Maqluba ~ The National Dish of Palestine

Every Palestinian family has their own way of preparing Maqluba, which means “upside-down” in Arabic. This main dish has countless variations in ingredients, measurements and technique. The basic method is this: a large cooking pot is layered with meat or chicken, vegetables and rice; it’s cooked on the stove and flipped upside-down onto a large platter and served with yogurt on the side.

I first learned to make Maqluba from my Palestinian mother-in-law, but I have gradually adjusted the dish over the years. At our home, Maqluba is always made with chicken and cauliflower. Others prefer lamb or eggplant. The vegetables are traditionally fried. However, I prefer to brown the cauliflower in the oven. Any chicken pieces can be used, but I have found that thigh and leg pieces cook evenly and serve up nicely. Below is my recipe:

 Maqluba

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 large head of cauliflower, cut in flowerets, washed and dried well

¼ cup + 2 T canola oil

1 large white onion, chopped

Chicken pieces, approx 15 legs & thighs, skin removed and cleaned

3 cups long-grain rice

Salt to taste

Parsley, finely chopped (optional garnish)

Almond slivers, toasted (optional garnish)

Yogurt, served on the side

Method

  1. Begin by browning the cauliflower. Drizzle some of the ¼ cup oil onto a large baking sheet. Toss the cauliflower with the remaining oil to coat evenly. Spread cauliflower on the baking sheet in a single layer.
  2. Bake cauliflower in a pre-heated hot oven, 400 F/200 C (gas mark 6) for 10 -12 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Turn and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Drain on paper towel. Salt lightly.
  3. In a large cooking pot, heat the 2 T oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent. Add chicken pieces and cook over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes, turning once or twice. The chicken pieces will be browned slightly and partially cooked.
  4. Cover chicken with water, approximately 6 cups. Bring to boil. Lower heat and cover. Simmer for 12 minutes (longer if using larger pieces). Skim off any foam from the top.
  5. Meanwhile, soak the rice: place rice in a bowl, cover with boiling water and stir. Let sit for 10 minutes, drain well and set aside.
  6. When chicken is finished, remove pot from heat. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken pieces and set aside. Remove liquid from the pot and reserve 5 cups. (Discard any excess.) Season the liquid with 1½ teaspoons salt or to taste.
  7. Assemble the dish. In the empty pot, layer the bottom with cooked chicken pieces. Next, add a layer of cauliflower. Top with the soaked rice. Smooth the top. Add the 5 cups of salted liquid. To avoid disturbing the layers, place a small saucer on the rice and pour over it. Remove saucer and smooth the top again.

 

8.  Bring to a gentle boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Check for doneness with the end of a wooden spoon nudged to the  bottom of the pot. If any liquid remains, cook for another few minutes until all liquid is absorbed.

9.  Remove pot from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Invert pot onto a large platter, flipping upside down. Remove pot and scoop out any remaining food.

10.  To serve: fluff the rice and arrange the chicken pieces on top. Garnish with chopped parsley and toasted almonds. Maqluba should be served with yogurt or a yogurt-based salad. It may also be served with a simple Arabic salad of cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, lemon juice and salt.

Share your experiences with Maqluba.

  1. Danielle
    May 15th, 2011 at 19:47 | #1

    MMMMM, looks yummy! Thanks for the recipe, Holly!

  2. May 16th, 2011 at 17:47 | #2

    Showed my husband this post and he wants me to make it for dinner. Just a couple of questions:
    1) can I use non stick pans or it has to be steel?
    2) can I use olive oil instead of canola?
    3) can I use pine nuts instead of almonds?

    My mother in law will be here in a week, I might get her to make it instead! LOL.

  3. May 17th, 2011 at 03:01 | #3

    I need to make this… I wish it wasn’t 10pm so I could make it tonight!! Yummmm!!

  4. Holly
    Holly
    May 18th, 2011 at 02:45 | #4

    @Busy Mommy
    Thanks for reading. Yes, to all of those questions! I have seen it made all of those ways. This is a flexible dish. You can even add spices if you prefer a bit more flavor — tumeric, saffron, curry, cumin… Enjoy.

  5. May 27th, 2011 at 08:51 | #5

    Food looks so good- and easy enough to actually try!

