What to Do with Leftover Pilaf Rice: A Persian Guide

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Pilaf in blue plate with a text "What to do with leftover pilaf rice"

Persia…now modern day Iran, is something almost mystical for us foreigners. 

The country being cut off from the rest of the world only adds to this fascination. Iran is closed off by a desolate landscape. 

There are the rugged mountains in the west, then the barren desert in the east. Then both north and south are sealed off by the Caspian sea, and the Persian Gulf.

But despite such harsh geographic profile and isolation; Iranians still managed to create a long history and rich culture for themselves. 

Renowned poets like Rumi and Omar Khayyam are of Persian descent. 

Other ancient Iranians wrote influential texts on medicine and philosophy.

Algebra? Iran takes credit for inventing and giving us this arithmetic. 

But beyond all these feats is a rich culinary heritage heavily influenced by its strategic location, diverse cultures, and historical trade routes. 

Kebabs? Baqlava? Pilaf? These are just some of the dishes that we all love (and can’t live without).

The undisputed king of all Iranian cuisine, though? Rice. 

And the many styles it is prepared in. It’s the base for most of the country’s meals, you see!

I know you’re at a crossroads right now with what to do with leftover pilaf rice.  

Much like Iran is situated at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. 

But worry no more, I know a solution (make that three) that will take us beyond the borders of Iran. 

Beyond Persia

Tricolor rice pilaf in wooden plate.

Persia spared no expense when it came to their pilaf rice. 

Just the pot itself already plays a significant role. 

Even heat distribution? Got that covered (pun intended). 

Not to mention, the tahdig crust that was coveted by many. 

It’s the defining trait, after all. It’s what makes Iranian pilaf rice, Iranian pilaf rice. 

But no worries, cast iron skillets and rice cookers achieve similar results today. We don’t have to fly all the way to Iran just for an authentic pilaf rice. 

We also can’t forget the saffron. Iranian pilaf rice doesn’t shy away from using the most expensive spice there is. 

Today, pilaf has many adaptations on a global scale. 

We have Spanish paella. There’s Indian biryani. 

Cooking rice with veggies and spices has moved beyond Iran’s culinary landscape and has taken root in several other cultures. 

And now, it’s taking root in your kitchen. So grab those leftovers right now. 

Iran’s about to take the lead on what to do with leftover pilaf rice. 

From Persia with Love: What to Do with Leftover Pilaf Rice

Who’s ready to create culinary masterpieces from leftovers?

Shall we begin, then?


Starting off with an Iranian appetizer…

Shukay is one of the most creative ways of repurposing your leftover pilaf rice. The dish is flavored with herbs like cilantro, mint or parsley and infused with cheese. 

Sounds delish? That’s ‘cause it is!


  • 2 cups of leftover pilaf rice
  • ½ cup of herbs
  • ¼ cup of crumbled feta cheese (or crumbled tofu, I got you dear vegetarian foodies)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tbsp of all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp of ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp of ground turmeric
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Shallow pan
  • Slotted spoon
  • Paper towels


  1. Combine the leftover pilaf rice, herbs, feta, egg, flour, cumin, turmeric, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
  2. Gently mash everything together using a fork. Make sure not to overmix to retain some texture. 
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in the pan. Place some pilaf mixture and make sure not to overcrowd the fritters.
  4. Fry the shukay for 2-3 minutes per side or just until they are golden brown.
  5. Dab with or place on paper towels to remove excess oil before serving.


Pilaf with tahdig in grey plate.

This second dish we’re making is a signature of Iranian cuisine. The magic is found in the caramelized layer that forms at the bottom of the pot. 


  • 2 cups of leftover pilaf rice
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • ¼ cup of water
  • Saffron threads
  • Salt to taste


  • Pot with a tight lid (Cast iron or non-stick)
  • Spatula


  1. Heat the butter over medium fire in the pot. Swirl it around when it melts to coat the bottom.
  2. Add the leftover pilaf rice and spread it evenly.
  3. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of water over the rice to create steam that will make the tahdig crispy.
  4. Soak the saffron in hot water for 2-3 minutes. Pour the resulting liquid over the rice. 
  5. Add a pinch of salt, then adjust to your liking. 
  6. Reduce the fire to low and cover with the lid. Let everything cook for about 20-25 minutes.
  7. Remove the pot from the fire and let it sit for 5 minutes. 
  8. Use the spatula to loosen the rice around the pot’s edges. Then, carefully invert the pot onto a plate. 
  9. Serve with yogurt on the side. 


We’re hitting the streets for our third and final recipe. Kolokoche is an Iranian street food that stir-fries fresh veggies and bold spices together into one mouth-watering experience. 


  • 2 cups of leftover pilaf rice
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 diced bell pepper (any color works)
  • 1 cup of chopped veggies
  • ½ tsp of ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp of ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp of chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish


  • Large skillet
  • Spatula
  • Spoon


  1. Heat oil in the skillet over medium fire. Then, add the onion once hot and cook for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the bell pepper and the chopped veggies. Sauté for another 5 minutes until slightly soft.
  3. Throw in the leftover pilaf rice, making sure to break any clumps. Mix thoroughly with the veggies. 
  4. Sprinkle the turmeric, cumin, and chili powder over the rice and veggie mixture. Follow it by seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Continue stir-frying for another 2-3 minutes until everything is heated through.
  6. Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving. 

Endless Delicious Possibilities

And that’s another set of leftovers saved from the trash!

Breathing new life to last night’s excess food isn’t as difficult as you may think. 

Just follow these Iranian-style recipes and you’re sure to know what to do with leftover pilaf rice in no time! 

Go conquer those leftovers one delicious bite at a time. 

You got this from here, yeah? 

I know you do…

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