You say kabsa I say kabseh

When I was young and we had guests coming over one of the dishes my mum always made was kabsa.  Serving platters loaded with spicy golden rice and chicken topped with almonds and raisins would take center stage on the table. My part in it was to chop the tomatoes,slice the peppers and grate the carrots. You can say I was mum’s sous chef lol.

 I was also in charge of decoration and final presentation. I would use carrot and cucumber slices and arrange them something like this, or if I had time there would be more elaborate plans with tomatoes and mint involved.

Kabsa or kabseh is one of the traditional dishes served in the Arabian gulf area. It is a Unique mixture of rice (has to be long grain and you can use basmati), meat (chicken, beef, goat, lamb or even camel), spices and vegetables topped with nuts and raisins. The secret to Kabsa’s identity and taste is the blend of spices used in it.   black pepper, all spice, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg are some of the spices that lend their magic to make kabsa a special and memorable dish.

Today I am sharing my own  Kabsa recipe which is mildly adjusted from my mum’s and she makes awesome kabsa. I urge you to give it a try as is and from there you can adjust the spices, change the vegetables and make the recipe your own.

I cook the chicken in a pressure cooker to save time, if you don’t have it you can cook the chicken in a normal pot, it will just take a little longer.

Kabsa (Kabseh) recipe

2 cups basmati rice

1 onion cut into strips

2-3 tomatoes peeled and cut into cubes

1 big carrot shredded

1 green pepper cut into strips

1 tablespoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon powder clove

1 dried lime (loomi)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons salt

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

To cook the chicken

1 chicken cut into 4 pieces (use bone in pieces for more flavor)

2 bay leaves

6-7 all spice berries (or 3/4 teaspoon powdered all spice)

1 stick  cinnamon(or 1/2 teaspoon powdered)

4-5 pods cardamom (or1/4 teaspoon powdered)

1 onion cut into quarters 


Wash the rice 4-5 times discarding the water every time, drain and set aside.

In a pot or pressure cooker add the  chicken and add enough water until the level  is 2-3 cms above the chicken.

Add the bay leaves, all spice berries, cinnamon, cardamom and onion.

Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes (if using a pressure cooker) if not you need to cook the chicken untill it is done.

 To cook the chicken without the pressure cooker,start with thawed chicken pieces . Fill the pot about two-thirds full and place the chicken parts in the pot. Set the stove to medium and bring the water to a gentle boil. Then reduce the heat and allow the chicken to simmer. It takes 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the chicken parts.The chicken is done when you stick a fork or knife  in it and the juice runs clear.If  the liquids are red or pink..boil another 10 minutes. The ideal way to do it is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It is needs to reach 170 degree F (77C). Thighs take a little less time (around 35 minutes) than breasts  ( closer to 45 minutes)

In another pot add the olive oil and saute the onions over medium heat until they become almost translucent.

Add the carrot and pepper and stir for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and stil for 5- 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and begin to breakdown.

Add the spice and rice, stir for 2 more minutes.

Add the liquid you cooked the chicken in (you can either measure it, you need 2 cups for each cup of rice or you can add enough liquid to bring the level up to an inch or 2-3 cm above the rice)

Nestle the chicken pieces between the rice.

Cover and cook over low heat until the rice absorbs all the fluid.

Keep the pot covered and allow to set for 15-20 minutes

Uncover,fluff the rice with a fork.

To serve garnish with almonds and raisins that you have fried in oil.

Don’t discard the oil, you can drizzle it over the kabsa to add a double dose of flavor because it will be infused with almond and raisin.

Leave a comment


  1. pixilated2

     /  August 21, 2011

    I’m so glad I found you! We enjoy the foods from this region of the world and can’t find them where we are living now. I will have to find a resource for the dried lime but can’t wait to try this recipe.

  2. Another winner by the Food Doctor!! Loving it!!

  3. Such a very pretty presentation! I love how you helped your mother as a child!

  4. I can almost smell this. Just beautiful and so fragrant. Wonderful photos too.

  5. Ms

     /  August 21, 2011

    Where can I get the loomi from in USA?

