Lamb Khoresh Stew with Orange Recipe

I know little about Persian cuisine. I do know it is a multifaceted one, that its flavors are refined and its roots run deep, but I have never been to an Iranian restaurant nor an Iranian home — though now that I think about it, one of the Middle Eastern groceries we went to in California may have been Iranian — so this Persian stew (that’s what khoresh means) was a foray into uncharted territory for me.

And as far as forays go, this lamb khoresh was positively thrilling: I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a stew so brightly flavored and so subtle.

Petits Larcins culinairesWhat prompted me to make it was a little book I recently bought, called Petits Larcins culinaires (“culinary petty thefts,” but it sounds better in French). It is written by a well-known and very likable figure of the Parisian food scene, Claude Deloffre. Claude has a passion for (and a crazy-extensive collection of) cookbooks, and for a few years she ran a specialized bookshop/gallery on rue Charlot, called FOOD*. In this book, her first, she writes about her lifelong relationship with cookbooks and the ones that have meant the most to her, and she shares a few recipes “stolen” — hence the title — from her favorite authors.

As any successful anthology will, this one makes you want to go out and buy each and every one of the books she evokes — were it a website, it would have an “Order All” button — and among the recipes I flagged to try, one of them sprung forward with particular force: it was this Persian lamb stew, on page 63, which Claude simply introduces under the name Khoresh.

This lamb khoresh is a Persian dish of lamb slowly stewed in citrus juice, garnished with candied orange peel, mint, and pistachios.

I wasn’t familiar with the term, but the recipe itself — a dish of lamb stewed in citrus juice, garnished with candied orange peel, mint, and pistachios — sung to me like a mermaid. We were to have Pascale and her husband David over for dinner a few days later, and there was now little doubt about what I would serve.

I altered the recipe just a bit — I used a little less sugar and butter, but more vegetables and more meat, as the amount given seemed insufficient for six, and I added saffron — but overall, I followed Claude’s lead, and found the process easy and pleasurable.

We are at the tail end of the citrus season and the first new carrots are appearing, so now is the ideal time to try this. And if it seems a little supererogatory to candy your own orange peel, I hope I can persuade you to do it anyway: the crisp, caramelized strands sit at the juncture between the sweet, the savory, and the bitter, thus summing up the different facets of this dish and acting as the perfect garnish.

About the cinnamon I use

I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.

* She eventually had to close FOOD; cookbook fans in Paris now turn to La Librairie Gourmande to fill their needs.

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Lamb and Orange Khoresh Stew Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Serves 6.

Lamb and Orange Khoresh Stew Recipe


  • 4 organic oranges, about 700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) total
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter (use coconut oil for dairy-free or paleo)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (use honey for paleo)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.8 kilos (4 pounds) lamb, half from the shoulder and half from the neck (bone-in), cut into 4-cm (1 1/2-inch) cubes
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I use fresh cinnamon from Cinnamon Hill)
  • 4 pods green cardamom, smashed with the blade of a knife
  • a pinch saffron threads (optional)
  • 1 lime
  • 600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons orange flower water
  • 40 grams (1/3 cup) unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped (omit for nut-free)
  • a handful of fresh mint leaves
  • salt, pepper


    Prepare the candied orange peel.
  1. Wash 3 of the oranges well and use a vegetable peeler to peel off the very surface of their peel: the goal is to get the orange part and as little of the white as possible.
  2. Cut the peel in matchstick-size strips (I use kitchen shears).
  3. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, add the orange peel and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and return to the pan.
  4. Add the butter, sugar, and a good pinch of salt. Melt over medium heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the pan smells like salted butter caramel and the strips are lightly browned. Don't overcook or they will be bitter.
  5. Lift the peels from the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon, letting the melted butter drip down, and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to cool. Reserve the butter that remains at the bottom of the pan. (This can be made a day ahead.)
  6. Cook the stew.
  7. Heat the oil and reserved butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my cast-iron cocotte) over medium heat.
  8. Add the meat without crowding (you may have to work in two batches) and cook for a few minutes on each side until browned. Set aside on a plate.
  9. Pour in a little water to deglaze the bottom of the pot, add the onions, sprinkle with a little salt, and cook for a few minutes, until soft.
  10. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron, and cook for a minute to toast the spices.
  11. In the meantime, squeeze the juice from the lime and 2 of the oranges (one of them now naked).
  12. Return the meat to the pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  13. Pour in the citrus juices, and add a little water so the liquids almost cover the meat but not quite.
  14. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every once in a while.
  15. Add the carrots 30 minutes before the end of the cooking.
  16. Segment the 2 remaining oranges and add the segments to the pot 10 minutes before the end of the cooking. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  17. Stir in the orange flower water at the last minute.
  18. Serve with basmati rice (I opted for brown basmati rice) and a sprinkle of candied orange peel, pistachios, and mint cut into strips -- I just passed these toppings around in small bowls for each guest to help himself.


