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Barberries or Zereshk (an essential Persian Ingredient)

A simple explanation on how to use barberries in your kitchen.



Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Barberries, Berberis or Zereshk in Persian are a delightful, useful, and once you use it, indispensable ingredient in your pantry. It’s one of those ingredients like Sumac and Sundried Tomato Paste that makes you a believer from the first use and have you going, “How did I ever survive without it?”

There are many different types of barberries, depending on which part of the world they grow. Some of the shrubs are grown for their ornamental value, with their yellow coloured leaves, red or black berries.

The edible type is called Berberis Vulgaris and pretty much grows wild in Asia and Europe.

Barberries are a crucial part of any Persian kitchen, making themselves known by imparting not only a gorgeous burst of colour but also a marked tart and tangy flavour.

How to use Zereshk?

  • As a cooking ingredient: It’s a simple matter of soaking them in tepid water for about 10 minutes, squeeze dry and use whole or chopped up.
  • As a garnish:  sauté them in butter and a little sugar to counteract the tartness, before using them whole.
Morasa Polow, Persian Jewelled Rice
Persian Jewelled Rice

How to Cook with Barberries?

They can be used in any recipe where you want a hint of fruity tartness:

  • in rice or couscous
  • in salads
  • as stuffing
  • in kababs and sausages
  • in cakes
  • in cookies (just like cranberries)
  • with their high pectin levels, great in jams

I use them in many of my dishes, Middle Eastern or otherwise, and they are wonderful in all manner of recipes. Barberries are a key ingredient in many Persian rice dishes, one of the most famous of these is Morasa Polow or Jewelled Rice (click for recipe).

Morasa Polow is a glorious feast for the eyes and the palate with the twinkling of the “gems” and multi layered flavours. The sourness of the barberries are a reminder that married life isn’t always going to be a bed of roses!

Substitute for Zereshk/Barberries

Dried Sour Cherries or Cranberries

So, there you have it, another staple in our global kitchen and hopefully, yours too, soon, if not already. Here in the UK, I purchase them online although when I’m in London and have access to Middle Eastern stores, I do stock up a little bit! I hope you get your hands on some and start experimenting, I would love to hear from you, just drop me a line!

If you like the recipe, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you!

And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

Persian Recipes on LinsFood

Morasa Polow (Persian Jewelled Rice)

The King of all Persian dishes, the Persian Jewelled Rice or Morasa Polow bedazzles the eye with twinkles of red, green, orange and gold. Morasa means jewels.

Check out this recipe

Morasa Polow, Persian Jewelled Rice
Persian Roast Lamb Recipe and Video

Persian Roast Lamb recipe. Super easy and extremely delicious with pomegranate molasses. Perfect for Nowruz, Easter and Christmas!

Check out this recipe

Persian Saffron Rice Pudding (Sholeh Zard)

Persian Saffron Rice Pudding or Sholeh Zard, in Farsi, is a rice pudding without milk, flavoured with saffron, rose water and cardamom.

Check out this recipe


You’ll find exact methods in the recipes that I use them in, see my article above.

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