Cooking Rice for Polow

by My Persian Kitchen on January 4, 2010

You wonder what the difference between Chelow and Polow is? The difference is huge! Chelow is simply white rice which is usually made along with Khoresht, stew.  Polow is rice that is usually mixed and cooked with vegetables, herbs, and/or meat.

When making polow we follow the same exact steps in making Chelow as far as the intial cooking of the rice goes. The only difference is that in Chelow  the rice is steamed by itself whereas when making polow we layer the rice.

I say this over and over again, making Persian rice is an art. It requires patience and a couple of practice runs.  Here are the basic few steps in the initial cooking of rice for Polow.

White Rice2 (Small)

Scoop out as many cups of rice as needed for your recipe in a bowl.

White Rice3 (Small)

Wash rice several times until water runs clear.

White Rice4 (Small)
Soak rice with salt either over night or at least about an hour. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t soak, but it does make a difference.


Bring water to a boil. Add salt. Place rice in, minus the water that it was soaked in.  Keep an eye on it, as soon as the water starts boiling again it should take about 10 minutes for the rice to cook.


While the rice cooks gently scoop the rice from the bottom of the pot and bring to the surface and release. Do this step several times.  NOTE: Do not stir.


Place a colander in the sink. You might want to choose a colander where the holes are small so that the rice won’t escape.


Check the rice to make sure it is cooked. It should be soft and cooked but not mushy.  Drain rice in colander.


Rinse with cold water to stop cooking process.

basic-polow6-customAnd voilà! Now you are ready to proceed to the next step of Polow making!

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Teresa January 7, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Do you have any tips for making rice in large quantities. We want to have a Nowruz party with 40-50 guests.

My Persian Kitchen January 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Teresa, the general rule of thumb for making rice is one cup of rice for two people. Good luck with the party!

Maryam February 13, 2010 at 4:33 am

I could kiss you for saying making “Persian rice is an art” sooooo true!!

My Persian Kitchen February 13, 2010 at 10:02 am

I would gladly take the kiss! :)

Homa February 24, 2010 at 11:49 am

Love your blog! Where did you obtain your colander? I have a small mesh one but I have to drain rice in two batches.

My Persian Kitchen February 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Homa, thank you for your kind words. I honestly don’t remember where I got the colander. I have had for 6-7 years. sorry I can’t be of help!

Marie Howard March 22, 2010 at 6:00 pm

How do I make sure that the rice is not sticky ? I like the grain to be separate.

Thank you.

My Persian Kitchen March 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Marie, you have to make sure that the rice is not over cooked and cook the rice based on the directions of this post. But also you may want to make sure that you use basmati or jasmine rice.

Amarnath May 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Hello there….
Just writing in to say this…..I’m from India, and you will not be surprised to know how much similar Persian dishes are to several Indian ones….I make a some biryanis, and yakhnis myself….
I have this recipe for kachhi gosht ki biryani, where it says:
1 kilo mutton
500g rice
4 cups curds
The process given….
marinate mutton+ 3 cups curds+spices for 3-4 hours
wash and soak basmati for 20 mins
layer a pan with oil, add marinated meat at the bottom
layer raw rice on the top
add saffron ‘n milk on the top
seal, cook by dum pokht….
My humble question: will the rice ever get cooked in just the moisture from the meat , and the curds, and no additional parboiling of the rice is required?
Love your blog, and looking forward to more posts….

My Persian Kitchen May 12, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Amarnath, I love Indian food myself and I definitely see the similarities in our cuisine. In my humble opinion, the rice should be par-boiled before being steamed. You don’t say how much milk to add the pot, but regardless, the rice needs a minimum of twice its amount of liquid to cook. I hope this helps! :)

kim May 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm

You do not say anything about covering the lid with a cloth for this recipe.
Is there another rice recipe in which the dish is covered while it steams?

Thank you so very much for creating this site. It has been very helpful to the novice cook.

Many thanks! Kim

My Persian Kitchen May 31, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Kim, this post only covers the first step of making rice, basically the par-boiling portion for when rice is steamed with other ingredients. For a full tutorial on how to make white rice from beginning to end please click here.

Crazy about Persian food August 17, 2010 at 4:37 am

Hi, I am from Saudi Arabia and loveeeeeeeeeee persian rice, it tastes very different than our rice for sure. I am just curious, how many cups of water do you add per cup of rice. or do you just add a lot of water in the cooking pot? thank you soooooo much. love your website.

My Persian Kitchen August 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Crazy about Persian food, thank you for your kind comments! I looooveeeee Persian rice too!!! I have found that the best ratio for me is 1 cup of rice to 3 cups of water. :)

Amarnath September 8, 2010 at 2:04 am

Hi there,
Such a late reply, I’m so sorry….Just writing in to say that the recipe I was talking about, rice and meat with not a drop of water, it turned out pretty well, though I have tried using chicken meat. Also, as was probably expected, the rice was a bit sour being done in yogurt……thanks a lot for your answer…

Amarnath September 14, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Dear MPK,
It’s me again….I really want to learn how to cook rice the Persian way.They do it the best, IMO.
I came across so many varying bits of information on cooking rice the way Persians do, but I’m still confused….Is it necessary to soak rice in salted warm water at all?

My Persian Kitchen September 15, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Amarnath, you don’t have to soak rice in water, but it’s best if you do. And it has to be room temperature water, not warm. I hope this helps.

Pam December 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

Just a question: doesn’t cooking the rice that way i.e. boiling, soaking, rinsing, – doesn’t this take away all the vitamins and nutrition and fibre of the rice?

My Persian Kitchen December 3, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Pam, I am not a nutritionist but I presume that it might.

