I’ve been looking forward to this dish a couple of weeks now. Savory, hot, a hint of sweet, a hint of tart, rich and filling but not heavy: the national dish of Bahrain, Chicken Machboos (Machboos ala Dajaj, Majboos, or Kabsa in Saudi Arabia) is so super delicious you will lose your mind.

There is a lot of variance in Machboos, from spicing to proteins, so I sought to prepare based on things that appeared to be a common ground. I am most closely following Henna Qureshi’s recipe on the Ingredient Matcher Food Blog.


  • About 2 pounds of chicken (more if you’re preparing bone in, less if you’re preparing bone out)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice, soaked
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1-2 green chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 1-2 red chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Baharat spice mix (you can make this or purchase it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • dry lime (or lemon, citric acid powder, etc.)
  • extra cinnamon and cardamom to taste
  • 1 tsp saffron water
  • 2 tsp rose water (OR 3 tsp rose water with 2-3 threads of saffron soaked in if you do not have saffron water – you can DiY rose water with a ratio of about 12 petals per 2 tablespoons of water, boiled for about 4-6 minutes and strained, but be careful not to burn and turn bitter!)
  • 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • water
  • sunflower oil (about 2 tablespoons)
  • zereshk (or dried cranberries, raisins, etc.) for garnish
  • chopped cashews or almonds for garnish

Prep was about 45 minutes (20:00 to 20:45). Your time will vary.


Here’s what you’re going to do:

  • Sear the chicken in a pan, remove from heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the dry lime and set aside.
  • In the same pan, cook the onions with the baharat, garlic, turmeric, and chili powder. Once they are beginning to soften, add the crushed tomato, red chili, and green chili. Cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
Spices added, not yet stirred
Tomato added
  • Add the chicken back to the pan and additional water to just barely cover the chicken (about 1/2 to 1 cup), and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender
Chicken barely visible
  • Add the soaked rice, extra cinnamon and cardamom, and additional water to cover about half an inch (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups). Cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until the rice is done, but not so soft it’s broken.
  • While the rice is cooking, lightly fry the cashews and zereshk (you can add a little brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. to taste to your preference) and set aside
  • Right before the dish is done, stir in the saffron water and the rose water.
  • Dish and serve with the cashews and zereshk sprinkled on top.
  • That’s it! Total time is about two hours (20:00 to 22:00).