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Radio Free Food: Kookoo Sabzi

Radio Free Food: Persian Kookoo Sabzi
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Hirsa Esmaeilnia and Kristin Deasy share a recipe for kookoo sabzi, a classic vegetarian dish from Iran.

Kookoo sabzi is an Iranian egg-based dish similar to an Italian frittata. It’s perfect for a quickly prepared lunch or dinner at any time of year, but it’s also commonly served during the Iranian New Year, or Norouz, which takes place at the spring equinox. The vibrant green dish, made with fresh green herbs and, if possible, equally fresh eggs, signifies the birth and flowering of a new year.

(WATCH ABOVE: Hirsa Esmaeilnia and Kristin Deasy prepare Kookoo sabzi)

There are many variations on the kookoo, which can be prepared with a variety of herbs or other vegetables. In this video, Hirsa Esmaeilnia shares her family recipe, which comes from northern Iran.


6 cups (900 g) chopped fresh herbs: 2 bunches of dill, 3 bunches of parsley, 3 bunches of cilantro, and 2 bunches of chives or green onions. (Spinach or lettuce can also substitute for one of the herbs.)
3-5 eggs
1/4 cup (40 g) chopped or crushed walnuts, lightly toasted or raw
1/4 cup (40 g) barberries (called zereshk in Persian, these berries are available at specialty food markets. Cranberries can also be used.)
Pinch of turmeric
2 threads of saffron
Salt to taste (use sparingly)


Always buy the freshest possible herbs. Rinse the herbs, shake dry, and mince finely; set aside. (This is best done by hand, but the herbs can also be pulse-chopped in a food processor.)

Grind the saffron using a mortar and pestle and add a small amount of hot water mixed with a few grains of sugar. Set aside to steep.

Lightly beat the eggs; add the turmeric, chopped herbs, and salt. Fold in the walnuts, berries, and saffron. Start with three eggs and add more if needed; the final mixture should resemble a thick waffle batter.

Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a medium non-stick frying pan on medium high. To test the heat of the pan, drop in a small spoonful of batter; if it sizzles in the oil, the pan is ready. Spoon the mixture evenly into the hot pan, flattening with the back of a spoon, and cover immediately. Fry for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and fry uncovered for another 10 minutes.

Serve at room temperature. For a garnish, top with fresh pomegranate kernels, or serve with freshly sliced watermelon, flatbread, and yogurt. Kookoo can be served as a main or a side dish.


You can also bake kookoo, which changes the texture slightly and takes longer; see this recipe over at the popular Turmeric & Saffron cooking blog for instructions. "The New York Times" has also posted its own version.

There are many variations on the kookoo, but the herb version presented here is the most popular. Try a potato and green bean kookoo, called kookoo sibzamini, or a cauliflower kookoo, or even break with the vegetarian tradition and throw in some shredded poached chicken. One of the beauties of this dish is its versatility: experiment and find out which combination is your favorite.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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