What Is Ghormeh Sabzi?

Rebecca Cartwright

Ghormeh sabzi is a traditional dish in Persian cuisine, a type of herb stew in which fresh green herbs and leafy greens are fried in oil until dry and browned. The stew always includes fenugreek and parsley and either leeks or chives, but many other kinds of greens may be included as well. Other traditional ingredients include omani lemons, olive oil, kidney beans and chicken, lamb or beef. Cooking ghormeh sabzi can be time-consuming, but there are dried, frozen and canned versions of the herbs available to shorten the cooking process.

Beans, especially kidney beans (on the top right), are used to make ghormeh sabzi.
Beans, especially kidney beans (on the top right), are used to make ghormeh sabzi.

Preparation begins with the cleaning, drying and chopping of the green ingredients. In addition to fenugreek, parsley, and leeks, common choices for greens include spinach, cilantro, green onion and dill. After thorough drying, they are finely chopped. The chopped greens cook in a dry pan over high heat until the moisture has entirely evaporated, then they are stir-fried in hot oil until brown.

Fenugreek is a spice used in cooking and a dietary supplements.
Fenugreek is a spice used in cooking and a dietary supplements.

Kidney beans are the usual choice for legume, though other dried beans or black-eyed peas are sometimes used. Either cooked dried beans or canned beans are suitable. Although olive oil flavors the dish, some recipes call for the greens to be fried in a more neutral-tasting oil.

Dried lemons, called omani lemons, are an important ingredient in Iranian cuisine and Middle Eastern cooking in general. Despite the name, they are actually limes, and are sometimes called black limes. The ripe fruits are boiled in salt water and then dried in the sun until they turn hard and black. They are used whole or crushed in soups and stews and add a distinctive musty sour taste to any dish. Lemon juice is used in ghormeh sabzi recipes that do not include omani lemons.

Ghormeh sabzi usually includes meat. Common choices include lamb, beef or chicken, though veal is sometimes used. Vegetarian versions of the dish can be made with tofu, or the meat can simply be eliminated and potatoes added to the dish for texture, as the flavor is more dependent on the herbs and green vegetables than on meat. Some recipes also include carrots, celery and even turnips.

There are many ways to speed the preparation of ghormeh sabzi. The green mixture is available as dehydrated mixes, frozen mixes and in cans. Dehydrated vegetables are soaked in water and then fried; the frozen mixes are already fried. Canned products include not only the fried vegetables but also everything else except meat.

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