Sabzi Polow Mahi (Herb Rice with Fish)

Sabzi Polow (herb rice) and Mahi (fish) is traditionally served for the Persian new year Norooz. Persian New Year is celebrated every year to signify the beginning of spring and most of the dishes served during Norooz holidays have herbs as a symbol of rebirth, and fish that represents life.

There are other Norooz Specialty dishes such as Noodle Rice , Herb Omelette or Stuffed Fish that I have posted their recipes before. But yesterday one of my dear Instagram followers Hasti asked me for a recipe for Sabzi Polow Mahi, and since there is only one week until Norooz I thought it is the best time to do it.

The fish used in this recipe is Tilapia, but you can choose any other fish that you prefer and can be found easily where you live. Also there are four different herbs used in this recipe, but if you are living in a country where it is not easy to find them all, just like where I live, you can leave them out and use only dill. If you decide so, then keep in mind that you should increase the amount of dill from 1/4 cup to 1 cup. Preferred side dishes for this food are fresh herbs and pickles like Lime pickle or Red Cabbage pickle that i have explained before.

There might be various recipes for making this dish, but in this one, thanks to the saffron and lemon juice that is added at the end, the fish tastes incredible and won’t have any unpleasant smell.

Serves 3 People
Prep time
Cook Time
1h 0m


  • 2 Cups
    long grain rice (Basmati rice)
  • 3 Pieces
    Tilapia fish fillet, or a fish of your choice
  • ¼ Cups
    chopped dill, fresh or dried
  • ¼ Cups
    chopped chives or scallions
  • ¼ Cups
    chopped parsley
  • ¼ Cups
    chopped coriander (cilantro)
  • ½ Cups
  • 1 Teaspoon
  • ½ Teaspoons
    black pepper
  • salt
  • 1 Tablespoon
    fish spice
  • ½ Teaspoons
    ground saffron dissolved into 4 tablespoons hot water
  • 3 Tablespoons
    lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons
  • vegetable oil


  1. Wash the rice with cool water a few times. Soak in water, add 1 tablespoons salt and set aside for couple of hours. The longer you soak the rice it will be fluffier when cooked.

  2. In a large non-stick pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Drain the rice and pour into boiling water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water back to a boil. After 5-7 minutes test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be hard in the center and soft on the outside. Also another way to see if it's ready to drain is that you will see the rice gains starting to come to the surface of the water.

  3. Drain the rice using a colander and rinse with cool water.

  4. Add the chopped herbs to the rice and mix . Be careful to not break the rice grains.

  5. Return the pot and heat 3 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Place the rice and herb mixture in the pot in a pyramid shape. Add butter to the top, make 3 holes in the rice with the bottom of a spoon to release the steam. Lower the heat, cover the lid and steam the rice for 45-50 minutes on low heat.

  6. Meanwhile, mix the flour with turmeric, fish spice, black pepper and 1 tablespoon salt. You can add garlic powder too.

  7. Coat each fillet with this mixture finely and set aside. Click on the image to enlarge.

  8. Heat 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. place fish fillets in the pan and fry both sides until golden and crispy.

  9. Mix the saffron water with lemon juice and add to the fillets.

  10. Reduce heat, cover the lid and let it cook for some more minutes until fillets absorb the saffron and lemon juice.

  11. When the rice is done, using a spatula gently serve the rice onto a platter and place the fish fillets beside it. You can save a bit of saffron water from step 9 and mix with some rice for garnish and decoration.
    Preferred side dishes for this dish were named in the description.

7 reviews for Sabzi Polow Mahi (Herb Rice with Fish)

  1. Maryam


    My mom used to make this dish exactly as you said, delicious and foul of flavours! Thanks

  2. MyKabulKitchen


    We have Sabzi Palow as well! Only it is a bit different as we only cook the rice with spinach…either way I love this “green rice” as I used to call it as a child 🙂
    Hope you had a happy nowruz qaandem 🙂

    • Marzie


      It sounds tasty to mix rice with spinach. I will surely try it. Happy Nowruz to you too dear.

  3. Nhan


    Hello, what is “fish spice”? My Persian wife and I want to try to make this, please. Is “fish spice” only found in Persian markets? Thank you.

    • Marzie


      Hi Nhan,
      Fish spice is sold in supermarkets in Iran but I just searched a little and I realised it´s a mix of garlic powder, red and black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds.
      I would love to see a picture of it if you finally make this food.
      Good luck

  4. Dario


    I made this dish 2 months ago exactly to the recipe to practice for the New Year meal. Wow. What a show stopper. My husband does not care for fish but finished 2 filets and looked for more.
    Thank You!

    • Marzie


      Happy to hear that Dario 🙂

  5. Fatema


    i’m from a Persian origin, and i wanted to celebrate Nowrouz with my kids this year as we are living in Sydney, just made my haft seen corner and gave a little information to my kids, tomorrow i want to cook sabzi mahi polo, i have fish spice mix but it has a little more ingredients that the one you mentioned ( black cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, kulinjan, fenugreek, onion, red chilli, turmeric ) will that be ok to use?

    • Marzie


      Hi Fatema,
      Sorry for replying after Nowrouz. I was spending the holidays in Iran. The fish spice mix you have works perfectly for this dish. Dont worry and enjoy cooking 🙂

  6. Bob


    Not bad at all. I think this was the first time I’ve had it with fresh herbs and it was great. Liked the way of cooking the fish. My (Persian) wife finished the lot.

  7. ()

    […] countless hours in her kitchen to prepare mounds of rice and fish for all to share. Look at this Sabzi Polow (Herb Rice) and Mahi (Fish). The symbolism of herbs (rebirth) and fish (life) was well represented […]

  8. ()

    […] your haft-sin, you could also prepare Persian meals — in particular, sabzi polo ba mahi, which is the main meal of Nowruz. We also wouldn’t judge if you decided to go out and order […]

  9. Aaron


    Made it today for Nowruz for my wife (Persian) and kids – went great with a Turley sharab, my favorite šin and therefore technically not part of the Haft-Sin. Maybe these were serious fouls, but I was out of lemon and so used fresh lime juice, and also didn’t make fish spice and instead substituted Old Bay – they seemed to work 🙂

  10. Ri


    Hi, I had a question. My fish didn’t turn out quite crispy and seemed a little bland. After I put the water with saffron and lemon juice in it made the fillets soggy. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

  11. Lindsay Nesvadrani


    If you add garlic powder how much please?

  12. Youmen


    I thought it is made only with dill.. will give it a try with the mix of herbs

  13. Anoosheh


    Thanks for the recipe. I haven’t made it yet but want to tonight. I was wondering what the “fish spice” is, do you have a recipe for that?
    Thank you.

  14. Sharoon


    Hi there, I am teaching myself to cook Persian food and I am able to get all of the ingredients from my local store but I am not able to find fish spices, would you be able to help me what is in the fish spice and I can buy it individually and mix together

  15. ()

    […] traditions in different parts. Nowruz’s unique dishes vary from one part to another. Sabzi Polow, Reshteh Polow, Ash Reshteh, and Baghali Polow are the most famous dishes that Iranians serve as […]

  16. ()

    […] This is another solid option if you’re in the Gaslamp area jonesing for some Persian food. Try the surprise daily specials they offer, and those might convince you to make daily visits here. You might get the khoresh gheimeh beef stew on Monday, all the to Saturday’s sabzi polo-mahi fish dish.  […]

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