Persian Jewelled Rice: A Rice Pilaf Recipe Fit For A Banquet

Persian Jewelled Rice, also known as "Javaher Polow" or "Morasa Polow," is a traditional Iranian dish that is popularly served during special occasions and celebrations. It is a vibrant and visually stunning rice dish that is adorned with a variety of colourful ingredients, resembling jewels. The rice is typically cooked with fragrant spices like saffron, cinnamon, and cumin, and then mixed with a combination of finely chopped nuts, dried fruits such as barberries, raisins, and orange peel, as well as sometimes pomegranate seeds. Persian jewelled rice is often served as a centrepiece or accompanied by a protein such as chicken or lamb.

The origins of Persian jewelled rice can be traced back to ancient Persia, where the art of rice cultivation and culinary refinement flourished. This exquisite dish, also known as "jewelled rice" or "morasa polo," has a history steeped in Persian culinary traditions and royal banquets. Persian cuisine, renowned for its sophistication and complexity, has a long-standing tradition of incorporating a wide array of flavours, spices, and ingredients. The concept of jewelled rice emerged as a way to create a visually stunning and flavourful centrepiece for special occasions. 

The dish gained popularity during the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736), an era marked by a cultural Renaissance and opulent festivities. The Safavid kings and nobility were known for their lavish banquets, where jewelled rice played a prominent role. It was considered a symbol of wealth, prosperity, and the refined taste of Persian royalty. 

The Making Of The Persian Jewelled Rice

Persian jewelled rice is a culinary masterpiece with captivating flavours and textures. Fragrant basmati rice forms the base, while a selection of nuts like pistachios, almonds, and cashews add richness and crunch. Dried fruits like barberries and currants infuse the rice with sweetness and tanginess, with variations sometimes including orange peel for a citrusy essence. Regional recipes in Iran introduce additional elements like saffron, cinnamon, or cardamom for aromatic warmth, along with ingredients like rose petals, pomegranate seeds, or carrots for enhanced flavours and visual appeal.

The art of preparing Persian jewelled rice involves a series of traditional techniques that contribute to its exquisite texture and visual allure. Attention to detail is key to achieving a harmonious balance of flavours. To begin, the rice is thoroughly washed to remove excess starch, ensuring a fluffy and separate grain structure. Parboiling the rice follows, partially cooking it to achieve a firm texture before the final steaming process. 

Layering is a crucial step in creating the dish's stunning visual appeal. In a pot, the parboiled rice is carefully layered with a generous assortment of nuts, such as pistachios, almonds, or cashews, alongside vibrant dried fruits like barberries, currants, or orange peel. Fragrant spices like saffron, cinnamon, or cardamom are also sprinkled between the layers to infuse the rice with their aromatic essence. 

Steaming is the ultimate technique that transforms the layered ingredients into a harmonious symphony. The pot is tightly covered, allowing the rice to cook gently in its own steam. This method ensures each grain is cooked to perfection, tender yet separate, while the flavours meld together into a tantalising medley. 

Regional Variations 

Iran's regional variations of jewelled rice showcase the country's diverse culinary landscape. Each region adds its own unique flavours and traditions to this beloved dish. Pomegranate seeds bring a tangy twist in the north, while rose petals offer a delicate floral essence in the south. Gilan province highlights the smoky allure of smoked fish. These adaptations celebrate local ingredients and reflect the cultural tapestry of their respective regions.

Moreover, jewelled rice is intertwined with cultural traditions. In Shiraz, it symbolises prosperity and takes the shape of a dome during Nowruz, the Persian New Year, representing fertility and abundance. This dish encapsulates the essence of Persian cuisine, featuring fragrant rice, nuts, dried fruits, and spices in perfect harmony. The symphony of sweet, tart, and savoury flavours delights the palate.

Persian Jewelled Rice Recipe 

Here's a detailed recipe to make Persian Jewelled Rice: 


    2 cups of basmati rice

    1/4 cup unsalted butter 

    1/4 cup vegetable oil 

    1/2 teaspoon ground saffron threads (dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water) 

    1/2 cup barberries (soaked in water for 10 minutes, then drained) 

    1/2 cup slivered almonds 

    1/2 cup shelled pistachios 

    1/2 cup raisins 

    1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon 

    1 teaspoon ground cardamom 

    1 teaspoon of sugar 

    Salt to taste 


    Wash the basmati rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in cold water for about 30 minutes, then drain. 

    In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add salt. Cook the rice in boiling water for about 5-7 minutes, until it is partially cooked (parboiled). Drain the rice and set it aside. 

    In the same pot, melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Add half of the saffron water and stir well. 

    Place a layer of parboiled rice at the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle some barberries, slivered almonds, pistachios, and raisins over the rice. Repeat the layers until all the rice and toppings are used, ending with a layer of rice. 

    Create steam holes in the rice by using the end of a spatula or the handle of a wooden spoon. 

    Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel or a tight-fitting lid to trap the steam. Cook on low heat for about 30–40 minutes, allowing the rice to steam and the flavours to meld together. 

    In a small bowl, mix together the remaining saffron water, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, and sugar. Set aside. 

    Once the rice is fully cooked, remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. 

    Gently fluff the rice with a fork, transferring it to a serving platter. Drizzle the saffron mixture over the rice, giving it a beautiful golden hue. 

    Garnish the jewelled rice with extra barberries, slivered almonds, pistachios, and raisins for an eye-catching presentation. 

    Serve the Persian jewelled rice as a centrepiece dish at festive gatherings or alongside your favourite Persian dishes. 

Enjoy the vibrant flavours, enticing aromas, and visual beauty of this exquisite Persian jewelled rice!