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Kabsah: A Traditional Dish from Saudi Arabia

posted on: Nov 30, 2016

Traditional lamb kabsah of Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Pinterest
Traditional lamb kabsah of Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Pinterest

BY: Hala Atirah/Contributing Writer

Kabsah is a traditional Saudi Arabian dish, however, it is famous in almost all Arab countries, such as Jordan, Yemen, Palestine, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Although many cuisines are competing with kabsah to be the Gulf region’s favorite meal, kabsah has maintained its rank as one of the best.

Kabsah’s popularity ensures that it can be found in most restaurants. Many restaurants have created their own takes on kabsah by adding different spices and vegetables, helping certain recipes stand out above the others.

Each household makes it slightly differently; some add potato or carrot, and some make it with lamb or chicken, and even fish. There are different ways of cooking the meat, and the most popular one is called “mandi” which originated in Yemen. These variations of the dish are what make it special to each person who indulges in the savory cuisine.

The spices used in kabsah are largely responsible for its taste. Those included are generally black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg. The dish is originally made with long-grain rice, such as Basmati, with lamb or chicken, and it’s topped with raisin and nuts. Saudi Arabians will then add a tomato sauce called “dakkous”. All of these ingredients make kabsah a very delicious and nutritious meal.

Recipe for Kabsah

Preparation time: 1:00 hr -1:30


  • 4 cups basmati rice
  • 6 ¼ cups chicken stock or water
  • 4 tbs salt (as preferred)
  • 1/3 cup oil or butter
  • 1 ½ kg chicken – cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbs Coriander powder
  • 1 Tbs black pepper powder
  • 2 Tbs Bhar or ( ½ Tbs Cinnamon, ½ Tbs Ground Cardamom, ½ Tbs red chilly flakes/ powder, ¼ Tbs Ground cloves & 1/3 Tbs Cumin)
  • 1 dried / Lime (use the lime zest)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 cup of diced onion
  • 1 Tbs chilly powder
  • 1 Tbs black pepper powder
  • ½ cup diced garlic
  • Fresh coriander, fried raisin, fresh lime


  • Marinate the rinsed and drained chicken with coriander powder, chilly powder and black pepper powder.
  • Chop the onion, garlic and tomatoes.
  • Heat oil/butter in a medium pan and saute the onion and garlic till softened
  • Add some salt to dry out moisture
  • In another pan, heat some butter and fry marinated chicken. Just till crust in a pale golden color on both sides.
  • When the onion are golden, add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste. Cook until moisture evaporates.
  • Add the Bhar /spices. Keep some chilly flakes for late.
  • Add the dried lime. Stir well.
  • Transfer the onion mixture to a larger pot
  • Add the golden chicken. Cook for a minute, stirring gently.
  • When the oil separates, add salt and stock/water.
  • Let it boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes for chicken without skin and 20min for chicken with skin
  • Remove the chicken pieces and two large ladles of the stock to the pan previously used for sautéing the onions.
  • Heat till the gravy evaporated forming a thick sauce around the chicken. You may add some tomato paste.
  • Broil in preheated oven for 10 minutes. With some butter.
  • The skin should get a golden, crisped crust
  • Fry the drained rice in the same butter left from frying the chicken initially
  • Add to the pot of simmering and cover. Cook till done
  • Fluff up the rice with a fork
  • Squeeze a little lemon juice on the chicken pieces.
  • Top with the broiled chicken, coriander leaves and toasted nuts as well as raisin.

Recipe source: Recipes are Simple