Considered one of Iran’s culturally significant dishes, Ghormeh Sabzi is a rich beef stew with a unique and complex flavor profile, which results from slow-cooking fresh herbs and dried limes with beef and red kidney beans. Quite simply you will fall in love with this dish, as it’s sour, savory, decadent and delicious. There’s just nothing else like it!

Ghormeh sabzi in a bowl with rice. In the background, there is another bowl of rice.
Ghormeh Sabzi with Basmati Rice | Photos by Mark Beahm

There is little debate that Ghormeh Sabzi is the King of Persian stews, with the Queen being Fesenjan (Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Chicken Stew). And if I had to name the one thing that makes this dish so special, it would be the incredible depth of flavor. The combination of herbs like fenugreek, cilantro and parsley with dried limes make for an intensely savory and sour stew, with a comforting richness from the beef and kidney beans. 

The unique flavor of this traditional beef stew comes from the cooking technique, in which chopped herbs are fried to develop a deep, complex flavor. The stew becomes both darker and more intense the longer you cook the herbs. That’s why you see different shades of Ghormeh Sabzi: Some are more vibrant green while others are so dark they almost look black. 

This Ghormeh Sabzi recipe leans towards the green end of the spectrum. I like to cook the herbs until they are dark green but not black, as darker versions can sometimes be bitter. Cooking the herbs until they are dark green intensifies the flavors, but maintains the bright flavors from using fresh herbs.

Some use the adjective ‘pungent’ to describe this dish, but the modern-day negative connotations do Ghormeh Sabzi a disservice. The flavors may be intense, but they fill the person eating it with joy. Seeing someone’s face the first time they eat Ghormeh Sabzi is utterly brilliant. Pure unbridled happiness and astonishment about a marriage of flavors that are completely new to their taste buds!

Table of Contents
  1. What is in Ghormeh Sabzi?
  2. What are Dried Limes and Where to Find Them?
  3. How to Make this Ghormeh Sabzi Recipe
    1. Cook the Aromatics
    2. Simmer and Serve
  4. Tips for Cooking Ghormeh Sabzi 
  5. What to Serve with Ghormeh Sabzi
  6. Variations
  7. Storage
  8. You'll Also Like: More Beef Stew Recipes
  9. Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Beef Stew with Herbs and Dried Lime) Recipe
Ingredients for ghormeh sabzi including stew beef, olive oil, onion, garlic, turmeric, a leek, parsley, cilantro, dried fenugreek, scallions, red kidney beans, limes, salt and pepper.

What is in Ghormeh Sabzi?

The majority of the ingredients for this Ghormeh Sabzi recipe are readily available at your local supermarket. The exception is dried limes and fenugreek leaves, which you can source online or at your local Middle Eastern or East Asian food shops. 

  • Extra virgin olive oil: Use good quality extra virgin olive oil to cook the onions, beef, and herbs.
  • Onions, leek, and garlic: Crucial aromatics for the complex layers of flavors to this stew.
  • Ground turmeric: A fundamental spice for Persian cooking to flavor the meat in the stew.
  • Beef: Try and get your hands on good quality stew beef, which will assist in making this stew full of flavor.
  • Red kidney beans: Traditionally this stew is made using dried kidney beans, but I use canned kidney beans to save time. 
  • Fresh limes: The juice adds extra tartness.
  • Parsley and cilantro: The fresh herbs used for the stew.
  • Dried fenugreek leaves: A herb traditionally and frequently used in South Asian cuisine. It has a very strong earthy aroma and gives the stew its distinctive smell and taste. You can find the leaves at South Asian markets or online. I wouldn’t substitute with seeds, as the leaves have a fresh, herbal taste, while fenugreek seeds are more pungent and bitter. 
  • Scallions: In Iran, Ghormeh Sabzi is made with chives. In the UK and US the variety of chives are milder, so we substitute with the green ends of scallions.
  • Dried limes: Add complex musky, tart flavor.
  • Salt and pepper: Seasoning for the stew.
A close up of ghormeh sabzi in a serving bowl.

What are Dried Limes and Where to Find Them?

Otherwise known as Limoo Amani, dried limes are limes that have been brined and then dried in the sun. Originating in Oman–hence the Persian name Limoo (lime) Amani (Oman)–they are pricked and then added whole to let their musky flavor and tartness permeate through.

Dried limes come in both brown and black varieties. You can use either. Some Iranians boldly eat them along with the stew, but be warned they are bitter and it is completely fine to leave behind. Most people just gently squeeze them to release more tartness, making sure not to break them as their bitter seeds will fall out.

