Kabsa (Arabic Chicken and Rice)

4.75 from 12 votes

Kabsa is a comforting, one pan chicken and rice dish with layers of flavorful Middle Eastern spices. I hope you’ll make this recipe for Saudi’s national dish; it’s fantastic!

overhead: plate of crispy, golden kabsa

Eating pork is forbidden by Muslim law, and because beef isn’t widely popular in the Middle East, chicken and lamb are a big part of their cuisine.

With popular regional dishes like Joojeh kabob, kafta, and koobideh, there are plenty of easy, flavorful and comforting chicken and lamb recipes to make and love. 

But if you’re looking for one of the best comfort food recipes around the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia’s national dish has you covered.


Cuisine: Middle Eastern / Saudi Arabian

When you’re in the Middle East, there are some wonderful foods to be enjoyed. Because rice was traded often in those parts of the Silk Road, it is incorporated into many of the dishes, including this Arabic chicken and rice dish. 

red pin in map of Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries

Alternate Names and Spellings:  Al kabsa, kabsah, makbus machbus, machboos

Course: Main Dish

Recipe difficulty: Easy  🥄

This recipe varies a lot by region but essentially, it’s a one pan, rice and meat based dish with rich spices baked into long grain basmati rice. Traditionally, the meat is either chicken or lamb, but goat, beef, and even seafood aren’t unheard of.

One Pot Chicken and Rice Recipe Video

To see the process from start to finish, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. If you’ve never baked rice in the oven, you will love this method; you never have to worry about the rice boiling over!

side view: platter of kabsa chicken and rice

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken– Although you can use any chicken pieces you’d like, you’ll save the most money by purchasing a whole chicken to cut up yourself. Packages of pre-cut pieces are always more expensive.

If you aren’t comfortable breaking down a chicken yourself, no worries! Most grocery stores and meat market butchers are happy to do this for you at no extra charge.

  • Spices– Please don’t be intimidated by the long list of spices that are in kabsa. If you have most of the individual spices already on hand, that’s fantastic. Otherwise, there are a few brands of premade kabsa spice blend available. One by Zamouri is sold under the name Baharat spice blend.
  • Dried Persian Limes – Also sold under the names brown limes or black limes, this ingredient adds a lot of tart flavor beyond what the fresh fruit offers. If you can find fresh Persian limes in your area, you can even make dried Persian limes yourself.
  • Basmati Rice – Although many Middle Eastern recipes use short grain rice, this recipe is an exception. Long grain basmati cooks up beautifully in an oven, with less chance of clumping like shorter grain rices often do.
  • Broth – You’ll notice that this recipe calls for 4 cups of hot water and a chicken bouillon cube. I can’t think of any reason why you couldn’t use 4 cups of chicken stock or broth instead. 

    One benefit to using a broth cube is, unless you already have homemade chicken stock on hand, cubes are less expensive to buy than 4 cups of chicken stock would be.
  • Shatta Sauce– I may be biased, but I think my recipe for shatta sauce is better than any Middle Eastern chile paste you can buy in a bottle!

    If you don’t want to make it and you don’t have any on hand, feel free to use any hot chile paste or sauce of your choice. 

The remaining ingredients for making chicken kabsa are common vegetables and pantry staples like canned tomatoes, onions, fresh garlic, butter, etc.

Saudi Arabia's national dish, kabsa, in large roasting pan

Tips For Making Kabsa

  1. Stir the rice once during cooking.
    About 45 minutes after the dish has been in the oven, you’ll want to remove the pan from the pan from the oven. Stirring the rice is important to ensure that it all cooks evenly, and it also helps prevent any from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Let the meat rest before serving.
    Resting allows the juices in the meat to redistribute, so each bite will be juicy and tender.


What’s the difference between kabsa and biryani?

These baked Middle Eastern chicken and rice recipes are very similar, including their preparation. The only significant difference is that biryani has a bolder, somewhat spicier flavor.

How do you serve Arabic chicken and rice?

Traditionally, Arabs serve their national dish on a communal platter with sides of pita and a spicy chile paste called shatta sauce.

overhead image: middle eastern chicken and rice on white plate with fork
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overhead: plate of crispy, golden kabsa

Kabsa (Arabic Chicken and Rice)

4.75 from 12 votes
Kabsa is a comforting, one pan chicken and rice dish with layers of flavor. Make this recipe for Saudi’s national dish; it’s fantastic!
Servings: 6
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour 35 minutes





  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Rinse the basmati rice in a sieve until water runs clear, this is optional, but I feel helps to keep the rice fluffy.
  • Melt butter in a large roasting pan, large stock pot, or dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Brown the chicken, skin side first, for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn chicken over and then scatter the onion and garlic all around chicken and sauté. Cook until onion is tender and chicken is browned on both sides. Remove chicken from pan, cover and keep warm.
  • Stir in tomato puree, tomatoes, carrots, all the spices, water, chicken bullion cube and rice.
  • Top with browned chicken (skin side up), add dried lime and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove foil, lift chicken pieces out to stir rice mixture and then place chicken back on top. Bake another 15 minutes uncovered until rice is tender and chicken has browned more and reaches an internal temp of 165°F.
  • In a small saute pan, melt the butter and cook the almonds and raisins until golden brown (several minutes). Set aside.
  • Place the rice on a large serving dish, top with chicken pieces and garnish with chopped parsley, raisins and almonds.
  • Serve with pita and Shatta Sauce (red chile sauce or paste of choice – optional).



