Destination KSA - Your Guide to Saudi

Destination KSA - Your Guide to Saudi

Kitchen Adventures of a Saudi Nomad: Chicken Kabsa

Kitchen Adventures of a Saudi Nomad: Chicken Kabsa
By Norah Alwalan

First let me introduce myself, my name is Norah Alwalan and I am currently studying abroad in the US. It has been about a month and a half since I last was in Saudi Arabia. School is about a month in and I have just spent about the whole weekend doing schoolwork. I miss my family, and more pertinently I miss my family’s food. I am starving for some home cooked Saudi meals and I am just about gathering the courage to venture into the kitchen and make the recipes I’ve dreaded for so long. I decide I want to make Chicken Kabsa, the dish we had for lunch twice a week almost every week growing up, and a dish I had always assumed only mothers and professionals could pull off. I decide my first step should be to venture into the internet to find recipes, which unfortunately led me into a few snags.

Almost every recipe called for ingredients I had no way of procuring in the small Indiana college town I was in. Many called for appliances and tools I did not have in the small kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment. However, I refused to let that deter me and decided to go to the supermarket to get some general ingredients I saw in almost all recipe.

My plan here was to wing it, if anything I would have a simplified Chicken Kabsa-adjacent recipe. On the way to the supermarket, I call my sister back home and ask her what spices we usually use in our homemade Kabsa. She lists a few ingredients, I make note of them, and I hope I can find them in the supermarket near campus. Luckily, I found most of them and I headed back to my apartment to begin cooking. The following are the general ingredients and steps I used.

  • 2-1/2 cups Long Grain Basmati Rice
  • 250g Chicken Cubes
  • Chopped Onions
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water
  • Tomato paste (optional)
  • Raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 finely grinded cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 tsp cloves powder
  • 2 small Bay leaves


Add oil to pot on medium heat.
Add the chopped onions and stir until the onions brown.


Add chopped tomatoes.
Let simmer for a few minutes while stirring occasionally.


Add 250g chicken cubes and let simmer for a few minutes while stirring occasionally.
Let simmer for a few minutes while stirring occasionally.


Once you feel like all the chicken has been seared on all sides, add the spices and stir until the spices cover all the ingredients.
Some suggest adding tomato paste in this step, I would add one tablespoon. However, tomato paste is very salty so I would suggest adjusting your recipe accordingly.


Add boiling water, you should add enough water so it covers all your ingredients, make sure you stop adding once it is so.
Cover your pot, let simmer for 20-25 minutes.


Add boiling water, you should add enough water so it covers all your ingredients, make sure you stop adding once it is so.
While you are waiting, in a separate bowl, add 2-1/2 cups of rice to lukewarm water. Let sit. This serves to remove the starch from the rice.

Once the time is up for the chicken, the water should have evaporated a little to start showing the tops of some of your chicken.

Strain the rice and mix into your pot.
Make sure the water covers all the rice, if it doesn’t your rice will be very stiff. However, if you add too much water, your rice will come out soggy. This step is one of trial and error, so don’t be upset if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time.
Cover pot and let simmer on low to medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy.

Optional: Lightly oil a pan, fry some raising to add as topping to your rice. Once the raisins brown, take them off the pan and put them on tissue paper to absorb the oil.

I absolutely love the result. A simplified Chicken Kabsa for the amateur in all of us. Admittedly, this recipe does not rival my mother’s. However, I am very happy I got to have a little bit of home for Sunday dinner.


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