The Country Food Similarity Index is a statistically-based attempt to quantify how similar the food in one country is relative to another. By comparing the weight of raw food ingredients used in each country, a score is assigned that reflects the degree of similarity between the respective countries. The methodology is exactly the same for each country studied.
5 Countries with the Most Similar Food Ingredients to Iran
Afghanistan has a diverse culinary heritage that reflects its location at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. The five countries with the most similar food to Iran are also predominately Muslim. With the exception of Iraq, these nations are also quite mountainous as well. Tomatoes are an especially large portion of their diets.
- Iraq and Iran are neighboring countries. Both cuisines have kebabs, flatbreads, pilafs, and slow-cooked stews. Fesenjan, a stew combining meat with pomegranate paste and ground walnuts, is one popular dish these countries share. Yogurt is also a common ingredient in both Iranian and Iraqi cuisines.
- Jordan is another Arab country on this list. Flatbreads are a staple in both Jordanian and Iranian cuisine. They are used to wrap, scoop, or complement the main dishes. In Jordan, dishes like Makloubeh and salads feature fresh herbs like parsley and mint. Similarly, Iranian cuisine’s emphasis on herbs can be seen in dishes like Ghormeh Sabzi.
- Turkey is located to the northwest of Iran, so these nations share a long history of cultural and culinary exchanges. Wheat and tomatoes are the two most commonly used ingredients in these countries. Similar to Turkish cuisine, kebabs are popular in Iran, with variations like koobideh and barg.
- Lebanon and Iran have many culinary similarities. Both nations often incorporate fruits and nuts into their meals, adding texture and richness. In Iran, dishes like Sabzi Polo feature fragrant herbs mixed with rice, often served with fish. In Lebanon, Tabbouleh showcases the aromatic combination of parsley, mint, tomatoes, and bulgur.
- Albania is a predominately Muslim country, despite being located in Europe. It was once a part of the Ottoman Empire, so its food is similar to Turkey. Kabab Koobideh, an Iranian dish made of ground meat seasoned with onions and spices, is comparable to Albania’s Qofte. However, rice is more commonly eaten in Iran than in Albania.
5 Countries with the Least Similar Food Ingredients to Iran
The five countries with the least similar food to Iran are mostly Christian. Moreover, four of the five countries are located in Africa. Unlike Iran, these countries have a tropical climate, so they get significantly more rainfall. This affects what type of crops are grown in these countries. Potatoes and wheat products are not as commonly eaten in these countries.
- Central African Republic is a former French colony located in the middle of Africa. Cassava and yam are two of the most commonly eaten staple ingredients in the country. Furthermore, taro and bananas make up a much greater share of the diet in Central African Republic than in Iran.
- Micronesia is a group of small islands located in the South Pacific Ocean. The country relies heavily on seafood, tropical fruits, and root crops as a result. Its relative isolation has limited its exposure to foreign influences.
- Burundi is yet another French-speaking African country on this list. It is located in the Great Lakes region of Africa, so freshwater fish is the country’s biggest source of meat. Its diet is in large part based on cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains, and bananas.
- South Sudan was once part of Sudan, but became independent due to ethnic tensions. It is another country on this list where cassava is the staple food, however the country eats its share of sorghum as well. Peanuts and sesame seeds are also more commonly consumed in South Sudan than Iran.
- Democratic Republic of Congo is mostly rainforest, so its climate is much hotter and humid than Iran’s. Cassava is the dominant staple food in the country, an ingredient that is not commonly seen in Iran. The most commonly eaten meat in Congo is freshwater fish, whereas chicken and beef are more popular in Iran.
Iran’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Chicken, Egg
Fruit: Watermelon, Orange
Vegetable: Tomato, Onion
Starch: Wheat, Potato
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.