A saffron simple syrup soaked crunchy treat that is traditionally served with Persian black tea - it doesn't get better than this! I once surprised my grandma with this recipe, and she was blown away. It's hard to find good zoolbia, but this recipe is really easy and will help you make amazing zoolbia.
In this Post...
- What is zoolbia and where does it come from?
- What is saffron?
- What kind of flour do you use?
- The difference between zoolbia & bamieh.
- Recipe with step by step photos.
- Other Persian recipes
What is Zoolbia and Where Does it Come From?
Zoolbia (sometimes spelled zulbia or zolbiya) is a traditional deep fried Persian/Iranian pastry made with saffron, sugar, syrup, and a fermented batter. It's very sweet and crunchy, and it is traditionally served with unsweetened black tea to balance the flavors.
Zoolbia has its culinary counterpart across many cultures, as it is a very similar sweet pastry to jalebi, jilapi, mushabak, and zalabia. All these recipes involve frying batter in oil to create circular or donut shapes.
What is Saffron?
Saffron is a distinctive spice that has an orange-yellow color. We harvest saffron from a flower called Crocus Sativus, otherwise known as “saffron crocus", from the iris family. The spice comes from the filament (part of the stamen) in the center of the flower.
Saffron is expensive because it's tricky to harvest. The saffron crocus is only in bloom for a short time, and the saffron must be harvested immediately on the day the flower blooms. Because of its scarcity, saffron can be quite an expensive spice.
Note: There are saffron (link to saffron on Amazon) knock-offs out there, so watch out! It is helpful to take someone with you to purchase this expensive aromatic who knows what it should look like.
What Kind of Flour Do You Use?
Traditionally, you make zoolbia with wheat flour, but you can also use all-purpose flour. My recipe actually doesn't use any flour, instead I use arrowroot powder, which is a popular gluten-free alternative.
What is the Difference Between Persian Zoolbia and Bamieh?
Zoolbia looks like a small funnel cake in shape, whereas the Bamieh shape looks like small doughnuts. They both use saffron as a key ingredient, though the taste and sweetness of the two is much the same. They're both great options when you fancy a sweet pastry.
Recipe with Step-by-Step Photos
To get started with the zoolbia, assemble the following ingredients: water, oil, sugar, saffron, arrowroot powder, baking powder, and yogurt.
Let's start with the batter preparation because it needs to ferment for 1 hour. While it is fermenting, we can make the simple syrup.
Beat the arrowroot powder (Amazon link opens in new tab), yogurt, and oil with a fork, until well combined. Let sit for 1 hour. You want a thick batter. But you can add 2 teaspoons of water at a time to get it to the right consistency. The consistency can vary depending on the yogurt you use, so use the photo below as reference for the thickness you are looking for. Once your batter has fermented for 1 hour, mix in the baking powder and let it sit, covered, for another 5 minutes.
To make the saffron syrup, add the pinches of saffron and a ½ cup water to a saucepan, and bring it to a simmer. Add in the sugar and stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves completely. Next, gradually increase the heat and bring the syrup to the boil. Once it boils, remove from the heat. Pour the syrup in a bowl or dish wide enough to fit the size of zoolbia you are making to cool.
Note: Transfer the syrup to a sealable container and steep it overnight for an increased golden color (see below the before and after) though they both work great. The syrup will keep for up to 6 months at room temperature.
Transfer the batter to a squeeze bottle or piping bag (Amazon links open in a new tab). You can also use a large plastic zipper bag. Cut the tip off the bottle or piping bag to make a small opening is 5 mm or just under ¼-inch in diameter.
Heat about ¼-inch of oil in a non-stick skillet. Squeeze the batter directly into the hot oil in a rough circular motion, or making florets about 4 inches round, crossing over the circle a few times to ensure they hold together. Cook for 1 minute on each side or until golden edges show up (see photo to the right).
Then, Soak each zoolbia in the saffron syrup until they absorb the syrup, about 1 minute each.
Drain the zoolbia on a wire rack (Amazon link opens in new tab) to remove the excess syrup. I love to serve these immediately, but others enjoy them after they have sat and further absorbed the syrup. They end up getting an added chewiness to the crunch! And of course, serve with some hot black tea.
More Persian Recipes
Looking for more Persian recipes like your mom and grandma makes? Check some of these out:
- Ghormeh Sabzi (Herb Stew with Beef)
- Khoresh Beh (Quince & Plum Stew with Beef)
- Gondi (Chickpea & Chicken Dumplings)
- Persian Tea Eggs (Hardboiled Overnight)
★ Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating below!★
Saffron Simple Syrup
- ½ cup water
- flavorless oil for frying
- 2 pinches saffron
- 1 cup sugar
- With a fork, beat the arrowroot, yogurt, and oil until well combined. Let sit for 1 hour. You want a thick batter. But you can add 2 teaspoons of water at a time to get it to the right consistency. It can vary depending on the yogurt you use, so use the photo as reference for the thickness you are looking for.
- In the meantime, add the saffron and ½ cup water to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer the syrup to a sealable container and steep overnight, if possible. (Will keep 6 months at room temp.)
- Mix in the baking powder. Let sit 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a squeeze bottle or piping bag. Cut the tip off the bottle or piping bag so the opening is ~5 mm in diameter.
- Pour the syrup in a shallow dish.
- Heat about ¼-inch of oil in a non-stick skillet. Squeeze the batter directly into the hot oil in a rough circular motion, or making florets about 4 inches round, crossing over the circle a few times to ensure they hold together. Cook for 1 minute on each side or until golden.
- Once golden & cooked, transfer the zoolbia to the simple syrup to soak for about 1 minute.
- Drain on a wire rack to remove the excess syrup. Serve immediately.
This post was originally published in March of 2018, but was republished with new photos, step by step instructions, and tips September of 2020.