adding 2 tablespoons of just boiled water. Leave to steep for 5 minutes.
  5. Melt half the butter with a tablespoon of vegetable oil of your choice (I use sunflower) in your saucepan over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of saffron liquid, season with some salt and when the oil is hot, add a layer of rice to the pan and push it down with a wooden spoon so it covers the base of the pot.
  6. Gently add the remaining rice, one spoonful at a time as you want to keep some air between the grains so they can stay separate whilst cooking.
  7. Using the end of a wooden spoon, make 4 holes in the rice and dot the remaining butter in there.
  8. Place a few pieces of kitchen paper on top of the rice and place the lid on it tightly. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat and 15 minutes over a very low heat. Then take off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Do not sneak a peak as it will spoil the cooking process!
  9. To tip it over, fill the sink with a few centimetres of cold water and then place the pot in it with the lid still tightly on – the cold water will produce a rush of steam inside the pot which will release the base. Then take the lid of the pot and place a large plate over it. Quickly turn it over and you should have a beautiful Persian rice cake.

If you want to learn more secrets of the Persian cooking, you can join one of my cookery classes or hire me for a bespoke private cookery class in the comfort of your own home. Happy cooking!

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