Kuku sabzi is a Persian frittata-style eggs with turmeric, loads of fresh herbs, barberries, and crushed walnuts. It is typically fried on both sides until the crust becomes dark and then sliced into triangles revealing a vibrant green inside.
For this recipe, I use two smart shortcuts to make kuku sabzi. The herbs are chopped in a food processor instead of by hand and the kuku is baked in standard muffin tins, creating smaller portions. The whole dish comes together in 40 minutes.
The freshness from the herbs, the tartness of the barberries, and the crunch from the walnuts make this a delightful meal to share with family alongside a salad, a creamy yogurt dip, and Persian flatbread like sangak, barbari, or lavash, or as part of a mezze platter.
Celebrating Nowruz with Kuku Sabzi
Food is central to celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and kuku sabzi is one of the dishes we eat during the festivities. The herbs in the dish symbolize rebirth and health, and the eggs symbolize fertility. The symbolism is fitting because Nowruz translates to “new day” in Farsi.
Nowruz falls on the day of the vernal equinox—the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day. It marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The date can vary, but it generally falls on the 20th or 21st of March.
In Iran, Nowruz marks the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar. But Nowruz is also celebrated in Afghanistan, the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Turkey, by the Parsis in India, and diasporic communities around the world. About 300 million people celebrate the holiday, which dates back 3,000 years and is rooted in Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion.
My family and I are members of the diaspora, celebrating Nowruz every year from the U.K. For my Persian family, it’s the most important celebration of the year.
An Easier Kuku Sabzi
To prepare for Nowruz, my mum would place a large sheet on the floor of our family room and pile it with fresh herbs. My sister and I sat with her to pluck the leaves off one by one. My mum would then wash and chop the herbs by hand. The kitchen filled with their aroma. Her kuku sabzi would be carefully fried in a large frying pan over the stove.
For my version of kuku sabzi, I use a food processor to chop the herbs and I bake it in muffin tins, creating individual portions. Whilst it is less peaceful than sitting cross-legged on the floor with my mum and sister, it is much faster—it means I can make kuku sabzi for any weeknight dinner.
The mini baked kuku is healthier as it requires less oil to cook. It’s more vibrant in color as frying creates a dark crust, and it’s less labor intensive—just pop them into the oven!
Ingredients for Kuku Sabzi
There are other kuku recipes like ones made with potatoes (kuku sibzamini) or zucchini (kuku kadoo). The key difference between a kuku and other egg dishes like a frittata and an omelette, is the egg to vegetable ratio. Kuku calls for a lot more vegetables.
Herbs: Kuku sabzi is packed to the brim with herbs, traditionally parsley, cilantro, and dill, which can sometimes feel overwhelming to prepare. Wash and dry them well. Remove the tough stems from the dill and parsley, but there is no need to pick the leaves one by one. Tender stems are fine to use. They will all get blitzed in the food processor.
Scallions and spinach: Chives in the U.S. and U.K. are not as spicy as Iranian chives, so I use the green part of scallions instead. I also add baby spinach, which makes the dish even more vibrant green.
Lime zest: Although not traditional, I love lime zest in kuku sabzi—it’s zingy and adds freshness.
Chopped walnuts: To give the kuku some texture, chopped walnuts are added to the egg mixture before they are baked.
Barberries: Barberries are also added to the egg mixture—you get a tart burst of flavor when you bite into the kuku.
What are Barberries?
Barberries, known as zereshk in Farsi, are little tart red berries. They are primarily harvested in Iran, but are also cultivated in northwest Africa and various regions of Europe, U.S., and Canada. You can buy them from Middle Eastern markets or online. They are sold dried, which is what you’ll need for this recipe.
Swaps for Barberries and Walnuts
Although I recommend using the herbs, greens, and seasonings in the recipe, here are substitutions you can make:
- Use dried cranberries instead of barberries. Coarsely chop them into smaller pieces before adding.
- Instead of walnuts, crushed pistachios would be a nice touch in light of the Persian connection—Iran is one the largest producers of pistachios in the world and Persians love them both on their own or in recipes. Pine nuts would also be great.
- You can leave out both the barberries and walnuts and go for a pure herb flavor and softer texture.
Ideas for Serving Kuku Sabzi
Kuku sabzi is served either warm or cold from the fridge as a starter, side dish, or a main course. It is served with a yogurt dip, bread or rice, and a salad like salad shirazi, a Persian salad made with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion with a lime and dried mint dressing. You can even roll kuku sabzi in flatbread or tortilla wrap with your favorite condiments.
Can I Make Kuku Sabzi Ahead?
Yes! You can absolutely make kuku sabzi up to 3 days before you plan to serve it. Fully cool it down before refrigerating in an airtight container.
You can serve it cold, brought up to room temperature, or gently warmed in a 350°F oven for about 5 minutes. You could also microwave it for 30 seconds until warmed through.
More Herby Goodness
Kuku Sabzi (Persian Herb Frittata)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 1/2 ounces fresh flat leaf parsley (about 1 bunch)
- 3 1/2 ounces fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)
- 3 1/2 ounces fresh dill (about 1 bunch)
- 5 scallions, dark green part only
- 1 1/2 ounces baby spinach (a generous handful)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Zest of 1 lime (about 1/2 packed teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons dried barberries, plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon chopped raw walnuts, plus more for garnish
- Food processor
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with olive oil and line each cup with parchment paper liners or standard cupcake liners. Lightly brush each cupcake liner with olive oil. I used about 1 tablespoon olive oil for both the muffin tin and the cupcake liners. Set it aside.
Trim and wash the herbs:
Trim off the woody, tough ends from the parsley, cilantro, and dill. Wash the herbs, scallion greens, and spinach. Use a salad spinner or set them on a clean kitchen towel to dry well.
Make the kuku sabzi mixture:
Add the washed and dried parsley, cilantro, dill, scallions, spinach, and garlic into a food processor. Pulse a few times until the herbs and garlic are coarsely chopped. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spoon as needed.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, eggs, turmeric, lime zest, flour, salt, and black pepper. Blitz until the herbs are finely chopped and evenly distributed into the egg mixture, about 5 seconds on high. The mixture should be chunky with visible pieces of herbs, not smooth like a smoothie.
Add the barberries and walnuts:
Stir in the barberries and walnuts until evenly distributed. You can do this right in the food processor.
Bake the kuku sabzi:
Spoon the kuku sabzi mixture evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Bake them for 20 minutes. When done, a wooden skewer or the tip of a knife gently poked in the center should come out clean. If not, pop them back into the oven for about 2 more minutes, but not more than 5 minutes.
Serve the kuku sabzi:
Allow the kuku to cool in the muffin tins for about 10 minutes. Then, carefully peel away the liners. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge with a sprinkle of ground walnuts and barberries scattered on top.
Leftovers can be refrigerated tightly covered for up to 3 days.
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