How to Cook Chicken Machboos (Bahraini Spiced Rice)

What is chicken machboos?

“Machboos,” according to my husband, means “kabsa.” Ouch, confusion number one. What is chicken machboos then? Let us deal with these terms one by one, if you don’t mind, or shall I say, if you are interested.

Kabsa is a national dish in Saudi Arabia. It consists of rice and meat. So, to specify which meat, they add the term before the word kabsa, i.e., chicken kabsa, beef kabsa, lamb kabsa, etc.  Machboos is kabsa, but such term is used more specifically in Bahrain – a beautiful country in the Gulf. The term works the same way – we add the meat name at the beginning of the word machboos –  chicken machboos, beef machboos, etc.

Machboos ad-dajaj versus chicken machboos

Now what is Ad-Dajaj?  Dajaj is the Arabic term for chicken. And while adding the name of the meat with the term machboos, the arrangement is reversed – the name of the meat goes after the term machboos!

Presto, what you have here is chicken cooked in rice – the Bahraini way!  Chicken Machboos or Machboos Ad-Dajaj.

Let’s go!

How to cook chicken machboos

I have cooked machboos over 100 times in my 3 decades of living in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, I can proudly say that this dish is now fool-proof! You can’t go wrong with this version. Infact, if you ever find your second rendition different from the first and so on, it is understandably the case everywhere. A little twitch in the spices and the dish will come out differently – but not broken, I mean, the dish will not fail! You would always love the result.

What about machboos ingredients?

Missing one or two of the spices is still safe. Do not be afraid to do so if you are not a fan of one, like turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon bark, black lemon, etc. The dish would still be fine.  Just do not take out more than two of the ingredients 🙂

How lovable is this chicken machboos recipe?

I have shared this recipe with friends through the years. It started mostly from having taken this to potluck lunches and having served them at home for visiting friends. At first sight of the recipe, my friends were discouraged by the number of spices.  However, none have complained that the dish was difficult to cook when they tried. They are actually surprised and pleased that it is easy.

One lasting experience to remember

One personal experience I remember and can share is when my family and I visited Lebanon in 2001.  Wow, has that been more than 10 years ago! Wow-wow-wow!  19 years ago! My Lebanese sister-in-law asked me to cook one dish for lunch in her kitchen! Come to think of that – in her kitchen.  I took the challenge and cooked chicken machboos!  She was so proud of the taste, she shared a plate with her neighbor who came in and asked to meet me!  Sounds like I am showing off, am I not? This does not happen all the time! 😊

Enjoy, dear friends, you would love this dish, definitely.


Machboos ala-Dajaj

Bahraini Spiced Rice with Chicken - MMK
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Author Magida


  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp baharat
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 chicken about 1.5 kg, cut into 8 pieces
  • ½ cups peeled chopped tomatoes or 1 small tomato
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 black lemon pierced once
  • 2 pcs. Cinnamon bark
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 cups basmati or long-grain rice
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Cook rice with water until half done, drain.
  2. In a deep pot, fry onion in ghee until golden.  Stir in mixed spices and turmeric and cook another minute.
  3. Add chicken pieces to onion turn until they are light brown.  Add tomatoes, black lemon, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, salt and coriander and parsley leaves and stir well to combine.  Add ½ cup water, or less.
  4. Cook for 45 minutes over low-medium heat or until chicken is tender and sauce is quite thick.
  5. Add rice to chicken mixture; mix till rice is completely colored.
  6. Cover with towel or towel paper under the lid and leave over very low heat for at least 10 minutes. Longer is better.

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