Iranian Rice With Crust (Chelo ba Tahdig)

This rice dish is without a doubt, Iran’s gift to the world of rice. It is said that a wife can not win the heart of her mother in-law until she has mastered the perfect tahdig crust for this rice dish. This recipe is not for the faint of heart and should only be attempted for a weekend dinner party with friends or a special occasion. It accompanies stews, kebabs, and other meat dishes. It is a real challenge to get a perfect crust and soft grains of rice, but when you nail it, the fans (and mothers in-laws) will go wild!

Iranian tahdig 2

Chelo ba Tahdig – Saffron Rice with Crust

This ancient recipe compliments long grains of saffron-stained rice with a crispy, crunchy outer layer. It's not easy the first time you make it, but follow the instructions carefully and you'll have an incredible dish that's well worth the effort. This will be confirmed further when your guests start indiscreetly reaching to get the last bits of the crunchy tahdig.
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Brunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: Iran, Middle Eastern
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
soaking rice: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 10
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Large flat-bottomed nonstick pot with cover
  • Large bowl, wooden spoon, colander
  • Spatula, small bowl, small saucepan
  • Round serving platter


  • 3 cups Extra-long white basmati rice
  • ¼ cup Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Clarified unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil


  • Prepare rice – In a large bowl, add rice and cover by a few inches. Gently massage rice for a few seconds then drain. Repeat 5-6 more times until the water runs clear. Drain completely, return to the bowl, and pour 2 cups cold water and 2 tbsp of kosher salt. Let rice soak on the counter for an hour.
    In a flat-bottomed nonstick pot, bring 12 cups water to a boil. Add ¼ cup kosher salt. Drain rice and add it to the pot. Spoon away any foam that rises to the top. As soon as a grain of rice rises to the top, set timer for 4 minutes. Start checking for the rice grains to be softer on the outside with a little bite on the inside. This stage should be done 1-3 minutes after the timer goes off. Immediately drain and quickly rinse with warm water. Use your hand to deflect the water. Rinse, dry, and return to pot to stove.
  • Make Clarified Butter – Place 1 pound unsalted butter in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, lower heat as low as it can go and adjust to a low simmer. After 45 minutes, the butter should be clear with a little foam on top and brown bits on the bottom. Scoop off any foam on top and strain into a coffee filter inside a hand strainer set over a heat proof bowl. Put 2 tbsp back into pot and scoop 2 tbsp more into the rice pot. The rest can be put in a covered container for later use.
  • Make Saffron Water – Bring a cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. In a coffee cup, pour ¼ cup boiling water on top of ¼ tsp saffron crushed between your fingers. Set aside.
  • Start Tahdig – Set the rice pot with the 2 tbsp clarified butter, 1 tbsp olive, and 1 tbsp saffron water over medium heat. Be sure to swirl butter-oil mixture around so the whole bottom and half the sides are lightly coated. Add a little more oil if necessary. As soon as the oil begins to sizzle, pour 3 cups cooked rice evenly along the bottom. Compress with a flat spatula to make a tight, thin layer across the whole bottom. This is the tahdig layer. Make a loose mound on top of the tahdig layer with the remaining rice. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a few holes in rice without hitting the tahdig layer. This will allow the steam to escape. Cover the pot and cook for 10-12 minutes over medium heat.
  • Saffron-butter Flourish – Heat small pot with remaining 2 tbsp of clarified butter and add saffron water. Keep warm.
  • Finish Cooking Rice – When the 10-12 minutes are up, remove the cover, being careful not to drip any condensation back into the rice. Drizzle butter-saffron mixture over the rice. Wipe down cover and place a kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels between the pot and the lid. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until steam begins to escape out the sides, around 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 30-40 minutes more. Rotate the pot a few times to ensure the tahdig cooks evenly.
  • Serve – Fill kitchen sink with 1 to 2 inches of cold water. Dip the rice pot into the water for 30 seconds. Decide if you want to serve the rice the "safe" way by scooping the rice onto a serving platter surrounded by chunks of tahdig; or serve it like a cake with the tahdig on top. To do that, place an equal sized serving plate over the top and quickly flip the pot. Place plate with upside-down pot on the counter and give it a few whacks. Grab pot handles and gently flip. Hopefully the rice ends up in tack on the plate with an intact golden brown, crunchy tahdig on top. Failing that, you can always say you were intending to do it the other way.


Calories: 254kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 4228mg | Potassium: 65mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 0.5mg

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