Iranian Gormeh Sabzi (my way)

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I’ve mentioned before on the site that I lived in Teheran, Iran between the ages of 10-12.  One of my fond memories of Iran is the wonderful evening aroma of a national dish known as Gormeh SabziGormeh means stew; sabzi means herbs.  It is basically a variety of greens and herbs stewed down with a few beans or lentils and then it is served over Iranian rice (their rice is is the most unique in the world to me).  Not a very photographic dish, to say the least, but a very tasty dish!  My first time to taste this dish was when our maid, Fatimeh, invited my brother and I to her daughter’s wedding.  I learned it tasted even better than it had always smelled to me.  I could just never get past the unappealing “look” of the dish.  I finally tasted it at the wedding.  I think the fenugreek is what makes this dish so unique for me.  I order my fenugreek from Penzey’s spices; find my fenugreek leaves at a Middle Eastern importer in Austin.

Happily, years later, I discovered the recipe was included in the 1960 Officer’s Wives’ Club recipe/calendar booklet my mother brought back to the States and that recipe is adapted below.  The spices are correct as they appeared in the original recipe, but the additions of the meat, the dried mango and use of coconut milk for the traditional yogurt are mine and mine alone.  It is NOT traditionally served with fruit or meat in it.  I might add the two ingredients bring much flavor to this wonderful herb dish.  Omitting the meat and cooking the greens in the basic sauce will result in a wonderful side dish to serve with kebab or roasted/grilled lamb, if you prefer to make it the traditional way.  Low carbers could even add a drained 1/2 can of soy black beans to the simmering greens. for a more authentic side dish.  Without the meat, this makes an excellent vegetarian main dish.

I cook the sauce/stew in one pan and saute the greens separately in another, serving the meat stew atop the sauteed greens when ready to plate at the table. I find that approach visually more acceptable.  You can, however, stew the chopped greens right in with the meat if you want it to look more traditional.

This dish, with all the greens, is quite carb-y, but the nutritional info is so impressive, who cares?   I actually made the above-pictured batch with pork, because I had some thawed tonight.  But pork would never be eaten in Iran.  It is referred to as “unclean meat” in the Koran.  They would use either young lamb or beef if they added meat to this.  If you can’t find dried mango, you can sub in dried prunes, cherries, apricots or raisins, provided they are the type with no added sugar.  I can get all of these at my local Natural Grocers.

This dish is suitable for any phase of Atkins and for Paleo-Primal diners as well.


16 oz. lean lamb (or beef) cut into 1-1½” pieces

½ c. coconut milk

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. ground fenugreek seed

1 T. dried fenugreek leaves (available at Middle Eastern Grocers)

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

For the meat STEW:

4 T. clarified butter or olive oil

5 oz. onion, sliced

2 tsp. ginger root, peeled and minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 c. homemade chicken or beef broth

1 cinnamon stick

6 each cardamom pods and whole cloves

2 bay leaves, whole

Pinch sea salt

1 oz. dried mango, cut into strips (the kind with no added sugar)

To prepare the SABZI (greens): 

1 T. olive oil

2 c. spinach leaves, chopped

1 c. kale leaves, chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 c. parsley, chopped

OPTIONAL:  1 c. leeks or green onion, chopped (not included in stats below)

DIRECTIONS:  Marinate meat in coconut milk mixture for 1 hour covered in the refrigerator.  When ready to prepare meal, heat butter in large skillet.  Add onion and saute until nearly tender.  Add ginger and garlic.  Spoon meat and all the meat marinade into the pan and saute a few minutes.  Add all remaining listed stew ingredients.  If cooking the greens with the meat, add them to meat pan now.  Otherwise, lower heat and simmer the meat mixture for about 20-30 minutes, tightly covered.  Stir once or twice during cooking to blend spices throughout sauce. When the dried mango (or whatever dried fruit you are using) has plumped/softened and the meat is done, you can, if desired, thicken the liquid with a pinch of your favorite thickener (I used a pinch of arrowroot powder).  Heat 1 T. olive oilover medium-high heat in a separate non-stick pan if doing greens separately.  Place greens in the hot oil  and saute 4-5 minutes or until they are thoroughly wilted.  Serve stew atop a bed of the sauteed greens.  You either want to try to remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves and cardamom pods before serving or caution your guests not to eat them.  They are not pleasant to bite into.

NUTRITIONAL INFO:  Makes 4 servings, each contains:

447 calories

29.9 g  fat

16.75 g  carbs, 4.15 g  fiber, 12.6 g  NET CARBS

29.25 g  protein

139 mg sodium

818 mg potassium

66% Vitamin A, 30% B6, 108% B12, 75% C, 16% E, 10% calcium, 50% copper, 72% iron, 25% magnesium, 46% manganese, 72% niacin, 40% phosphorous, 53% riboflavin, 11% selenium, 28% thiamin, 45% zinc


8 thoughts on “Iranian Gormeh Sabzi (my way)

  1. chowstalker

    Well, I’m bookmarking this one Peggy, it’s sounds delicious. I didn’t know you had lived in Iran! What a wonderful childhood experience to be exposed to such a unique culture.

    1. Truly a life-changing experience for me, Patty. And luckily, old enough to appreciate and remember it vividly. The Shah was still on the throne then. I actually got to SEE the Peacock Throne on a tour of the summer palace and often wonder if that magnificent, bejeweled piece survived the revolution.

      I think you’ll like this dish. Fenugreek is a wonderful seasoning.

    1. I have edited out your address and phone number for your safety.

      Oh, I definitely know it’s not the traditional dish. But I do state in the recipe intro that my version isn’t the traditional rendering. 🙂 I wonder if you might consider sharing/posting YOUR personal recipe with me and my readers here?

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