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What Is Tahdig?
Rice—called polo in Farsi—is a staple side dish in Persian cuisine. It’s often prepared by steaming with oil or butter to create a crispy layer of rice on the bottom of the pot called tahdig (pronounced tah-deeg). Tah beans bottom and dig means pot in Farsi—it’s literally what happens at the bottom of the pot.
This caramelized, crispy crust is often the most prized part of Iranian rice dishes such as katteh (rice simply steamed with water, oil, butter, and sometimes saffron), baghali polo (rice with dill and fava beans), and sabzi polo (herbed rice). In all of these dishes and more, rice is blanched to an al dente texture and then transferred to an oiled pan to finish cooking by steaming, during which time the oil at the bottom of the pan helps form the golden crispy tahdig.
What Kind of Rice Should You Use for Tahdig
Persian rice dishes are made with long-grain white rice that maintains separate grains when cooked. It can be hard to find Persian rice varieties outside of Iran so basmati rice is usually recommended.
What Equipment Do You Need to Make Tahdig
Tahdig requires a pot large enough to boil a large quantity of water: Use a three-quart pot for two cups of rice or a six-quart pot for up to five cups of rice. The best kind of pot for tahdig is an inexpensive nonstick pot, which will allow the tahdig to release easily from the bottom of the pan. You can also use a well seasoned cast-iron Dutch oven, but you may need to increase the amount of butter and oil, as it will be more difficult to flip.
When the rice is steaming, you’ll need to wrap a kitchen towel around the lid to prevent moisture from returning to the pot. Tie a clean cotton towel to the handle of your pot, or buy a damkesh, a specially made cloth lid cover.
5 Variations on Rice Tahdig
The most common type of tahdig is made with rice, but by placing something else thin and crisp-able at the bottom of the pan you can make tahdig from:
- Potatoes, peeled and sliced to ¼-inch-thickness
- Flatbread such as lavash, pita, flour tortilla
- Yogurt tahdig: made by mixing some of pre-cooked rice with yogurt and saffron and placing this yogurt-y rice at the bottom of the pan
- Pasta tahdig: made from sauced spaghetti
6 Tips for Making the Perfect Tahdig
- Use at least two cups dry rice.
- For a less expensive alternative to the saffron used to flavor and color Persian rice, try a pinch or two of dried turmeric.
- The best pot for tahdig is an inexpensive nonstick stockpot with a lid. Dutch ovens and other pots with tight-fitting lids are meant to keep moisture in the pot, whereas tahdig needs the steam to escape. If using a cast-iron Dutch oven, make sure it’s well seasoned and increase the amount of oil used and the cooking time.
- Turn the pot every 10 to 15 minutes while the rice is steaming for a more evenly browned tahdig.
- You can set a heat diffuser on top of a gas burner for more even heating of the tahdig.
- To help release the tahdig from the pot, you can fill a sink with about one inch of cold water and briefly set the entire pot in the cold water. Or set the pot on a wet kitchen towel.
Easy, Foolproof Rice With Tahdig Recipe
Prep Time60 min
Total Time2 hr 30 min
- 2 cups Persian rice or other long-grain white rice such as basmati
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided, plus more if needed
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (or powdered saffron) and dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
- In a large bowl of cold water, wash rice, swirling with your hands until the water is less cloudy, 2–5 times. Soak rice in 8 cups fresh, cold water with salt and set aside for 30–60 minutes, then use a fine-mesh sieve to drain.
- In a large nonstick pot, bring 8 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the drained, soaked rice to the boiling water and cook rice, stirring a few times to prevent sticking, until al dente, about 5–10 minutes. The grains of rice should be soft on the outside but still firm on the inside.
- Use a fine-mesh sieve to drain the rice and rinse immediately with cold water to stop cooking.
- Wash the pot and add the butter, 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, and 1 tablespoon of the saffron liquid over medium heat, stirring to coat the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from heat and add the rice in a pyramid shape, building a mound up away from the sides of the pot. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make 6 steam holes in the mound of rice, 5 around the edges (about 2 inches from the edge of the pot) and one in the center, and return, uncovered, to the stove set to medium heat.
- When the rice starts to steam, after about 7 minutes, carefully pour the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, ¼ cup water, and 1 tablespoon of the saffron water over the rice. If the oil doesn’t start to bubble up along the sides of the pan, carefully dribble a little more oil along the sides. Cover with a lid wrapped in a kitchen towel and lower heat to medium low. Steam until rice is cooked through and tahdig is golden and crispy, about 30–60 minutes.
- Remove some rice from the top and mix with the remainder of the saffron water and transfer to a serving platter. Use a spatula to remove the tahdig and place on top of the rice. Alternatively, place a plate on top of the pot and invert the rice onto it.
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