Nowruz Sabzi Polo (Herbed Rice)

This bright, herbaceous rice with perfect, creamy bites of roasted garlic throughout boasts a profusion of fresh herbs symbolizing spring.

Herbed "Nowruz" Rice (Sabzi Polo)

Ellen Silverman

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 5 mins
6 servings

Nowruz Sabzi Polo (Herbed Rice) is a staple of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which begins on the spring equinox. Chef Nasim Alikhani of Sofreh in New York City shared her recipe for the dish, which features aromatic basmati rice layered with herbs that symbolize spring, served with the crispy kale tahdig on the side.

Growing up in the landlocked province of Isfahan in Iran, Alikhani and her family would eat sabzi polo alongside salted and smoked Caspian mahi sefid (whitefish) — the only fish available back then — with plenty of lime. These days, she serves it with her Kuku Sabzi (an herb fritatta) and Pan-Seared Fish with Saffron and Dried Lime as part of her Nowruz menu.


  • 30 medium garlic cloves, peeled (from 4 garlic heads)

  • 5 tablespoons light olive oil, divided

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 2 cups uncooked aged basmati rice

  • 2 1/2 quarts water

  • 4 to 5 medium lacinato or curly kale leaves (from 1 bunch)

  • 1 3/4 cups finely chopped fresh chives (about 3 ounces)

  • cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems (about 3 ounces)

  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh dill leaves and tender stems (about 3 ounces)

  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems (about 3 ounces)

  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron powder

  • 3 tablespoons boiling water

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons rosewater (such as Cortas)

  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place garlic cloves on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Wrap foil around garlic, folding foil edges to seal, and place on a small baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until garlic softens and cloves are golden brown, about 40 minutes. Set aside.

  2. Place rice in a large bowl; add cool water to cover. Using your fingers, gently swirl water to rinse rice and release some of the grain’s starch. Drain and rinse rice once under cold water. Drain rice again; set aside.

  3. Bring 2 1/2 quarts water and 1/4 cup salt to a boil in an 8-quart nonstick pot. Add rice, and stir. Cook, uncovered and without stirring, until al dente, about 8 minutes. (To test for doneness, bite into a grain of rice and look for a white dot in the center of the grain.) Remove from heat, and drain rice in a large colander; rinse immediately with cold water, shaking colander to drain excess water. Transfer 2/3 cup rice to a small bowl; set aside.

  4. Rinse and thoroughly dry pot. Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to pot. Strip thick stems away from base and middle of each kale leaf; line bottom of pot with kale leaves for the tahdig.

  5. Stir together chives, cilantro, dill, and parsley in a large bowl. Place about 2 cups rice on kale leaves in pot, making a small mound in center. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups herb mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 10 roasted garlic cloves over rice. Repeat with 2 more layers using 2 cups rice, 1 1/2 cups herb mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 10 garlic cloves for each layer, continuing to heap mixture into a mound as you work.

  6. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a large (12-inch) circle. Place reserved 2/3 cup rice in center of circle. Enclose parchment paper over rice, folding and crimping edges together to create a sealed pouch. Place rice pouch on top of layered rice mixture in pot. Cover and cook over medium 8 minutes; reduce heat to low. Remove lid; and wrap lid with a large, clean kitchen towel. (Secure towel to lid top using kitchen twine or a rubber band.) Return lid to pot; cook over low 35 minutes. Remove pot from heat, and uncover slightly. Let rice rest with lid ajar for 2 to 3 minutes to allow steam to escape.

  7. While rice mixture cooks, place saffron powder in a small bowl. Pour 3 tablespoons boiling water and rosewater over saffron; stir gently. Set aside, and let steep 30 minutes. When rice is ready, use tongs to carefully remove parchment paper pouch; place rice from pouch in a small bowl. Pour saffron-rosewater mixture over rice, and stir to mix well.

  8. Spoon herbed rice from pot onto a platter. Top with saffron-rosewater rice, and drizzle with melted butter. Invert pot or use tongs to transfer kale tahdig to a plate. Serve rice with tahdig on the side.

Related Articles