An Introduction to the Cuisine of Iran

Updated on January 28, 2018

Introduction to the topic of Iranian cuisine

Iran is a country that has a very sophisticated and diverse cuisine. Iranians eat a wide variety of foods such as bread, salads, meats, dairy products and rice, which is one of the main foods of the Iranian diet. This article will only talk about some of the most basic Iranian foods and drinks and is intended to inform those that may not know about the diverse cuisine of this large country in Southwest Asia. Note: Iran was known as Persia until 1935.

Shirazi Salad (One of the Best Kinds of Salad From Any Country)

Most Famous Iranian Salad

Iran’s most famous and well-known type of salad is the shirazi salad. This salad consists of tomatoes and cucumbers that are chopped and diced into small pieces. Then lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper are added to add flavor to it. If you go to a Persian restaurant in your neighborhood or if you are fortunate enough to travel to Iran, make sure that you try this dish. It is so delicious!

Taftoon Bread

Typical Iranian Breads

Breads are another typical feature of the Iranian diet. One of the most famous types of bread is called lavash. This bread is thin and it is long. It comes in two varieties. You can either purchase the lavash that has white flour or the whole wheat variety. The whole wheat lavash is healthier because it has fiber that is known to prevent constipation. Iranians also eat another kind of bread known as sangak. This kind of bread is also thin, but it has sesame seeds on top of it. This bread tastes better if you toast it. When you toast this bread, it is so good you can’t even imagine it. It has a crunchy flavor that will leave you wanting more of it. You can add feta cheese or you can add butter to it for an even better taste. The choice is yours.

Iranians also eat another popular kind of bread called barbari bread. This type of bread also has sesame seeds on it, but it is thicker and has more of an oval shape to it. Once again, as with the sangak bread, you can add feta cheese or butter to give it a better taste. You can also toast this kind of bread too if you want to. The Bulgarian and French feta cheeses are both delicious, but the Bulgarian kind has more salt and has more fat in it.

Fesenjoon (Pomegranate Dish With Walnuts)

This variation of the dish fesenjoon has chicken in it to go with the walnuts and pomegranate sauce. For those of you that enjoy foods that are a little sour, you will love this dish!
This variation of the dish fesenjoon has chicken in it to go with the walnuts and pomegranate sauce. For those of you that enjoy foods that are a little sour, you will love this dish!

Some Typical Main Entrees

Iranians eat a wide variety of entrees with their long grain Basmati rice. Saffron is added to the rice.

  • Baghali Polo: This famous dish has lima beans and dill in it. It is usually eaten with lamb, although Armenians from Iran will eat it either with beef or chicken. But the authentic recipe requires lamb meat.
  • Zheresk Polo or Rice With Currants: This is another famous entree. Currants are very small and sour berries, but they have that tangy taste that will leave you craving more. This dish is once again eaten with a generous portion of rice.
  • Sour Cherry Rice: This dish is made by using sour or sweet cherries with a syrup that is so tasty and sweet. You can add chicken to this dish to enhance its flavor.
  • Fesenjoon: This is another famous dish in Iran that consists of walnuts mixed with a pomegranate sauce. It comes in two varieties, the one that has no chicken in it and the one that does. The chicken is mixed into the sauce, and I will say that fesenjoon is a dish you must try if you want to eat Iranian cuisine. Sometimes this is spelled fesenjan.

A Few Photos of Shish Kebabs (Most Basic Kind of Grilled Meat)

Kebabs (Meat Grilled on Skewers)

Iranians also eat a wide variety of kebabs or meats grilled on a skewer. This is one of the traditional foods in Iran. They consider kebabs to be a major part of their life, as if they cannot live without it. There are no Persian restaurants that do not serve kebabs. That just does not happen.

  • Filet Mignon Kebab or Barg: This is basically filet mignon or flat beef grilled on a skewer.
  • Koobideh or Ground Beef Kebab: This one is ground beef kebab grilled on a skewer. Iranians also eat chicken kebabs. The chicken can be with bones or without bones and lemon is added to enhance the taste of the chicken.
  • Soltani: This type of kebab consists of a combination of barg or meat kebab and ground beef kebab. It is a good choice if you want to try two types of meat.
  • Chicken Koobideh: This looks the same as the ground beef variety with its long length but the only difference is that this one is ground chicken.
  • Lamb Chops: Iranians also eat grilled lamb chops as well.

The kebab dishes are served with a huge plate of rice, broiled tomatoes, green peppers and spicy onions. Part of the reason why Iranian food is heavy is because of the rice and carbohydrates.

Iranians typically drink tea in these kinds of cups


Beverages That Iranians Typically Drink

Iran’s national beverage is tea. It is drunk by the population in the morning, afternoon, or at nighttime. The tea is served black with sugar cubes. Western style soft drinks are also consumed. Iranians also have a special drink called dough. This is a yogurt drink that is salted, and it also has carbonated water. If you drink this, you will fall asleep after a while. This is because the yogurt lowers your blood pressure so that you can relax. One major difference between Iran and many other countries is that alcohol is not served in restaurants as of 1979.

If you enjoy eating food, you will most probably enjoy Iranian cuisine. Although it is heavy, Iranian cuisine has lots of variety and sophistication.

Anthony Bourdain is Impressed by Iranian Cuisine

Questions & Answers


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      • CELEBSFAN78 profile image

        Ara Vahanian 14 months ago from LOS ANGELES

        Beachhopper: I am so glad that I was able to bring back memories for you. I am originally from Iran (of Armenian descent) but I only stayed there for the first 5.5 years of my life. The Iranian food that I've eaten has been in the United States. I am sure that some of the foods that are made in Iran taste better than the food here. I agree barbari bread is good! However, my favorite Iranian bread is Sangak. Melted butter and cheese works very well on that type of bread. Bandar Pahlavi is a very famous part of Iran. Thank you very much for this comment as it made my afternoon better. Peace and blessings to you!

      • Beachhopper profile image

        Beachhopper 14 months ago from Vancouver Island, British Columbia

        Ahhhh, thank you for the memories! I lived along the shores of the Caspian back in the mid 70s. I still remember sitting in the restaurant area of the Sefid Kanar (not sure if I remember the spelling, lol) and looking at the chelo kebab I had ordered. It was the best plate of food I had ever had and I ordered that every night for dinner after that.......and we were in that hotel for 2 months, lol. I have no idea what the meat was, but I didn't even care, lol. And to this day I have never had any bread that tasted like a thick, still warm, barbari bread, slathered with melted butter and topped with goat cheese. I've even tried to make it myself, but it's just not the all. There was a certain baker in Bandar Pahlavi that made the best barbari bread in the entire world! We used to get our bus driver to stop there on our way to school whenever we had money, and buy some fresh barbari bread for the school day, lol! Mine never made it to