Vegetarian Foods for Foreign Travelers to Iran

more than meets the eye for vegetariansmore than meets the eye for vegetarians

There is a palpable concern amongst vegetarians wishing to travel to Iran regarding limitations in meat-free options along the tourist trail. Although Iran is not generally known for its love of vegetarian food, there’s a lot more than meets the eye.    

The concern from tourists stems from the limited menu options when travelling, with many restaurants mainly offering a variety of kebabs.

Although, Persian cuisine offers a rich spectrum of regional varieties, travelers are not likely to experience these because they are mainly prepared in the confines of the Iranian home and are not always available in restaurants.  This is because Iranians traditionally only go out for chelo kabab ( kebab and with saffron rice).  

Iran is still a long way off from being considered a global gastronomic capital for the reasons mentioned, but with the demands of Modern life and the increased appetite of Iranians to eat out, things are changing and certainly in the bigger cities, there are interesting alternatives to the traditional Persian cuisine.

There is a fair amount more protein in the Iranian diet compared to many Western diets, and as one traveller very aptly put it on the Lonely Planet website, Iranians can be “ pretty mystified by vegetarianism, and they’ll often understand meat to exclude stock, fish, poultry, processed meat or anything chopped up very small.”  

This being said, there are plenty of meat-free Persian dishes.  Northern Iranian cuisine in particular has many vegetarian or fish based stews and salads.  Added to this, Iranians are defined by their love of fresh herbs, succulent seasonal fruits and mixed nuts.

Below is a list vegetarian friendly dishes and restaurants.

Vegetarian food here excludes anything cooked with meat or in stock, but may include eggs, dairy products, and sometimes fish. This definition does not cater to vegans as unfortunately they will struggle to find anything not prepared with animal products, as even the Iranian plain rice often contains butter, but then again there is always fruit and nuts!


  Sabzi Khordan

An aromatic selection of fresh herbs that Iranians eat as an accompaniment to their main meal.

  Salad Shirazi

A salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, finely diced with a lemon and olive oil dressing.

  Zayton Parvarde

Olives in a walnut, pomegranate molasses paste.


As the name implies, an omelette usually made with tomatoes and Nimroo is fried egg (sunny-side up).

  Salad Olivier

A traditional Russian salad adopted by Iran.  It is often made with chicken, but can be found excluding chicken.


Essentially a Persian Dal, is a hot green lentil stew.


Similar to an Italian frittata, it is egg-based and is made with a range of different vegetables and herbs.  The most common is the Kookoo Sabzi, made with aromatic green herbs.  Others include Kookoo-e-Sibzamini, made with potatoes and Kookoo-e-Kadoo, made with courgettes.


Borani-e-Bademjan, a yogurt dip with eggplant, similar to the Baba Ghanoush, and when made with sautéed spinach it is called Borani-e-Isfenadj.

  Mirza Ghasemi

A northern dish, made with smoked eggplant, with a tomato and garlic base, bound together with egg.  

  Baghali Ghatogh

Another northern dish, with lima beans, eggs and dill.


Another garlicky, smoky eggplant dish with kashk (whey).


A pottage made with a variety of pulses and herbs, also with kashk.


A pottage made variously with herbs such as fenugreek leaves, mint, cilantro, eggs and sometimes potatoes.

  Torshi Tareh

A sour herb soup.

There are also a few rice dishes that are not made with meat, but will be accompanied by meat, and so it is important to ask the waiter to exclude the meat.


Rice with broad beans and turmeric.


Rice with lentils (can come with raisons and dates).


Rice with dill and fava beans.


Rice with barberries.