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Chicken Maqlooba: A Flavourful Palestinian Delight

Chicken Maqlooba, is a traditional Palestinian dish known for its unique method of preparation and presentation, which involves flipping the pot upside down before serving. The name “Maqlooba” translates to “upside down” in Arabic, perfectly capturing the essence of this culinary delight.

The classic chicken maqlooba involves several key steps, including preparing a flavourful chicken broth. The broth is typically made with a whole chicken, aromatics like onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and a blend of spices. This aromatic base infuses the dish with depth and warmth.

For the rice layer, Calrose rice is preferred for its stickiness and ability to absorb flavours. The dish is layered with fried vegetables – typically eggplant, cauliflower, and potatoes – which add texture and earthiness to the meal. The rice, fried vegetables, and cooked chicken are meticulously layered in a pot. Once cooked, the pot is flipped upside down on a serving platter, creating a visually striking presentation that reveals the beautiful layers of rice, vegetables, and meat.

Maqlooba is not just about taste but also about presentation and communal dining. Once inverted, the dish is garnished with toasted almonds and chopped parsley, adding crunch and freshness. It’s often accompanied by yoghurt or a simple salad, balancing the dish’s richness.

Chicken Maqlooba is a celebration of flavours, textures, and culinary traditions, offering a feast for the senses. Its preparation and presentation make it a standout dish that tells a story of cultural heritage and communal joy. Whether for a family dinner or a special occasion, Maqlooba remains a beloved dish that brings people together to share its delightful flavours.

Basic Ingredients for Chicken Maqlooba

Chicken Broth:

Chicken: The chicken serves as the protein base of the dish, adding richness and depth. It’s cooked slowly to create a flavourful broth, which is then used to cook the rice, infusing it with a robust taste.

Onion: Onion is fundamental for building the base flavour in both the broth and the dish itself. It adds sweetness and depth, becoming a cornerstone for the overall taste profile.

Bay Leaf and Cinnamon Stick: These whole spices introduce warmth and a hint of sweetness to the broth, which is then absorbed by the rice and chicken, adding layers of flavour.

Cardamom Pods: Cardamom adds a distinctive aromatic essence, providing the dish with a characteristic Middle Eastern flavour profile.

Spice Powders (Cinnamon, Turmeric, 7-spice, White and Black Pepper): This blend of spices gives Maqlooba its signature flavour, combining warmth, earthiness, and a bit of heat to create a complex and inviting taste.

Fresh Coriander: Adds a burst of freshness and a slight citrusy undertone, which balances the richness of the meats and spices.

Rice Dish:

Rice: Calrose rice is used for its sticky and absorbent properties, which make it perfect for soaking up the delicious flavours of broth and spices.

Vegetables (Potato, Cauliflower, Eggplant): These vegetables add texture, colour, and nutritional value. They’re fried to introduce a contrasting texture and to deepen their flavours before being layered with the rice and chicken.


Almonds and Parsley (For Garnish): Almonds add a nutty crunch, while parsley brings a fresh, herbal note to finish the dish, enhancing its visual appeal and flavour.

Alternative Ingredients

Protein: Lamb or beef can be used instead of chicken for a different flavour profile.

Rice: Basmati or jasmine rice can substitute Calrose rice for a different texture and fragrance.

Vegetables: Add bell peppers, tomatoes, or carrots for additional flavours and textures.

Preparation Tips for Chicken Maqlooba

  • Broth Preparation: The broth is the backbone of Maqlooba, infusing the rice and chicken with flavour. Simmer the chicken with the spices and aromatics gently to extract maximum flavour. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface for a clearer broth.
  • Spice Balance: The spices are crucial for the authentic taste of Maqlooba. Ensure your spices are fresh for the best flavour. The 7-spice blend is pivotal; it typically contains allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, fenugreek, and ginger, but compositions can vary, so choose one that suits your taste preference.
  • Rice Preparation: Rinse the rice until the water runs clear to remove excess starch, which helps prevent clumping. Soaking the rice before cooking can also help achieve a fluffier texture as it allows the grains to expand.
  • Vegetable Frying: When frying the vegetables, ensure they are golden and slightly crispy. This not only adds texture but also locks in the flavours of the vegetables, enhancing the overall taste of the dish.
  • Layering Technique: The beauty of Maqlooba lies in its layers. Start with a layer of rice at the bottom of the pot, followed by your fried vegetables and chicken. Repeat the layers, ending with rice on top. Press down gently after each layer to ensure the dish holds together when flipped.
  • Cooking Process: After adding the broth to the layered pot, cook on a low simmer. This gentle cooking process allows the flavors to meld together and the rice to cook perfectly without becoming mushy.
  • The Flip: The most dramatic part of the cooking process is flipping the maqlooba. Place a large plate over the pot, hold it tightly, and confidently flip the pot upside down. Let it sit for a few minutes before lifting the pot to allow the Maqlooba to settle and hold its shape.
  • Checking for Doneness: To check if the Maqlooba is cooked through, insert a knife or skewer into the centre. If it comes out hot to the touch, the dish is ready.
  • Resting Time: Allow the Maqlooba to rest for about 10-15 minutes after cooking. This resting period helps the layers to set, making it easier to maintain the dish’s structure when serving.

Serving Tips for Chicken Maqlooba

  • Presentation: When inverting the pot, do so confidently and quickly to maintain the dish’s structure. Let it sit for a few minutes before removing the pot to allow everything to settle.
  • Accompaniments: Serve with yoghurt, a tangy salad, or a garlic sauce to balance the rich flavours of the maqlooba

Storage Tips

Refrigeration: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Reheating: Gently reheat in the microwave or on the stove, adding a little water or broth to prevent the rice from drying.

Freezing: While you can freeze maqlooba, the texture of the vegetables might change upon thawing, so it’s best to enjoy them fresh.

Chicken Maqloooba

Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


Chicken Broth

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8-10 pieces
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp 7-spice powder
  • 1 tsp white pepper powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a handful fresh coriander
  • 6 cups water

Rice Dish

  • 4 cups (800g) calrose rice
  • 2 small potatoes, cut into ½ inch thick slices
  • salt, to taste
  • frying oil


  • cup toasted almonds
  • cup toasted cashew
  • parsley, roughly chopped


  • Broth Preparation: In a large pot, combine 6 cups of water and the chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, skimming off any foam. Add the onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cinnamon powder, turmeric, 7-spice powder, white and black pepper powder, salt, and coriander. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes. Strain, retaining the chicken pieces and discarding the vegetables.
  • Rice Preparation: Rinse the Calrose rice in cold water until clear. Soak in cold water for 30 minutes, then drain.
  • Vegetable Frying: Heat vegetable oil in a shallow pot over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant slices until golden-brown, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with cauliflower and potatoes.
  • Assembling Maqlooba: In a large non-stick pot, layer a third of the rice at the bottom. Add half the fried eggplant, cauliflower, and potato slices, and then half the cooked chicken. Repeat the layers, ending with rice on top. Pour the chicken broth over the layers until 2 cm above the rice level, adding more water if necessary, and sprinkle 4 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
  • Serving: Let the pot cool for 5 minutes. Place a large plate over the pot and carefully flip it upside down. Allow settling for a few minutes before removing the pot. Garnish the Maqlooba with toasted almonds and fresh parsley before serving.

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