Saudi Arabian Kabsa (Chicken and Rice)

Saudi Arabian

Ingredients:  (Serves 8 - 10) 

  • 3 pounds of chicken cut into pieces
    • I used drumsticks and breasts
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice 
  • 1 Tbsp lime zest (~ one large lime) 
  • 4 Tbsp butter + 2 Tbsp (divided)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (1 - 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic paste (or finely minced garlic cloves)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger paste (or finely grated ginger root)
  • 1/2 cup fresh tomato puree
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into coins
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp + kosher salt
  • 1 tsp + black pepper
  • 4 cups (32 oz) chicken stock/broth
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 cups basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • 1 -2 sliced lemons 

Written Directions:

Make your fresh tomato puree.  The number of tomatoes will depend on the size and type you use.  Cut the tomatoes into chunks and blend into a puree.  An immersion blender works perfectly.

Get your spice blend together.  When you need them, it will be much easier to just dump them into the pot if you have them measured out already.   Pat your chicken dry so that you'll get a better sear on it.  Melt butter in a Dutch oven or heavy pot.  Add chicken pieces to the hot foaming butter.  Season chicken liberally with kosher salt and black pepper as you layer the pieces in the pot. 

Once you have some color on all sides of the chicken pieces, add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger.  Saute all the aromatics with the chicken until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add in the tomato puree and simmer for a few minutes.   Go ahead and add in a can of diced tomatoes and carrots that you have peeled and thinly sliced into coins.  

While all this is simmering, we are ready to add the seasoning stars to the show!  Just dump them all in there.  You can already see how beautiful that's going to be! Now throw in a couple of whole cloves.  Don't worry, we will fish them out later.  At this point, give it all a good stir and let it simmer a few minutes.  It's a nice time to evaluate the seasoning and add the salt and pepper.  Remember, the rice is going to soak up a lot of seasoning.  It's looking pretty fantastic already, right?  But we're not finished yet!  Add in your chicken broth.  Hang in there.  We're getting close.  Add in the last couple of spices. 

After a couple more minutes, all of your chicken pieces should be cooked and tender.  Go ahead and remove them in preparation for the rice.  Just set them aside.  We are going to crisp up the outside in just a few minutes to finish them off. Now that you've removed the chicken, fish out those two cloves.  Believe me, nobody wants to bite into those. 

Now it's time to add the rice and get this going.  Bring this to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat.  Simmer on low for about 30 minutes until the rice is tender.  

While the rice is cooking, we can address the chicken and the accompaniments.  In a hot pan, add some more butter or some olive oil (whatever you'd prefer), and once hot, add the chicken pieces to it to crisp up the skin.  Remove when brown on all sides, reserving butter.  

In the same pan, briefly brown the raisins.  They won't take long.  Drain them on a paper towel to remove any excess grease.   Now repeat with the sliced almonds to toast them.  Watch them carefully so they won't burn.  Drain these, also, on a paper towel.

When the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, fluff with a fork.  Arrange the chicken pieces as desired.  Some recipes call for the chicken to be inside the rice, some on top.  Sprinkle the top of the dish with the toasted almonds... and the slightly cooked/toasted raisins.

Now we are going to make it super beautiful and fragrant.  Snip some flat leaf parsley and sprinkle it over the top.  Thinly slice a lemon or two and arrange the pieces over the top.  The juices will start seeping down onto the hot chicken, making it even more fragrant and juicy.

*At this point, many of the Arab recipes have the dish plated and arrange on a platter.  I chose to leave mine in this heavy Dutch oven because I knew it would retain the heat best.  Do what you feel is best for your guests and presentation here.   

And here we have the final dish!  Isn't it gorgeous?! Dig in!