Is it possible to be vegetarian in Iran, the country of kebabs and meat stews? The answer is a big "yes"! Not only it's easy to avoid meat, but also the Iranian traditional cuisine is filled with delicious vegetable dishes.
Here are a few examples, with their names written in Farsi to help you navigate through non-English menus if necessary:
If you are an eggplant lover, Persian cuisine is a paradise for you. Kashk-e Bademjan perfectly illustrates this statement. The main ingredient is eggplant ("bademjan", "بادنجان"), mixed with a type of buttermilk or yogurt ("kashk"), roasted onions, mint, garlic and walnuts. It's probably one of the best and most famous Iranian recipes, sometimes served as a side dish and accompanied by bread.
Another delicious dish made of eggplants. This northern speciality is famous all over the country and is between the omelette and the stew. It is cooked with eggs, tomatoes, garlic, and turmeric. It has an incredible taste, thanks to this spice and to the fact that eggplants are roasted.
"Ash" (آش) refers to a specific kind of soup, which is probably one of the most famous in Iran. It's an elaborated dish which suits vegetarian as well as a vegan diet. Ash-e Reshteh is usually cooked for events from celebrations to mournings. This noodle soup is cooked with chickpeas, red beans, lentils, spinach, and plenty of fresh herbs. Be sure that a bowl of this ash will make you full for the rest of the day!
KookooSabzi is a kind of Persian Herb Frittata. The main ingredients are fresh herbs, from cilantro to drill and parsley. Eggs and spices are added to the mixture, as well as barberries and walnuts, which is then cooked slowly to obtain a delicious result.
Once again, another delicious northern speciality. The main ingredient of this dish is fava beans, cooked with herbs and spices in a pan, and on top of which eggs are added. It’s usually served with rice.
Like Ash-e Resheth, Adasi is a type of soup, this time made with lentils. Onions, potato cubes and spices give it an incredible taste. You can add some lemon juice to appreciate it. It's a nice choice for breakfast in Iran.
Rice is a central element of Persian cuisine, and you will find many types in every restaurant. The plain, aromatic and fluffy white rice is called “chelo”, and rice mixed with other ingredients is “polo”. This latter offers a large variety of tasteful vegetarian meals. It’s the case for "Zereshk polo" (زرشک پلو) which contains barberry, "Baghali polo" (باقالی پلو) which has fava beans, “Adas polo” with green lentils, raisins and dates, and of course “Sabzi polo” made out of different fresh herbs.
These are only a few examples of some of the most famous Iranian foods without meat, but the list is actually endless. In every restaurant, side dishes also offers plenty of vegetarian options, such as olives ("Zeitoun", "زیتون"), yoghurt ("Mast", "ماست"), and the incomparable Shirazi salad (سالاد شیرازی).
Here is how to make Shiraz Salad:
Most of the time you can also ask the waiter to serve the dishes without meat. In order to help you, here are some useful words in Farsi:
Iranians are also fond of pizzas, pastas and burgers, which can easily be found with a vegetarian option. In each city, there are many fast-food restaurants offering such western foods. Of course, one of the most famous Iranian fast foods is the falafel sandwich, which is made of chickpeas. Moreover, in Falafel restaurants, the client usually makes its own sandwich with dozens of vegetables or pickles available.
Vegetarian and vegan addresses
More and more, it’s now possible to find vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Iran’s main cities. It’s especially true for Tehran, who has several addresses, such as:
In other main cities, you can pay a visit to:
We recommend you to use the mobile application “Happy Cow” to find delicious places easily. Also, note that Gilaki restaurants, serving foods from the north of Iran, usually have a large variety of dishes without meat. Do not miss it, as Gilan Province has been recognized by UNESCO for its gastronomy!
Apart from the restaurants, Iran remains a great place for vegetarians, and even vegans. Street food is full of vegetables and fruits such as spring almonds, blackberries, fava beans, fresh walnuts soaked in salt water, that you can buy at every corner of the street.
They are also plenty of shops selling fresh fruit juices, mixed in front of you, with an endless choice from carrot juice, to pomegranate, apple, orange, etc.
Iranians also love dried fruits, as you can notice in the alleys of the bazaars. Iran is actually the world's biggest producer of pistachios. It's thus a paradise for pistachio and nut lovers!
If Iranian gastronomy is often embodied with its kebabs, it's actually richer than that. The numerous varieties of local dishes offer a large choice for vegetarians, and even vegans, travelling to Iran.