You can find dried limes at Middle Eastern Markets, select specialty grocery stores or online. They have a distinct flavor that makes this stew unique. I wouldn’t try to substitute with another spice. But if you don’t like dried limes or can’t find them just stick with the fresh lime juice. 

A close up of ghormeh sabzi in a serving bowl.

How to Make this Ghormeh Sabzi Recipe

Some argue Ghormeh Sabzi is our national dish–but there is some question on whether that accolade goes to our Kabab Koobideh (lamb kofte kebabs). But debate aside, if you ask a Persian what their favorite dish is, I guarantee you they will either name Ghormeh Sabzi or it will be in their top three. Here’s how you make it:

Cook the Aromatics

  • Cook the onion: Place a large stock pot on a medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, follow with finely diced onion, and cook until it turns golden. Add a clove of crushed garlic (optional).
  • Cook the beef: Add 1 ½ pounds of cubed beef to the pan and stir until browned. Add 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and stir. Then add three cups of water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and cover with a lid while you prepare the herbs.Beef for the ghormeh sabzi cooking in a large pot of turmeric and water.
  • Fry the herbs: Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add ¼ cup of olive oil. Follow with a finely chopped leek. Once the leek has softened, add the finely chopped herbs (1 pound parsley, ½ pound cilantro, 2 tablespoons crumbled dried fenugreek, and the green parts of 5 scallions). Saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  • Stew the herbs: Once the herbs have wilted and started to reduce in volume, reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to stir for 15 minutes further. You are drying out the herbs to intensify their flavor. They will be a dark green color when they are ready. Remove from the heat and set aside.The herbs for the ghormeh sabzi being fried in a skillet.

Simmer and Serve

  • Simmer. To the pot with the meat, add the fried herbs, 2 cans of kidney beans (drained and rinsed) and 4 dried limes (poked several times with a knife). Add two cups of water. Stir and increase the heat to bring the stew to a simmer. Then lower the heat to cook further for a minimum of 1 hour and 30 minutes.Ghormeh sabzi simmering in a large pot.
  • Season the stew: Add salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste. Adjust the stew with water if required, the stew should be thick with herbs but with some broth for your rice to soak up.
  • Serve the Ghormeh Sabzi: Ladle the stew into a serving dish and serve, perhaps with Persian Rice and Salad Shirazi. An overhead photo of ghormeh sabzi in a serving bowl. Next to this are bowls of rice and Greek yogurt.

Tips for Cooking Ghormeh Sabzi 

Growing up, my mother would throw a sheet on the floor and pile up bunches of herbs on top. My sister and I would help her painstakingly remove all the individual leaves. Then she would, batch by batch, finely chop the leaves with a sharp knife.

Thankfully now that I am a mother of two daughters I have discovered the joy of a rather excellent food processor. Just remove all the tough woody ends off the parsley and cilantro and pulse until finely chopped. If you chop the herbs too finely they will become bitter, so pulse and work in batches to ensure the right consistency. If you don't have a food processor, an old-fashioned chop with a sharp knife is the way to go!

The longer you leave a Persian stew the better. There is no harm letting it gently stew for a few extra hours, periodically checking to make sure it doesn't dry out. Alternatively, cook this Ghormeh Sabzi recipe the day before you want to serve it to let the flavors get to know each other and intensify further.

Ghormeh sabzi in a bowl with rice and a spoon.

What to Serve with Ghormeh Sabzi

Serve this stew with Persian Rice with Potato Tahdig and a simple chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes dressed with lime juice and olive oil like Simple Shirazi Salad. A side of Greek yogurt also complements this dish.

Variations

Traditionally Iranians make Ghormeh Sabzi with cuts of lamb shoulder or lamb leg on the bone. If you prefer lamb and can get your hands on a good quality cut then feel free to substitute the beef. Just increase the amount of lamb to take into account the weight of the bones, approximately 2 to 2 ½ pounds will be sufficient for the recipe below.

An overhead photo of ghormeh sabzi in a serving bowl. Next to this are serving utensils, bowls of rice and Greek yogurt, and empty bowls with 2 spoons.

Storage

Keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze Ghormeh Sabzi for up to 3 months. Always completely cool down any cooked food before storing in the fridge or freezer. To reheat, place in a saucepan over a low heat or microwave until piping hot.

