Kalam Polo Recipe (Shirazi) – Persian cabbage rice

Kalam Polo is a delicious traditional Persian cuisine, originating from Shiraz, that’s why it’s known as “Kalam Polo Shirazi” as well.

The food contains either cabbage or kohlrabi. The ground beef used in it is usually turned into very delicious meatballs.

The aromatic herbs used in this food contribute greatly to its taste, and that’s why I think this is one of the best recipes for cabbage in the world. Kalam Polo gets its fantastic aroma from these aromatic herbs and sautéed cabbage with onions.

How to make Kalam Polo Shirazi?

Follow the steps below to make authentic Iranian Kalam Polo or Kalam Polo Shirazi:

Preparation Steps

Soak the rice one hour prior.

Soak the rice

Wash the cabbages and Cut them.

Cut the cabbages

Step 1 – Cook the cabbages

Dice the onions.  until golden.

Sauté the onions in a pan
Sauté the onions in a pan

Add the cabbage and sauté them together.

Add the cabbages to the onions
Add the cabbages to the onions

Wait 15 minutes for the cabbage to cook and soften.

Add turmeric, curry powder, and dried herbs. Add salt. Add a few spoonfuls of water and close the lid for further cooking.

You can add lemon juice too, it’s optional. When the water vaporizes fully, turn the heat off.

Add turmeric curry powder and dried herbs and salt
Add turmeric, curry powder, dried herbs, and salt

If you don’t have enough time, you can sauté the cabbages alone and without onions. However, onions give a good taste to the cabbages.

Step 2 – Prepare the Meatballs

Grate the second onion. Squeeze it to drain its extra water. Add ground beef, salt, turmeric, curry powder, and if you like, some gram flour. If your meat mixture is too loose and watery, add gram flour. If not, it’s not necessary.

Thoroughly beat the mixture by hand. Grab a small amount and roll it on the palm of your hand to form a ball. The meatballs should be smaller than a knuckle.

Heat a pan on the stove and pour oil into it. Let the oil become hot enough. Fry the meatballs in the pan. It only requires 3-5 minutes since the meatballs will cook further with the rice.

Fry the meatballs

Ghanbar Polo is another Iranian dish that is made with small meatballs. But the meatballs are soaked in pomegranate paste and they get a very pleasant and different taste. I advise try it too.

Step 3 – Cook the rice

Boil a pot of water. Add in rice and leave for 5 minutes until it becomes Al dente. The exact amount of time needed depends on the type of rice you’re using. Add some salt.

Cook the rice separatelyOnce the rice becomes al dente, drain it with a colander.

Pour the rice into the colander If you want bread tahdig, cut some bread into squares using a scissor. You can cut a piece of bread to the size of the bottom of the pot. (Like the image below)

Pour oil into the pot and let it heat up. Fry both sides of the bread in the oil for a short while.

Fry the breadYou can have any other type of tahdig with this method, like Potato tahdig.

Then pour the rice into the pot.

Step 4 – Prepare the Kalam Polo Shirazi

In the end, add the prepared cabbage and meatballs to the rice. You can also add a few spoonfuls of oil or butter to the surface of the rice.

Add the cabbages and meatballs to the rice
Add the cabbages and meatballs to the rice

Let the rice steam for 40-60 minutes. If necessary, use a cloth cover for the lid to keep the heat inside and better steam the rice.

After this time, test the polo, If it cooked well, turn the heat off. take 1-2 turners of Kalam Polo and add steamed saffron to it. Mix it well. Use this saffron rice to decorate your dish. Turmeric and saffron, give your Kalam Polo Shirazi an amazing color and aroma.

Kalam Polo Shirazi Recipe
Kalam Polo Shirazi Ba Tahdig

Tips for cooking Persian Cabbage Pilaf

  • You can skip putting the meatballs on the rice, during the steaming step. This means that you will have to thoroughly fry the meatballs. Steam the rice separately. And serve the meatballs with steamed rice in the end. In this way, the meatballs fully keep their round shape, and are easier on the eyes. This method is better for formal situations.
  • You can add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the sautéed cabbage. This will give a beautiful color to your dish. I didn’t use this method on my recipe though.

Kalam Polo herbs

Kalam Polo Shirazi herbs consist of dill, chive, basil, and tarragon. The amount of chive and basil used in this food are equal. The dill portion is less than chive and basil. Tarragon has the least amount. Too much tarragon can bitter the food.

You can use either fresh herbs or dried. I used dried herbs in this recipe. Since I didn’t have tarragon and chives, I used 2 spoonfuls of basil and one spoonful of dried dill. The aroma of my dish was very pleasant still.

If you prefer using fresh herbs, mix them with the ratios mentioned here, wash and let dry. Then, chop them into tiny pieces and sauté with the cabbage.

Vegetarian Kalam Polo

If you’d rather have a vegetarian meal, choose one of the following:

  • Omit the meat from the recipe. Don’t worry about the taste, the aroma of herbs and fried cabbage maintains the amazing flavor of this food.
  • You can use Soy instead of meat.
  • You can even add some cauliflower and grated carrots to the rice. Keep in mind to add lots of spice!

Kalam Polo Recipe

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Steaming The Rice40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: iran
Servings: 2 people
Author: Alorecipes


  • 2 cup Rice
  • 200 grams White cabbage
  • 2 Onions
  • 150 grams Ground beef
  • 1 tbsp Chickpea flour
  • 100 grams Aromatic vegetables
  • Salt as needed
  • Turmeric, pepper, and curry powder as needed
  • 1 tbsp Abghurah or lemon juice optional
  • 3 tbsp Dissolved saffron optional


  • Soak the rice for one hour.
  • Cut and sauté onion.
  • Add the cut cabbage to the onion and sauté further.
  • Grate the second onion. Squeeze to get rid of the extra juice.
  • Add ground beef, salt, turmeric, curry powder, pepper, and gram flour to the grated onion. Beat with hand.
  • Take some meat and roll it in your hand to make meatballs.
  • Fry the meatballs in a pan.
  • Boil a pot of water.
  • Add rice to the pot and let it reach an al dente state after about 5 minutes.
  • Drain the rice.
  • Fry a few pieces of bread in the pot for making tahdig.
  • Pour the rice over them.
  • Put the cooked cabbage and fried meatballs on the rice to steam.
  • Leave on moderate heat for 40-60 minutes to steam well.


Kalam Polo is a delicious food from Shiraz. If you have never tried it before, you will be shocked by just how amazing cabbage can taste in food despite some people not liking the scent and taste of cabbage.

This recipe is for a delicious cuisine that is also introduced in other Persian recipes using ground beef. I recommend serving this dish with either Shirazi salad or Shallot yogurt.

If you still have white cabbage in the fridge, I suggest making Torshi Kalam (Iranian pickled cabbage). It is very easy and inexpensive to make, and it is very delicious with meals.

  • Nutrition Facts

  • Servings Per Container2
  • Serving Size1 cup (186g)
  • Amount per serving
  • Calories488
  • % Daily Value*
  • Total Fat15 g19.23%
  • Saturated Fat5 g25%
  • Trans Fat1 g
  • Cholesterol69 mg23%
  • Sodium373 mg16.22%
  • Total Carbohydrate68 g24.73%
  • Dietary Fiber7 g25%
  • Total Sugars17 g
  • Protein30 g60%
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