Celebrate the UAE National Day Holiday with the Chicken Machboos

By Nov 26, 2019 Arabic food

It’s not once or twice that we’ve heard our fellow residents of the UAE wondering why the delicious local Emirati foods and treats are not more widely available in this country we live in. Luckily, we do know some great local dining spots that satisfy our Balaleet and Luqaimat cravings. It’s just that those occasions tend to be few and far apart.

Well, we wouldn’t be Hello Chef if we didn’t try to look for a solution from our home kitchens. Besides, there’s no better timing than the UAE National Day holidays to learn how to cook Emirati cuisine, such as one of the most popular dishes: the Chicken Machboos.

Just looking at the ingredients it’s not hard to understand why Chicken Machboos is a staple dish. It combines aromatic saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, sultana raisins and almonds with juicy chicken, aromatic rice and tasty vegetables – among other things. Every local family, of course, has their own version of this wonderful dish.

Whatever the version, the list of ingredients for Chicken Machboos is long-ish, but every item adds to the end result. When all these wonderful things meet in one single pot, something beautiful is created.

Chicken Machboos is often made from whole chickens, and the traditional recipes start with cutting them into parts. Since Hello Chef meals have to come together in more or less 30 minutes, we are using boneless, skinless chicken thighs for our version of the recipe. Just simply cut the thighs to pieces, and let those juicy bits work their wonder!

While you’re at it, chop your onion, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes as well. Break the cardamom pods open, and make a quick chicken stock. If you’ve recently taken a trip to the spice souk, you might have some loomi (dried lime) in your pantry. Don’t hesitate to use it for your Chicken Machboos! Pierce it a few times before adding to the stew.

Even if you’re cooking for only 2 people, you might want to use your biggest soup pot. Rule of thumb: one pot, less washing up, more flavour!

Start by frying the chicken and onion. Once that’s done, basically just add all the rest of the ingredients in the listed order (see the full recipe at the end of this post, or click here for the recipe card). Cover and let stew, stirring occasionally, until cooked to perfection.

In the meanwhile you’ll have plenty of time to slice and cook the fried onion that you’ll be using for topping and garnishing. Many Machboos recipes also suggest adding some hard-boiled, quartered eggs onto the dish. Feel free to go for it!

This dish is the ultimate Arabic comfort dish. We can’t wait for you to try it and love it as much as we do.

See how Olivia cooks Chicken Machboos on our Youtube channel! (video is coming soon) And take a look at the Weekly Menu to see which other delicious Arabic recipes are available for this week’s boxes.

Bil afia! (Arabic for Bon Appetit!)

This Emirati staple is the Chef’s Choice of the Week. Enjoy the National Day!

Chicken Machboos with Fried Onion

Serves 2

Cooking time 40 min


400 g boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 red onion

3 garlic cloves

2 tomatoes

200 g potatoes

4 cardamom pods

350 ml water

1 chicken stock cube

150 g basmati rice (or long Arabic rice)

2 Tbsp olive oil

0.75 tsp salt

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

0.5 tsp black pepper

pinch of saffron

4 Tbsp sultana raisins

1 lime

handful of fresh coriander

3 Tbsp almond flakes


1 large brown onion

1-2 Tbsp ghee


Chop the chicken thighs into chunks. Peel and chop the red onion and garlic. Chop the tomatoes. Peel and chop the potatoes. Split the cardamom pods open with the back of a knife. Boil the measured water and dissolve the chicken stock cube in it. Rinse and drain the rice.

Heat a large pot over a medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Fry the chicken and red onion with a pinch of salt for 4-5 min. Add the garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, rinsed and drained rice, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cumin, turmeric and black pepper. Cook for 2 min.

Add the chicken stock, saffron and the sultana raisins. Bring to a boil and stir once. Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Simmer for 15-20 min, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed, the rice is tender and the potatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, peel the brown onion and slice it into thin rings. Heat a pan over a high heat with the ghee. Once hot, add the onion rings and fry until browned. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until serving.

Halve and juice the limes. Chop the fresh coriander. Add the lime juice, chopped coriander and almond flakes to the Chicken Machboos and give everything a good mix up.

Divide the Chicken Machboos among plates and top with the fried onion.

Per serving:

Cal 897

Prot 53.4

Carb 117.9

Fat 24.8