This post was first published in April 2009 and updated in March 2016.

  • Oh my. That sounds decadent and delicious. How I love lamb.

    I wonder why the extra “o” in the book title? Just whimsy?

  • Liz – aka Nutty Gnome

    Aaah Joey, you’ve done it again – I’m drooling!
    I spent several months in the Middle East 22 years ago (grief, that’s just made me feel old!)and the food was fantastic. Seeing your photo and recipe made so many wonderful memories come flooding back that I just had to sit here and savour them for a while! Thank you so much for that!

  • Oh, I’m the first one to post a comment ! I’m totally seduced by this recipe and I’ll most definitely give it a go as soon as I can ! It’s so sad there are only 2 or 3 meals in a day… (sigh).

  • Juste avant Pâques cette assiette avec de l’agneau est appétissante. Bonne journée.

  • oh, yes, I was there! I came, I tasted the khoresh, and yay, it was verily delicious. (The company was pretty great too, I might add, or I might not..).
    Hey, Clotilde… if you want me to find out more about what a lamb and orange Khoresh is called in Persian………. don’t ask, OK ?
    see ya soon

  • Might have to get the hubby onto this little recipe…. sounds delish!

  • This really appeals to me. It sounds absolutely delicious.

    Maybe I can serve it in my new Tagine.

    My husband brought back Tim Malzer’s cookbook with him from Munich. One of his recipes that called out to me like a mermaid was meatballs of lamb stuffed with feta and dates.

  • This sounds so delicious — I can practically smell the orange and the spices.

    P.S. “The Book of Middle Eastern Food” by Claudia Roden is a good one, if you don’t already own it.

  • I’m new to Khoresh and believe this recipe is a delightful excuse for an introduction.

  • Jen

    This looks so good and your photo shows it off perfectly.

  • What a treat to see Persian food featured on your front page! The cornerstone of Persian cuisine is rice — mountains of delicately steamed long-grained basmati rice, which is what you serve khoresh over. I don’t have a recipe for plain white Persian rice on my blog, but you can see the basic steps in this recipe for rice with 4 herbs. Or just swing by Los Angeles — I’d be happy to provide dinner =)

  • Wow, what a beautiful meal.

  • That looks absolutely gorgeous :)

  • That looks fantastic!

  • This looks really good and flavorful. I’m just not a huge fan of lamb, so maybe I’ll substitute chicken or pork shoulder…Thanks for the recipe!

  • Kitt – “Foood” is the name of the collection of books (not to be confused with “Food”, the name of the now defunct bookshop), and I believe the extra “o” is just for fun.

    Barbra – I’ve been meaning to pick up Claudia Roden’s book; thanks for the recommendation!

    Tannaz – Be careful what you wish for. :)

    Jennifer – Substitute other kinds of meat as you see fit, but you shouldn’t call it khoresh if you use pork; Iran is chiefly a Muslim country.

  • Oh the idea of adding lime is so interesting! If you’re in the mood for other vaguely unusual middle eastern food, I cannot recommend Claudia Roden’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen enough.

  • I had the most delicious chicken stew at a Persian friend’s house. She gave me the recipe, I gathered all the ingredients–and it just wasn’t in the same league as what she served. I wonder, does this book have other Persian stews?

