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chicken machboos served in a dish with chicken legs, pine nuts and raisins

Chicken Machboos (Saudi Arabian Kabsa)

This chicken Machboos is a popular Arabic rice dish. Onions, garlic, dry lime, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves are used to perfectly spice the rice to perfection. It's served with chicken that's been crisped up, along with toasted pine nuts and raisins. Such a soul satisfying dish and a must try for any lover of Arabic food!
Course Mains
Cuisine middle eastern
Keyword Arabic Rice, Chicken Machboos, Kabsa, Machboos
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 523kcal


  • 4 full chicken legs skin on, bone in (you can also use thighs - add 1-2 pieces per person)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 dry limes substitute 2 teaspoons dry lime powder if unavailable
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3.5 cups basmati rice long grain
  • 4.5 cups water
  • cup raisins
  • cup slivered almonds or pine nuts


  • Start by preheating the oven to 400F
  • Finely dice the onion and crush the garlic
  • To a large non-stick pot, add the oil and heat for 1 minute. Then add the onions and cook for 5 minutes until slightly softened
  • Add the whole spices (cinnamon, cardamom, dry lime, and bay leaves) along with the crushed garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, using a wooden spoon to smear the paste on the bottom of the pan and caramalize it
  • Add the ground spices (salt, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice) as well as the tomato sauce and 1 cup of water. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes
  • Add the washed chicken legs and cover them in the sauce mixture. Cover the pot and allow to cook for 20 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through
  • Wash and rinse the rice several times until the water runs clear
  • Remove the chicken legs, sprinkle with extra salt and pepper (if desired) and place them on a baking sheet lined with foil. To finish cooking them, bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until juices run clear. Broil for 2 minutes to crisp the skin
  • Add the rice to the pot along with the remaining 3.5 cups of water. Mix well but gently to incorporate the rice. Cover and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Once boiling, keep the rice covered, lower the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not uncover the rice before the 20 minutes
  • Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for 5 minutes
  • Toast the pine nuts in a skillet with ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil on medium heat, stirring constantly until golden. This should take no more than 5 minutes
  • Remove the nuts and add the raisins using the same pan. Stir on high heat for 1-2 minutes to heat through and slightly caramelize
  • Open the pot and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve in a large dish, with the chicken legs on top and garnish with the pine nuts/almonds and raisins



  • If you don't have dry limes, you can skip it. It adds a unique depth of flavour that is hard to replace with other ingredients. I encourage you to find it from your local middle eastern shop!
  • If you don't have full chicken legs, you can use thighs or drumsticks. I would not use chicken breast, dark meat will yield better results in this recipe


Calories: 523kcal | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 988mg | Potassium: 565mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 275IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 2mg