Shah Plov: Treat Yourself To Azerbaijan's Special Pulao

Among the many Turkic, Anadolu, Iranian, and Eastern European culinary traditions that have come together to form Azerbaijani cuisine, the pilaf is regarded as a prominent dish. The simplicity and rich flavours of Azerbaijani pilaf are what makes it so captivating, in contrast to the Indian version. 

In a land blessed with nine climatic zones, the bounty of fresh produce paints a beautiful picture on the Azerbaijani table. From juicy peaches and ruby-red pomegranates to fragrant saffron and sweet peppers, each ingredient adds a layer of complexity to the culinary scene. While sheep and cattle roam the land, contributing tender meats and creamy dairy, the Caspian Sea yields a bounty of seafood, enriching the nation's gastronomic repertoire. 

At the heart of the Azerbaijani spread is the saffron-infused pilaf, which is complemented by a variety of grilled kebabs, skewered meats, dolma, and cold salads. Completing the meal is a glass of Azerbaijani wine or refreshing sherbet, which tantalises the palate with its citrusy sweetness and saffron-infused aroma.

Unlike the intricate Indian-style cuisine, Azerbaijani pilaf celebrates simplicity, letting the natural flavours of long-grain rice stand out. Cooked in butter or homemade ghee, the rice serves as an ideal base for accompaniments such as fried potatoes, raisins, and dates, paired with tangy pickles to create a lovely mix of flavours. Typically at home, pilaf is served on a plate, but in restaurants, it is often enclosed in bread and then baked. 

As you savour each spoonful of Azerbaijani pilaf, you'll be delighted by the nuttiness of caramelized raisins and the subtle tang of pickles, enhancing this humble dish to a beautiful mix of sweet, tart, and savoury notes. In Azerbaijani cuisine, simplicity reigns supreme, allowing each ingredient to shine in its purest form, offering a dining experience that celebrates the essence of flavour and tradition. No matter the meal, it always ends with a comforting cup of tea served in glasses. 

Here’s how you can make Azerbaijani Pilaf at Home 


1 cup long-grain rice 

2 tablespoons butter or homemade ghee 

A pinch of saffron threads 

Salt to taste 

1 cup fried potatoes (for garnish) 

1/2 cup fried raisins and dates (for garnish) 

Assorted pickles (e.g., tomato, bell pepper) for serving 


Rinse the long-grain rice thoroughly and soak it in water for about 30 minutes. Drain the water and set aside. In a pot, melt butter or ghee over medium heat. Add a pinch of saffron threads, allowing their aroma to infuse into the fat. 

Add the soaked and drained rice to the pot, stirring gently to coat each grain with the saffron-infused butter. Pour in enough water to cover the rice, season with salt to taste, and bring it to a boil. 

Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the rice simmer until fully cooked and the grains are fluffy. While the rice cooks, fry potatoes until golden and set aside. 

Once the rice is ready, fluff it with a fork, and serve it on a platter. Garnish with fried potatoes, fried raisins and dates, and an array of pickles. 

The Azerbaijani Pilaf is ready to be enjoyed – a delightful blend of nutty rice, caramelized raisins, and the nuanced flavours of pickles, highlighling the simplicity and richness of Azerbaijani culinary traditions