  • Ooops…you’re right Clotilde. Sorry if I offended anyone. Thank you for replying!

  • awesome recipe — thanks a million for sharing!

  • This looks delish…thank you for the wonderful recipe..I hope to make this soon.

  • EB

    I like the extra “O”

  • I too was unfamiliar with Persian food until my brother started dating an Iranian-German (the benefits of cross cultural relationships!) and she invited us over for a big feast Persian style. The colours, I agree, are definitely appealing in their brightness and range, where deep earthy tones meet citrus flecks… and the flavours too are wonderful in their mix of sweet and bitter. I’m glad you enjoyed your first foray!

    Since my brother is no longer with this girlfriend (damn him!), I’m going to try this one out myself :)

  • Clotilde, many thanks for the wonderful recipe, just in time for my husband’s birthday dinner. Having spent alot of time for work in the Middle East you have a fan for life.

    Speaking of fans, we were having dinner in Vaughan’s Pub on the Irish Atlantic Coast and a discussion arose about your book Chocolate and Zuccini whilst the table next to us were in serious dicussion about this site.

    Thanks for the wonderful site.


  • What a gorgeous stew! I love bright, colorful foods they brighten the senses.

  • It might be a delicious Khoresh (and it sounds it is) but it is not Persian. It is a recipe by a westerner, inspired by Persian cuisine. As an Iranian I never heard of this in my entire life.

  • Hi Clotilde,

    So you finally got to persian food on your blog! fantastique!

    The reason the recipe you followed asked for less meat is that “khoresh” is a way in persian cuisine to increase your small supply of meat. In old days meat was expensive (and less available than what it is nowadays), so one way was to turn it into khoresh: add vegetables and legumes, so one could feed more people. (another way is to turn in into aab-goosht literally meaning water& meat; aka persian style Pot-au-feu)

    Here, I’ve explained khoresh.

    Its two posts, and its pretty long; hope you dont get bored.



    PS: la derniere fois que vous etiez a Boston (et signer votre livre a Chez Henri), malheureusement ja pas pu attendre. La prochaine fois que vous visitez Boston, vous pouvez gouter cuisine perse maison.

  • It’s funny, isn’t it, how we have cooking comfort zones. I do, anyway. There are just certain recipes I automatically flip past, skip over, don’t even consider, because they’re off my beaten (whisked?) path. But, since you’re offering this gorgeous dish to us, I think I might have to make myself a little uncomfortable, and try it. I have a feeling it will be worth it.

  • Unconfidentialcook – The book I mentioned has only one such dish.

    Sourena – Could you perhaps recommend a cookbook written by an Iranian cook and accessible to a foreign audience?

    Mehdi – Many thanks for pointing me to your posts, I will read them with great interest. And thank you for the invitation! :)

  • The book New Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij, is pretty much the authoritative book on Persian cuisine. It has recipes for dozens of khoreshs, as well as rice dishes, desserts, and info on rituals, holidays, poetry, folklore, art, etc. Let me tell you, it’s a good resource even if you are lucky enough to have a Persian mother of your own =) And it does in fact have a recipe for an orange khoresh!

  • Shom Edmond

    Many years ago I had a French butcher who boned and rolled a beautiful leg of lamb, stuffed it with garlic, rosemary and perhaps something else, and then stuck a piece of bone in one end to resemble a duck’s beak. He called it “lamb duck.” Is anyone familiar with this?

  • Alienor

    I tried this recipe this weekend and it was fantastic. Yummy. Délicieux. Can’t recommend it enough!

  • Curzon Tussaud

    I made this delicious dish for lunch on Easter Sunday. It seemed perfect for the time of year: new spring lamb, the clean citrus flavour, and the zing of fresh mint. I candied my own orange peel, and thought it was rather tough and chewy: next time I shan’t serve it separately but put it into the stew at the same time as the orange segments, so that it can soften a bit.

  • Maxwell H.


    I saw the article/recipe on Tuesday and immediately started planning my weekend. We had a half-dozen people over Saturday night and made this up for them (plus I did a potato/eggplant version for two vegetarieans). It worked beatifully and is going to become a new “go-to” for me. Thanks for posting!

