Ghormeh Sabzi, A Beloved Persian Dish

Recipe for Gormeh Sabzi a Persian favorite
Hi guys!  I have a special treat for you today.  I was able to sweet talk the Mr. into guest posting on The Road to Honey.  The Mr. is Persian and has many interesting stories to tell from his childhood growing up in Iran during the revolution.  On top of that, being Persian, he has many tasty dishes to tell us about that you may not be familiar with.

So here goes. . .

When you reflect back on your life, you can almost always break it down into chapters bookended by landmark moments. For me, I had two chapters in just the first nine years of my life.


Hooman baby photo


I was born in Iran in 1971.  The first 6 years were pretty typical.  I was the youngest child of four in an upper-middle class Iranian family.  We lived in a comfortable house in the city of Tehran and, as a young child, one of my favorite pastimes was sitting by our kitchen window and looking onto the street in front of our house.  Since we lived in the city, the street was a busy thoroughfare with cars and buses whizzing by as they merged onto the roundabout.  Pedestrians scurried on both sides of the street to whatever businesses they needed to get to.


hooman horse

Hooman and Hooshang family pictures


One of my fondest memories was sitting in that kitchen watching the world rush by as my mother cooked my favorite dish of all, Ghormeh Sabzi (herb and vegetable stew) served over basmati rice.  I am not the only person of Persian decent who finds this to be their favorite dish. Ghormeh Sabzi and Chelo Kabob (grilled meat served over white rice) are the most favored dish and usually savored at special occasions. When done right, this dish is a concert of flavors from the herbs, dried lime, saffron, tender lamb, and fragrant basmati rice. Practice makes perfect when making this dish. You may not get it right the first time, but don’t give up. Perfecting this dish is worth the effort.


Ingredients for Ghormeh Sabzii

Dried limes for Gormeh Sabzi recipe

Cooking Gormeh Sabzi Recipe

Saffron Rice for Ghormeh Sabzi


The first chapter of my life ended on March 29th, 1977 and a new chapter began. On that day, looking out that same window, instead of the hurried but peaceful scene that I was used to, I saw chaos. Riots had broken out.  These were the prelude to a revolution. This revolution would have major consequences for me and my family. More importantly, this revolution would have consequences for the entire world. I was only a little older than 5 on that day, but I remember it vividly. Students, wild eyed, were marching past our house, holding signs and chanting at the top of their lungs. Sitting in front of that kitchen window, the noise was overwhelming. There were so many students marching that the crowd took up the entire four lane street and extended as far back as the eye could see. As they marched, I could feel the thunder of their steps in the pit of my stomach. As a 5 year old child, I just looked on transfixed at what was happening in front of me.


Hooman on an elephant

This chapter of my life was short in time, but long on events and memories. Between that spring day in 1977 and February 1979, many things changed. My two sisters and my brother were sent to the United States so they could continue their studies. The instability had either shut down or made schools unsafe to attend. I sat by the kitchen window and watched every day as the marches became more and more violent. The students frequently carried guns. Sometimes they even carryed dead bodies of fellow protesters who were shot by the police in an earlier incident. In those chaotic times, there was still solace in the days that my mother made Ghormeh Sabzi.


Family pictures


Everything boiled over on February 9, 1979, when I saw, looking out the kitchen window, virtually everyone on the street armed with machine guns. It was chaos I had never seen before and have not seen since. This day, my mother told me to get away from the window. In the ensuing days we lived through a revolution, a historic moment the magnitude of which I did not understand at the time. After a year following the revolution, the country became unstable. The government was even holding the staff of the United States Embassy as hostages. My father knew that we could no longer stay. He could not leave the country because of his previous position with the former government. So he arranged for my mother and me to leave for Italy and eventually join my brother and sisters in the United States. On that morning in the spring of 1980, my father drove my mother and me to the airport. I said good bye to my father on a cold spring morning on the steps of Mehrabad International Airport, not knowing whether I would see him again. As I hugged him for the last time, it would be the only time I would ever see a tear in his eye. That morning, closed the second chapter of my life.

It is with great pleasure that I share with you my mother’s recipe for Ghormeh Sabzi. I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as I do.


