Vegetarian ‘Karmir Pilaf’ or Red Rice

Delicious rice recipe and no meat!
Karmir Pilaf Polo Ghermez pinit

Indulge in the rich flavors of Vegetarian ‘Karmir Pilaf’ or Red Rice, a beloved traditional dish hailing from the crossroads of Armenian and Persian cuisine. Known as Karmir Pilaf in Armenian and Polo Ghermez in Persian, this dish has captivated the palates of many for generations.

Traditionally, Karmir Pilaf features a delightful combination of rice, tomatoes, and beef, often including bone marrow for added richness and small green chili peppers for a touch of spice. However, this revised version of the recipe offers a vegetarian twist, catering to those who have chosen to reduce or eliminate meat from their diet due to health reasons or personal preference.

Although simplified, this vegetarian adaptation of Karmir Pilaf still captures the essence of the original dish. The base of fragrant rice remains, providing a satisfying canvas for the flavors to unfold. While the meat is absent, the richness and tanginess of tomatoes continue to shine, contributing to the overall depth of the dish.

As you prepare Vegetarian Karmir Pilaf, you may choose to embrace the cherished tradition of steamed rice, creating that coveted crispy and golden crust, known as ‘Tah Dig’ in Persian or ‘Kerung’ in Armenian, at the bottom of the pot. This delicious treat, akin to bread or rice crust, adds an additional layer of texture and flavor to your meal.

By offering this revised version of Karmir Pilaf, I aim to provide a delightful culinary experience that aligns with evolving dietary preferences while honoring the cultural heritage and essence of this cherished dish. Whether you’re exploring vegetarian options or seeking a new twist on traditional rice dishes, Vegetarian Karmir Pilaf invites you to savor the harmonious blend of flavors and experience the cultural fusion it represents.

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Vegetarian ‘Karmir Pilaf’ or Red Rice

Difficulty: Easy Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 35 mins Total Time 45 mins
Servings: 4


Karmir Pilaf, known as Red Rice in English, holds a significant place in Armenian culinary heritage, particularly in the Iranian Armenian community. Over time, this dish has found its way into both Persian and Armenian cuisines. In Persian culture, it is referred to as Polo Ghermez. Akin to various Middle Eastern rice dishes, the true essence of Karmir Pilaf is best captured through the art of steaming, with the inclusion of bread at the pot's base, a culinary practice cherished by many.

Referred to as 'Kerung' in Armenian and 'Tah Dig' in Persian, which translates to "bottom of the pot," this dish carries with it a rich cultural legacy.

Traditionally crafted with a harmonious blend of rice, tomatoes, beef, and infused with the delectable flavor of marrow-filled bones and the gentle heat of small green chili peppers, it offers a balanced medley of taste and spice. However, in light of my recent dietary adjustments due to health considerations, I've crafted a simplified rendition of this cherished recipe, with the exclusion or reduction of meat. Upon testing, the results were satisfactory, leading me to present this adapted version for your enjoyment.



  1. Opt for Basmati rice, ideally of superior quality, as it can significantly elevate the overall result. However, should it not be readily available, feel free to utilize the rice at your disposal. For optimal outcomes, I highly recommend soaking the Basmati rice either overnight or, at the very least, for a brief period. A thorough rinse is advised to mitigate the starch content.

    Begin by placing the rice into a pot, then incorporating the tomato paste and broth. Introduce a balanced amount of salt and pepper to harmonize the flavors. Ensure the liquid level comfortably covers the rice, creating a well-proportioned blend of ingredients.

    Karmin Pilaf
  2. Exercise caution with the amount of liquid added, as the objective at this stage is to gradually diminish the liquid content to nearly negligible levels. This process typically spans around 8 to 10 minutes, culminating in achieving an al dente texture for the rice, a crucial preparatory step for what follows.

    During this reduction process, exercise gentle stirring to prevent the rice from adhering to the pot's base, maintaining a consistently smooth texture throughout.

