Advertisement Close

Get Excited for Fall With Pumpkin Kabsa

posted on: Oct 27, 2020

By: Safa M. Qureshi/Arab America Contributing Writer

It’s that time of the year where everything is pumpkin – and yes, even pumpkin kabsa! But before we get too far with our excitement, let us explain…

The name comes from the word kabasa ( كبس‎ in Arabic), which literally means to press or squeeze, referring to the technique used in the cooking where the ingredients are all squeezed into one pot. In some countries like Bahrain, kabsa is known as Machboos/Majboos (مكبوس in Arabic)‎‎. 

Kabsa is a rice dish that originated from Saudi Arabia but is commonly regarded as a national dish in many of the Gulf Arab states. It is a one-pot dish consisting of rice, meat, and spices.

Kabsa can be made with any long-grain rice, but basmati rice is the most common. The meats used to make kabsa include chicken, beef, lamb, goat, camel, shrimp, or fish. The spices that go into a kabsa dish are what distinguish it from other meat and rice dishes. These spices can include bay leaves, black lime, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, saffron, and/or turmeric.

The rice is often garnished with nuts (such as pine nuts, almonds, or pistachio), raisins, onions, and then served with either molokhia (ملوخية‎) or dakoos (الدقوس) on the side. 

To celebrate the season change, Arab America is introducing to you something new and unique with a warm, flavourful, recipe – pumpkin kabsa! With Halloween right around the corner, we thought you all might want to embrace fall flavors with super simple ingredients that use the season’s best produce and spices. Let’s get started!

How to Make Regular Kabsa Rice

Pictured above is a delicious, beef kabsa.

The following recipe was taken from a Yemeni Blogger.


  • 1 pound of meat cut into medium pieces (if you are using tougher meat such as lamb, boil the meat until tender)
  • 1 ½ cups of rice
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt
  • A pinch of saffron or a few drops of yellow food coloring
  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Hawaij (a Yemeni spice mix available online)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 green chili pepper, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Garnishes of your choice such as toasted almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, or raisins


  • Cut and/or pre-cook your meat.
  • Boil three cups of water in a medium-sized pot. Add rice and salt; stir and cook for 15 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from heat.
  • Heat the oven to 350°F. 
  • Add oil to a Dutch oven and sauté the onions until the onions are slightly brown. Add the meat, spice mix, garlic, tomato, cilantro, and green pepper. Cook for five minutes. Add 1 cup of water and cook until the potatoes are almost done. Layer the rice on top; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of water; cover and cook for 20-30 minutes.
  • Top with desired garnishes and serve.

How to Make (Vegetarian) Pumpkin Cabs

The following recipe is taken from an Egyptian-American Blogger


  • 1 squash such as sugar pumpkin or acorn squash
  • 4 tbsp safflower or olive oil
  • 1 c carrots, chopped (about 2-3 large carrots)
  • 1 c chopped onion (about 1/2 an onion)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp shallot, minced
  • 1/2 c tomato, diced (about 1 tomato)
  • 3 c long grain or basmati rice
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1 c dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds or almonds (optional)

To celebrate the season change, Arab America is introducing to you something new and unique with a warm, flavourful, recipe – pumpkin kabsa!


    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F).
    2. Wash the rice in cold water and then let it soak for 20-30 minutes. This speeds up the cooking time and reduces any excess starch that causes clumpy rice.
    3. Wash the squash well, and cut off the top where the stem is. Carefully hollow out the inside by removing the seeds and stringy pieces. Save the seeds to toast later. Rub the outside and top of the squash with 1 tbsp of oil and set it on a pan. 
    4. In a heavy bottom pot, heat 2 tbsp of oil and sauté the onions and shallots until they begin to yellow. Add the carrots, followed by the garlic and tomatoes until softened.
    5. Drain the rice and add to the vegetables in the pot. Toss in the spices until it is well coated. 
    6. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to low and cover. Check the rice in 5 minutes. The water should be absorbed from the top. Add the cranberries and raisins and stir gently. Scoop out enough rice from the pot to stuff the squash and cover with the top of the squash. Place into the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. If there is still water visible in the pot of rice, cover the pot and allow it to cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the rice from the pot and plate it onto a serving platter, leaving a space in the center for the squash.
    7. While the squash cooks in the oven, toast the pumpkin seeds or nuts in a small pan over medium-high heat until they turn golden-brown. Set aside for garnish later. 
    8. Once the squash is cooked through, remove from the oven and transfer onto the center of the rice platter. Sprinkle toasted nuts or pumpkin seeds all over the ricer. 
    9. When ready to serve, slice the pumpkin or acorn squash following the vertical ridges to create a beautiful petal design. Plate a slice of squash and a serving of rice for each person.

This is the final product!

Kabsa is an easy dish to make in huge quantities, and most everyone loves it. We hope you enjoyed this read. Check Out Arab America’s Blog Here!