Gormeh Sabzi Recipe, Persian Cooking

Gormeh Sabzi Recipe

Gormeh Sabzi Recipe, Persian cooking

Gormeh Sabzi Recipe, Persian cooking


Ghormeh Sabzi

  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Print


For the Stew:

  • 1/2 cup dried kidney beans
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3 lbs lamb shank (cut in half through the bone)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 3 dried Persian limes (can be bought from any middle-eastern grocery store or online HERE)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 4 bunches parsley (flat leaf)
  • 3 tablespoons dried fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Juice from 2 limes

For the Saffron Rice with Tahdik (crispy rice):

  • 4 cups of Indian or Pakistani basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons salt
  •  1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon high quality saffron (you get what you pay for here)


Pre-preparation (8-10 hours before starting)

  1. Rinse the rice with cold water repeatedly until the water coming off the rice is clear.  This can take up to 10 rinses.   Note:  Make sure you don’t short change this part or your rice will stick to itself when cooked.
  2. Place the rice in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of salt and enough water to completely submerge the rice.  Be sure your water level is 1-2 inches above the rice as the rice will expand.
  3. Let the rice sit covered for 8-10 hours.
  4. Rinse the kidney beans carefully with cold water, then soak them in a cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt for 8-10 hours.

For the Stew:

Note:  You will need to use a pressure cooker for this recipe. They are very useful for turning a day-long cooking event into just a few hours.

  1. Trim the fat from the lamb shanks as much as possible. Don’t over-do it as you will lose the meat and you’ll want some fat for the taste. Add the trimmed lamb shanks to the pressure cooker
  2. Peel the onion and cut into 8 pieces. Add the onion to the pressure cooker followed by 2 teaspoons of salt and a dash of fresh-ground pepper. Mix the contents of the pressure cooker well. Place a loose lid on the pressure cooker and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes to make sure the lamb and onions do not burn.
  3. Add just enough water to cover the lamb and onion. Make sure not to over-do the water as it will dilute the final stew. Place the pressure cooker lid on and turn up the heat until the pressure cooker starts to boil. Turn the heat to medium and allow it to cook for 20 minutes.
  4. While the lamb is cooking, put a few holes in the limes using a fork or a small knife. Clean and chop the parsley and leeks. (PLEASE, do not use a food processor to chop the parsley and leek – use an old-fashioned knife and cutting board).  In a small bowl, add a cup of water to the 3 tablespoons of fenugreek and allow it to soak. Drain the kidney beans.
  5. Turn the heat off to the pressure cooker and allow the steam to escape from the pressure cooker. Please do this slowly to make sure you don’t burn yourself or allow the cooker to boil over. Open the pressure cooker when all the steam has escaped.
  6. Add the dried lime and the drained kidney beans. Place the lid back on the pressure cooker and bring to a boil. Allow to cook on medium for another 10 minutes.
  7. Add 1 tbs of vegetable oil to a large skillet. Fry all the parsley, leek, and drained fenugreek for 10 minutes or until the volume has reduced in half.
  8. Open the pressure cooker and add the herbs to the cooker.
  9. Add turmeric.
  10. Replace the lid on the pressure cooker.  Bring to a boil and allow to cook for another 10 minutes.
  11. Serve in individual bowels topped with 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  12. Serve with Basmati Rice.

For the Saffron Rice with Tahdik (crispy rice):

  1. Drain the rice and rinse it one more time. Pour the rice into a large pot.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the rice and just enough water to cover the rice. Do not use too much water.
  3. Bring to a boil on medium-high. Allow the water to just boil off then remove it from the heat.
  4. Add 1 tbs of oil to separate large pot. Make sure the oil spread to cover the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add the partially cooked rice to the pot.
  6. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Grind the safron with a mortar and pestle. Add the safron to a ½ cup of boiling water and stir well. Pour the safron water over the rice, spreading it across the top of the rice to color it.
  7. Using the handle of a spatula, make four holes in the rice that go all the way to the bottom of the pot. Use the remaining ½ cup of boiling water to rinse the remaining saffron and pour over the rice.
  8. Divide 2 tablespoons of butter into 4 pieces and place over rice.
  9. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
  10. After the 30 minutes are up, raise the heat to low for 20 minutes and allow the rice to continue to cook. This will create crunchy rice on the bottom of the pot (call Tah-deek).

He’s such a little stinker, isn’t he?  He left us hanging on this riveting story.  The good news is he will be back in future posts to share more of this story and additional delicious Persian recipes.

Until next time.


Lynn & Hooman

P.S.  This recipe may look a little intimidating.  Feel free to send questions my way and I will pass them along to the Mr.

23 thoughts on “Ghormeh Sabzi, A Beloved Persian Dish

  • February 23, 2015 at 3:20 am

    I love my middle eastern dishes, flavours and spices so this recipe is perfect for me. I never have tried Ghormeh Sabzi and definitely will have to now!

