Reshteh Polo

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 15 min
  • Active: 45 min
  • Yield: 6 servings 
Reshteh polo is a classic Iranian rice dish that’s common for Nowruz (Persian New Year). It’s traditionally made with reshteh polo, which translates to “noodles for rice.” Since this type of noodle is challenging to find outside of Iran, I’ve developed this recipe using vermicelli which, when toasted, closely resembles the Persian noodles. This dish is usually served with saffron chicken for the New Year.


Rice and Noodles:



  1. For the rice and noodles: Sprinkle the saffron on the ice cubes and set aside to melt. This will be your bloomed saffron.
  2. Rinse the rice in a bowl a few times until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the vermicelli and saute until the noodles turn deep brown but do not burn, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Fill a 6-quart pot halfway with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the rice. Simmer over medium heat until the rice is al dente (if you press a grain between your thumb and index finger, it should break but still be firm in the center), about 7 minutes. Add the vermicelli to the pot and cook for 1 minute. Drain the rice and vermicelli in a colander and rinse briefly with cold water. Reserve the pot.
  5. Peel the potato and cut it into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add the vegetable oil to the reserved pot and sprinkle with the turmeric. Arrange the potato slices over the bottom of the pot. Spoon a third of the rice and vermicelli mix over the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Repeat with half of the remaining rice and vermicelli mix and another 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch of salt. End with the remaining rice and cinnamon and another pinch of salt.
  6. Set the pot back medium heat. Poke 5 holes in the rice using the end of a wooden spoon. Wrap the lid in a kitchen towel and cover the pot. Cook until the rice is tender and the potatoes are easily pierced with a paring knife with no resistance, 25 to 35 minutes.
  7. For the toppings: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Saute the raisins until plump and shiny, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl. Heat the vegetable oil in the same skillet. Add the onions and saute until golden and tender, about 10 minutes.
  8. When the rice mixture is ready, transfer 1/2 cup of it to a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the bloomed saffron and mix with a spoon. Spoon the remaining rice onto a platter and arrange the potatoes around it. Top with the saffron-flavored rice, onions and raisins.

Cook’s Note

This recipe calls for ground saffron, which is different from saffron strands (threads). If using saffron strands, make sure to grind them first with a mortar and pestle before measuring. Sprinkling ground saffron over ice cubes gives it enough time to bloom while the ice melts. Keep any excess saffron water in a small jar or bottle and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Two tablespoons of kosher salt in the water for the rice might seem like a lot, but that’s the amount you need to make sure the rice is flavored. Most of the salt will be washed off when you rinse the drained and parboiled rice.