Moghrabieh is a traditional Lebanese stew made with large pearl couscous, known as "moghrabieh". The stew features a warmly spiced rich chicken broth, along with caramelized pearl onions, chickpeas, shredded chicken and the moghrabieh. It is a warm hug in a bowl, and very easy to make.
Moghrabieh: The Couscous of the Levant
Moghrabieh is a Lebanese pearl couscous. The name "moghrabieh" means "from morocco" in Arabic, because that is the birth place of couscous! Moghrabieh is made from the same durum-based semolina flour as Moroccan couscous, but it is much larger in size (about 4-5mm).
Lebanese food is known for tabouli, shawarma, and shish tawook; grilled meats and cold mezze. But not many people know about the "everyday" homemade stews and comfort food the cuisine has to offer, and moghrabieh is the most popular in that category.
You can find moghrabieh in most middle eastern grocery stores. They are packaged dry, and then boiled in chicken broth for 20 minutes until tender. Their final consistency is chewy, with a slight bite.
They are used in this classic Lebanese dish, named after the couscous: moghrabieh. The dish is very flavourful, with a base of aromatic chicken broth. The spices used for moghrabieh are caraway, cumin, cinnamon and Lebanese seven spice. Caraway is the predominant flavour of the dish, making it quite unique.
You can usually find a "moghrabieh spice mix" in middle eastern stores, but there's really no need for it if you have these spices in your pantry.
The moghrabieh stew always features pearl onions, which is another unique feature. If you can't find pearl onions, you can use regular chopped onions, but the pearl ones are so fun to eat.
Ingredients You'll Need to Make this Recipe
Firstly, gather your ingredients. To make a very flavourful chicken broth, you'll need:
- Bone-in skin-on chicken - you can use a whole chicken, or chicken legs. I always recommend bone-in pieces as opposed to boneless breast for more flavour in the broth.
- Onions, garlic and carrots - for added flavour. The more important one is onions, if you don't have carrots, skip them.
- Whole spices - these will infuse a lot of flavour in the chicken and broth. I love use green cardamom, cinnamon, black peppercorns and bay leaves.
For the rest of the moghrabieh, you'll need:
- Chickpeas - I use canned drained and washed chickpeas to make it easier.
- Moghrabieh - which is large pearl couscous, found at middle eastern grocery stores.
- Pearl onions - replace with 3 large onions, diced, if you can't find pearl onions.
Pearl onions definitely make the dish extra special, so be on the lookout for them! They are usually more round that a shallot and about the same size.
How to Build a Flavourful Broth and Make Moghrabieh
Step 1: Make the broth! Start by searing the chicken pieces in olive oil for a few minutes on each side until golden. This step adds more flavour to the broth, so don't skip it!
Step 2: Add the carrots, onions and garlic as well as all the water. Bring the pot to a boil. Once its boiling, wait for a few minutes to skim off any foam that forms on the surface.
TIP: You may not get much foam on the surface if you sear the chicken. Searing helps reduce the foam!
Step 3: Once the broth is boiling and you've finished skimming the foam, you can then add the whole spices. Do this after skimming to avoid accidentally skimming off some of the spices. Boil for at least 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
Step 4: Once the broth is cooked, remove the chicken and set aside for shredding. Strain the broth and set it aside, discarding the vegetables.
Step 5: While the chicken broth is cooking, start on caramelizing the onions. In a second pot on medium heat, add the olive oil and then all the onions. Brown them for approximately 6-7 minutes until golden.
If there's a lot of splatter, use a lid to cover the pot as the onions cook. Once golden and soft, remove from the pot and set aside.
Step 6: In the same pot used for the onions, add the butter. Then add the moghrabieh and toast it in the butter for a few minutes. Add all of the ground spices and stir, toasting them with the moghrabieh for a few more minutes.
Step 7: Add enough chicken broth to cover the moghrabieh, cover and cook for 20 minutes until soft and chewy.
Step 8: Using your hands, shred the boiled chicken into bite sized pieces.