UmmBinat January 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Salam alaikum, Thanks for this recipe I used to continue on with your, Zereshk Polow ~ Rice with Barberries. The rice was perfect! Masha Allah (Praise be to God). I will use this method often.

Kitty June 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm

In your opinion, what is the best sort of rice (for chelow)? I prefer basmati (it always keeps it’s shape, it has nice smell, it’s not easy to spoil:) but I’m told over and over again that the best sort is Iranian tarom. I don’t like it’s smell, shape, it is always sticky etc. I do know how to cook rice:), but I really can’t understand why everybody is so crazy about tarom. Is it really the best?:) For me it tastes ok only when I make a kind of mixture with chicken, onion etc.

My Persian Kitchen June 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Kitty, my favorite rice for chelow is Basmati.

Kelli July 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm


Great tips :) Thanks! I want to cook rice for 50 guests.
1/2 Baghaly Pollo and 1/2 Chelow
Any ideas – should I use a huge put and cook regularly?
I don’t want to make a mistake as I’m having a huge dinner party!

My Persian Kitchen July 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm

@ Kelli, I would definitely use a big pot. The first part of rice making which is par-boiling can be done together, but once you go to the second stage, they clearly have to be separated.

Gautam August 14, 2011 at 1:35 am

Hi Sanam,

Wonderful blog! A question please about Iranian rice cookers: will they run on US 110-120 volt, 60 cycle current or are they built for 220 volt, 50 cycle current common in most places globally?

With your permission, if I might weigh in on Amarnath’s query, because he has taken up a very specialized niche of the biryani family known as the kacchi-kacchi, or raw + raw, indicating that both rice & meat go in raw. There are several important specifics to making this a success, but the general principle is that the rice needs a substantial amount of fat rendered from the yoghurt being absorbed & other sources, including the meat. The shape of the cooking vessel is very important here, and when the steam-cooking is under way, one gauges the process by SOUND. The frank water is absorbed, and the rice is literally “crackled” in the fat. The changeover is distinct. My friend actually reserves a stethoscope to accurately gauge the minute transitions within the kacchi-kacchi lagan, a specialized vessel in which the rice is sealed under moistened cotton cloth.

In different types of biryanis, the acidity of the cooking liquid is manipulated to control the gelling properties or “hardness” or mouthfeel of the rice. HOWEVER, the yoghurt should never be sour! SPECIFICALLY the North Indian complex of yoghurt culture must be used, not the South Indian, and no souring allowed to occur when it is set. Amarnath can get the cultures from CFTRI, Mysore, if in doubt. It matters a lot what milk was used, cow or buffalo. Cow milk, 5.5 % butterfat, 11-13% Solids Not Fat, set in unglazed clay, will have the right amount of liquid for this purpose. Buffalo has 7-10% fat & sours easily, & has a different quality to it; will not matter much in kacchi-pakki biryani.

Further, the type of meat and rice, and amount of added ghee (c.750 grams here!), has to be carefully balanced. There are most excellent accounts on the web, but they are one or two in number. The problem today with Indian cookery is that a herd of shrewd journalists, impresarios, & hotel cooks claim instant expertise by dint of publicity, with none being able to contest their absolute drivel.

Much can [and needs to ] be written about the subject of rice alone. What is sold as “basmati” today occupies a very broad genetic spectrum, and hence, cooking qualities. The same applies to jasmine rice.

Pray pardon this acerbity, because in one lifetime, I have witnessed the irrevocable extinction of 80% of more than one cooking tradition in India built up over centuries — not just preparing the food, but also the why & hows of consuming it, along with the tehzeeb & insaniyat.

My Persian Kitchen August 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Gautam, Persian rice cookers are made for both use in the US and other parts of the world. You just have to make sure that you purchase the correct one.

Amy January 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hi, Sanam!

It seems that Persians are as passionate and methodical about polow as Italians are about pasta–Every minute detail counts! Since I am gluten intolerant I am more interested in learning how to make Persian rice dishes. This site is a great resource!

To answer the question above about rice nutrition, white rice has already had most of its nutrition removed (it’s in the outer portion of the grain). However, there is some science behind soaking–All grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain certain antinutrients that block the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Soaking, sprouting and fermenting all help to remove these antinutrients from the rice. The most nutritious option would be sprouted whole grain rice.

Alex March 3, 2013 at 6:33 pm

A few years ago i had Persian dill rice at a Persian restaurant in NY and loved it. So this weekend i finally decided to try to make it myself. it took two attempts. On my first attempt I followed your advice for boiling rice for 10 minutes until it was fully cooked. Then i followed the steps for making dill rice. In the end the rice was completely overcooked – it turned into mush. next day i tried it again, but boiled rice for only 5 minutes, so that it was still pretty hard. Then I took the next step, and it came out perfect. So, the lesson for me is that if you boil rice just to eat it plain, then 10 minutes is the right cooking time. But if you are going to use it making a rice dish, cook it for 5 minutes only. Does this make sense?

My Persian Kitchen March 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Alex, you cook the rice until it’s al dente, never fully cooked!

John July 31, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Hi, You don’t say how much water to cook the rice in.

My Persian Kitchen August 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

John, 3 cups of water for every cup of rice!

Sana Rice September 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I cannot wait to try this as I love rice dishes also so I can learn to cook for the Persian I plan to marry. :)

Bridget September 11, 2013 at 10:55 am

Hi there! What type of rice is most commonly used in Persian cooking? Thank you for these recipes!

My Persian Kitchen September 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

Bridget, we use Basmati rice.

Sara March 8, 2014 at 3:13 pm

If I am making something like lubia polow, can I do this and then finish it off in a rice cooker?

My Persian Kitchen March 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

Sara, no, I’d start and finish in a rice cooker. Please see this post as a sample:

Carra May 20, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Is there a way to pin this on Pinterest?

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