A few simple ingredients transform regular old white rice into an exotic, brightly flavorful pot of Lamb Kabsa! This makes a lovely addition to your recipe collection⏤just stick this recipe in your "meals that will impress!" folder. 😉
The Lamb Kabsa
Internet world meet my friend, Lamb KABSA.
Kabsa is so aromatic and exotic that if you close your eyes, you'll be instantly transported to the streets of the Middle East. Imagine the smells wafting through the streets, then arriving home only to be greeted by a table set with a healing pile of golden jewelled rice and chunks of juicy lamb.
And if that wasn't enough to convince you, how about a recipe that is so delicious and requires little effort?!! I don't know about you, but I love meals that look and taste like you've been slaving away all day... but actually, you've spent the day on your sofa scrolling through Instagram and only spent 20 minutes in the kitchen (true story).
This recipe is my signature recipe; it's the one I serve to all my guests, or anytime I just want to spoil my family.
What makes kabsa my favourite dish?
What's not to love about each grain of rice perfectly seasoned with aromatic kabsa spices, juicy tomatoes, and onions? Only to be topped with succulent chunks of lamb, pockets of sweet raisins and crunchy nuts. It's a big pot of goodness that’ll bring all sorts of happiness to your kitchen. All you need to know is how to boil meat & rice.
A little Kabsa history for my fellow food nerds
You have heard of this dish already; it's not surprising since this is the national dish of Saudi Arabia. WAIT SARAH, ✋🏼 Did you just say Saudi Arabia!!! I thought this is a blog for Mediterranean recipes, Saudi is not in the Mediterranean region, it's in the gulf!
You're right; it isn't known as a true Mediterranean dish. It's Middle Eastern. However, some believe it was inspired by the famous paella from the Andalusian kingdom in the 8th century.
Some food historians believe the origins of kabsa can be found in the Spanish word “paella,” which was derived from the Arabic word “baqiyah” for leftovers.
Originally, Paella is a dish made from leftovers and was common among the servants of Andalusian kings. The story of paella starts with an Andalusian king entering his kitchen and found his servants eating paella. The king requested to taste their food and found that it was very delicious, so much, in fact, he requested to know what it was. The servant informed him it was leftovers. The dish was so loved by the king he requested it to be prepared regularly.
Despite it's believed origins, the Lamb Kabsa is made more like a pilaf than a paella. Since it's a pilaf, it is definitely a Mediterranean dish. Pilaf is served all over the Mediterranean, especially in the Levant, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and many other Mediterranean countries.
How to make Lamb Kabsa
OK, now it’s time for a little technique! A really good Kabsa is all about basic ingredients and a little bit of technique. Just a few moments of attentiveness will ensure that your aromatic tomato-ish rice is just as fluffy and flavourful as it would be in any Middle Eastern restaurant! Here’s how easy it is to make Lamb Kabsa:
- Boil the meat in an aromatic spice bath⏤dump meat, spices, and aromatics into a pot, cover with water cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Go back to doing whatever you want, and maybe catch up on some reading. When the meat is cooked⏤, strain the stock & reserve the meat.
- Rinse the rice. It’s tempting to skip this step. But don’t! Take a few extra minutes to rinse those little rice grains. You'll end up with fluffy, separate grains instead of a mushy blob-o-rice.
- Warm some ghee & olive oil in a skillet and then add all of the onion, tomatoes, and remaining spices; sauté and then add the rice and stock.
- Simmer! Lower the heat so that it is just a gentle light simmering, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- When the rice is cooked, give everything a little fluff with a fork but do so quickly! As soon as you’ve given it a quick fluff, replace the lid so the rice can steam for a few more minutes and get gorgeously tender.
- Flip the rice onto a big tray and decorate it with meat, nuts, and raisins.
Tips for making Lamb Kabsa
- The Kabsa spice mixture. This mixture can be easily made at home in a few minutes with common spices. I've included the spice mixture in the recipe notes.
- Simmering the meat in water is the most traditional way to make this dish, but you can bake the meat too. If you choose to bake the lamb: You'll need to add enough water to the bottom of the pan to ensure you have some stock left to pour onto the rice.
- Chicken, Goat and Camel can also be used. Don't use beef or pork in Kabsa; they don't have enough flavour to make really tasty rice.
- If you don't have fresh tomatoes, you can use diced tomatoes; just drain the liquid out using a mesh colander. Please, DON'T TOSS out the tomato liquid! Use it to make your Kabsa sauce instead of using strained tomato and water.
- How to save on cooking time. Most of this cooking for this dish dump and forget, but if you're not a bit organized, it might take you longer than it need be. Once you started the rice and covered the pot, start cooking the kabsa sauce, hit your time for 20 minutes, and they'll both be done at the same time. Well, your rice is taking its final rest; transfer the kabsa sauce to a bowl and start your nuts.
