International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Kalam Polo

Basmati rice

(Persian rice with meat and cabbage)

Image by anirudh

Average: 4.7 (20 votes)

Kalam polo is a hearty, filling pilaf scented with cinnamon and saffron. Sometimes spelled kalam polow, or kalam pollo. Kalam is Farsi for cabbage.

4 to 6 servings


  • Basmati rice -- 3 cups
  • Oil -- 1/3 cup
  • Onion, minced -- 1
  • Ground beef or lamb -- 1 pound
  • Cabbage, cored and shredded -- 1 head (about 2 pounds)
  • Tomato paste -- 1/4 cup
  • Stock or water -- 2 cups
  • Lime juice -- 2 tablespoons
  • Cinnamon (optional)-- 1 teaspoon
  • Saffron -- pinch
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Butter, melted -- 2 tablespoons


  1. In a large bowl, wash and drain the rice in 2 or 3 changes of water. Add more water to cover and set the rice aside to soak for 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Heat half the oil in a sauté pan over medium flame and sauté the onion until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the meat and sauté, breaking up the larger chunks, until cooked through. Remove the onions and meat to a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the sauté pan and saute the shredded cabbage over medium heat until wilted.
  4. Return the meat and onions to the pan and stir in the tomato paste, stock or water, lime juice, cinnamon, saffron and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. While the meat simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drain the soaked rice and stir it into the boiling water. Return to a boil and cook the rice for 2 or 3 minutes. Then drain the rice, discarding the water, and place it in the bowl that held the meat and onions. Stir about 1/2 cup of the simmering meat into the rice and adjust seasoning.
  6. Spread the melted butter over the bottom of the pot you used to boil the rice. Spread half the rice over the bottom of the pot. Next spread the simmering meat in a second layer over the rice. Finally, top the meat with the remaining rice in a third layer. Pour 1/3 cup water over the rice and stick 4 or 5 holes into the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon.
  7. Cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil and then with a lid and set over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Then reduce heat to low and simmer slowly for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest another 15 minutes.
  8. Gently stir the rice and meat together with a large fork. Mound in serving dish and serve the crusty bottom (called the tadig) in a dish on the side.

Kalam Polo Variations

  • With Meatballs: A very popular version of the dish has the onions and ground meat seasoned, formed into small meatballs and then browned in the oil.


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