Although this ultimate guide to Iranian food could also be entitled Persian Food, today’s Iran is ethnically broader than its Persian roots. So too is its cuisine. Influences on Iranian food draw from across Central Asia, Turkey, former Mesopotamia, and from Iran’s own Azerbaijani Turkish population. This yields a cuisine that is influenced by it all, yet is distinct. This Iranian food guide is drawn from our experiences traveling across Iran — including visits to local markets, meals in restaurants and family homes, and street food adventures. It offers an extensive list of traditional Persian food, modern day Iranian food specialties and tips on what to eat and drink when you visit.
Traditional Iranian food combines the savory of fresh herbs and spices like saffron, merges it with the sweet of pomegranate, barberry and cinnamon and tops it all off with a flourish of nuts, dried fruits and beans. The result: a taste profile which does not present one distinct flavor, but instead serves up layers that keep the taste buds guessing as to what is and what’s coming next.
The following is an extensive list of Iranian dishes, including notable and common traditional Iranian dishes that we found in our weeks traveling in Iran. To give a sense of the culinary mindset, here are words of wisdom from one of our guides on the subtle appreciation of eating one’s way through Iran: “Eat an onion from each new place you visit to adjust your body to the local cuisine.”
Let’s eat! Nusheh jân!
Note: This post was originally published on January 16, 2014 and updated on December 8, 2018.
Traditional Iranian Food
Kebab (kebabs) is taken very seriously in Iran – so much so that a restaurant kebab menu alone may run a few pages and feature every style and cut of skewerable grill-worthy meat imaginable. The first few times someone invites you to dine with them in Iran, you'll be tempted to think that all of Iran and its restaurants are powered solely on kebab.
Lamb, minced or in chunks, is the most popular meat you'll find in Iranian kebab. Chicken and beef also make a frequent appearance. In Iran, kebab skewers are often served alongside grilled tomatoes, a healthy plate of rice and flat bread, and a pile of raw onions. (Yes, raw onions. One roadside kebab stand thought us crazy for…