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Chicken Machboos (Arabian Kabsa Rice)

A popular Middle Eastern recipe, Machboos is a well loved Arabic dish. It is considered to be one of the national dishes of the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia as well as the entire Arabian Peninsula.

Many also call it Kabsa and it is often served at lunch-time especially on Fridays after the congregational Friday prayer. In the region’s culture, this is a time of togetherness and sharing. Machboos or similar rice dishes, are served in large silver platters. These are then shared among family and friends eating with their hands all together from the same dish.

Is Machboos the same as Chicken Biryani or Mandi? Yes, they do have a few similarities but NO! They are not the same. There is a difference in the spices used and the cooking process which makes each of them unique.

Arabian Machboos comprises of a fragrant spiced rice with Chicken or Mutton. It is often served with daqqūs, a flavourful tomato chutney.

Chicken Machboos

There are many variations of how this traditional dish is made by different people. However, it is almost always preferred to use long grain Basmati rice. The rice is cooked in a broth along with a handful of whole spices and powdered spices that give it it’s unique flavour.

Good quality spices elevate the flavour of the Machboos

An Arabic spice mix called Baharat is used in this recipe. If you live in the gulf like I do, you’ll find it fairly easy to find at any major supermarket or a spice shop. It can sometimes be labeled as a ‘Seven Spices’ mix. It’s one of my favourite spices to use as a rub on meat and seafood. I love how aromatic it is and it always gives a great flavour to any dish.

If you are not able to find a store-bought version of the Baharat spice mix, you can make it easily at home. I haven’t tried it myself, but I have done a bit of a research and it seems quite do-able if you get your hands on the required ingredients. Check this Baharat spice recipe.

Watch my Machboos recipe video on Instagram

I made this recipe initially just for my Instagram followers as a collaboration for a brand that I was working with. However, I made it several times again after that since we all really enjoyed it at home. It is truly a great Machboos recipe and is well deserving to have it’s own little spot on this blog.

More Flavours from the gulf:

I know this Chicken Kabsa may sound a little complicated, but it is fairly a very easy middle eastern recipe. I am someone who loves simple recipes myself and I can assure you, this one is well worth a try!

RECIPE for Chicken Machboos/ Kabsa-

Chicken Machboos (Arabian Kabsa Rice)

Recipe by Aysha SaihaCourse: Lunch, DinnerCuisine: Middle EasternDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time


Total time




  • For the Machboos/Kabsa
  • 3 cups Basmati rice, soaked

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp butter

  • 1 and 1/2 large onions, finely chopped

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1-2 green chillies, sliced

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 4-5 cardamom pods

  • 6 cloves

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns

  • 1 bay leaf or 1 tsp bay leaf powder

  • 1 tomato, finely diced

  • 1-2 Tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tsp cumin powder

  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 1 Tbsp Arabic spice mix/ Baharat mix

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or add a loomi/ dried lime)

  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

  • For the Chicken
  • 1 kg chicken (I used skinless thighs and legs), cleaned

  • 4 cups water, or as needed

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or softened butter

  • 1 tbsp Chicken seasoning

  • 1 Tsp Arabic spice/ Baharat mix

  • For the Daqqous/ Tomato chutney
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut in half

  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro

  • 2-3 garlic cloves

  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste (optional)

  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar

  • Salt and Pepper, to taste


  • Machboos Chicken and Rice
  • Wash and soak the rice in a bowl filled with water for atleast 20minutes or until it is time to cook it. Drain before using.
  • In a large pot, add 1/3 cup olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter. Once the butter is melted, add in chopped onion, garlic and chilli. Keep the heat on medium and once the onion starts to soften up, add in your whole spices; cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns and bay leaf. If you want to add Loomi (dried lime), you can do that now as well.
  • Mix it all together, then add in the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir again, add the powdered spices; cumin powder, turmeric, paprika and Arabic spice. Combine it well!
  • Add your cleaned chicken into the pot and coat it evenly with the masala made. Pour around 4 cups of water, enough to cover the chicken. Follow by adding in lime juice, salt and pepper. Let the water come to a boil. Then, lower the heat and let the chicken simmer for about 20mins with the lid on until it is tender.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot, and transfer the soaked (and drained) rice in it. Pour more water in the pot if needed, the rice should be covered with water to about 1/2 an inch more liquid. Bring rice to a boil, and then let it simmer with the lid on, until the rice is well cooked and the water is all absorbed. Once cooked, remove from heat and let it cool a bit before fluffing it up lightly.
  • Prepare a Chicken coating by mixing up 2 Tbsp olive oil or butter, chicken seasoning and Arabic spice mix. Coat the cooked chicken well with this spice mix and fry it on a pan with olive oil/butter until it turns golden brown.
  • In a large platter/plate, first layer up your rice, add the chicken on top of it, garnish a little with cilantro, roasted cashews and/or pomegranate seeds. Serve with Daqqus.
  • Daqqus/ Arabic Tomato Chutney
  • Making Daqqus is too simple. Just pulse in all the ingredients in a blender until it is well blended. Pour in small bowls and serve along with your Machboos. Enjoy!


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