Sambuseh: Persian Samosas with Lentils & Nigella Seeds

by Louisa on October 9, 2014


Right around now is the start of the ancient Zoroastrian holiday Mehregan, a celebration of the harvest that you might call the Persian Thanksgiving. It was celebrated in Iran for millennia, and though it’s not observed so much there now, it’s actually making a comeback among Iranian expats in the US and elsewhere. In honor of Mehregan, myself and a whole slew of Persian food bloggers are posting our tastiest recipes today. You can see the links to all their sites at the bottom of this post.

The recipe I’d like to share with you for Mehregan is sambuseh, the Iranian samosa. I tasted this when I was on the Persian Gulf in the city of Bandar Abbas. The sweet family who I spent the day with took me to the beach that night, and we bought street food and sat on the sand eating, talking, and smoking a qalyan, or waterpipe.

I was delighted to find light, flaky samosas in Iran. They were filled with ground lamb and potatoes, and had a spicy red chile sauce on the side for dipping. The tops were sprinkled with crunchy black nigella seeds, the fragrant, smoky tasting seeds that you’ll also find on top of Persian barbari bread. The nigella seeds are essential to the taste of this dish. Luckily, you can find nigella seeds at any Indian market, where they may also be called kalonji seeds.

I’ve been serving sambuseh every night of my weekly pop-up, Lakh Lakh. I change the filling, but the nigella seeds are always on top. The photo of sambuseh above was taken by Lizzie Munro, and appears in Tasting Table’s story about the pop-up. They loved the sambuseh, and who wouldn’t? It’s crunchy and rich and full of flavor, and it’s baked, not fried, in case you care about those things.

I wish you a very happy Mehregan and an abundant harvest season. Here’s a list of all the other wonderful Persian bloggers who are participating in this Mehregan recipe round-up, along with the names of their recipes. Going through this list, I realize that as far-flung as we all are, I’ve met or corresponded with almost all of these lovely people! Small world… My recipe for sambuseh is just below the list of links.

Sambuseh with Lentils and Potatoes

Makes approximately 1 quart of sambuseh filling, or enough to fill 20 sambuseh. The sambuseh can be assembled a day ahead, refrigerated or frozen, and baked later. This version of the sambuseh is vegetarian, but you can replace the lentils with ground lamb.

For the filling

  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups potato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon dried rose petals ground
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the samosas

  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons nigella seeds, toasted
  • Dried rose petals, whole
  • red chile sauce for dipping (Sriracha will work just fine)


Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onions. Cook until they start to brown, then add the potatoes and cook until tender. Add the dried spices, lentils, and cilantro, and cook until the lentils are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Brush a sheet of phyllo with butter, fold the top third into the center, brush with butter, fold once more so there is a single, three-layered rectangle of phyllo. Brush with butter.

Place a tablespoon of filling into one corner, and fold into a triangle. Fold and brush with butter. Repeat with the remaining filling. Brush all of the sambuseh with butter and carefully sprinkle with the nigella seeds so that as many seeds as possible stick to the sambuseh. Place on a parchment lined sheet tray and bake for 15 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side until the triangles are crisp and golden, about ten minutes.

Serve warm, garnished with rose petals, and chile sauce on the side.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

The Unmanly Chef October 9, 2014 at 10:02 AM

This looks unreal, I’m so impressed by the attention to detail. I didn’t even know we had a version of Samosa. So impressed


Sara October 9, 2014 at 10:46 AM

I had never heard of a Persian version of samosa before, Louisa jan. This looks delightful. Thanks again for inviting me to be a part of this lovely community. xo


Shayma October 9, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Louisa joon, I am crazy for carbs and spice, so naturally, I love your recipe. I wish you lots of on-going luck for your pop-up, I hope to eat your food one day x s


Laura @ Family Spice October 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Here is another persian treat that I have never experienced! Louisa, your Sambuseh is absolutely stunning!! I love all the flavors you have incorporated in your sambuseh. I’m thrilled to be able to share the beauty of Persian food and mehregan with you.


Fariba Nafissi October 9, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Louisa joon,
Easy to make, vegetarian, and delicious ….can’t get any better …LOVED it 🙂


Afsaneh October 9, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Wow this looks so good! I had never tried making this method of samosa. In my 2do list for sure. Thanks so much for sharing, and Happy Mehregan!


Coco in the Kitchen October 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

I’d never heard of sambusehs before. This looks delicious, Louisa.
I have to try this at home on the w/end. I have a feeling it’ll be a hit
with the hubby!


tannaz October 9, 2014 at 7:27 PM

This post fills me with longing! I haven’t been back to Iran since I moved to the US as a baby. Your story from Bandar Abbas is so evocative, it makes me nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced.


Noghlemey October 10, 2014 at 6:27 AM

Love the recipe, colors & photo. Beautiful x Thanks for sharing 🙂


ahu @ ahueats October 10, 2014 at 8:29 AM

I love this recipe and how nearly every culture has a variation of this. I have a standing appointment on Monday nights but I am looking to cancel it one week so I can make it to Lakh Lakh! I am itching to try one of your sambuseh 🙂

As an aside, I’m always interested in the etymology of words (especially food words) – like the connection between sambuseh, samosa, sambusek, etc. I’m reading a wonderful book right now called The Language of Food :A Linguist Reads the Menu – hopefully they explain it in this book! 🙂


Naz October 11, 2014 at 2:56 AM

Louisa, I so wish I could join you for one of your Lakh Lakh pop-ups. This Sambuseh sounds fantastic and I happen to have a package of phyllo in the freezer. Can’t wait to make this – your recipes never disappoint! Thank you for sharing!


Sanam * My Persian Kitchen October 11, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Louisa, this looks delis!!! Please let me know next time you are in LA, I’d love to show up at you pop-ups! xoxo


Louisa October 11, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Thanks Sanam, I really look forward to meeting you one of these days. Thanks for all your work helping people to understand and love Persian food!


Simi October 18, 2014 at 4:31 AM

Sounds fragrant and moreish. Love how you’ve presented it too. Merci Louisa jan.


azita aka Fig & Quince October 19, 2014 at 1:52 PM

Louisa joon,

I’d already read and enjoyed this post but finally getting round t commenting. Beautiful and immaculate post as always!


Fae's Twist & Tango November 2, 2014 at 8:02 PM

Hi Louisa, What a delectable sambuseh! I love samosa and also, a look a like Greek spanakopita. The filling ingredients are so fabulous. Mm mm
Belated Happy Mehregan! 🙂 Fae.


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