Barberries or Zereshk (an essential Persian Ingredient)

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

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

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


What are Zereshk or Barberries?

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).

Recipes using Zereshk

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.
Last Updated May 2023.
Get the Recipe!
Morasa Polow, Persian Jewelled Rice
Zereshk Polo Morgh (Persian Barberry Rice with Chicken)
Zereshk Polo Morgh is a simple, yet classic Persian (Iranian) rice flavoured with barberries (zereshk) and served with a chicken (morgh) stew (khoresh).
Get the Recipe!
Persian rice with chicken and row of barberries on the side

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 if you’re feeling like a start, that 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

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How to Use Barberries (Zereshk, an essential Persian ingredient)

A simple explanation on how to use barberries in your kitchen.
5 from 11 votes
Print Pin Add to Collection
Course: Ingredients
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: ingredients, persian, spices
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Author: Azlin Bloor
Cost: £5/100g ($2/oz)



As a cooking ingredient

  • Soak 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.

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

    Discover more Ingredients!Check out The Ingredients Page

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    4 thoughts on “Barberries or Zereshk (an essential Persian Ingredient)”

    1. I was thinking the same thing as Azlin about pomegranate, but I was thinking of the fresh one they sell year around in the produce section of US mkts. On their own they are shiny, but juicy. Would it go w this dice dish? I used them in a gorgeous Egyptian salad.

      1. Fresh pomegranate always make a lovely “bling” addition to dishes of all kinds. We us it a lot as a garnish on so many of our Middle Eastern dishes, whether that’s rice, salads, dips or stews. So yes, it will go amazingly in any rice dish.
        Have you tried pomegranate molasses, Joy? You’ll love it. You can read more about it here:

    2. Very interesting to read about barberries, Lin. They must make any dish look instantly glamorous! We use dried pomegranate pearls or anardana here for a similar tart flavour but it doesn’t have this lovely colour.

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