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Kabsa | Levantine rice with lamb and nuts

When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably also think of a richly decorated table with a huge turkey and all kinds of people around it, right? For us, it wasn’t turkey, it was kabsa! No, this fantastic rice dish with juicy lamb and super spicy rice is not a traditional Thanksgiving meal. But it is a dish that is really celebrated in larger groups. In our house, that is, whenever we have company coming over.

A feast from the Levant

As is usually the case with a real feast, it requires a bit of preparation. But that doesn’t at all mean that the kabsa recipe is difficult. The components in classic kabsa (or kabsahor kabseh) are a base of incredibly flavorful basmati rice topped with really butter-tender lamb and plenty of roasted nuts. To get the rice so full-flavored, it is cooked with the broth that is previously extracted from the lamb. But let’s start from the beginning.

The basis of Kabsa is a really aromatic lamb stock. For this, lamb, I take leg for this, with a whole lot of spices simmered about three hours until it is really butter tender. The lamb is joined by cardamom, garlic, ginger, tomato, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, paprika – heck: just throw your whole arsenal of spices in there! The result is a really incredible lamb stock, which you need for the rice, and tender, juicy lamb for the topping. Those are the two main ingredients. And as you might have guessed, the stove does most of the work for you.

Roasted nuts, yogurt and probably the easiest tomato salsa in the world

Once you’ve made the lamb stock for the kabsa, it’s best to put the lamb in the oven to keep it warm or fire up the oven grill to give the meat a delicious crust. The choice is yours. In the meantime, prepare the rice with the stock. And while the rice is cooking, you take care of the side dishes.

Kabsa is traditionally served with plain yogurt. With its acidity and creaminess, the yogurt offers a good balance to the rather fatty and hearty rice dish. In my family, however, we also liked to serve a freshly mixed tomato salsa. For this, my mother simply pureed tomatoes with onion, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and quite a bit of chili. Season with salt and pepper and you have the easiest salsa in the world. The fruitiness of the tomatoes goes fantastically with the Kabsa and also with the yogurt.

As if that were not enough, a small mezze is served with the kabsa or kabseh. This is often accompanied by baba ghanoush, hummus and pita bread. And that’s what I love so much about Levantine cuisine – you just mix everything together and it always turns out a great plate.

Kabsa is not just a dish that is served on special occasions. It is a dish that makes every occasion special. Enjoy your meal!

Tip: There is also kabsa with chicken. And if you’re going vegetarian, try it with vegetable broth, the spices below, and veggie chicken for the topping.

Kabsa recipe

kabsa - reis mit lamm auf ovelaem teller serviert mit joghurt und tomatensalsa
Print Recipe Rezept speichern
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Servings 4 People
Calories 862.6
Author Rafik Halabi


For the Kabsa

  • 2 Onions
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 10 g Ginger
  • 3 Vine tomatoes
  • 1 Kg Leg of lamb (with bone or alternatively chicken)
  • 1,5 tablespoon  Tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 2 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon Chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
  • 2 Cloves
  • 4 Cardamom pods
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 4 Tablespoon Ghee (or butter)
  • 300 g Basmati rice
  • 30 g Almonds
  • 30 g Cashews
  • 40 g Raisins
  • 15 g Coriander
  • 15 g Mint
  • 15 g Parsley

For the tomato salsa

  • 4 Vine tomatoes
  • 1 Onion
  • 4 Tablespoon  Olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon  Chili flakes
  • Salt, pepper

To serve

  • Yoghurt (10%)


  • Peel and coarsely chop the onion, garlic and ginger.
  • Wash and coarsely dice the tomatoes.
  • Cover lamb shanks completely with water in a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Skim off any foam that arises.
  • Strain the water and set the lamb aside on a plate.
  • In another saucepan, release 3 tablespoons of ghee under high heat and sauté onion and garlic in it for about 3 minutes. Then add ginger, tomato paste and all other spices and roast for about 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and fry for about 3 minutes. 
  • Add lamb and sear briefly on all sides, then deglaze with 2 L water (or until then lamb is covered with water). 
  • Turn stove to medium and simmer lamb for about 2 – 3 hours with lid halfway on until lamb is really tender.
  • Meanwhile, you can prepare the tomato salsa.
  • Wash and quarter the tomatoes.
  • Peel and quarter the onion.
  • Finely puree tomatoes with onion, olive oil and vinegar with a hand blender and season with salt, pepper and chili flakes.
  • Preheat oven to 100 °C top/bottom heat.
  • Remove lamb from broth and keep warm in oven.
  • Pour broth through a sieve and collect. 
  • Wash basmati rice until water drains clear and then drain well.
  • Leave 1 tablespoon of ghee in a saucepan on high heat. 
  • Add rice and fry briefly in it.
  • Deglaze rice with 450 ml of the lamb broth and simmer for about 1 – 2 minutes. You can freeze the remaining broth and use it another time.
  • Turn the heat to the lowest setting and put the lid on completely. Let rice cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for another 5 minutes.
  • Coarsely chop almonds and cashews and roast in a pan without fat until golden brown.
  • Wash and chop the coriander, mint and parsley. Gently fold half of the herbs into the rice with half of the nuts and the raisins.
  • Divide rice among either a large serving dish or individual plates and top with lamb, remaining herbs and nuts. 
  • Serve kabsa with tomato salsa and yogurt.


Recipe contains affiliate links.


Serving: 500g | Calories: 862.6kcal | Carbohydrates: 74.4g | Protein: 51.2g | Fat: 38.5g

Fancy more rice recipes? Then try Sayadieh or Kafta in yogurt sauce with butter rice .

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