Shirin Polo (also known as Javaher Polo, or jeweled rice) is a glamorous Persian Sweet Rice with candied citrus zest, sweet carrots, almonds, pistachios, and raisins. Shirin means sweet and Polo is rice in Farsi. The mild sweetness and the festive look of this rice makes it a perfect centerpiece at special occasions such as Nowruz (Persian New Year), weddings, or other special gatherings. There are many different recipes for Shirin Polo, some sweeter than others and some with more ingredients than others. Besides rice, the ingredients included in most recipes are candied citrus zest, thin strips of carrots and slivered almonds with more or less sugar depending on the recipe. I have only used some sugar to make my homemade candied citrus zest and this adds just a hint of sweetness to this saffron rice.
(The top photo is a another presentation idea for Shirin Polo with TahDig pieces arranged on top).
The slivered almonds may be prepared at home but they need to be blanched first. To blanch almonds, add them to a bowl and add enough hot water to cover them. Keep the bowl covered for 10 minutes then without burning your fingers squeeze the almonds between your thumb and index finger to remove the outer brown skin. Do not drain the water because the skin dries very quickly and sticks back on the almonds. Next, use a knife to cut the almonds lengthwise into slivers. Prepared slivered almonds are sold in the baking aisle of most supermarkets.
Dried citrus zest is also available in most supermarkets but as usual homemade is so much better. I have used fresh zest of oranges and tangerines, because the tangerine peels are especially fragrant. In order to zest most citrus fruit it is best to do it before peeling the fruit. I usually use a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife to peel wide strips of zest (without getting any of the white pith), then cut the zest into thin strips with a knife or scissors. Tangerines have a thin peel, so it is easier to peel them first and then use a sharp knife to cut away as much of the white pith from inside. I also use a zester/stripper (seen in the bottom right corner of the top photo) that strips the zest in ribbons and leaves all of the white pith behind. This older kitchen gadget works very nicely for all the citrus fruits including tangerines.
If you could designate a season to different versions of Persian rice, Shirin Polo would be spring! This glorious saffron speckled rice is very appealing to the eye with hues of orange, yellow, green and purple. The crispy sweet vegetables caramelized in butter are mixed with almonds, pistachios, and raisins to create a perfect harmony with the fluffy steamed basmati rice. Like most recipes vegetable oil would make a fine substitute, but butter brings out the flavors of these delicious ingredients so much better.
Shirin Polo is a fantastic vegetarian dish when served by itself. There are a number of meat dishes that may be served on the side with this rice. The meat lovers would enjoy mahicheh (Lamb shank) in saffron sauce, khoresh morgh (Persian chicken stew). There is also a Shirin Polo where saffron rice is layered with small meatballs and a sweet mixture of nuts and raisins.
I have used strips of fresh tangerines and orange zest to make candied citrus zest. The zest strips are boiled in plain water for a few minutes, then water is drained and the zest is boiled in more fresh water for a second time, then it is drained and set aside. Sugar and water are heated to a boil then the zest strips are cooked over medium low heat until the syrup is reduced to 1/4 the initial volume. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the candied zest to a plate and spread it to cool. There will be 2-3 tablespoons of syrup in the bottom of the saucepan; reserve that.
Blanch and sliver your own almonds or use the store bought slivered almonds (these need to be soaked in water for 5-10 minutes if they are too brittle). The almonds can be blanched and slivered a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Steam the Persian rice according to this link, with one added step: Before steaming the rice, add the par-cooked rice in three additions to the pot and sprinkle with a pinch of saffron after each addition. You may make bread TahDig, or yogurt & saffron TahDig.
Meanwhile caramelize some thinly sliced onions in butter over medium low heat until golden brown and very crisp. Set the onions aside and in the same skillet saute the thin carrot strips (sold in the produce section of most supermarkets) with a pinch of salt in more butter over medium (or a bit higher) heat until they are golden brown and crisp. Drizzle half of the reserved syrup over the carrots and saute a few minutes over medium low until coated with syrup. Reduce the heat to low, push the carrots aside and pile the raisins, slivered almonds and roughly chopped pistachios in corners of the skillet (don’t mix them together). Drizzle the rest of the syrup evenly on each pile and gently toss and continue heating over low for a few more minutes, so they are coated with the syrup and the butter in the skillet.
Add 1/3 of the saffron rice to the serving platter, then add 1/3 each of the carrots, caramelized onions, and raisins. Continue this two more times (building the rice layers up to a pyramid) until all the rice as well as carrots, onions and raisins are used. Then sprinkle the top of the pyramid with slivered almonds and chopped pistachios and at the very peak add the candied citrus zest.