  6. Busy Mommy
    August 8th, 2011 at 19:11 | #6

    I made this tonight and it was very nice. I like the simplicity of the flavor, the salad was a must for us. We also had it with pita bread which really pulled it together. Have you cooked it w/ a tortilla at the bottom of the pot so that when the water evaporates you get a crispy tortilla on bottom/top when you flip it over? A family friend always cooks Arabic rice this way and it’s awesome! Think I’ll try that next time. Keep the recipes coming please! In the spirit of Ramadan we are trying at least 3 Arabic recipes a week. :)

  7. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 13th, 2011 at 16:42 | #7

    @Busy Mommy Thanks for the comment. No, I haven’t tried the tortilla on the bottom. However, There are some Arabic rice & meat dishes that require a very thin bread as the bottom layer which soaks up all the juices. Very yummy. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. I have new one coming soon… Take care & Happy Ramadan!

  8. naima leonard
    August 18th, 2011 at 05:09 | #8

    As salamu ‘aleyki
    Shukran for the recipe. I’am just about finished making this and made a few changes as I went along (just because I enjoy playing around with the variety of spices and didn’t have cauliflower at hand). I roasted broccoli instead and rubbed the chicken pieces in the following homemade spice mix: ginger, crushed garlic, roasted garlic, toasted cumin and coriander, paprika, mild chilli (just for taste), lil bit of curry and a mix of italian herbs (no msg) and some salt. It was frying nicely together and gave the entire home a nice warm smell of the various spices. I poured boiling stock over the chicken to keep everything still cooking and to enhance a lil. On the side I made a polish salad of diced tomatoes, cucumber with some sour cream, salt n pepper. I just can’t wait now to taste it.

  9. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    August 18th, 2011 at 05:31 | #9

    @naima leonard Sounds delicious! I like the changes you’ve made. I’ve heard of this dish being made with other veggies: carrots, potatoes or eggplant. I’ve seen it with various spices such as turmeric or curry. Your version sounds extra-flavorful and healthy. Thanks for the comment.

  10. October 13th, 2011 at 01:04 | #10

    I first ate this dish in my Palestinian friend’s house. It was amazing! She cooked it with cauliflowers and chicken as you did.
    Thank you for the recipe and the traditional tips. I will try it this weekend :)

  11. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    October 13th, 2011 at 04:14 | #11

    @Ayse So glad you found the recipe! I hope it works well for you. Thanks for stopping by & leaving a comment. :)

  12. Reba
    December 11th, 2011 at 12:22 | #12

    As salam u Alaikum,
    I’m Palestinian American and this has always been my favorite food. Everyone has their own way of doing Maqluba. Growing up my mother would make it the traditional way which is by frying eggplant, potatoes, and cauliflower. We always do it with chicken most people love it with chicken rather than lamb. My mother in law includes carrots in her maqluba and I started doing the same. I made it the other day and I only had potatoes and it turned out delicious. I love using spices and the main spice that I use in mine is Allspice, I put a lot in it too and also a lot of black pepper (I like my maqluba on the spicy side). I noticed you didn’t add the vermicelli noodles, almost all middle easterners put vermicelli in their rice. We brown it or fry it and make sure it doesn’t get dark, we strain the oil off and then we mix it in the rice and the spices. I don’t think it will matter if you have it or not because it doesn’t really change the flavor just more of a visual look I guess. Thank you Holly for sharing your recipe.

  13. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    December 12th, 2011 at 06:32 | #13

    @Reba Thank you, Reba, for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I love all the variety of maqluba. Have never tried it with vermicelli though. I add it to rice pilaf just the way you describe. Thanks again for reading & giving your thoughts!!

  14. Amanda
    January 24th, 2012 at 13:19 | #14

    I’m going to try this recipe this week hopefully. =) Thanks for posting! I’ve had it at my mother in law’s house but don’t remember which veggies she used… I only have carrots and spinach right now though so I think I’ll replace the cauliflower with carrots and test it on my hubby. =)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      January 25th, 2012 at 20:16 | #15

      Good luck, Amanda. Tell me how it goes!

  15. Amanda
    January 26th, 2012 at 01:26 | #16

    I just made it last night actually, and my hubby loved it yay =D I used carrots, and added ginger, garlic, paprika, and cumin, it turned out yummy. =) Thanks so much for the easy recipe!

