Soup Morgh Zaferani is a Persian chicken soup with saffron, vegetables, and vermicelli noodles. This delicious “red gold” soup is made with rich homemade chicken broth, diced carrots and potatoes. The soup is cooked for a short time, just until the vegetables are tender and flavorful but still hold their vibrant colors. The chopped fresh parsley is added right before serving for optimal flavor and color.
This soup is served in small amounts (usually one ladleful!) as a first course at formal dinner parties, so there is no surprise that it is sometimes called “soup é morgh é majlesi” which means a soup that is served at formal feasts and celebrations. The flavor and ingredients of this easy yet sophisticated clear broth soup have remained pretty consistent over the years.
Soup Morgh Zaferani is a glorious saffron soup that has regularly been cooked for special occasions in many Persian kitchens and its popularity dates back to several decades ago. It still remains as one of the most favorite traditional soups. I have memories of large, several course, dinner parties in Iran where this golden saffron soup was served in shallow china bowls with small red rose (chini gol sorkhi) print. As a child I always wanted a large bowl of this soup for my main meal; somehow its simple ingredients appealed to my young picky palate!
The standard ingredients for this Persian saffron soup mainly consist of a very rich chicken broth, and a small amount of diced carrots and potatoes. This is by no means a noodle soup, there is just enough vermicelli noodles to add a delightful texture without making it too thick. The spars amount of fine chopped fresh parsley adds a subtle flavor, and a beautiful contrast in color to this golden soup.
What makes Soup Morgh Zaferani spectacular and far more flavorful than any ordinary chicken soup, is the famous Persian “red gold spice” saffron; however, the quality of the homemade broth plays an equally important role. The broth is made by simmering several bone-in chicken pieces and/or chicken carcass for 2-3 hours in water with onions, salt and pepper. In old times the chicken pieces were cooked with skin for richness and flavor; I prefer to remove the skin for a lighter soup. The more chicken pieces and bones are used, the tastier the broth will be. I strain the broth and use it in the soup, and I save the cooked meat for another use, like salads!
If you have never had this soup before, you’re going to love how the broth mixed in with bits of tender vegetables and soft noodles can be transformed into an out of this world treat with the lovely aroma of saffron, (or ‘zaferan’ as we call it in Farsi). You’re going to be amazed at how something this simple could be so special. If you prefer your food on a slightly tart side, you may squeeze a slice of fresh lemon in your soup and sprinkle the top with some barberries before serving it.
Some other favorite soups that are served as a first course at parties and restaurants are Aash Reshteh and Soup Jo. These Persian favorites are sometimes served as a main course at casual family gatherings.
Make a rich broth by adding chicken pieces or chicken carcass (ask the butcher at your supermarket for it), water, onion halves, salt & pepper to a stockpot. Bring the water to a boil and skim off any foam that collects on top. Reduce the heat to just above low, cover the pot, and simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain the broth through a fine mesh and use it in the soup.
Make ahead tip: The broth may be made up to couple of days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
In a clean stockpot add the broth, small diced carrots and potatoes, cover and cook 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender (not mushy). Add the vermicelli noodles and cook for 5-7 more minutes until the noodles are tender. Remove from the heat, add finely chopped parsley and serve.
As displayed in this photo, the rich broth causes the dance of glistening circles on top of this aromatic and delicious saffron soup. I have sprinkled finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish this time, but sometimes I also like to serve it with a slice of fresh lemon and a few barberries on the side; either way, I really think it is one of best soups that I’ve ever had. Enjoy this Soupe Morgh Zaferani and let me know what you think!
Homemade broth: 2-3 hours
Soup prep time: 5 minutes
Soup cooking time: 20-25 minutes
- For the homemade chicken broth:
- 5-6 large skinless bone-in chicken drumsticks or thighs (may also use a whole chicken carcass with couple of chicken pieces)
- 3-4 cups cold water
- 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
- 1-1½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- For the soup:
- 3 cups homemade chicken broth
- ⅔ cup small diced peeled carrots
- ⅔ cup small diced peeled white potatoes
- 1/16 - ⅛ tsp ground saffron powder
- ¼ cup broken vermicelli noodles (or thin spaghetti), about 1-inch pieces
- 1-2 TBSP finely chopped fresh parsley
- Optional garnish (not used in this recipe):
- Barberries (zereshk)
- Slices of fresh lemon
- To make the homemade chicken broth add the chicken pieces and/or carcass, water, onion halves, salt and pepper to a stockpot. Bring the water to a boil, skim off any foams from the top.
- Reduce the temperature to the marking between low and medium low. Cover the pot and simmer for 2-3 hours. Check occasionally to make sure there is enough water in the pot. The broth will be very rich and flavorful at the end of this time and the meat will fall off the bone. If there is more than 3 cups of broth in the pot, leave the lid off and cook until it is reduced to this amount. Strain the broth and save the chicken meat for another use.
- In a clean stockpot add the broth, saffron powder, diced potatoes and carrots. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the temperature to just above low. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Add ¼ cup vermicelli noodles to the pot, stir, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the noodles are tender.
- Remove the soup from heat, add finely chopped fresh parsley and serve.