Invert the TahDig (I have made the Yogurt & Saffron TahDig but bread or potato slices may also be used) onto a platter and cut it into pieces and decorate with a few pieces of candied citrus zest and nuts. Enjoy this gorgeous Shirin Polo for your special occasions such as the upcoming Nowruz!
- 1 cup thinly sliced orange and tangerine zest (1 medium orange and 2 tangerines)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- One medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 TBSP butter, for caramelizing the onions
- 5 ounces match stick carrots (these are thin carrot sticks sold in small bags near the whole carrots in the produce department). If unable to find, thinly slice the peeled carrots then cut them julienne style)
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 TBSP butter, for caramelizing the carrots
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped pistachios (unsalted preferred)
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds (homemade or store bought)
- ⅓ cup raisins
- 3 cups uncooked basmati rice (please refer to this link for rice and tahdig instructions)
- Saffron powder (optional), to sprinkle between layers of rice before steaming
- Without peeling the orange, use a sharp paring knife or a vegetable peeler to peel the outer zest (not the white pith). Peel the tangerine first and try to get rid of as much of the white pith on the inside. Cut all the zest to very thin strips with scissors or a knife.
- Place the zest strips in a 1-Qt saucepan, cover with cold water and without covering the saucepan, boil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Pour out the water and repeat this step one more time with fresh water, boil for another 5-7 minutes, drain and set aside.
- In the same saucepan bring 1 cup water and ½ cup sugar to a boil over medium heat. Add the zest strips to the hot syrup. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir a few times and let it slowly boil uncovered until the syrup reduces to about ¼ the initial volume and the zest strips are almost transparent and sweet.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the candied zest strips to a plate and spread them in a thin layer to cool. Reserve the syrup (there will be 2-3 tablespoons of syrup in the saucepan)
- In a large skillet gently saute the onions with 3 tablespoons butter over medium low heat until golden brown. Stir occasionally until the onions are caramelized and crisp.
- Remove the onions from the skillet and set them aside. Add the thin carrot sticks to the same skillet with another 2 tablespoons butter. Stir frequently and saute over medium heat for couple of minutes and when they start sweating add a pinch of kosher salt and continue to saute over medium heat or a little higher until light golden brown. The reason for higher temperature and stirring is to brown the carrots quickly so they don’t poach and get soft instead of browning. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
- Make the rice and your choice of TahDig (I’ve made yogurt and saffron TahDig) according to the instructions here. I have sprinkled saffron powder over 2-3 layers of rice before steaming it. As usual the rice will take about an hour to steam.
- About 15 minutes before the rice is ready, place the skillet with caramelized carrots back over low heat. Drizzle half of the reserved citrus syrup over the carrots and toss to coat. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Push the carrots to one corner and without mixing, pile chopped pistachios, slivered almonds and raisins in the corners of the skillet. Drizzle the rest of the citrus syrup over each pile and toss a few times. Keep the skillet over low heat for 3-5 minutes. This toasts the the nuts and raisins with the syrup and butter in the skillet to give them some added crunch and a glistening look.
- To serve, add ⅓ of the rice to the serving platter, sprinkle with ⅓ each of caramelized onions, carrots and raisins. Repeat this 2 more times forming a pyramid, until all the rice, onions, carrots and raisins are finished.
- Sprinkle the rice pyramid with pistachios and almonds. Then add the candied citrus zest on the peak.
- Serve the Shirin Polo by itself or with chicken or beef.
Fae's Twist & Tango says
Colorfully gorgeous polo! When it comes to Shirin Polo, I love it sweet! I have a sweet tooth. 🙂
Burst of flavors, satisfying texture, beautiful to look at. So delectable. Beautiful styling for photography and the tah-dig is to dye for! Absolutely Marvelous!!!
Oh sweet Fae, thank you so much! You’re so kind and always so generous with your comments, and I absolutely love reading them every time 🙂
It looks magnificent Homa khanoom. It is absolutely my most favorite Persian rice.
Thank you for this great recipe.
Thank you dear Guity! I am very happy to hear that, and I hope you will get a chance to make it real soon and let me know all about it. Happy Nowruz 🙂
Fahimeh Shirazi says
Salaam Homajoon,it was just by accident I stumbled on to ur web page and got attracted to the beautiful display of Persian cuisine and it’s receipies. Today I have an incomplete ka shake bademjan which I hope when ready to devour will satisfy our taste buds.i hate repeating the same food for my fly,thus my interest in experimenting different recipes with an insatiable weakness for Persian food..
. Belated nourouz greetings.
Salam Fahimeh joon, welcome to my blog “khosh umadin.” Lovely to have you stop by and make a comment. I hope you will find the recipes that you’re looking for. More recipes will be added regularly, and I recommend subscribing to the blog so you will get email notifications of every post. Enjoy your Kashke bademjan! Happy Nowruz to you and your family and I wish you a wonderful new year.