    (For the curious, sides were basmati rice with lime leaves, parsley feta salad with zatar, fresh pita, a beatiful ’99 Tuscan that we’d been holding onto; all followed by a fresh Red Hawk cheese, and finally date shakes.)

  • Hey There! I have tried this once at a friends house. It was fantastic! the flavors are very vibrant and there’s a lot going on!

    Also this weekend, I had the chance to try some curry lamb, a West- Indian dish… it was also very good. The flavors were not harsh at all and a little spicy.

  • Kari

    Please, what is “orange flower water” and how is it prepared?

  • Kari – Here’s the Wikipedia article about orange flower water.

  • greatscot

    Another vote here for Batmanglij. I have worked out of this book several times with great success (in Sacramento, Dallas and London), and there is so much more than just the recipes in the book. The rhubarb khoresh in the book is very interesting, but challenges pH norms for meat stews. As Flann O’Brien once wrote, “Don’t just buy this book: buy it today”. But I still can’t do without Roden.

  • Tannaz and Greatscot – Thanks so much for the book recommendation; I’ll look for a copy of it.

  • I’m half-Iranian and grew up eating khoresh. It’s delicious. My mom (who’s not Iranian but is fantastic at cooking Persian food) uses a black lemon for hers that she gets from a Persian grocer. I still haven’t attempted Persian cooking, but I’d like to try my hand at it this year.

  • Lon

    Clotilde, come sometime to visit my home, Orange County between Los Angeles and San Diego in California. We have the largest population of Persians outside of Iran. Three of the families on my street (28 families) are from Iran. The county park near my house is where the tens of thousands celebrate the Persian New Year (another bonus of living here: we get European New Years, Chinese New Years/Tet, Persian New Years. Lots of parties and lots of food!

  • Me & 2 fellow Polish bloggers cooked this last Friday. Fantastic, very tasty & fragrant dish. I love the caramelised orange peel & think it cd be used in many other dishes. We had to cook the meat a bit longer though, as it wasn’t tender enough. As a starter we had a red onion & orange salad, with similar spices as in the stew. Delicious!

  • Mint, pistachio, and orange? Sounds divine!

  • Why am I reading this at lunch? With no food in the fridge? Will I ever learn? So hungry! Looks amazing:)

  • i love dished with a persian touch!

  • Sam B.

    I think these flavors seem VERY well balanced out. Very creative, and clever!
    -Sam B.

  • although it sounds and look good, I have never tried anything else with lamb than a curry. For some reason it does not appeal to me. Am I weird?

  • What serendipity! I’ve been planning a little Persian food dinner party for tonight, and having no real experience with the cuisine, still haven’t settled on a main course. This stew may be the perfect way to go (now to find some organic, local lamb…). Thanks for being adventurous for us all, Clotilde! xx

  • It’s got all the necessary flavours to make it sound temptingly rich yet subtle and light. I would love this over some jewelled quinoa!

  • I love lamb and this will be great for our Sunday dinner. Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, also has a version – Quince Khoresh, which includes yellow split peas, and lemon juice.

  • I made this dish this week, and it was fantastic! What a perfect early spring meal. Thanks for this recipe!

    I also came up with a recipe for sweet/savory muffins that incorporates many of the same ingredients, as a way to deal with leftovers (carrots, citrus, pistachios, spices, even some caramelized onion) if anyone is interested.

  • This sounds like such a great main dish. I have not had a lot of experience with Persian Cuisine but I think I would really enjoy this. Thank you for the post and the site.

  • Vicky

    I made this for dinner tonight (including candying the orange peel myself), serving it with Jeweled Rice, and it was absolutely *FANTASTIC*. No wonder it is a favourite from the archives!!!

  • Hi Clotilde,

    Thanks for sharing the Persian recipe. Recently, I made a lamb stew very similar to yours but without the orange and pistachio. I think, candied orange and orange segments might make it very sweet. But I like the fact that you have reduced the sugar amount from the original recipe. But instead of using candied orange dried orange (sun-dried orange) might be a better choice for this dish. Dried orange gives a nice citrus flavor without the sweetness and also adds the chewiness to the texture. I would also prefer few lemon slices along with the oranges slices. In that case it will have a balanced sweet and sour effect.