You'll Also Like: More Beef Stew Recipes

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Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Beef Stew with Herbs and Dried Lime)

photo of author mersedeh prewer.Mersedeh Prewer
Ghormeh sabzi in a bowl with rice and a spoon.
The King of Persian stews is now yours to master by following the steps below, which is best served with Persian Rice and Salad Shriazi. As the Persians say, “Nousheh Jaan” - may it be nourishing for your soul!
Prep – 30 minutes
Cook – 2 hours
Total – 2 hours 30 minutes
Cuisine:
Persian
Serves – 8 to 6
Course:
Entree, Soup

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced (optional)
  • 1 ½ pounds stewing beef, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 small leek, trimmed and tops discarded, white part finely sliced
  • 1 pound fresh parsley, woody ends removed and finely chopped (about 4 bunches)
  • ½ pound cilantro, woody ends removed and finely chopped (about 2 bunches)
  • 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves, crushed with your hands or in a mortar and pestle
  • 5 scallions, green parts only, finely diced
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 dried limes, poked several times with knife
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 limes, juiced

Instructions
 

  • Cook the onion: In a large pot on a medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it turns golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, if using, and stir until fragrant, 1 minute or so.
  • Cook the beef: Add the beef and stir until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and stir to coat, then add three cups of water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and cover with a lid while you prepare the herbs.
  • Fry the herbs: Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil. When shimmering, add the leek and stir until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley, cilantro, fenugreek, and scallions and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Stew the herbs: Once the herbs have wilted and started to reduce in volume, reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to stir for 15 minutes–You are drying out the herbs to intensify their flavor. They will be a dark green color when they are ready. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Season and simmer: To the pot with the beef, add the fried herbs, kidney beans, dried limes, and two cups of water. Increase the heat to bring the stew to a simmer, then lower the heat to cook until the stew is rich and flavorful, a minimum of 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • Season and serve: Add salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. Add more water if required, the stew should be thick with herbs but with some broth for your rice to soak up. Ladle the stew into a serving dish and serve.

Notes

  • Serving suggestions: Serve this stew with Persian Rice with Potato Tahdig and a simple chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes dressed with lime juice and olive oil like Simple Shirazi Salad. A side of Greek yogurt also complements this dish.
  • Substitutions: 
    • Dried Limes: You can find dried limes at Middle Eastern Markets, select specialty grocery stores or online. They have a distinct flavor that really makes this stew unique, so I wouldn’t try to substitute with another spice like sumac. But if you don’t like dried limes or can’t find them just stick with the fresh lime juice. 
    • Fenugreek Leaves: You can find this at South Asian markets or online. I wouldn’t substitute with seeds, as the leaves have a fresh, herbal taste, while fenugreek seeds are more pungent and bitter. 
  • Feel free to process the herbs using a food processor to save time. Just remove all the tough woody ends off the parsley and cilantro and finely chop in batches by pulsing the food processor. If you chop the herbs too finely they will become bitter, so pulse the food processor and work in batches to ensure the right consistency.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 362.3kcalCarbohydrates: 34.4gProtein: 31.1gFat: 12.2gSaturated Fat: 2.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 52.7mgSodium: 99.1mgPotassium: 1266mgFiber: 11.7gSugar: 2.6gVitamin A: 6958.3IUVitamin C: 93.2mgCalcium: 165mgIron: 9.5mg
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Mersedeh Prewer is a Persian-British recipe developer born, raised and currently living in the United Kingdom. She is passionate about all cuisines but her writing primarily focuses on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. She is a recipe contributor to both The Kitchn and Simply Recipes.
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Comments

  1. Every recipe from this website and Suzy's cookbook are bangers, and this recipe is no exception! The results are like a piquant comfort food that will be hard to resist if you are trying enforce portion control! My husband was an instant fan. I served it with jasmine rice.

  2. 5 stars
    I made this for lunch along with potato tahdig. This is a wild dish and I loved it. I honestly had no clue what it would taste like when I put it together. I can't even describe the complexities. If you are looking for something new and unique as hell, then try this. Prep took me a bit longer so you might want to start earlier btw.

  3. 5 stars
    I loved this dish, the barbari bread, the rice and the salad. It took me two days to make everything but the amount of ingredients is so big that my husband and I will enjoy this meal for three more dinners. Luckily I had plenty of dried limes because my son made them and gave me an entire jar. The smell of the food cooking was incredible. I think Persian women had more time than I have for cooking, but this certainly was worth the effort. The bread was the best. We ate half of one the minute it came out of the oven. Finally, we didn't know if we should eat the dried limes as part of the stew. My husband did and I didn't.

    1. I'm so happy the work was worth the results for you, Leslye! You can eat the dried limes if you prefer, but they are a bit bitter, as you can imagine :).