Persian crispy rice is a fantastic meal of fluffy Basmati with a crispy bottom layer. Make this tahdig recipe for an easy main or side dish.
Let’s talk about this crowd-pleasing Persian food! It’s so sought after, Iranian children have been known to try and sneak bites while it’s on the way to the table!
After cooking tahdig rice (pronounced Ta-DEEG), the food is inverted onto a serving platter. This showcases the signature crispy layer on the top, with the softer, steamed layer underneath. Often designated as a main dish, the wholesome grain is also a delicious complement to stews and other hearty foods.
Persian Crispy Rice Ingredients
- White Basmati Rice- This variety is a must for true Persian cuisine. If you are truly in a pinch, any other long grain may be substituted.
- Clarified butter or ghee- Salted or unsalted butter, cooked and strained to remove any water and milk solids, has a deeper flavor than traditional butter. Additionally, the smoke point is higher, so it is useful in cooking food at high temperatures.
- Olive oil- Helps to form the crispy bits on the bottom layer.
- Saffron- This ingredient adds allure and a rich golden hue. For a less expensive alternative to saffron, add a pinch or two of turmeric. It provides a similar golden color to the rice.
Kitchen Tools You’ll Need:
Mortar and Pestle Used to crush or grind ingredients into a fine powder or paste.
Large nonstick pot with a lid Use a three-quart pan for two cups of dry rice or a six-quart for up to five cups. A well-seasoned cast-iron Dutch oven is an acceptable substitute. However, be sure to use more butter/oil to prevent food from burning.
Recipe Video: How to Make Tahdig Rice
Want to watch the making of the Persian crispy rice, from start to finish? Watch the video located in the recipe card below!
Making this recipe truly couldn’t be much easier. It’s simply a matter of cooking the grains with enough clarified butter to form a golden bottom crust.
- Grind the saffron.
Start by grinding the saffron with your mortar and pestle, then soaking the ground saffron in water.
- Rinse, soak, and drain the basmati.
Don’t give in to temptation and skip the soaking step. It’s necessary to saturate the grains with enough liquid that they are able to cook properly.
After soaking and draining the water from the pot, it’s time to cook the rice.
Add ghee or clarified butter, olive oil, and a little saffron water to the pot, allowing them to melt together. Be sure to coat up the sides of the pan as well. You’ll know it’s time for the next step when the oil mixture begins to sizzle!
Add a little cooked grain to form the crispy upper crust of the dish. Pat it down firmly with a spatula. Then, add more rice, forming a conical shape to completely cover the bottom of the pan.
- Poke holes in the rice.
This allows steam to escape, aiding in the proper texture of both the crunchy and moist layers..
- Invert the dish onto a serving platter.
When the cooking is complete, invert a serving platter against the top of the pot. Then, holding one hand on the top of the platter and the other on the pot handle, flip the entire dish upside down, plating the Persian crispy rice.
- Garnish as desired and serve.
Tips and Tricks
- Use at least two cups of dry basmati. Tahdig rice will present the best if there is a larger amount of rice.
- Intermittently turn the pan. Turning the pan every 10 to 15 minutes while steaming will cause a more evenly browned entrée. Or, you can try a heat diffuser placed over the burner and under the pan.
- Cold water To help release the Persian crispy rice from the cooking pot, you can fill a sink with about one inch of cold water. Then, briefly set the bottom of the pot in the cold water.
Alternatively, set it on a wet kitchen towel for a few minutes before removing the food.
I often serve this traditional meatless meal alongside a protein-based dish when it’s not the main course. Try any of these options to create a complete Persian themed meal.
- Grilled lamb
- Steamed vegetables
- Koobideh Kabobs
- Fried fish
- Mast-o Khiar (Persian cucumber yogurt sauce)
- Poultry dishes, like my Pomegranate Molasses Chicken (Fesenjan)
- Khoresh, or Iranian stew
Want to give this traditional recipe a makeover? Adding herbs while cooking is a great way to bring new life to the dish. Another popular and delicious option involves stirring additional ingredients directly into the pot.
Or, add fun and flavor to the meal by including something else thin and crisp-able to the bottom of the pan before cooking. Try any of these options for an exciting new flavor and texture.
- Bread: Pieces of lavash, Khubz, or even flour tortillas
- Potatoes, peeled and sliced to ¼-inch-thickness
- Cooked noodles
- Yogurt: Add plain yogurt to the pre-cooked grain and use it at the bottom of the pan for the toasted part
- Fresh herbs: Add finely chopped cilantro or parsley
Persian Crispy Rice - Tahdig
- 3 cups white basmati rice (See Note 1)
- Kosher salt
- 4 tbsp clarified butter or ghee
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp ground saffron steeped in ¼ cup warm water
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads to a powder and mix with the water to steep and bloom. Set aside.
- Place the rice in a medium bowl, and fill it with cold water. Gently wash the rice by swishing it around with your hand, then drain. Repeat until the water runs clear, about 5 times. Cover the rice with 5 cups cold water, 2 tablespoons salt, and stir. Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes.
- Fill a large stock pot or Dutch oven with 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and add ¼ cup salt. Drain the rice (but don’t rinse) and add it to the pot. Stir once gently and boil 4 minutes (as soon as you see the first of the rice grains pop up), and set your timer for 5 minutes (See Note 2).
- Drain rice in a colander and give it a very quick rinse with lukewarm water. Set aside to drain completely. Wash and dry the pot, if using the same pot.
- Set the rice pot over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter (or ghee), olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of the saffron water, and melt the butter (or ghee). Swirl the oil around so it evenly covers the bottom of the pot and a little up the sides, adding more butter and/or oil if needed. Work quickly now. As soon as the oil starts sizzling, with a spatula, add enough rice to fully cover the bottom of the pot in a thin layer. Pack down the rice with the back of a spatula. This is your tahdig layer.
- Gently spoon the rest of the rice over the tahdig layer in a cone shape, making sure the tahdig layer is covered with more rice. With the handle of a wooden spoon poke a few holes in the rice without hitting the tahdig layer, this allows the steam to escape. Turn up the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes for the tahdig to set.
- While the tahdig sets, in a small saucepan or microwave melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter (or ghee) and add it to the remaining saffron water.
- Lift the lid and drizzle the butter saffron mixture over the rice. Drape a kitchen towel on top of pot to catch the condensation. Place the lid firmly back on the pot, making sure the kitchen towel edges are flipped up onto the lid on top.
- Reduce the heat to low (depending on your element), and place a heat diffuser under the pot, if you have one. Cook for 30 minutes, rotating the pot a few times for even crisping, until the rice is tender and fluffy and the tahdig is crispy and golden.
- Run a rubber spatula around the inside of the pot. Place an appropriate-sized platter over the top of the pot and quickly and confidently flip the pot over. There should be a swish sound of the release of the tahdig. Alternately, you can scoop the rice, on to a platter. Gently remove the tahdig whole or in pieces, and serve it on the side.
- Basmati rice is a must for true Persian rice.
- What you’re looking for is a grain that is tender on the outside but still with a bite to it on the inside. This can take anywhere between 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the type of rice.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.