Iranian Desserts for a Sweet Persian New Year
Nowruz table with sweets
Goodbye winter and hello spring! The Persian New Year, or Nowruz, is coming soon. This holiday marks the beginning of the Farvardin (first month of the Solar Hijri calendar). For Iranians, this special day is a symbol of a fresh start, with Nowruz meaning “new day”. Breathe in the spring air and let’s take a snapshot look of this holiday, as well as the type of Iranian desserts to enjoy.
Persian New Year, or Nowruz
Nowruz dates back from Zoroastrianism, which is an ancient Persian religion preceding Christianity and Islam. Zoroastrianism was widespread across the old Persian empire territories. Thus, Nowruz is also celebrated among non-Iranians, including countries like Afghanistan, Albania, India, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
Tabletop with 7 symbolic elements (Haft Sin) for Nowruz
The Persian New Year has its own traditions and customs. To begin with, on the last Tuesday before Nowruz, it is customary to jump over a fire to say goodbye to winter. Next, during this day, families decorate their table with “Haft Sin” (or Haft-Seen) elements. These elements include seven symbolic items that all start with the Farsi letter “س” (the equivalent to the letter “S”). You will find sabzeh (wheat, lentil or mung bean sprouts), samanu (a sweet pudding made with germinated wheat), seeb (apple), senjed (the dried fruit of the wild olive, oleaster), somagh (sumak), serkeh (vinegar) and seer (garlic), as well as other items such as mirrors, candles, and decorated eggs. Each element represents prosperity, health and wealth. For example the garlic (“seer“) symbolizes protection from illness and evil, whereas vinegar (“serkeh“) portrays longevity and patience.
You cannot enjoy a typical Iranian dessert without tasting the sublime oriental flavours of rosewater, pistachios and saffron. It’s simply a must! Let’s explore the top sweet picks to indulge during this special holiday.
- Baghlava: Also known as baghlava yazdi, this flavourful dessert is one of the common must-have desserts during Nowruz. This baghlava is completely unique: Iranians use a soft dough mixed in with ground almonds, or pistachios. After rolling out the dough, the baghlava is cut into small diamond shapes and then soaked in rosewater syrup. The taste of ground almonds, or pistachios, are heightened by adding sugar and cardamom. It’s absolutely irresistible!
- Nan-e Keshmeshi: These are traditional Persian raisin cookies. These cookies have a special place in the hearts of Iranians. Each bite of these raisin cookies brings back sweet childhood memories. Nan-e keshmeshi are prepared with dark and dried raisins. They’re chewy, yet have a crispy edge. For added flavour, teaspoons of bloomed saffron are added in the flour to give it its signature Iranian taste.
- Nan-e Gerdui (Persian Walnut Cookies): These Persian walnut cookies will surely hit the spot! They will satisfy all your sweet cravings. You can compare nan-e gerdui with Russian tea cakes or with Mexican wedding cookies. Similar to most Iranian treats, these cookies are heavily flavoured with rosewater syrup and sometimes cardamom. They are topped with pistachio silvers and can be enjoyed with spiced black tea.
- Nan-e berenji (Rice Cookies): Another Persian cookie that you must try during the Persian New Year! These brittle rice cookies will instantly melt in your mouth with each bite. They are light, yet aren’t too sweet. As the golden rule says: add rosewater syrup and cardamom to enrich the flavours of nan-e berenji.
- Nan-e Nokhodchi (Chickpea Cookies): Chickpea cookies might not be your thing, but nan-e nokhodchi doesn’t fall short from filling your taste buds with an amazing dessert. These chickpea cookies are quite thick, and have the distinctly Iranian taste you will surely love. They are tasty and vegan-friendly! If you are looking for a gluten and dairy-free cookie, these chickpea delights are perfect. Of course, every cookie fills your senses with the flavours of rosewater and pistachio.
- Pashmak: If you’re looking for a heavenly dessert, pashmak is exactly what you’re craving for. It’s light as a cloud with a texture similar to cotton candy. It’s so soft and is thinned into multiple fragile threads, that it can be compared to an angel’s hair. Pashmak comes in different flavours, such as sesame, rosewater, vanilla, orange blossom, saffron, pistachio and cardamom. Pair it with other Iranian desserts and enjoy!
- Persian Love Cake: Just the sight of this cake will have you head over heels. Despite having no flour in it, the cake is surprisingly moist and soft. While the cake is still warm, hot syrup is poured over it. The syrup combines rosewater, sugar, and lemon juice, which adds a delightful sweetness with a hint of tang. You can decorate it with dried rose petals, powdered sugar, or pistachios. It is easily one of the prettiest Persian desserts you’ll come across.
- Bastani: This a creamy frozen dessert infused with, of course, saffron and rosewater. The addition of saffron gives it a beautiful golden colour and enhances its flavours. Topped with rose petals and crushed pistachios, bastani is a top contender for its lovely presentation. Enjoy it during Nowruz or as a summer treat, either way, it’s delicious!
- Sholeh Zard: Saving the best for last, sholeh zard is a saffron rice pudding. It’s abundant with irresistible flavours and aromas that will keep you wanting more. The rice is cooked in water with saffron and sugar. To give its signature look, slivered nuts, cinnamon, and dried roses can be added for aesthetics. Dig in!
Let’s welcome spring with open arms by enjoying these tasty Iranian desserts! Don’t miss out on the celebrations of the Persian New Year by looking for Persian desserts near you. And as they say in Farsi to wish everyone a happy new year: Nowruz Pirooz!