    • February 23, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks Thalia. I highly recommend you give it a try. It’s my personal favorite and it seems every Persian you meet (stranger or friend) always ends up talking about Ghormeh Sabzi. It truly is a beloved dish.

  • February 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    What an amazing story! This dish looks so flavorful and I am really intrigued by those dried limes. Love learning about different ingredients and ways of cooking.

    • February 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      The dried limes really add a nice flavor to this dish. Like you I’m always on the lookout for new ingredients.

    • February 23, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Thanks Kelly. It is my favorite Persian dish. I hope you have the chance to try it some time in the future.

  • February 24, 2015 at 11:17 am

    This dish grabbed my interest as I have always been curious of the cuisine from that region. And right away, I love it, and I will definitely try it when time permits, maybe, when you & Mr. come over 🙂

    Please let Mr. know that I am touched by his story and I am so grateful that he shared his experience with all of us. It could not be easy to relive that moment again even though the time has passed for quite awhile. I would not dare to ask whether he had reunited with his dad, but I hope that he did.

    P.S. Even though I won’t post until April, I will still be on IG & FB. See you around, lady 🙂

  • February 24, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    This is a beautiful dish! The spices sound delicious, especially with the lamb. I almost always order a lamb dish when I’m at Middle Eastern restaurants, so this is perfect. Thanks for the story too!

    • February 28, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks Sarah. The lamb with the lime is an amazing flavor combination. You sound like the hubby. . .he always goes for lamb. . .we even served it at our wedding.

  • February 25, 2015 at 12:15 am

    This is such a beautiful recipe! I especially love it because it is authentic! So kind of your hubby to do a post for you Lynn! I am looking forward to getting around to making this yummy dish!

    • February 25, 2015 at 7:39 am

      I hope you like it as much as I do Mariah. Let me know if you have any questions about the recipe. . .it can be a little intimidating the first time through.

  • February 25, 2015 at 9:05 am

    What a lovely post!
    I love Middle Eastern food and we have an amazing restaurant near us that serves food like this. Their hummus is incredible.

  • February 25, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Girl so many memories came to my mind reading this! First of all your hubby did a great job and I am so glad you were able to convince him to post! Secondly, I spent almost 6 years of my life in Iran as my father went there for work. and after reading this so many good memories came to my mind. Even though there was so much tension when we were there, still it was a beautiful time for me! I love love this ghormeh sabzi. My mom used to make this a lot in Iran and I have been looking for a recipe that will match that taste! So saving this to try later!! 🙂

    • February 28, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Wow! 6 years in Iran. . .that must have been an amazing experience for you. I’m glad Hooman’s tale was able to bring back good memories for you. I hope you get a chance to try this amazing recipe. It’s one of my favorites.

  • February 25, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Wow. What an astonishing story. Such brave things parents do to protect their children.
    It feels a bit glib to comment on a recipe after that but this sounds absolutely marvellous. So fragrant and delicious.

    • February 28, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Right? It is amazing how parents will risk their own lives for their children without a single thought. This is a marvellous dish and I hope you get the opportunity to experience sometime in your life (either in your own kitchen or at a Persian restaurant).

  • February 27, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Oh my goodness! Yes, I am left hanging!!
    You always have the best stories and ethnic recipes, I love it!

    Pink Wings

    • February 28, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks Gina! It’s just like a televisions series. . .always leaving you hanging and wanting more. 🙂 Glad you find the tales entertaining at least.

  • August 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Question: when he mentions adding the butter, it says ‘over and over. ‘ I’m assuming it means to put the butter over the holes made in the rice, but wanted to double check. Thanks

    Amazing story of Mr.’s life. Although I didn’t grow up with this dish, once introduced to it, I fell in love with it. The layered flavors and time and care that go into making it add to the richness of this dish.

    Persian hospitality is such an art. I can hear it in his narrative and even in the directions to this recipe, with his cautioning the reader to let the pot cool so as not to burn the cook, and to use a knife rather than a food processor to maintain thd integrity of this beloved dish. Thank you for sharing this poignant story.

    • August 2, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Hi Kathleen. Great question. It turns out you discovered a typo in the recipe. You are correct that you simply pour the butter over the rice. Thanks for catching this. . .I updated the recipe.

      As for the Ghormeh Sabzi, it is a pretty amazing dish and I too fell in love with it the moment I experienced it. The Mr. and I are glad you enjoyed the story and hope you enjoy his family recipe equally as well. Stay tuned for more Persian recipes in the near future.


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