  1. You can use any bone-in pieces you prefer. 1 whole fryer, cut into 8-10 pieces, half chicken pieces, quarters, etc. Nutrition shown in this recipe card is based on using a 3lb bone-in fryer, cut into 8 pieces.
  2. If you prefer, 4 cups of chicken broth or stock may be substituted in place of the water and chicken broth cube.


Serving: 5oz | Calories: 549kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 766mg | Potassium: 632mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 5738IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 3mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Arabic, Middle Eastern
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image: close up view of Arabic chicken and rice


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    I made this with chicken thighs because they were on sale. I had trouble finding the dried limes so used dried lemons instead (which I bought at the international store) It is very good but there is too much rice. I will make it again but adjust the amount of rice down to 1 1/2 cups and cut down the liquid. You should remind people that basmati rice should be rinsed before using.

      1. Is the dried lime eaten or just to flavor the dish? If eaten, how is it served? Sliced, chopped…?
        Love your recipes!!

        1. I use them as a seasoning only. Dried limes are typically used only as a seasoning, and can be added whole to stews or sauces to impart a tart, pungent dimension. A few pricks with a knife allow the cooking liquid to permeate the fruit, hydrating it and releasing its complex flavors. I have known one person who enjoys eating them, but not myself.

  2. I found this recipe while looking for something to use a jar of ground, dried lime I have. Can I use that instead of the whole dried lime? If so, how much?

    1. Start with 1 teaspoon and see first as it’s not your everyday ingredient. You can always add a little more if you’d like. Where did you get ground dried lime by the way?

  3. I am making this tomorrow. Can you clarify tomato purée? I have tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Which would be best?

    1. Use the crushed tomatoes as often times tomato sauce has added sugar. The paste would be too concentrated. Enjoy Karen! 🙂

    1. Thanks for trying this one, its a site favorite Maria. In regards to your quesiton, I have yet to have that happen as written, but regardless it could be two different things. Did you use the correct amounts of rice and liquid as written? Sometimes if in your situation, it needs to simmer a little without being covered to assist in evaporation. On the other end, mushy or soggy rice is simply overcooked rice that has absorbed too much water. Water over-absorption causes the rice grains to split open, ruining the texture and creating a starchy, gummy result.

  4. 5 stars
    Hejsa Kevin. Jeg lavede denne fantastiske ret til familie og venner i weekenden, de synes den var fantastisk. Tak for alt dit arbejde med disse vidunderlige mad opskrifter Venlige tanker Berit

  5. How many calories is 549kcal? I’m watching my calorie intake. Should I eat 1 cup of rice mixture plus a piece of chicken as a serving?

    1. The entire dish (rice + chicken) is used to calculate the Nutritional information LadyDee. This serves 6 people, so it’s 549 calories per person. I have no way of knowing someones amounts of chicken and rice to make a valid response for you. Hope this helps.

  6. 5 stars
    Made this twice now and everyone loved it! I must be missing something however, how do you get the rice and all that brown color?

    1. Thanks so much for coming back to let me know Shelby. As for the color, it’s between the use of the spices and the final bake after removing the foil. You can always turn the broiler on for a few minutes (watch carefully) to get it more golden brown, too. Hope this helps.

  7. 5 stars
    Made this for my Saudi friends as an Eid celebration, and it was a hit! Even for an American who has little experience with Arabic food, this was easy and tasty!

    1. That’s fantastic! Reading this made my day Natalie. Appreciate you taking the time to come back and let me know. 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Outstanding Kevin…easy to make even for a novice cook…will be adding this dish to my list of what to cook when friends are coming…thankyou.

  9. 5 stars
    This looks so wonderful. I can’t eat chicken skins. Could I marinate skinlesschicken in these wonderful spices overnight in the fridge and than proceed? I would love to make this.

    1. 5 stars
      Definitely, or you could make cuts in the skin before cooking and let the skin baste as it roasts. Simply remove before eating?

  10. 5 stars
    Kevin, you absolutely outdid yourself! I made this for my family and they loved it so much! We will definitely add this to our repertoire! We love Silk Road recipes. Thanks for sharing.