Middle Eastern cuisine is known to have rich and diverse rice recipes, and each of them is delicious and has a unique flavor. It is often served and made during family or friends gathering, and special occasions.
Rice is a popular staple food in the Middle East where you can find it in most Arab countries. They often incorporate ingredients like cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and cloves, which enhances the flavors of these dishes. In addition to that, the rice is combined with different meat such as chicken or lamb and vegetables which makes it a full meal.
In my experience in the Middle East, I have eaten many delicious Arabian rice recipes, which makes it unique due to its rich culture. These include Kabsa from Saudi Arabia, to Koshari from Egypt, and to Mansaf from Jordan.
What Ingredients are used in Rice Recipes?
When we cook Middle Eastern or Arabian rice recipes, we incorporate spices, herbs, and other ingredients to make it a delicious food:
Rice: We use long-grain rice like basmati since it is known for its fluffy and separate grains when cooked.
Meat & Poultry: We commonly add Chicken, beef, lamb, fish, or shrimp as a source of protein.
Spices: Of course, you cannot cook Middle Eastern rice recipes without spices. These include cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice, which help enhance the flavor of the dish.
Vegetables: Common vegetable that we used in our Middle Eastern cooking includes carrots, peas, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes.
Onion and Garlic: These will help enhance the flavor and taste of the rice dish.
Herbs: We often added parsley or coriander for garnishing and adding freshness to the dishes.
Tips and Hints
- Use long-grain rice like basmati or jasmine rice when cooking Middle Eastern or Arabic dishes since they are fluffy.
- Soak the rice for 30 minutes before cooking so it can be cooked in a shorter time.
- To add depth of flavor, add olive oil or canola oil when sautéing before pouring water.
- Adding and mixing caramelize onion with the rice will help add a rich and sweet flavor.
- Use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to enhance the taste of the rice.
- When cooking the rice, do not add too much water or broth since this will cause mushy rice.
Now I provide a brief background of rice dishes in the Middle East, here are the best and most delicious round-up rice recipes which I divided into Levantine cuisines and Gulf Arabic cuisines.
A. Gulf Arabian Rice Recipes
Gulf Arabic cuisines, also known as Khaleeji, are cuisines based in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, U.A.E, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. Here are my favorite Gulf Arabian rice recipes that you can make at home:
1. Chicken Majboos
Chicken Majboos is a traditional Kuwaiti rice dish that contains rich flavor and aromatic spices. The chicken is simmered with different spices like cumin, cardamom, cloves, and other spices, which results in a tender and flavorful meat.
The rice is then cooked using the same broth which is then served together with the chicken. This national dish of Kuwait is best served with Arabic salads and tomato garlic sauce known as daqoos.
2. Beef Kabsa
Beef Kabsa is a traditional Saudi dish in which the beef is cooked with tomato sauce & different aromatic spices, and then combining it with basmati rice cooked in a flavorful broth. It is considered a national dish of Saudi Arabia, that is served during family gatherings and important occasions.
3. Arabic Biryani
Arabic Biryani is a Gulf Arabic chicken spiced rice dish that is mixed with spices and garnished with fried onion. This Indian-inspired recipe is similar to Mandi, except it is made using Arabian spices and herbs, which is best to serve either with yogurt garlic sauce, or tomato daqoos sauce.
4. Fish Machboos
Fish machboos contain similar spices and herbs when cooking chicken majboos. The only exception is that fish is used, which is marinated and then fried to absorb the rich flavor. This recipe is best served with salads and daqoos.
Although this is a traditional Kuwaiti dish, other Gulf Arabian countries like Qatari and Bahraini, have their own versions of machboos recipe.
B. Levantine Arabian Rice Recipes
Levantine cuisines are countries in the middle east located in levant region such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq.
5. Chicken Maqluba
Chicken Maqluba is a chicken spiced rice dish found in Palestine and Jordan that consists of fried cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, and meat. In Arabic, Maqluba (Makloubeh or Maqlooba) means “Upside Down” since we take the pot and flip it upside down directly on the large plate. It is traditionally eaten with Arabic salad and plain yogurt.
Mansaf is a traditional Jordanian dish that consists of lamb cooked in a tangy yogurt sauce called Jameed and served on a bed of yellow turmeric rice and garnished with toasted nuts and fresh parsley. It is considered a national dish of Jordan which is popular among locals and tourists. Also, in some variations, you can either Jameed or plain yogurt.
7. Lebanese Vermicelli Rice
Lebanese Vermicelli Rice is a Middle Eastern rice recipe that is mixed with long-grain rice, olive oil, and vermicelli noodle. This rice dish is traditionally served and eaten with other meat stew dishes like molokhia, bamia, or other tomato stew dishes, and salads like fatoush, tabouleh, or Arabic salad.
Although it is originally from lebanon, this Arabian rice recipe is eaten in other countries like Jordan and Syria.
8. Beef Kofta Kebab
The beef kofta kebab recipe is an Arabic-style minced meat dish that is mixed with Arabian spices, ground meat, and green herbs. It is popular street food in the Middle Eastern which is served with spiced rice or flatbread, and white yogurt garlic sauce.
C. Other Rice Recipes
9. Koshari Rice
Kushari or Koshari rice is an Egyptian rice dish that is mixed with brown lentils, macaroni, & rice, and it is garnished with fried brown onions. It is also served with tomato garlic sauce to add a better flavor to the dish.
10. Chicken Shawarma Rice
Although this is not an authentic Middle Eastern rice dish, it is a variation of shawarma with rice.
This Chicken Shawarma Rice is an Arabic-inspired Filipino recipe that consists of spiced-infused baked chicken, yellow rice, and vegetable salads, which are drizzled with yogurt white sauce, and hot sauce.