Ingrid Mayer says
Thank You for sharing all those lovely recipes of yours.
They are a pleasant memory of my childhood in tehran
& are not the modern version but just how i learned it later on from my cook
after returning to tehran as a young housewife.brgrds ingrid
Dear Ingrid, nothing pleases me more than to have a loyal reader like you to stop by and leave me a comment. You’re so welcome my dear. Most of the recipes that I post on my blog are the original recipes that I grew up with in Tabriz, Iran; I do my best not to alter them in any way, and I’m glad you like them! Thank you for your continuous support and for telling me about your Persian cooking experience!
Brisa (IG patisseriesaba) says
An amazing recipe I look forward to trying at Christmastime this year. 2 questions. “Steam the Persian rice according to this link, with one added step: Before steaming the rice, add the par-cooked rice in three additions to the pot and sprinkle with a pinch of saffron after each addition.” Do you mean pinches of GROUND saffron or whole threads? For a non-traditional twist, do you think I could use dried cranberries or currants instead of the raisins? My serving audience will be non-Iranian people.
Brisa (IG patisseriesaba) says
And… sorry, if GROUND saffron, do you mean dissolved in water or dry?
Dear Brisa, that is an excellent idea; this rice is so beautiful and festive that it would make a great dish for any holiday. By pinch of saffron, I mean dry ground saffron powder. I just clarified that in the recipe. Thank you for pointing it out!
Yes absolutely, go ahead and try dried cranberries or currents; either will be a great choice.
Thank you for this recipe! I’m wondering, can you make it a few days ahead of time and reheat it or will it not taste as good?
You’re very welcome Dear Nazila. Rice and especially the crispy texture of tahdig are best when enjoyed right after steaming. However, if you need to make this rice a few days in advance, steam the rice according to the recipe and let it cool completely with the lid slightly ajar so it does not get soggy. Prepare the other ingredients (nuts, etc) ahead also but do not mix with the rice. Then reheat the rice over the marking right above low until completely heated through and fluffy and reheat the nuts and other ingredients over low heat and layer the rice when serving.
Can you suggest the outline of a meatball recipe to steam in the rice as you alluded to above? And if I made this with little meatballs, would I still add the fruits, nuts, and carrots after the rice has steamed or put everything in the pot together?
Hi Allison; you could use this meatball recipe: https://persianmama.com/persian-meatballs-rizeh-koofteh/ if you like, cook them in the sauce according to the recipe and then reduce the sauce and serve (no sumac and onion), or just brown them very well and serve them (Please follow the ground beef safety rules and make sure the meatballs are cooked through). The rice is steamed first and then layered with the cooked meatballs, dried fruits, nuts, candied citrus zest.. before serving.
I ended up serving this with roasted chicken (used your saffron lemon marinade) because I wanted to make the recipe as described the first time. Sooooo tasty. My brother ate like half the platter. I did cheat with Persian orange peel I ordered online (and a little simple syrup to get the glisten on everything else). Pregnant ladies have to cut corners. Thanks so much – everyone loved it!
Great choice Allison! I don’t like making changes to a recipe before an initial trial either. There is nothing wrong with using what is available online. I’m very happy everyone enjoyed this. Thank you very much for your comment 🙂
I made this again with the rest of my Persian orange peel when my brother wasn’t around so he couldn’t eat it all. I served it with chicken meatballs in the spirit of the recipe you suggested. I really think this is my favorite dish, or maybe a tie with fesenjan. I made fesenjan for my whole family for Christmas Eve dinner and everyone loved it. I’ve been making a lot of things for a second time now, and I think I’ll be making Persian food forever thanks to your great recipes. :o)
Dear Allison; I can’t blame your brother for eating the candied orange peels; they are addictive 😉 I’m so glad you and your family are frequently enjoying Persian food. Chicken meatballs sound amazing with shirin polo. Thanks so much for writing to me with your kitchen adventures; I really appreciate your kind words and continued support!
Thank you for this recipe! I have made it several times, and it has become one of my favorite dishes! I switch out the raisins for dried cherries or apricots, depending on what I have on hand, it it’s still fantastic. Your instructions are so easy to follow! Thanks again!
Kim, it’s wonderful to read that you’re enjoying this recipe. I really like the idea of using other dried fruits in this rice; sounds delicious and I bet it looks amazing too. Thank you so much for writing to me, and please keep in touch!
Hello. Could you please tell me if I could substitute the orange peel for something else or omit it all together?
