Pomegranate salmon with Persian jeweled rice

Recipe and photos by El Lower, Michigan Sea Grant GLANSIS Research Associate

Happy spring! While we all find ourselves in strange and unusual circumstances this season, the days are getting longer, plants are beginning to sprout again, and songbirds are returning here in Michigan — all things worth celebrating with a colorful dinner inspired by dishes served during Persian New Year, which falls over the spring equinox. I used skinless salmon fillets to make this dish, but trout would be a great substitute (and the pomegranate glaze works well on other proteins, too!) Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list here: this recipe mostly relies on pantry, freezer, and spice cabinet staples, and is a great way to put herb scraps from your crisper drawer to good use.

If you have an electric rice cooker at home, you can saute your onion in the butter along with the fruits and nuts, then add all ingredients to the rice cooker, stir to combine, and follow manufacturer’s instructions to cook it on the “white rice” setting.

Pomegranate salmon with Persian jeweled rice


  • For the rice:
  • 2 cups basmati or other long-grain rice, rinsed well
  • 3 ½ cups hot water
  • 3 Tbsp butter, olive oil, or coconut oil
  • ½ cup mixed tender herbs such as dill, parsley, cilantro, chives, and/or tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder (or a pinch or two of saffron, if you’re lucky enough to have it!)
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp cardamom
  • ⅛ tsp allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup frozen peas, lima beans, and/or shelled edamame
  • ¼ cup chopped dried fruit, such as tart cherries, raisins, cranberries, figs, and/or dates
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds, pistachios, or walnuts, toasted
  • Salt and black pepper
  • seeds of 1 pomegranate, for garnish
  • For the fish:
  • 4 6-oz skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (can be found at your local Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocery store)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. For the rice: Heat butter or oil in a large skillet, add the onion, and saute over low heat until the onion is softened — about 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice, and stir to combine, then add the chopped fruit and nuts to toast them lightly.
  2. Add in the rice and saute it for a minute or two with the spices and onion.
  3. Pour in the hot water, along with the bay leaves, turmeric, and chopped mixed herbs. Stir to combine, season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
  4. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Cook on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 15 minutes to steam.
  1. For the fish: Pre-heat oven to 375˚F, and arrange your fish fillets on a roasting pan lined with foil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine pomegranate molasses, minced garlic, brown sugar, and juice of half the lemon, and use a brush to paint the glaze onto the salmon. Season with salt and black pepper.
  3. Wrap fillets in foil and bake for about 15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your cuts of fish.

When the rice is done, fluff it, top it with the fish, and garnish with pomegranate seeds and more fresh herbs, if you have them. Enjoy!

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