Kabsa- A Saudi Chicken and Rice dish


It’s amazing how certain foods, their smells or tastes, can evoke an intense feeling of nostalgia. Maybe it’s because food has always been an integral part of everyone’s childhood. Especially food prepared by our grandmothers, moms or aunts. No matter how hard we try, we can never replicate the same taste. Sigh! 🙁

Anyone that has grown up in Saudi Arabia know that Kabsa, Mandi, Shawerma & Broast are the main dishes that we miss the most! I remember my Dad would sometimes come home after Jumma (Friday prayers) carrying a plastic bag. Whichever sibling opened the door for him would take it out of his hand, scream at the top of her lungs to inform us, and then rush into the kitchen to dish out the food. Inside would be two clear bags, one filled with warm, orange & aromatic rice and the other bag holding a whole rotisserie chicken. There would be small containers/baggies of spicy tomato chutney as well a whole green chilly, lemon wedges and sometimes half an onion. This dish was called Kabsa, and we loved eating it! The rice is extremely flavorful while the chicken is juicy! The chutney complements the dish perfectly and you want to never stop eating! 🤤

My mother probably realized how much we loved Kabsa, so she learned how to make it at home from her sister who learned it from her Saudi neighbor in Riyadh. And I’m so grateful that she did! Who knew that one day I would be sitting many miles from home craving a taste from my childhood.

This Chicken Kabsa doesn’t taste 100% authentic and I doubt if any home recipe can give that flavor, but in my opinion it’s the best one out there. It’s extremely close to the real thing and that tomato chutney is to die for! To make it more authentic, try switching the Basmati Rice with Sella Rice. Also, make sure to cook the chicken in a big pot with a lid.

Hope you enjoy this simple, yet extremely flavorful recipe.

Kabsah, a Saudi Chicken & Rice dish

Recipe by: Leena Ali

Servings: 6


1 whole chicken with skin

3 large tomatoes

1 large onion, sliced

2 green chilies

2 cloves of garlic

1” ginger piece

1 tbsp tomato paste

Salt to taste

2 bay leaves

3 whole green cardamom or 1/4 tsp cardamom powder

4-5 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks whole

Olive oil 3 tbsp

3 cups Basmati rice soaked for 1 hour

Oil for deep frying (optional)


In a blender, blend tomatoes, tomato paste, green chilies, garlic cloves, ginger and salt. Keep aside.

Place a pot on medium heat and add olive oil. When heated, add the sliced onion, bay leaves, cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Sauté for 5-6 minutes till onions become translucent. Now add the blended tomato paste. Mix well and check for salt. It should be slightly salty. Add in the whole chicken and one cup of water. Cover and let cook for 40 minutes on low heat.

The chicken should be cooked but not falling off the bone. Take the chicken out in a separate plate and pat it dry.

In the same pot with the tomato based broth, add the soaked rice. Make sure the water level is 1/2 inch above the rice. If not then please add more water and check for salt. Cook the rice for 7 minutes on medium heat till all the water evaporates. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of water over the rice and cover the pot with the lid wrapped in aluminum foil. Lower the heat to extremely low and let the rice simmer for 4-5 more minutes.

In the meantime, heat oil for deep frying in a big wok. Deep fry the chicken from all sides till it’s a beautiful brown color.

Alternatively, turn on the griller or broiler of your oven. Brush the chicken with olive oil or butter and broil till you get delicious, crispy skin on the outside.

For Garnish:

Slivered almonds


Grated carrots

2 tbsp olive oil

Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté the almonds till they are crispy. Take them out on a paper towel. Repeat with the raisins & carrots.

To serve:

Take out the rice in a big platter. Put the fried/broiled chicken at the top. Garnish with fried slivered almonds, raisins and carrots. Serve with tomato chutney.

Tomato chutney recipe:

2 large tomatoes

1 small bunch of cilantro

3 green chilies

2 cloves of garlic


Black pepper

1/4 tsp cumin

1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Blend everything in a blender and serve with the Kabsa.

Let me know in the comments below how you liked the Kabsa when you make the dish. And please tag me on Instagram or Facebook with your pictures!

Happy cooking! ❤️

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Qazi says:

    Hi, very well written memory. I too have been chasing down that taste. My research shows, that people have called this rice by different names, ruz Bukhari, chicken Mandi and yes kabsa. Some have used carrots and some have not. But in any restaurant, it seemed the rice was independent of the chicken and no carrots or raisins. So I guess the question is if I just wanted the rice, will this recipe still work without the chicken


    1. Leena says:

      Hey Qazi!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read. Appreciate it. I agree with you. But there were primarily two types of rice- Mandi rice that were light yellow & Bukhari rice that were more red. Kabsa was sometimes red & sometimes just white. But the common thing in all the rice was that they were cooked in chicken stock. This cooking in stock imparts a very flavorful rice otherwise it will taste like regular boiled rice. If you don’t want the chicken, I will recommend using chicken stock to cook the rice in. Hope this helps!


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