Frequently asked Questions
Can I prepare kabsa stock ahead of time?
If you want to boil the meat a day ahead of time, it's no problem. Let the meat and stock cool a little bit, and then store it in the fridge. There's no need to separate the meat, and the stock store it together.
How long will this last in the fridge? And can I freeze it?
3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Rice freezes really well. Just make sure it's airtight and store it for no longer than 1-2 months.
I can't eat nuts. Will it still taste good?
Of course, the nuts are just a crunchy accessory to the rice. They're 100% optional! Same with the raisins.
Where can I find Kabsa spice mix? and what is a dried black lime?
If you're lucky and live in an area with many Arabs, you can both of these ingredients in most Middle Eastern food stores. If not, you can easily find limes online. As for the kabsa spice, you can easily make it at home.
What cuts of lamb should you use?
You can use any cut, but I find it's best to leg and shoulder pieces cut to fit in your palm. When making the photos for this recipe, I used ½ a shoulder in one big piece. Once it cooled, I sliced it and fried the lamb to make it crispy. This is an optional step and one that you don't have to do; the boiled lamb is fine served warm. Stay away from stew-sized cubes—you are looking for big chunks of meat.
What to serve with Kabsa?
- Vegetable pickles
- Pickled peppers
- Cucumber and tomato salad
- Kabsa sauce
If you liked my Kabsa recipe, then you'll love our Chicken Mandi.
- 3-4 lb lamb
- 1 large onion quartered
- 3-4 garlic cloves smash or grated
- 1 fresh tomato quartered
- 6 sprig of parsley
- 1 tablespoon Kabsa spice *see notes
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon whole Allspice
- 7 cardamon seeds smashed open
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 dried black limes optional
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 2 tomatoes peeled, deseeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon kabsa spice *see notes
- ⅛ teaspoon saffron 3 stems
- 1 and ½ cup Basmati rice washed
- 1 cup frozen mixed veggies optional
- 3 tablespoon strained tomato passata sauce
- 1 cup of water
- 2-3 garlic cloves mashed to a paste
- ¼ cayenne pepper
Raisin & nut toppings
- 4 tbsp raisins
- ⅓ cup nuts Cashews, almonds, or a mixture of both
- ¼ cup pinenuts (optional)
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- Add all of the ingredients into a large stockpot. Fill with enough water cover to completely cover your meat.
- Bring the stock to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Cover and simmer for 60 minutes
- Once the meat is tender, remove the meat, place it into a baking pan. Add a little bit of stock to the pan and with a lid cover or foil. Turn on the oven and heat with warming mode. Place the lamb in the oven until ready to eat.
- Or, if you want the meat a bit crispy, use the frying pan from the nuts and quickly reheat the lamb in the leftover oil. So the outer edges crisp up, and the lamb is warmed up.
- Strain the stock with a mesh colander into a large bowl. Toss away the strained leftover ingredients. Measure 3 cups of stock for the rice. Set aside.
- Any leftover set can be stored and used for other recipes.
- Heat a large pot in medium-high, add the ghee and oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are starting to become translucent.
- Stir in spices and tomato. Stir—Cook for 3 minutes for the tomatoes to soften.
- Add the veggies and rice into the tomato mixture. Stir.
- Pour the 3 cups of stock over the rice, bring to a slow boil⏤you're looking for bubbles just starting to pick speed, not a full rapid boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and leave it alone for 20 minutes⏤No Peaking!
- After 20 minutes, remove the lid, gently stir the rice. Cover the pot with a towel and replace the lid. Remove from the heat allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, the rice is cooking it time to start the kabsa sauce.
- Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.
- Pour the mixture into a small pot—heat on a low high simmer for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, transfer to a small serving bowl.
- Note: The kabsa sauce shouldn't be too thick or too thin. You should be able to pour it, yet it still stays on top of the rice.
Nuts & Raisins:
- Heat a small frying pan on medium heat, add oil or ghee to the pan. Heat until a light simmer appears.
- Add the nuts. Saute just until they become light brown and stir often. Remove the from the pan quickly, place them on a plate with a piece of paper towel.
- Once the nuts are finished, add the raisins and heat for 1-3 minutes. They'll start to poof up and soften. Soon as you see that, transfer to the plate with the nuts.
- Note: this step can be done anything during the cooking process.
Plating the Kabsa:
- Use a large circular platter. Empty the rice onto the platter by flipping the pot upside down and allow the rice to pour onto the platter⏤this will prevent the rice from breaking.
- Top the rice with meat, nuts, and raisins.
- Serve with the kabsa sauce, pickled pepper, & mixed pickles veggies