Persian Haleem with Turkey

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 7 hr 30 min (includes soaking time)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 8 servings
Haleem is a traditional Iranian breakfast dish that’s usually served on weekends. It’s often described as a "wheat and meat" porridge, which is fitting because it is mainly made with pelted wheat and turkey or lamb. Here I use coarse bulgur instead of wheat to make the process easier. It still takes time to prepare, but nothing like the classic way, whereby restaurants or home cooks would cook it overnight while stirring constantly. Because of its neutral flavor profile, haleem can be served sweet with sugar and cinnamon or savory with salt. I like mine pretty sweet, so that's the way the recipe is written. For a savory version, omit the sugar and ground cinnamon but keep the cinnamon stick to flavor the meat. Either way, this is a hearty dish that can keep you full for hours.



  1. Place the bulgur in a large bowl and pour 8 cups of water over it. Stir and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let the bulgur soak until just tender, about 2 hours. Drain and discard the water.
  2. Place the bulgur in a large pot with 10 cups of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to medium. Rest a wooden spoon in the pot and then place the lid on the pot, propping it on the spoon to leave an opening (to keep the water from overflowing during cooking). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bulgur has completely fallen apart and the consistency is like a thick soup, 3 1/2 to 4 hours; after every hour of cooking, add 2 more cups of water for a total of 16 cups from start to finish.
  3. While the bulgur is cooking, place the turkey breast in a separate large pot with the cinnamon stick and onion and add enough water to submerge the turkey breast. Bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover and simmer over medium heat until an instant-read thermometer inserted thickest part reads 165 degrees F, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  4. Puree the bulgur using an immersion blender until it’s completely smooth. (Alternatively, puree the soup in a regular blender and then pass it through a fine-mesh sieve to make sure it's completely smooth.)
  5. Remove the turkey from the pot, cut it into smaller pieces and finely shred in a mixing bowl using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer on medium speed, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the bulgur mixture to the turkey and mix using a wooden spoon to form a thick paste, adding up to 1/2 cup more bulgur as needed.
  6. Return the turkey mixture to the remaining bulgur in the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat. Mix half of the melted ghee with the cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Add the ghee mixture to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to develop and the porridge to thicken, about 1 hour.
  7. Divide the haleem among eight bowls and top each one with 1 tablespoon of the remaining melted ghee and additional ground cinnamon. Sprinkle with some sugar and sesame seeds to your liking and enjoy.

Cook’s Note

You can follow the recipe using 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of boneless lamb shoulder; the process will remain the same.