Many visitors on their first trip to Iran are afraid they will have difficulties finding vegetarian food. This is based on the idea that Persian cuisine is based on meat, which is partly true. Yet, typical Persian cuisine includes a great variety of yummy vegetarian dishes, which combine vegetables, fresh or dried fruit and the most amazing herbs you’ve ever tasted.
Let’s have a look at Persian vegetarian cuisine and some of the best places in Tehran where you can find it.
What are the most popular vegetarian dishes in Iran?
If you fancy a kebab, you can get one at every street corner in major Iranian cities. However, there’s another food that’s very popular in the country – rice, which the locals cook in more ways you’d thought possible. They even have a special type of rice, domsiah, black tail rice, cultivated mainly in the Gilan province.
When you go to a restaurant, you can order chelow, which is plain rice, cooked with a handful of spices. Or you can try polow, which is a dish of fluffy white rice that is typically cooked with something else – meat or vegetables. In Gilan, look for kateh, rice cooked until the water is completely absorbed and a crust forms.
Read also: The 5 Weirdest Foods in Iran
Eggplant is sometimes referred to as the Iranian potato, as many traditional meals are based on it. Take, for instance, Mirza-ghasemi, or smoked eggplant. This food is prepared on a charcoal grill and the eggplant is mixed with freshly peeled tomatoes and garlic that give it an irresistible flavor. Add some fried eggs or a rice side dish and you have a hearty meal.
Another staple in Persian cuisine is Kashk-e-bademjan, an eggplant dip made with walnuts, onion garlic and Kashj, which is a yogurt derivative. If you do order this dip make sure to ask for traditional breads, like lavash, sangak or taftun.
Read also: Top 20 Iranian Foods You Should Not Miss!
If you’re looking for a light and refreshing meal, try Abdoogh-khiar, which is a cold cucumber and yogurt soup, with raisin and walnuts thrown in it and garnished with rose petals. It tastes just as great as it looks!
Aash-reshteh is a traditional vegetable and noodle soup the locals use as their main meal in the cold months of winter as it is very nourishing.
Read also: 8 Most Popular Iranian Desserts
Kuku, which is like a Persian frittata, comes in many forms, but this one, packed to the brim with herbs, is my favorite. Washing and picking through the piles of herbs can be overwhelming if you’re not used to staring down a mountain of produce, so feel free to prepare them in advance.
Kuku is traditionally served with flatbread and a selection of crunchy and acidic condiments to balance the sweetness of the herbs; the favorites are fresh radishes, the chopped eggplant pickles called liteh and chunks of soft, salty feta cheese.
Best vegetarian restaurants in Tehran
After hours of touring the beautiful city of Tehran, you’ll want a nice place to eat and be sure you’ll find plenty of vegetarian meals. Here are a few suggestions:
- Mehre Mitra vegetarian restaurant is located in downtown Tehran on Lasti Blvd, where you can stop for a full vegetarian meal or maybe just to grab a bite. You’ll love the interior decorations and the friendly English-speaking staff.
- Address: RJCC+92F District 4, لواسان، Tehran Province, Iran
- Ananda restaurant, also in the city center, offers both vegetarian and vegan dishes. If you stop by, try the delicious Dolme, an Iranian delicacy consisting of mixed vegetables wrapped in vine leaves. Also, try their unique vegetarian lasagna.
- Address: Tehran Province, Tehran, District 3, South Ekhtiyariyeh, No. 18, Iran
- Pure Vegetarian Cuisine is a superb restaurant located at the base of the ASP Towers, and it offers both Iranian traditional dishes and European-inspired vegetarian meals.
- Address: Tehran, 64th St, ASP Towers, Iran
- Zamin is considered by many locals as the best vegan restaurant in Tehran and you’d do well to listen to what the natives have to say. They know best. This beautiful place is superbly decorated to look like a log cabin, is 100% vegan and you’ll love the food, as well as the very reasonable prices.
- Address: Tehran Province, Tehran, blvd sima-ye- Street Street، Farahzadi Boulevard، Q929+66G, Iran