Hello Mandy; yes, you could just leave it out. If you still would like to sweeten the other ingredients according to the recipe, just drizzle a small amount of simple syrup over them. Enjoy 🙂
MICHAEL TURNER says
Dear Ms. Homa,
This is a truly marvelous website. Your love for your children (what a gift for you to design and write such a great blog) and for cooking is palpable. I am going to try to cook my first Nowruz meal next weekend and will only be using your recipes. I will try the jeweled rice (with yogurt tadigh) and perhaps one of your chicken dishes. So long as I follow your recipes, I am sure it will turn out great. 🙂
Sending you best wishes and thanks again for all of this lovely information.
Dear Michael; You’ve just made my day with your lovely comment! I’m delighted to hear that you’re enjoying my blog! I hope you will enjoy your Nowruz meal, and wish you an amazing spring and New Year ahead. Please keep in touch!
Cheryl Jordan says
Hi. Can you help me find a recipe using thin sliced potatoes layered with shredded carrots almonds slivered and sugar syrup with saffron made in a deep pot cooked on the stove and turned out on a plate. Not sure what the name is and what the other ingredients were. A friend from Iran matty made it. Thank you
Dear Cheryl. I have been researching and asking around for the dish that you’ve referred to. Unfortunately I have not come up with any potato dish with those ingredients. I’m thinking maybe this was a delicious recipe created by your friend. If you do decide to make this, fry the potato slices and saute the carrots before layering and steaming, then drizzle with the syrup before serving. Please keep in touch 🙂
Thank you Homa. I have moved twice since we spoke and I just found your recipe again. Thank you for the advice on cooking potatoes and carrots first. I have large bag of medium grain rice. Can I use it.
Hi Cheryl, sounds like you’ve had a busy few months! I hope the rest of your summer will be very relaxing! The medium rice will not produce the same result as the long grain basmati. The grains are going to be a bit more sticky. But of course go ahead and use it. If you’re going to steam it in the recipe that we discussed few months ago, cook it couple of minutes less than the basmati in the initial parboiling phase. Please take care and keep in touch 🙂
Natalie Abdolahi says
Salam Homa Jan,
I woke up today and decided to try Shirin Polo ba mahiche, my dad is Persian so although I know most Persian dishes, I wasn’t brought up with them so I am slowly learning to cook them myself, and thankfully my children love it. if I can’t find someone to teach me a dish I google it, and thank god for the internet. I stumbled upon your website and the pictures look amazing so I thought to give it a try.
I just had one question – when sautéing the zest strips after boiling them twice, how much water and how much sugar should i use?
Salam Natalie jan,
Welcome to my blog and yes, thank god for the internet 😉 I know how wonderful it feels to recreate the flavors that we love and have grown up with! I’m glad you found the answer to your question but please do not hesitate to contact me with any other questions. Take care and keep in touch.
Natalie Abdolahi says
Hi Homa jan, Please ignore my last message I got too excited and should have finished reading the whole article before asking 😉 apologises
Such a flavorful, fragrant, and beautiful dish! Made this with the Dal Adas and some homemade pita, and it was a feast. Will be enjoying the leftovers for days, and looking forward to making again soon. Thank you for the easy to follow instructions and the thoughtful substitutions; for the Dal we didn’t have any tamarind on-hand but the lemon juice worked beautifully.
Dear Erica, thanks so much for your feedback! I’m really happy to hear that everything turned out delicious; enjoy your feast in good health. Please take care and keep in touch 🙂
Hi Homa joon,
Can I use store bought dried orange peel? If so, what do you recommend? Soak them first? Mercy
Hi Shideh jan, yes soak them in hot water for a few minutes until they are soft, then follow my instructions per the recipe. Would love to read your feedback. Happy cooking 🙂
10/10 thanks for sharing.
My pleasure, glad you have enjoyed this recipe!
Wish you a 10/10 Spring and New Year 🙂
Salam Khanoom. Man Zoya hastam. Khosh hal shodam ke een safeh paydah kardam. I have been craving shirin polo for a while (hameleh am hastam!) But its sometimes hard to remember what was in my polo, Babam as Iran has, madaram seeyah bood, valeh to batchegeeam hamash ghazo eh irooni khordam but i dont really remember the receipes. I cannot wait to try thisss
Salam Zoya joon,
Be safeye man khosh umadin. Omidvaram khorak haye mord e alaghatuno peyda bekonin va viaratun bar avordeh besheh 😉
This dish is from heaven if done right 😊
My mom used to say it’s very hard food to make
Long process but so delicious
The Tahdig of this dish is divine
Dear Stella, so happy you like this recipe. Yes, the correct prep for this rice makes all the difference and so worth the time. So happy to hear that your tahdig was fantastic too. Please take care and keep in touch. Happy New Year 🙂