    Karmir Pilaf reduced
  3. Following the reduction of liquid, you have the option to either transfer the rice to a separate dish in preparation for the ensuing step or utilize a fresh pot. In the newly selected pot, introduce olive oil and heat it. Subsequently, lay down a tortilla or lavash bread, tailored to fit and completely cover the pot's base, maintaining a flat configuration. A brief frying period is customary, typically involving a flip to ensure even cooking. This practice is pivotal, as it ultimately yields the prized outcome of a delectable crispy bread layer known as TahDig in Persian or Kerung in Armenian. This not only adds a savory dimension to the dish but also serves as a safeguard against rice sticking to the pot or risking burning.

    Once the bread has been turned, it is essential to adjust the heat to a simmering level. This sets the stage for the subsequent phase: the gradual and deliberate steaming of the rice, a process that promises to infuse it with layers of delectable flavors.

    Tah Dig or Kerounk
  4. At this juncture, carefully layer the partially cooked rice over the bread, shaping it into a dome-like formation. Ensure that the rice is evenly distributed and gently pull it away from the sides of the pot, creating a deliberate separation to prevent any contact and potential burning. This thoughtful arrangement contributes to the optimal cooking process and the eventual creation of a delectable dish.

    Karmir Pilaf
  5. Moving forward, employ the handle of a wooden spoon or a comparable utensil to craft several openings within the rice dome. These openings serve as outlets for steam, preventing an undesirable excess of moisture that could lead to sogginess.

    Now, introduce chunks of butter, thoughtfully positioned around the top of the rice dome. Alternatively, you can opt for an elegant drizzle of olive oil in place of butter. This addition contributes both texture and flavor, enhancing the overall profile of the dish.

    holes in karmir pilaf
  6. Prior to sealing the pot with the lid, introduce a layer of paper towel or a pristine kitchen towel. Ensure it is neatly folded to align with the dimensions of the lid, making certain that no part of the towel extends beyond the lid's edges. This precautionary measure prevents any potential risk of the towel catching fire, particularly on a gas range.

    The strategic placement of the towel serves a crucial purpose: it adeptly collects and absorbs steam moisture, steering it away from the rice and averting the possibility of undue sogginess. This detail-oriented step contributes to the creation of a perfectly textured and thoroughly enjoyable dish.

    Karmir Pilaf or Red Rice
  7. After approximately 20 minutes have elapsed, your patient efforts will be rewarded, and the rice will have attained its desired readiness. As you lift the lid, you'll observe that all traces of liquid have dissipated, and the rice has been masterfully steamed to perfection. This meticulous process ensures the infusion of all the delectable flavors, culminating in a truly satisfying culinary creation.

    Karmir Pilaf
  8. A crucial detail not to be overlooked is the bread – now delightfully crispy and brimming with flavor. Gently detach it from the bottom, taking care to preserve its delectable texture. Once removed, break the bread into inviting pieces, ensuring that each person partakes in this scrumptious treat.

    An important note: savor the bread on the very day of preparation to relish its optimal freshness. Should any remnants remain, it's advisable to enjoy them without delay for an equally delightful experience.

    Karmir Pilaf Polo Ghermez
  9. Indeed, should you find yourself with leftover bread, exercise caution not to reintroduce it into the pot. The inherent moisture within the rice can potentially compromise the bread's delightful crispiness, resulting in sogginess.

    To preserve the bread's integrity, simply place it on a plate and securely encase it with cling wrap before storing it in the refrigerator. This thoughtful approach ensures the continued enjoyment of the bread's delectable qualities without compromising its texture.

    Tah Dig or Kerung
  10. In keeping with tradition, this dish is often savored alongside delectable chunks of feta cheese, lending an extra layer of flavor and contrast. Alternatively, the experience is elevated by the addition of aged pickled garlic, a complementary accompaniment that harmoniously enhances the overall enjoyment.

    Karmir Pilaf or Polo Ghermez
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