Original photo courtesy Sadaf

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Why Is Everyone Suddenly Obsessed With Lavashak?

The Iranian fruit-based treat is all over social media, gaining a new culinary fan base on the other side of the world

Anna Rahmanan
March 15, 2024

Original photo courtesy Sadaf

No matter what social media algorithm you’re currently entrapped by, you have likely come face-to-screen with lavashak, a Persian-style fruit leather that most closely resembles the American fruit roll-up, despite its very different flavor profile.

Photos and videos of colorful plates filled with the rolled-up, sticky treat—often drowned in pomegranate seeds—make for perfect social media fodder, with commenters either expressing their devotion to the newly discovered snack or curiously asking what, exactly, the food consists of.

Just as is the case with many Middle Eastern-adjacent culinary treats, the specific origins of lavashak aren’t definitively known, but they point to Iran, where the snack has been regularly consumed by the masses for, by some estimates, over 1,000 years.

Although the sour fruit leather has been available since the early 1980s in Iranian specialty stores across America (mostly in Los Angeles and New York, where the highest concentrations of Iranian expatriates live), it wasn’t until 2023 that the food started gaining the attention of non-Iranian folks as well. Suddenly, lavashak is everywhere, especially on social media, and people’s spending habits are following the trend as well.

“Our lavashak category sales have increased 244% this quarter compared to the last,” said Daniella Soofer, director of digital marketing and e-commerce at Sadaf, one of the largest purveyors of Middle Eastern foods in the United States.

Soofer also cited the seemingly undying interest in pomegranate molasses and concentrates, sales of which have risen 357% in the past 12 months for the company. “These pomegranate-flavored products have become a sensation since [people on] TikTok and Instagram have shared their pomegranate molasses-drenched lavashak recipes,” she said. “We are having a hard time keeping our pomegranate molasses and concentrates in stock since they began trending.”

The power of social media in dictating an entire company’s product roster is nothing new, but the fact that the virtual world has just recently discovered the ancient snack begs the question: What is it about lavashak that people love so much—and why are they only discovering it now?

“Lavashak is characteristic of Persian cuisine,” explained Louisa Shafia, an American chef of Iranian origins and the author of, among other cookbooks, The New Persian Kitchen. “In Iran, in ancient times, they figured out how to irrigate vast desert areas with mountain snow, which meant that they were able to grow an immense and dazzling array of different fruits, vegetables, and flowers, but the real hallmark of the local gastronomy are the fruits and their tart flavor profile.”

According to the chef, although lavashak’s “delicious” taste is probably the main draw, there might be something more to the craze. “Maybe there’s a health element to it also?” said Shafia. “Food is medicine, and traditional Persian cuisine is very balanced, meant to ease digestion and make it better for your body so, perhaps, lavashak could be satisfying a very deep body craving.”

If the clips circulating all over social media—the same ones that Soofer mentions when discussing her company’s sales increases—are any indication, there are many aspects of lavashak that appeal to the non-Iranian consumer. In a recent video shared on Instagram by Lavashak Lovers, a company that offers monthly subscription boxes filled with an assortment of fruit leathers and liquids to pour on top, a user basically leads an unboxing event on camera, slurping up the pomegranate lavashak and singing its heartfelt praises: “That is tart!” she says. “If you like tart, sour candy, you will like this. It tastes very natural, not like anything artificial, and the pomegranates give it a really nice touch. Mexicans are used to it but the Persians know what they are doing with this one!”

Visually striking in and of itself, lavashak drenched in molasses seems to be even more appealing, as seductive as ASMR videos are: Watching people bite into the chewy, liquidy treat, especially given its foreign look, is almost relaxing.

Unlike fruit roll-ups, the Middle Eastern fruit leathers are darker in color, boast seeds, and quite literally look like smashed up and then flattened out fruits—which is, basically, what lavashak is.

Traditionally made with sour plum, pomegranate, sour cherry, and an edible wild berry called barberry—fruits that are very tart in nature—lavashak recipes usually require cooking down the food, followed by a bit of blending and time in the oven.

Add to the unfamiliar look the fact that lavashak’s sour flavor is so different from the sugary foods that Americans tend to snack on and a now-popular general devotion to “ethnic” culinary offerings and you’ve got yourself the perfect treat to go viral in the age of social media.

According to Soofer, it’s lavashak’s differences from American fruit leathers that have mostly caught people’s attention. “Americans are so used to a watered down, sugarfied, overly sweet type of fruit leather,” she said. “Even the organic ones that you see in shops don’t boast the thinness and rippability that lavashak has. They are fruit bars, not fruit leathers and I think it’s that homemadelike taste that makes it appealing.”

Given the intrinsic connection between the fruit leather’s virality and its foreignness, it should come as no surprise that the packaging that lavashak is being sold in across the United States is almost identical to the one seen in Iran.

“It’s a big deal for us to carry this product,” said Soofer. “And it’s hard to change it too much because it will lose that authenticity.”

That being said, although the wrapping might not change, the way lavashak itself is being consumed has evolved.

“The way we find things these days is through social media,” said Soofer. “I’ve seen the trend of lavashak served with ice cream and [I actually think] that lavashak is not going to blow up as a snack on its own but in the creation of other desserts or unique types of sweets. It’s going to be a novel dessert that you can play with and turn into something really special and delicious.”

That modern interpretation of an ancient food is what Bita Arabian, co-host of the Modern Persian Food podcast, believes to be one of the reasons why lavashak has suddenly invaded the social media world.

In fact, Arabian credits Lavashak Lovers as the main driver behind the virtual craze, noting how videos of their lavashak soaked in molasses are what plenty of folks have come to notice on TikTok, Instagram, and the like: The treat, usually consumed as is, has almost been gifted a new life—even people who are familiar with lavashak have never quite enjoyed it in this new, social media-aware form.

“It was my daughter’s birthday and she had hinted to me that her roommates saw lavashak on TikTok and wanted to try it,” said the podcast host. “I ordered a box and then made a reel about it and so did she.”

Even more specifically, Arabian, who is familiar with the folks behind Lavashak Lovers, believes that the company’s ethos relies on the reinvention of the snack. “They want us to use it in a new way, do something weird with it,” she noted. “I think that’s what helped it take off: doing something cool with it—like using it in a cocktail, for example.”

Perhaps, as is the case with just about anything in life (and in the kitchen), a balance of sorts is what will allow lavashak to continue on its current trajectory. The treat should maintain its aura of exoticism while simultaneously adapting to a different, albeit growing and perhaps more Western, audience—which might be a hard equilibrium to reach, but certainly a delicious ride to enjoy.

The Recipe



Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor.