Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (2024)


Culture Tuesdayis a weekly column in which Best of Vegan EditorSamantha Onyemenam explores different cultures’ cuisines across the globe through a plant-based and vegan lens. In today’s column, she is collaborating with Val and Mani of Plant-Based Passport to explore traditional Nowruz dishes and the history and meaning behind them. Read the full article and get 6 vegan Nowruz recipes below.

Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (2)

Nowruz, which means, ‘new day,’ in Farsi, refers to the Persian New Year which marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It is celebrated throughout Central Asia and parts of Westen Asia, but most notably in Iran (Persia), Afghanistan, and Kurdistan (northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, northern Syria, and southeastern Turkey).

Nowruz is celebrated with foods that symbolize new beginnings, rebirth, and fertility. The celebration often starts with the growing of sabzeh (barley, mung beans, and wheat) in a dish and the making of samanu (a pudding made from young wheatgrass/sprouted wheat) by groups of women who sing as they cook.

Nowruz is celebrated with foods that symbolize new beginnings, rebirth, and fertility.

The sabzeh and samanu are displayed on the Haft-Sīn (Seven Ss) table – a table decorated for Nowruz – along with six other symbolic foods which start with ‘sīn’ (the letter S in Farsi) to symbolize rebirth and growth, and power and strength, respectively. The other items displayed on the Haft-Sīn table are:

  • Senjed (oleaster/wild olives/Persian olives), which symbolize love,
  • Serkeh (vinegar), which symbolizes patience and age,
  • Seeb/Sīb (apple), which is the symbol of beauty,
  • Seer/Sīr (garlic), which symbolizes health and medicine, and
  • Somāq (sumac), which symbolizes sunrise (a new beginning).

Some nations and regions prepare and/or display other symbolic foods at the start of Nowruz and they seem to adhere to a “display of seven.” For example, in Afghanistan, Haft Mēwa (Seven Fruits) is prepared. Essentially, haft mēwa is a syrupy mixture of seven types of dried fruits and nuts.

Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (3)

The traditional meal served on Persian New Year’s Day in Iran is Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi. Other traditional dishes served include kookoo sabzi, ash reshteh, and reshteh polo. Other countries, and regions, that celebrate Nowruz will have their own traditional dishes served. For example, in Kurdistan, aprax (dolma) is one of the traditional foods served during Nowruz (which is known as, ‘Newroz,’ in Kurdish), and in Tajikistan, salla is served during Navruz (Nowruz in Tajik).

Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi

Sabzi polo ba mahi is the main dish eaten during Nowruz. It is served either as the last dinner of the old year (the year that is ending), or the first dinner of the new year.

Sabzi polo, which means, ‘green rice,’ in Farsi, is a fragrant heavily herbed rice dish as its name suggests. In Iran, the rice is traditionally served with a local meaty white fish (mahi), which is breaded and pan-fried. This is a rather symbolic meal as the rice represents bounty, the herbs symbolize growth, and the fish represents Anahita (the Zoroastrian goddess of water and fertility).

In this recipe, Val and Mani served their sabzi polo alongside premade (storebought) breaded vegan fish. However, in the recipe below it, Mana (of and @theiranianvegan) shares her recipe for a vegan Persian to-fish that is a great accompaniment to sabzi polo.

Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (5)

Kookoo Sabzi

Kookoo sabzi, also known as, ‘kuku sabzi,’ a herbed frittata, typically served as a side dish to the sabzi polo ba mahi. Persian food is rich with herbs, and the fresh herbs the dishes are meant to symbolize the coming of spring and rebirth, or fresh start, in the new year.

Traditionally, kookoo sabzi is made with eggs, which symbolize fertility. The eggs are just enough to bind the finely chopped herbs together thus making kookoo sabzi greener and less eggy than a frittata.

Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (6)

The herbs used to make kookoo sabzi typically are jafarī (parsley), geshnīz (coriander/cilantro), tareh (chives), and shevid (dill), but some cooks choose to include other fragrant greens such as pīyāzche (spring onions/green onions/scallions) and/or sliced root vegetables such as sībzamīnī (potatoes) in their kookoo sabzi.

In this recipe, Elham and her mother, Zoe, show you how they make their kookoo sabzi using an egg replacement to make it vegan-friendly.

Āsh Reshteh

Āsh reshteh is a herbed noodle soup with beans and lentils. While this cozy soup is enjoyed year-round, it is also a staple during Nowruz. The noodles symbolize the twists and turns of life and are said to bring good fortune, clarity, and success in the upcoming year.

Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (7)

Āsh Reshteh is traditionally made using reshteh noodles. Reshteh is a Persian flat noodle that is similar to the Italian fettuccine although it is a bit narrower, saltier, and starchier. In this recipe, Val and Mani suggest using spaghetti when making this dish in diaspora and are unable to find reshteh.

Reshteh Polo

Reshteh polo is an aromatic Persian noodle and rice dish with saffron, cinnamon, and meatballs. It is customary to eat reshteh polo on the first day of Nowruz as cooking and eating the noodles symbolizes taking hold of one’s path in life and untangling its complexities.

Polo, also known as ‘polow’, is essentially chelow (Persian steamed white rice with tahdig) that incorporates layers of fried fruits, vegetables, and/or nuts amongst the rice. More often than not, polo is made using a broth or stock in place of water to impart a deeper flavor into the rice. The resulting dish is a flavorsome and aromatic sweet and savory dish.

In this reshteh polo recipe, Mana serves her reshteh polo with homemade vegan meatballs made from quinoa, beans, oats, onions, herbs, and spices.


Aprax, also known as, ‘dolma,’ is a Kurdish dish made from slowly simmering stuffed vegetables and vine leaves in a broth made of vegetable stock, tomato paste, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The vegetables are cored then stuffed or rolled with a mixture usually containing, rice, lentils, aromatic herbs, spices, the bits removed from the cored vegetables, chillies, tomato paste, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses.

Traditionally, aprax is served by flipping the pot upside down so the stuffed veggies and simmering broth fall into a wide plate or deep dish where they can be served from.

In this recipe, Seiran shows you how to make her aprax which are perfect for seyran (picnics) and other events during Newroz.


Salla is a Tajik dessert which means, ‘turban hat,’ as the dough is wrapped like a turban prior to frying. It is of Tartar origins. Thus, it is also known as, ‘rose flower crisp,’ as that is the name the Tatar people gave it from observations of the turban opening up like a rose when it enters the oil during the frying process.

Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (10)

Salla is traditionally non-vegan as it is made from eggs (and, sometimes, butter too), but in this recipe, Nisso shares her vegan version of this dessert which does not compromise on flavor or the crispy texture associated with salla.

Authors: Samantha Onyemenam & Val and Mani Latifi.


Culture Tuesday: 6 Vegan Nowruz Recipes - Best of Vegan (2024)
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