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Shared by Ayala Hodak

Shifteh Berenji (Persian Meatball Soup)

Yield: 10 - 12 servingsTime: 3h 30min plus overnight soaking time

Shifteh Berenji (Persian Meatball Soup)

Yield: 10 - 12 servingsTime: 3h 30min plus overnight soaking time

This recipe was shared by Ayala Hodak. Read more about her family in "Four Women, Three Countries, One Yom Kippur Recipe." 


For the soup:

  • 1 cup dried small white beans, such as navy beans, soaked in 4 cups of water overnight
  • 1 pound beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 10 dried black Persian limes, halved 
  • 6 chicken necks or backs (or 1½ pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks)
  • 2 small whole yellow onions, peeled
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into 2-inch by ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground white meat chicken
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced 
  • 1½ cups jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1½ cups finely chopped cilantro (1 bunch)
  • 1¼ cups finely chopped parsley (1 bunch)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces pitted prunes (1¼ cup)
Cooking ProjectsSoups & StewsMeat Gluten FreeMiddle East


  • Step 1

    Place the beef stew meat in a large Dutch oven and cover it with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam from the surface. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour, skimming occasionally.

  • Step 2

    Place the dried Persian limes in a medium heat-proof bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Let sit until ready to use.

  • Step 3

    Meanwhile, make the meatballs: Combine the ground chicken, ground beef, onion, rice, herbs, tomato paste, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix evenly.

  • Step 4

    Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Pinch off ¼ cup of the meat mixture and roll it into a large ball. Make an indentation in the center of the ball with your thumb and press a prune into the indentation. Fold the meat mixture over the prune and reshape it into a ball. Place it on the prepared tray and repeat with the remaining meat mixture and two-thirds of the prunes. Cover with a damp towel and set aside.

  • Step 5

    Drain the soaked beans and add them to the pot with 8 cups of water. Increase the heat to high and bring the beef and bean mixture to a boil over high heat. Skim any foam off the top and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the chicken necks and simmer for 30 minutes.

  • Step 6

    Drain the Persian limes, reserving 1 cup of soaking liquid, and add them to the pot along with their reserved liquid. Cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the whole onions, carrots, celery, celery root, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper.

  • Step 7

    Working in 2 or 3 batches, gently slide the meatballs into the soup, adding more water to cover them if needed. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half of the cooked meatballs to a large resealable container and let them cool completely before refrigerating.

  • Step 8

    Add the remaining prunes to the pot and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have melded, 15 to 20 minutes. Reseason the soup with salt and pepper, to taste.

  • Step 9

    To serve, place one meatball in a shallow bowl and top with some of the vegetables, beef, beans, prunes, and broth.

Make ahead: The soup can be made in advance and stored in an airtight resealable container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. To serve, bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and add as many meatballs as desired. Continue to cook until the meatballs are cooked or heated through (if reheating), about 20 minutes. The meatballs can be formed in advance and stored in an airtight resealable container in the fridge for 1 day. To cook, bring the soup to a simmer over medium-low heat and add one-third to one-half of the meatballs. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Remove and repeat with the remaining meatballs, or serve them immediately with the soup.

This recipe was written with leftovers in mind and makes more meatballs than can comfortably fit into the pot at one time, about 20 in total. Feel free to cut the meatball portion in half, but we think the best approach is to cook the meatballs in batches and immediately reserve half of them for serving with any leftover soup the next day.