Tahchin (Iranian Savory Crispy Saffron Rice "Cake") Recipe
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
If I had to eat only one meal for the rest of my life, it would be Tahchin. Tahchin is essentially a savory yogurt saffron rice cake. But it is also so much more than that. It is comfort, flavor, crispy rice goodness. Make this recipe and not only will your home smell incredible but your heart will also be filled with joy.
I have been making Tahchin since fourth grade, so this recipe has been in the works for a very very long time. It's much simpler than you think. You just need to make sure to keep an eye on it, and soon it will change your life.
1 1/2 cup basmati rice
1 cup plain thick strained yogurt
1/3 cup strongly brewed saffron
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp sea salt or more to taste
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup Shredded cooked chicken* or 1-2 eggplants*
1/2 cup Barberries, Rinsed
1/4 cup pistachio kernels or 2 tbsps slivered pistachios
1 tsp sugar (optional)
A large pot filled with salted water for boiling the rice
A non-stick pot or deep pan with a lid
-Brewing the saffron:
Bring water to a boil in a kettle. Add a generous pinch (about 1 tbsp) of saffron strands to a mortar along with a pinch of salt. Grind using the pestle. You can add hot water directly to your mortar or transfer the saffron to a heatproof small bowl. Pour 1/3 cup of boiling water over the saffron and cover the bowl with a towel and allow it to brew for 2-10 mins.
To make vegetarian Tahchin, you can simply skip the chicken. Some people also make Tahchin with eggplant. To make eggplant Tahchin, peel and cut your eggplant lengthwise into slices about an inch thick. Sprinkle salt over the slices, let them sit for 5 mins, and pat them dry with a towel. Shallow-fry the slices in neutral oil until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil and sprinkle with salt. You can use these fried eggplant slices for the filling of your Tahchin in place of the chicken.
-Recommendation for cooking the chicken:
You can shred any pre-cooked or rotisserie chicken for this recipe. How I typically make the chicken for Tahchin is also very simple. In a small pot, add a single chicken breast, half an onion, two cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, salt, a tsp of turmeric, and water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low and cook for about 25 mins or until the chicken is cooked through and is easy to shred with a fork. Take the chicken out of the pot, and allow it to cool for 5-10 mins before starting to shred and use in the recipe.
-To bake Tahchin in the oven: I always recommend cooking Tahchin on the stovetop because it gets crispier and is overall better. But if you want to make it in the oven, butter the appropriate size baking dish. I’d recommend a 9-inch round cake pan or a lasagna dish. Follow the same steps as the recipe and layer the ingredients in the baking pan instead of a pot. Cover with foil and bake at 425°F for 45-60 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10-15 mins. The cook time might be different depending on your oven and the size of your baking dish. Tahchin is ready when you can see the edges are crispy.
-Don't be intimidated! Please don't be intimidated by the idea of making Tahchin. This recipe is quite simple, and I'm always here to help troubleshoot if anything comes up. If anything goes wrong it's okay, because mistakes are how we learn! After making this recipe, you will probably think to yourself, "okay, that wasn't that scary" and feel very accomplished. And if not, give yourself a hug, you still did something great.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear and add it to the pot of boiling water. Boil until tender but not thoroughly cooked. About 5-7 minutes. A good rule of thumb is that when you squish a grain of rice between your fingers, it’s soft but still feels grainy. Drain into a spaghetti strainer and thoroughly rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
In a mixing bowl, mix the yogurt, eggs, turmeric, salt, black pepper, and most of the saffron water.
In a separate bowl, add the shredded chicken, pour the rest of the brewed saffron over them and mix. Pour about 1/4 cup of the yogurt mixture over them and mix. (If using eggplant or no filling, skip this step)
Place a nonstick pot on medium heat. Add 3 tbsp vegetable oil and 1/3 of your stick of butter and allow it to melt. Pour about 1/3 cup of the yogurt mixture into the bottom of the pot, followed by half of the parboiled rice. Top with half the yogurt mixture and gently mix a little inside the pot.
Spread the shredded chicken mixture or arrange the eggplant slices on top of the rice layer. Optionally, sprinkle a handful of barberries over them.
At this point, mix the rest of the rice with the rest of the yogurt mixture and 1/3 of the softened butter in the mixing bowl. Pour it on over the chicken layer in the pot and gently flatten it on top. The filling should be “sandwiched” between the two layers of rice.
Cover the pot's lid in a towel and tie it at the top. Place the lid on the pot. Let cook on low heat for 40-50 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium heat for the last 5-10 minutes, but be careful and check on it so it doesn’t burn. Please note this cooking time may vary stove by stove. So it’s important to put it on the lowest setting and check on it every 20 or so mins if your stove is especially hot.
Tahchin is ready when you can see the edges getting crispy!
While the Tahchin is cooking, add the rest of the butter to a pan on medium heat, followed by the barberries and sugar if using. Sauté for 30 seconds-1 minute and remove from heat. Add in the pistachios and mix.
Once Tahchin is nice and crispy, flip it onto a platter and top with the buttery barberries and pistachios. Wait 5 mins before serving. Cut and enjoy your life!