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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
🎯 PRO TIP!
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.
Tips For Making Kabsa
- 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.
- Let the meat rest before serving.
Resting allows the juices in the meat to redistribute, so each bite will be juicy and tender.
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.
Traditionally, Arabs serve their national dish on a communal platter with sides of pita and a spicy chile paste called shatta sauce.
Kabsa (Arabic Chicken and Rice)
- 4 tbsp butter or ghee
- 3 lbs bone-in chicken (See Note 1)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup tomato puree
- 14 oz chopped tomatoes canned with liquid or fresh
- 3 carrots grated
- 1/2 tsp crushed saffron
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 4 cups hot water
- 1 chicken broth cube (See Note 2)
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 dried lime poke several holes in it with tip of knife
- shatta sauce (or any chile paste)
- 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).
- 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.
- If you prefer, 4 cups of chicken broth or stock may be substituted in place of the water and chicken broth cube.
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.