Lamb and Fresh Herb Khoresh

Lamb and Fresh Herb Khoresh

A Khoresh may be loosely translated as “stew” in Farsi, but this highly developed and popular style of cooking is so much more than just simple stewing: the Persian focus on balance between hot and cold is always in evidence in a good Khoresh recipe.  This Khoresh-e qormeh sabzi pairs lamb with aromatic herbs, which serve to enhance the flavor of the lamb.

4 servings


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds lamb shanks or 1 pound leg of lamb cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
4 whole dried Persian limes (limu-omani), pierced
½ cup kidney beans
4 cups finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup finely chopped garlic chives or scallions
1 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
1 cup chopped fresh fenugreek leaves or 4 tablespoons dried fenugreek sprinkled with warm water
2 tablespoons dried Persian lime powder (limu-omani) or 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

[Chef’s Note: Special ingredients like Persian limes and fenugreek can be found in speciality markets. If you have a Persian community near you, there will certainly be a store stocking these and other ingredients. If not, Middle Eastern groceries may also carry these items.]


Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the lamb along with the onions and garlic for about 20 minutes, or until the lamb is well browned. Stir often with a wooden spoon to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, saffron water, whole dried Persian limes, and kidney beans and sauté lightly for a few minutes longer. Pour in enough water to completely cover the lamb mixture, about 4 to 4½ cups. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Heat a separate non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chopped parsley, garlic chives or scallions, coriander, and fenugreek for 10 minutes. Continue stirring for several minutes more, adding additional oil if necessary to keep the herbs from sticking to the bottom.

[Chef’s Note: This step is essential in developing the aromatic qualities of the herbs, and in flavoring the final khoresh.]

Add the sautéed herbs and lime powder (or lime juice) to the khoresh. Cover and simmer for 2½ to 3 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally,until the lamb is very tender.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and additional lime juice, if necessary. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.


Serve warm over saffron steamed rice.

Recipe by Mark Tafoya