Adas polo is a gorgeous layered saffron rice dish with rice, lentils, and sweet currants. It's a simple yet scrumptious dish that pairs well with meats like beef and lamb or is enjoyed on its own with a dollop of yogurt.
You will find some families preparing this dish with lamb or meat layered into the rice. However, I grew up with this dish being vegan and enjoyed it as a meal or side dish.
Why this recipe works
This dish is vegan and the layers of rice and lentils are both delicious and filling. Lentils are a great source of protein and are packed with nutrients that make them a good substitute for meat in vegan diets.
The method of preparation creates perfectly al dente rice by first par-boiling and then steaming it.
The caramelized onions add a delicious savory layer of flavor, while the sweet currants add balance throughout the layers of rice and lentils.
Ingredients & Substitutions
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Basmati rice - I like using high-quality extra long basmati rice, which is perfect if you can find it, but your favorite brand of basmati will work great, too.
Green lentils – Make sure you pick them through beforehand to remove any small rocks.
Dried currants - these should be washed in warm water. You can sub them out for raisins, barberries, or chopped dates.
Flavorless oil - You can use your choice of canola, sunflower seed, vegetable, etc.
Saffron - This is an optional addition, but it adds a wonderful aroma to the dish.
How to make this recipe
Prepare the lentils
Start by bringing 3 cups of water to a boil. Add in the lentils, and simmer them for 15 minutes until tender.
Lentils in advance: Instead of cooking them, my grandmother soaks them in cold water for 2 days. Then, she keeps them portioned out in the freezer so she can skip having to cook them and makes this dish with ease.
Fry the onions
While the lentils are simmering, dice or thinly slice the onion and cook it in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.
You should cook them beyond the point where they turn translucent, you want to see them turn brown. This usually takes a good 10-20 minutes. Turn the heat off, and add the cooked onions to the bowl with the washed currants.
If you want to mix it up a little, my grandma always adds about ¼ teaspoon of cumin to the cooked onion and my mom leaves it out. Try it both ways and see which you prefer!
Par boil the rice
Next, bring about ⅔ a pot of water to boil. Add in 3 tablespoons of salt.
In the meantime, wash your rice 3-5 times with cold water until the water runs clear, meaning you've washed the starchiness off the rice.
Add the rice to the now-boiling water and gently stir. Bring the water back up to a boil without the lid. When the rice is al dente, strain it out. You ideally want the rice to still have a little bite, as Persian rice is never served with a mushy texture.
If the rice tastes salty, rinse the rice with cold water. Shake the colander to remove as much water as possible from the cooked rice.
Bring the Adas Polo together
Adas polo is all about those gorgeous layers! First, add 3 tablespoons of oil to the bottom of a medium to a medium-large pot. Then gently add a third of the drained rice, half of the lentils, half of the currants, and half of the onions.
Next, add another third of the rice, the rest of the lentils, currants, and onions, then the rest of the rice.
Using the back side of a kitchen utensil, make 6 deep holes in the rice. Top the rice with the steeped saffron, then put the lid back on.
Cook over medium heat, watching the dish carefully. When the lid gets foggy (this takes about 3-5 minutes), pour a little oil over the rice - about 2 tablespoons.
Note: If your pot does not have a glass lid that is easy to monitor check for condensation on the top of the lid by lifting it.
Then put the lid back on and turn the heat to the lowest possible setting.
Pro Tip: When steaming rice, I tie a kitchen towel around the lid to help absorb the excess moisture. However, this can be very unsafe because the towel can come undone and catch fire. Please only use the kitchen towel method if you will be keeping a close eye on the pot.
Cook the Adas Polo for 30-45 min from when the oil is poured on top. Fluff the entire rice mixture with a fork to mix it all together. Noushijan!
Washing rice is a key step to remove excess starch from the rice, giving you more separated grains and a fluffier final result. I find it helps reduce a mushy final dish.
Aside from the green lentils used in this recipe, there are also red, yellow, and brown lentils readily available. You may also be able to find black and Puy lentils though I find these a bit trickier to get a hold of.
When onions are cooked until brown, it's called caramelizing them. The natural sugars in the onions thicken to a caramel consistency, giving the onions a richer and deeper flavor.
Enjoy the incredible variety of Persian recipes with these special Persian rice dishes.
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Adas Polo - Persian Lentil Rice
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice
- 1 cup green lentils picked through to remove any rocks
- 1 cup dried currants washed in warm water, or sub. raisins, barberries, or chopped dates
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 tablespoon sea salt
- 7 tablespoon flavorless oil canola, sunflower seed, vegetable, etc.
- 1 pinch saffron optional, bloomed in 3 tablespoons of hot water*
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add the lentils, and simmer for 15 minutes until tender***.
- In the meantime, dice or thinly slice the onion, and cook in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, beyond the point where they turn translucent. You want them to brown, and this usually takes 10-20 minutes. Turn the heat off and add them to the bowl with the washed currants.
- Bring about ⅔ a pot water of water to boil. Add 3 tablespoons of salt.
- In the meantime, wash rice 5 times with cold to lukewarm water until the water runs clear.
- Add the rice to the boiling water and gently stir. Bring it back to a boil, then remove the lid to keep from overflowing.
- When al dente, strain. Do not overcook! If salty, rinse with cold water. Shake colander to remove as much water as possible.
- Add 3 tablespoon of oil in a pot. Then gently add a third of the drained rice, half of the lentils, half of the currants, and half the onions. Then add another third of the rice, the rest of the lentils, currants, and onions, then the rest of the rice.
- Using the back side of a kitchen utensil, make 6 deep holes in the rice, top with the steeped saffron, then put the lid back on. Cook on medium heat, watching it carefully.
- When the lid gets foggy (this takes 3-5 minutes), pour a little oil over the rice - about 2 tbsp. Then put the lid back on** and turn the heat to the lowest possible setting.
- Cook for 30-45 min from when the oil is poured on top.
- Fluff the entire rice mixture with a fork to mix it all together and serve.