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Family Recipes: Kuku Sabzi

Kuku Sabzi
Lucien Jung
Kuku Sabzi

During the month of March, Persian people around the world gather to celebrate Nowruz. Nowruz begins on the spring equinox and marks the beginning of the new year in Iran. It’s a particularly meaningful holiday for Milwaukeean Amin Khanlar.

“This is a very ancient and significant event, this celebration for the Nowruz,” says Khanlar. “The Persian empire consisted of different tribes and nations. They would come together during the New Year’s feast to celebrate their shared history and culture. This strengthened the bonds between them. That’s how they bound the empire for a long time.”

Amin Khanlar with platter of dill rice and kuku sabzi
Lucien Jung
Amin Khanlar with platter of dill rice and kuku sabzi

A staple of the Nowruz feast is kuku sabzi. Heaps of fresh herbs are chopped and mixed with beaten eggs. This mixture is shaped into patties and then fried in olive oil. The herbs used vary by availability. “People use what they have in the area, but the core is the same,” says Khanlar.

Parsley, cilantro, and chives form the foundation. From there, the possibilities are endless. Dill is a frequent addition. As are barberries. This tiny fruit adds a tart burst of flavor that brightens the earthy backdrop of fried herbs and egg. The flavor profile is savory but still fresh, green, and vibrant. For Khanlar, kuku sabzi is the embodiment of spring, especially when served alongside basmati rice seasoned with dill and turmeric. The rice is cooked with olive oil so that a crisp, golden crust forms on the bottom.

“The crunchiness of the rice and the taste of the patty—all the different elements—it really brings the sense of a new year and spring, and everything is green and beautiful,” says Khanlar.

For Khanlar, kuku sabzi is closely associated with the celebration of Nowruz, but they’re also enjoyed year-round. “You’ll often find them served with fish,” says Khanlar. They’re also served stuffed inside a baguette or pita bread, along with chopped tomatoes, olives, onion, and pickles. I imagine that a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese would be a delicious addition to this, as would a drizzle of pomegranate syrup.

Kuku Sabzi


2 cups Cilantro

2 cups Italian Parsley

1 cup Chives

4 to 5 Green Onion stems

2 to 3 Garlic Cloves

I cup fresh Dill (optional, but I highly recommend adding)

6 to 8 (depends on size) Eggs

2 tbsp Wheat Flour

2 tbsp Dried Barberries (Zareshk)

Salt, Pepper, and Turmeric to taste


Chop all the vegetables finely and mix with remaining ingredients in a bowl. Tip: Mix in one direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) for best texture and appearance.

Form mixture into patties and fry in olive oil on both sides until golden brown with crisp edges.

Serve with dill rice.

Dill Rice (serves 2-4 people)


2 cups Basmati Rice

3 to 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Water (Enough to cover the rice plus an inch)

1/3 tsp Turmeric

*I use Zaffron, but brewing a proper zaffron is very complicated and difficult for those unfamiliar with it, so I substitute that with turmeric which is very easy and quick to add color and flavor to the dill rice.

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1/3 tsp Kosher Salt (I go easy with salt, but you can add up to 1/2 tsp of salt)


Rinse basmati rice to get rid of excessive rice starch.

Add the rinsed rice to rice cooker along with the remaining ingredients.

When the rice is cooked, set the rice cooker to sauté mode and continue cooking with the lid off until the surface of the rice is dry—I mean desert dry.

Hopefully, when you turn out the rice onto a platter, you’ll see that a golden, crisp crust has formed. Achieving this takes some practice, for sure, but in my culture this crust is a sign of significant rice-cooking skill.

Lucien Jung is a Milwaukee-based video and radio producer. His research in the IP-based distribution of multimedia has been presented at the Broadcast Education Association’s annual conference as well as the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. Lucien is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications master’s program in Television-Radio-Film.
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