Lubia Polo: Persian Style Rice with Green Beans and Chicken

This version of lubia polo was born out of necessity one day when I wanted to make the favourite Persian dish of delicately spiced rice, lamb and green beans but realised we had run out of Persian rice and the only meat I had that didn’t need defrosting was chicken breasts.

We love Paella and there is usually some Arborio rice in the pantry. So I set to work. I used Italian Arborio and decided to try cooking my emergency lubia polo in a large frying pan that I sometimes use to make paella. The paella-style lubia polo went down very well with my husband and son. The recipe has stayed with us long enough to deserve to be called a family favourite now.

There is an Spanish element in this dish too: My favourite non-Persian spice, Spanish sweet smoked paprika. The other spices that I used were our beloved saffron and cumin, or Persian caraway (zireh) to be more precise. Persian caraway is hard to come by but cumin is a very good substitute.

Arborio rice is medium grain and cooks to a very lovely sticky texture but will retain a bite in the centre. It smells lovely too. The stickiness is what sets my lubia polo apart from the authentic Persian lubiya polo. When properly prepared every grain of Persian rice must remain separate. I love and enjoy cooking with both types of rice.

Arborio rice on the right, spices on the left (clockwise: sweet smoked paprika, turmeric, saffron and ground cumin)

I started with lightly frying my onions to make piyaz dagh, the Persian equivalent of sofrito. I fried more onions than I needed and saved the extra for using in my next dish which always help cut the time I have to spend in the kitchen. I didn’t brown the onions like I would for proper Persian piyaz dagh. I was too hungry to wait for proper slow caramelisation!

While that was happening I chopped my grean beans into 2cm long pieces. As soon as the onion began to take colour off it went into a bowl and the beans went in. I sautéed them until they were only a little browned, like the photo below. Sautéing completely changes the flavour of beans and gives them a lovely texture when cooked with rice.

Sautéed green beans
Sautéed green beans

The rest as you will see in the recipe was quite easy, all done in the same pan so not so much washing up afterwards. This version of lubia polo is very healthy and relatively low calorie. There is a huge amount of green beans (650g), less carb (300g of rice) and little oil (3 tablespoons) in a big pan that can feed five to six people.


(Serves 4-6)

  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 650g green beans, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed (small)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Spanish sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 300g Arborio rice
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  1. Instructions:
  2. Put one tablespoon oil in a large, deep, lidded frying pan and cook the onions over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until very lightly coloured. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté the green beans for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Add a splash of water and cover the pan. Cook for four or five minutes, stirring once or twice. Add another splash of water and stir and cook again until the beans are a little browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the chicken cubes until golden. Add the salt and spices (except the saffron) and stir. Add the tomato puree and stir. Put the rice in the pan with the beans and rice and stir to coat the rice with oil. Pour in half the boiling water. Stir and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until most of the water is absorbed by the rice. Add the rest of the boiling water and the saffron and cook again until most of the water is absorbed.
  5. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the rice. Cover the pan and lower the heat to very low. Let the rice steam for 10-15 minutes or until it is cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or coriander and serve with chopped tomato and cucumber salad, fresh herbs such as mint, tarragon and coriander or a bowl of plain yoghurt. Enjoy!

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