Shirazi Salad (Salad-e Shirazi) is a staple side dish of Persian meals. Made with crisp mini cucumbers (also called Persian cucumbers), tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs, and a bright citrus vinaigrette, this crunchy refreshing salad is easy to throw together and goes well with virtually everything.
Shirazi salad gets its name from the city of Shiraz in south-central Iran, where it originated. It is one of Persia's most popular side dishes, served with almost all Persian main dishes and it goes especially well with Persian rice dishes.
I discovered this delightful simple salad when I was planning for a Persian cooking class I taught on zoom. The class centered around one of my all-time favorite recipes called Tachin Joojeh, a Persian layered casserole of chicken, saffron-yogurt rice and caramelized onions. I needed a salad to round out the meal. The choice was easy. Shirazi Salad, I quickly learned, is the national salad of Persia, and super easy to make.
This crisp, bright, refreshing salad turned out to be the perfect side dish to complement the rich savory chicken and rice casserole we made in the cooking class. It has since come into regular rotation on our family dinner table.
Ingredients for Shirazi Salad
- Persian Cucumbers: These small seedless cucumbers are crisp, with thin skin and a sweet fresh flavor. Once you try them, you may become addicted, as I have. If you can't find these little gems, the next best choice is English hothouse cucumbers.
- Ripe tomatoes: Any diced red ripe tomatoes will do, though I've had great luck with organic cherry tomatoes. They're easy to slice - just cut them into quarters - and they don't lose their juice in the process.
- Red onions: You can also use white onions or even green onions. In fact some insist that green onions are the more traditional choice in this salad. I've used all three and I love them all.
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice: Lime juice and verjuice (sour juice made from unripe grapes) are more traditional but I prefer lemon juice for a bright fresh flavor that works well alongside almost any dish of any cuisine.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Some traditionalist discourage the use of olive oil. I've chosen to include it for flavor and because it helps the vinaigrette coat the vegetables, but feel free to omit it, if you want a more traditional Shirazi salad.
- Fresh Herbs: Chopped herbs add so much fresh flavor to this dish. Choose your favorite herb or whatever is freshest at the market. I've made Shirazi salad with fresh mint, cilantro and parsley - each herb adding a unique flavorful twist to this simple dish.
How to Make Shirazi Salad
Cucumbers tomatoes and onions are chopped and tossed with fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
You can subtly shift the flavors and textures of this salad, depending on which herbs, citrus, onions and tomatoes you use, and how you slice the vegetables. The more common method is to finely dice the vegetables, which gives you a salad with a uniform texture similar to that of an Israeli salad. I prefer to thinly slice the mini cucumbers because it's easier than dicing and it gives the salad an interesting variety of shapes and textures. If you're using large tomatoes, it's best to core and dice them. If using cherry tomatoes, no need to core them, just slice them into quarters. For more variety, you can add diced green pepper to the mix. Optional but delicious.
Shirazi Salad Questions:
Can you make it ahead of time?
It's best to dress the salad just before serving to keep the vegetables bright and crisp. You can chop the cucumbers, onions and tomatoes a few hours ahead and keep them covered in the fridge. The dressing can be made several days ahead, kept in the fridge, and brought to room temperature before using.
What to serve it with?
This salad goes especially well with Persian stews and rice dishes, but it's also a wonderful side dish with grilled chicken, kebabs, fish dishes, steak and even burgers. Here are some of my favorite dishes to pair with Shirazi salad:
Here's the Shirazi Salad Recipe. If you try this recipe, I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think.Print