  • Hi, sorry for the typo in the last comment. I meant dried orange peel, not dried orange. Typo happens when you try to write a comment at 2 o’clock in the night:)


  • Hey just found this blog for teh first time. Awesome job! The candied orange peel sounds like a great idea :-)

  • Oh My! This sounds so good! I have to try this before citrus season ends ;)

  • I love Persian food – the depth and balance of their dishes are really superb. Like the others above I love Rodin – particularly Arabesque, which covers slightly different cuisines, but shares a lot with Persian.

    The other place to look at Persian food is SpiceSpoon’s blog: – she does something very similar with lamb shanks and candied orange peel.

    Before reading this, and SpiceSpoon’s post I had never thought of combining orange and lamb, but in retrospect it’s a great combo.

  • Maryam

    This is a beautiful khoresh recipe I have not yet made, though as my husband is Persian, we basically live on khoreshes with rice. I can’t wait to try this! I heartily encourage you to search for more khoresh recipes, and try them here. I would suggest khoresh kashke bademjan (tomato, eggplant, and whey); ghorme sabzi (leafy vegetable stew with kidney beans) and gheimeh (with tomatoes and yellow peas and a fried potato garnish). Persian food is so healthy and positively addicting!

    Incidentally, the candied orange peels can be incorporated into a delicious sweet rice dish called shirin polo, with tiny bits of carrot, pistachio, saffron, small raisins, and dried red berries called barbary or zereshk. This is the traditional use for the candied orange, and is certainly related to the Lamb and Orange Khoresh. Nush-e-Joune (Persian for Bon Appetit!)

  • this looks amazing! Thank you for sharing this Persian recipe!

  • Gorgeous photograph – can’t wait to try this one!

  • I have literally been obsessed with lamb since the beginning of March. It is such a spring meat!

    I made a lamb stew, lamb meatballs (with some amazing preserved lemons in the mix!), and a whole leg of lamb in a 2 week span- most recipes posted on my blog!

    I will definitely try out this recipe!

  • GHD

    I made this for dinner tonight (including candying the orange peel myself), serving it with Jeweled Rice, and it was absolutely great.

  • I don’t know much about Persian cuisine either. I imagine it’s something between Indian and Middle Eastern-at least that’s my pre-conceived idea of it. The lamb looks delicious!


  • There’s a great Persian restaurant just off the Edgware Road in London called Patogh… every time I go I feel inspired to try and make the dishes but rarely come across the recipes. This looks right up my street! Thanks :-)

  • Cooked a very similiar dish for 20 belly dancing women at our local gransd holiday maison in Montresor, Loire Valley. Based on Diane Henry’s Crazy Water Pickled Lemons (UK book) Love the recipes – Regards Colin

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  • NotJoking

    I was acquainted with an Iranian surgical nurse. She taught our gourmet club how to bone a whole chicken and then stuff it with a beef mixture. Fabulous. Then we moved and there was an Iranian restaurant within walking distance. The rice and bread were the best I’ve ever had. I know each food in Persian cuisine is either “hot” or “cold” similar to Chinese cookery. So rice is classified as cold and to be at its healthiest should be mixed with raisins or peas (hot) or spices such as cinnamon and saffron. Middle eastern and Indian food are wonderful but Persian is in a class of its own.

    • Thanks so much for sharing these stories and insights — I loved reading them. Also, I want to learn how to debone a whole chicken! Up it goes on my life list. :D

      • NotJoking

        She was a surgical nurse and used a scalpel, I used a utility knife, one with a retractable and replaceable blade like a large one edge razor blade. The larger the bird the easier it is to debone. At that time I regularly served large turkeys (20-22 k) at big parties so I would debone a turkey and stuff it. The skin needs to be whole so if it’s accidentally torn or cut, it has to be sewn up with needle and thread and the thread removed before serving. It makes for a showy entré and tastes great.

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