Shirin Pilau & Lemon Chicken

Nura’s recipe

Shirin pilau is a colorful and aromatic party rice, typically served with chicken. Saffron can be added to the rice to increase the festive look and taste (see “Saffron Rice” [link forthcoming]). Shirin pilau does require some extra time to prepare the ingredients. Pistachios may be used with, or instead of, the almonds.

Servings: About 6


2 c. uncooked rice (medium to long grain)

1 large orange

1/2 to 3/4 c. slivered almonds (skinless)

1/2 c. sweet currants

2 T. butter

Lemon juice


Step 1: Remove the skin from the orange, being careful to not also remove the white pulp. Cut the skin into thin strips, 1/8 inch wide by 3/4 inch long. Add 1 c. boiling water to the orange skin slices, and let them sit 20 seconds, then drain (this removes the bitterness). Set aside.

Step 2: Add the sweet currants to a bowl and sprinkle liberally with lemon juice; mix. Let the currants sit for at least 15 minutes. 

Step 3: Toast the almonds in some butter, using low to medium-low heat. Once the almonds turn light brown, they are done (after reaching this point of browning, remove from heat as they will burn quickly if heated beyond this point). Salt the almonds. 

Step 4: Combine the orange peel, currants and almonds. 

Step 5: Prepare the rice using the “Chelo (Basic Rice)” method, adding the fruit/nut mixture to the rice after it has been rinsed in the colander. Proceed with the “Basic Rice” method, adding some melted butter to the rice before steaming .

Making the accompanying chicken: Prepare lemon chicken to serve with the pilau by doing the following: cook the chicken (oven roasted whole chicken, pan-fried breasts in olive oil, whatever a person prefers is fine), let it cool so its juices are retained, and then cut it into big bite-size chunks. In a frying pan, slow-cook onions in olive oil and salt to carmelize them. Then add in butter, olive oil, lemon, salt, crushed saffron, and crushed lemon peel. Add the chunks to the liquid in a frying pan and low simmer for about 15 minutes. The benefit of small chunks is it means more chicken surface area to soak in the flavoring.

Recipe © Nura Amerson 1991

Rice and chicken on a plate
Shirin pilau with lemon chicken

Layli’s Reflections

I made shirin pilau for Ridván, which is the Most Great Festival in the Bahá’í Faith. With its confetti-like appearance, shirin pilau seemed the perfect way to celebrate. The lemon chicken makes it a full meal.

Since my saffron supply is running pretty low, I substituted turmeric and paprika to color the chicken, along with spices (cinnamon and cardamom, plus some rosewater) to add fragrance. I also used turmeric to add some color to the rice by mixing some of the spice into a bit of hot water, then stirring a bit of rice into this turmeric water.

With the yellow chicken and “decorated” yellow rice, dark berries, and bright orange zest, the dish turned out to be quite colorful. And delicious, too!

Back to Katayoon’s Kitchen

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