15 Recipes for Nowruz, the Persian New Year

Kookoo Sabzi (Fresh Herb Frittata)
Photo: Naz Deravian

Nowruz, also known as Iranian or Persian New Year, is the celebration of the vernal equinox. It is a holiday that begins exactly at the moment of the equinox — the first day of Spring — and lasts for 13 days. It's a joyous celebration of nature, new life, and new beginnings. There are many symbolic traditions and rituals that are observed during Nowruz, and naturally food plays a major role in the festivities. The customary dishes prepared during Nowruz include sabzi polo ba mahi (green herb rice and fried fish), kookoo sabzi (fresh herb frittata), and reshteh polo (noodle rice). The ingredients used in these dishes — such as a bounty of fresh green herbs, eggs, and noodles — symbolize spring, nature and well wishes for the new year. Iranians typically have a love affair with cooking with an abundance of fresh green herbs and it is on full display at a Nowruz feast with these delicious recipes.

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Sabzi Polo - Green Herb Rice

Sabzi Polo (Green Herb Rice)
Naz Deravian

Sabzi Polo is traditionally served for Nowruz dinner or lunch. 'Sabz' in Persian means green and the abundance of fresh green herbs in this dish symbolizes new life and rebirth. Sabzi polo is typically served with a fish dish like mahi sorkh shodeh (fried fish) and mahi doodi (smoked fish).

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Mahi Sorkh Shodeh - Fried Fish

Mahi Sorkh Shodeh (Persian Fried Fish)
Naz Deravian

A Nowruz meal would be incomplete without fish, and mahi sorkh shodeh (fried fish) often accompanies sabzi polo (green herb rice). Fish symbolize life and fertility. White fish is traditionally prepared, but any kind of fish is welcome at the table.

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Kookoo Sabzi - Fresh Herb Frittata

Kookoo Sabzi (Fresh Herb Frittata)
Naz Deravian

Kookoo sabzi is the embodiment of the spirit of Nowruz. This particular kookoo (Persian-style frittata) is packed with just about every fresh green herb in the Iranian crisper. The green herbs represent new life and the eggs in this dish symbolize fertility. Serve kookoo sabzi with sabzi polo (green herb rice) and mahi sorkh shodeh (fried fish), or enjoy with bread.

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Reshteh Polo - Noodle Rice

Reshteh Polo (Persian Noodle Rice)
Naz Deravian

The noodles in this fragrant rice dish represent well wishes and hopes for the new year. Reshteh polo is served for Nowruz lunch or dinner. You can purchase the roasted Persian noodles from Iranian markets or online.

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Mahi Doodi - Smoked Fish

Smoked Steelhead Trout (Salmon)

Smoked fish is another traditional fish dish that graces a Nowruz feast. Although smoked white fish is traditional, many families serve a smoked fish of their choice like this smoked steelhead trout. Serve the smoked fish alongside sabzi polo (green herb rice) with plenty of Seville orange or lime wedges to squeeze over.

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Aash-e Reshteh - Fresh Herb, Bean and Noodle Soup

Ash-e Reshteh (Persian Legume Soup)

On the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, Iranians gather together to celebrate Chahar Shanbeh Suri. Small bonfires are lit and people jump over the fire to bid farewell to the old year and welcome a new year. Aash-e reshteh is a hearty fresh herb, bean and noodle soup which is typically enjoyed on this night. The noodles in the soup are said to represent the many winding paths that life spreads before us.

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Herb and Cheese Platter

Persian Herb and Cheese

An Iranian meal would be incomplete without the presence of a fresh green herb and cheese platter. Fresh green herbs are enjoyed alongside every meal. Bread, cheese, and herbs also represent abundance and prosperity.

  • How to Grow an Indoor Kitchen Herb Garden
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Maast-o Khiar - Persian Cucumber Salad with Sultanas and Walnuts

Masht-o Khiyaar (Persian Cucumber Salad with Sultanas and Walnuts)

At the Iranian table dishes are all served family-style. A bowl of maast-o khiar is ever present to help cut through the more rich dishes. You can also serve maast-o khiar as an appetizer with a side of bread, crackers, chips, or veggies.

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Salad Shirazi

Iranian / Persian Salad Shirazi

A tangy tomato, cucumber, and onion salad is a mainstay of an Iranian meal. Serve salad shirazi alongside a Nowruz feast for a fresh and crisp bite.

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Zeytoon Parvardeh - Olive Pomegranate Dip

Zeytoon Parvardeh (Persian Olive Pomegranate Dip)

This Northern Iranian marinated olive dish makes for a great appetizer or serve alongside the Nowruz meal. The combination of walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and spices make these olives irresistible.

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Baklava II
Matthew Miller

Sofreh Haft Seen is the decorative Nowruz table. It is set up with seven symbolic items starting with the Persian letter "seen," or "s." Desserts are also included on the Haft Seen to represent sweetness in the new year. Baghlava is one of the traditional sweets served for Nowruz.

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Tut - Persian Marzipan

Tut (Persian Marzipan)
Naz Deravian

These Persian-style marzipan are shaped and named after mulberries. They are fragrant with the scent of rose water and very simple to prepare. Serve tut with a cup of tea.

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Noon Gerdui - Walnut Cookies

The Rebbetzin Chef's Persian Walnut Cookies

Walnut cookies are typically included on the Sofreh Haft Seen. They are perfumed with rose water and cardamom and are a perfect gluten-free treat.

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Salad Olivieh

Olivie (Russian Potato Salad)
rachel castrovinci

The 13th and final day of Nowruz is called Sizdah Bedar. It's considered unlucky to be indoors on this day and people head to parks and the outdoors and picnic in nature. Salad olivieh is considered the quintessential picnic sandwich. Make a batch and enjoy it with your favorite bread.

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Sharbat-e Sekanjebeen - Honey and Vinegar Sharbat

Sekanjabin (Iranian Mint Vinegar Syrup)

This refreshing honey and vinegar drink is infused with fragrant mint. Sharbat-e Sekanjebin is touted for its healing benefits of cooling and restoring balance to the body. Serve Sekanjebin to cool and sweeten palates. It also makes for a great Sizdah Bedar picnic drink.

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