Step 9: While the moghrabieh cooks, go back to the pot you used for the chicken broth. Place all of the onions inside, along with the drained and rinsed chickpeas, and the shredded chicken, as well as the rest of the chicken broth. Allow everything to simmer together for 10 minutes.
Step 10: Once the moghrabieh finishes cooking and is at a soft and chewy consistency, you are done. Serve the moghrabieh in serving bowls, then top with ladles of the chicken and broth stew.
How to Serve and Store Moghrabieh
You can serve this dish in one of two ways:
Traditional way: leave the moghrabieh separate from the broth (that also has the chicken, onions and chickpeas). Scoop moghrabieh in individual serving bowls, then add ladles of the broth and stew on top.
This method allows the stew to retain a lot of the chicken broth, and is the usual way to serve the dish.
One Pot Method: You can dump the moghrabieh back into the same pot that has the chicken, onions and chickpeas and mix everything together into one stew. This will yield a dryer stew, because as the moghrabieh sits in the pot, it will continue to absorb more of the chicken broth.
Either way will work, but if you like to have a soupier version, be sure to keep the moghrabieh separate.
Storing leftovers is as easy as putting everything in an air-tight container and in the fridge for 2-3 days. Simply warm the moghrabieh through in a microwave or the stove top. You may want to add a bit of water or extra chicken stock to increase the moisture after it sits in the fridge.
Other Stew Recipes You'll Enjoy:
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Lebanese Moghrabieh (Pearl Couscous Stew)
For the Broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 full chicken legs (1.5 kg) bone-in and skin-on
- 2 litres water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 10 cardamom pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 onion quartered
- 1 large carrot
- 4 large cloves garlice peeled
For the Moghrabieh
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 600 grams pearl onions peeled and kept whole
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups moghrabieh 400 grams
- 1 tablespoon ground caraway
- ½ teaspoon seven spice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ litres chicken broth
- 1 can chickpeas (540 ml) drained and rinsed
For the Broth
- In a large pot, add the olive oil on medium high heat. Sear the chicken legs on both sides until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Work in batches if required to avoid overcrowding.
- Add the onion, carrot, garlic cloves, water, salt, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and black peppercorns. Cover and bring to a boil.
- If you see any foam rising to the surface, skim and discard. Continue to boil for at least 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove the chicken and set it aside. Strain the broth and discard the vegetables. Set the broth aside.
For the Moghrabieh
- While the broth cooks, in another medium pot, add the ¼ cup olive oil on medium heat.
- Add all the peeled pearl onions and brown on all sides, for approximately 6 to 7 minutes. If there is a lot of splatter, cover the pot. Once golden and softened, remove and set aside.
- Add the butter to the pot that was used for the onions, then add the dry moghrabieh. Toast the moghrabieh in the butter for a few minutes, stirring.
- Add in the ground caraway, seven spice, cinnamon, cumin and black pepper and stir through with the moghrabieh for a few more minutes.
- Add enough chicken broth to cover the moghrabieh. Close the lid and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes until the moghrabieh is soft and chewy.
- Meanwhile, take the meat off the chicken and shred the cooked chicken into bite sized pieces.
- Once the moghrabieh is cooked, in the same pot used for the chicken stock, add the chickpeas, along with the onions, the shredded chicken and the rest of the chicken broth. The stew should be soupy in consistency. Taste and adjust for more salt. Allow everything to simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the heat.
- To serve, spoon some of the moghrabieh into individual serving bowls, then spoon a few ladles of the chicken, onion and chickpea stew on top. Garnish with parsley if desired.
- The moghrabieh can also be mixed in with the chicken, onions and chickpeas all in one pot. However, doing that will result in a dryer consistency since the moghrabieh will continue to absorb all the soupy broth. Serving the moghrabieh separately is more traditional, but both methods work based on preference.
- Moghrabieh can be found at a middle eastern grocery store.
- The dish can be served with the moghrabieh separately in bowls, then followed by the chicken, chickpeas and onion stew. This way, we avoid the moghrabieh absorbing all the liquid as it sits.