Persian Sour Cherry Rice (Albaloo Polow)

This is a classic Persian recipe. I have seen some recipes with jarred sour cherries, but most with fresh. This was the only dish of cherry week that I did nothing to sweeten the cherries, and the tartness was really nice mixed with the toasty rice. The only thing I wish was that the cherry flavor permeated the dish more and not just on cherry bites. As with any Persian rice, the crust, or “tadig”, is the best. The best!

Ha. Every recipe this week starts with this picture. Pitting cherries is getting old.

I like how many indian and middle eastern rice recipes are boiled instead of steamed.

After it is strained, you layer it with butter, saffron, and the cherries.

When you take it out of the pot, try to keep the shell intact. I have NEVER been able to keep the shell intact! It doesn’t change the deliciousness, just the presentation.

I served it with a piece of barely seared tuna and a simple arugula salad (with CHERRY tomatoes hehe).  I like how each thing has an element of red.  MMM tadig tastes like popcorn.

I used Jaden’s recipe as a starting point, but I also have a pretty good persian cookbook by Najmieh Batmanglij (Rostam’s Mom).

About 40 small sour cherries
2 cups rice
Big pinch of saffron in 2 tablespoons of warm water
3/4 stick butter melted

Rinse rice till water runs clear.
Soak rice for an hour.
Boil rice 8 minutes in plenty of salted water (more like cooking pasta than rice)
Strain rice.
Add half the butter to hot pot (enameled cast iron works best for me)
Add half rice and stir a bit.
Add half cherries and half saffron/saffron water evenly. Think of this as a layer.
On to the next layer. Add the other half of everything starting with the rice.
Put a kitchen towel over the top of the pot, then add the cover. This helps keep the steam in.
High about 8 min, low about 20. Keep a nose near the pot during the first 8 minutes, and turn it down if it smells burn-y
If you can dump this out without messing up the crust – good for you, but if you cant, no big deal. It still tastes awesome!


  1. The Tahdig is definitely the BEST PART!
    I’ve never had albaloo polo made with fresh sour cherries, I need to try it.
    How was it with the seared ahi? My mom always makes it with chicken 🙂 Cooks rice and chicken separately but puts them all in together during the steaming part of the rice. With a side of Salad Shirazi and Masteh-Mooseer… HEAVEN!
    Granted nothing beats Gheymeh on Tahdig 🙂
    Now I’m hungry and I don’t actually make any of these dishes. Good thing my mom lives close by 🙂

  2. Do you think it would change anything if you infused the saffron in the cooking water before cooking the rice?

  3. Mike,
    Part of the reason why saffron is only used on some of the rice is because it creates visual interest. The other part is saffron is pretty expensive. I recently broke a bottle of it at home (not a large one mind you) and nearly cried.
    Also Basmati rice is traditionally cooked differently. It’s first boiled with a lot of water, and then strained (and sometimes rinsed), then it’s placed back into the pot with potatoes/bread on the bottom (to create the tahdig, which can also be created with just the rice itself).
    When you drain the rice a lot of the saffron will end up in the sink, and for the price of saffron.. that’s just crazy. With Paella, and other dishes that also use saffron and rice, the rice is never drained.
    So I suppose if you want to have all yellow rice and then throw some saffron away when you drain the basmati rice… go for it. 😉
    Traditionally the rice is made the way it was described above.

  4. If you really wanted to have yellow rice all the way through, you could add a pinch of turmeric to the cooking water. Only a tiny one, mind, because you don’t want the flavour to come through.
    Just make sure not to get any on you if you can avoid it, because that stuff stains like you would not believe. I cook a lot of Indian food, and there are weeks where my whole frickin hand is yellow, it seems like.

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