  6. Hi, One of the spices you mentioned in black lime…i’m presuming its citrus…i’ve never heard of it? This dish sounds and looks delicious!

  7. This looks delicious! I have never had kabsa before, but it looks wonderful. I love all of the spices! :)

  8. I call it kabseh, too :) Sounds better that way! :D

    Also I say istha, not ashta… I say baqlawa, not baklava… I say…shush fati now please and go study!

  9. This sounds amazing!! I love the seasonins used,,,I “KNOW” it has to taste wonderfull I can’t wait to try this… :)

  10. Your photos are stunning! I love them. This sounds like a very warm and comforting dish. I like the almonds and raisins with the rice, I think they add wonderful flavor and texture. :)

  11. It looks very simple to make but yet you made it look very elegant. I am looking at the shot on that first photo. Very nice presentation of the dish. I hope you are enjoying your weekend, Sawsan!

    ~ ray ~

  12. Hi Sawsan! I remember your carrot and cucumber decoration! I didn’t know you were practicing that from childhood! ;-) Now, I bet your mom was a great cook, knowing your cooking repertoire! I’m not familiar with Kabsa, but this sure looks delicious!

  13. Looks beautiful – very celebratory and lots of exciting flavours going on!

  14. I have to track own some loomi it is not something I have seen in my regular supermarket. This is such a good combination I am sure the aroma is wonderful

  15. I love Kabsa & Arabic food, I tweeked the recipe to make it a 1-Pot Meal because I like to simplify my cooking :) Love your photos

  16. This rice dish does look so lusciously golden and full of flavor. I think it would complement any main dish. Thanks for sharing a family favorite…those are ALWAYS the best recipes hands down. Have a great week. i am already dreading Monday! AGGGGHHHH!!!

  17. What an amazing and fascinating dish! I love Arabic food and this dish is so full of flavor and spices! I totally love your photos!! Great post

  18. So good. Great flavors and totally doable. I’ve never tried making kabsa at home but we sure do love it. I’ll have to give this a try!

  19. Great different flavors and textures there! I have never hear of Kabseh before, but it looks delicious!

  20. Ohhh what a flavoursome rice dish! I love dishes like this… they are very festive! And your presentation is so elegant! Great job Sawsan! I will have to try it! :-)

  21. This sounds so good! I’m making mango chicken tomorrow night for dinner, and I think this rice would go perfectly with it. Thanks! :)

  22. I really love the combination of spices in this dish :)

  23. Girl, you can say it however you want to say it as long as it looks like this! I mean, fantastic. I can taste it right now. So flavorful and fun. great picture too

  24. I love oatmeal and I love mushroom, but would have never thought of putting them together in a soup. Fantastic!

  25. Beautiful presentation! Looks lovely.

  26. Love love love everything about this!! It looks so amazing, Sawsan!

  27. That picture of the spices was lovely, and I look forward to gathering the spices and trying this recipe. I LOVE new food and look forward to reading more.. c

  28. I am familiar with all the spices you used and can imagine how flavorful this dish will turn out.

  29. I say Kabseh too

    thanks Sona

  30. That looks delicious, will be trying this soon. Thanks for the share!

  31. This sounds great Sawsan! I adore any type of rice dish and will definitely be trying this soon!

  32. I can only imagine how tasty this must be! Wow! I love the spices!

  33. Looks wonderful! Yum!

  34. Hi Sawsan – This looks absolutely delish, you know what though- it really reminds me of something but I just can’t think what it is. Maybe the thing I’m thinking of is actually “kabsa/kabseh”, lol :)

  35. Miranda

     /  April 29, 2013

    tislamy ya a7la food doctor! 3an jad kteer zaky al recipe hatha!

  36. faye ismail

     /  July 23, 2013

    While making the kabseh, when you nestled the chicken in, did u debone it first? Because in the photos, it looks like there were no bones just pieces of chicken around plate.

  37. Anonymous

     /  May 16, 2014

    So yummy

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