  16. Helen
    March 27th, 2012 at 02:48 | #17

    Thank you, Holly. This is a wonderfully easy recipe that works perfectly, even though I tend to cook by eye rather than measuring ingredients. It was just like the maqluba I had in Palestine some 18 years ago and I have added it to my recipe scrapbook and Linked to it on Twitter. There’s lots of scope for tweaking according to what you have in the kitchen, too. Divine!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      March 28th, 2012 at 23:05 | #18

      Helen, I’m sooo happy the recipe worked out for you and it tasted like the real deal. I really appreciate your comment. Happy Cooking! :-)

  17. Janna Zaben
    April 15th, 2012 at 22:40 | #19

    Shukran Reba! My husband is from Palestine and I am cooking Maqluba for his birthday, today. I was looking for a recipe that has all of the ingredients he purchased and yours (Holly) was close, but didn’t include the vermicelli or tomatoes. I had no clue what to do w/ the vermicelli and the label is in Arabic.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      April 16th, 2012 at 18:43 | #20

      Hi Janna, I don’t think I’ve seen maqluba with vermicelli. However, there are many Arabic rice dishes that use vermicelli. For a rice pilaf, you gently pan-fry some vermicelli noodles (say, 1/2 cup). When they are golden brown, cook them with the rice (often with chicken stock & some seasonings). You would need a bit of extra water in the pot for the vermicelli. As for Maqluba, not sure how to add vermicelli to that dish. Really, the vermicelli noodles are an accent item; they are not going to change the dish dramatically whether you add them or not.
      As for the tomatoes, I would make a tomato-cucumber-parsley salad & serve on the side with the maqluba. Also, some plain yogurt goes well.
      I hope this has helped you & my reply is not too late. Happy cooking & all the best to you!

  18. Janna Zaben
    April 15th, 2012 at 22:42 | #21

    Do you fry the potatoes as well?

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      April 16th, 2012 at 18:38 | #22

      Hi Janna, Yes, I would gently pan-fry or roast the potatoes. But don’t overdo them because they will cook again in the pot with the rice. If the potaotes fall apart, don’t dispair. You’ll get it right the next time. I find that Arabic cooking is one big experiment. :-)

  19. Janna Zaben
    April 16th, 2012 at 21:57 | #23

    Thank you so much Holly! It came out perfect and my husband ended up taking over mostly lol. The dish came out perfect! I will definitely be making it more often. I have made Mulukia, Kinaffle, Chicken Shawarma, humus, Basmati rice, and Bakliva. We have a 12w old daughter and I try to embrace as much of the culture b/c I am w/ her all of the time. I watch the Arabic channel (I love the soaps lol). I have Rosetta Stone, but the dialect is not from his region. it’s more of a basic type. I would love to swap recipes! Thanks again for helping me make my husband’s birthday extra special.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      April 20th, 2012 at 14:11 | #24

      Hi Janna, I’m so glad it turnd out! Thank you for sharing this with me. Yes, I agree. Food is a wonderful way to share culture. Learning a foreign language is much more difficult. I hope to do a post eventually about good books for learning Arabic. Thanks again & salaam!

  20. Janna Zaben
    April 16th, 2012 at 22:07 | #25

    Oh and the tomato burned anyway, but we did have the cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley salad w/ lemon juice and salt, that my husband makes. I wanted to make the Grecian sauce: yogurt, garlic and minced cucumber, but I forgot to get the yogurt. The vermicelli is like a garnish. My husband said it’s to make it look pretty

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      April 20th, 2012 at 14:13 | #26

      Oh, the vermicelli is like a garnish… hmmm…. very interesting. So many variations to Arabic cooking! I like to add toasted almonds if I have guests. Thank you for reading & commenting on my blog, Janna. :-)

  21. Holly Abbasi
    September 22nd, 2012 at 01:42 | #27

    This recipe needs some additional flavor. Traditional Palestinian Maklubeh is made with allspice and cinnamon or nutmeg. Serve it up with some Tubulleh :-)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      October 4th, 2012 at 23:47 | #28

      Hi Holly, Sounds delicious! Actually, I love maqluba with curry!! Tastes so good with the yogurt…. alas, my husband’s family & my children prefer “white” maqluba. I think it’s a regional thing–or maybe it’s just my husband’s clan. That’s the thing with Palestinian cooking, even though it’s a small country, what is “traditional” varies from city to city, village to village, family to family…. Have never had maqluba with tabulleh, but why not?! You’ve given me some ideas. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

  22. beverley ballesteros
    October 1st, 2012 at 21:27 | #29

    I think its great that people are prepared to try cuisines from other cultures, its something I love to do and love to cook. Im glad i discovered your blog :)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      October 4th, 2012 at 23:43 | #30

      Hi Beverly, Thanks so much for stopping by & for the comment.

  23. January 21st, 2013 at 02:52 | #31

    Hi Holly — so delighted that while surfing for a good maqluba recipe I stumbled on your site! Thanks so much for this recipe, I can’t wait to try it. :)
    Zoë

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 6th, 2013 at 16:58 | #32

      Hi Zoe,
      Thanks for stopping by & reading!
      I hope the recipe worked out for you.
      All the best, Holly

  24. Tazzy
    January 23rd, 2013 at 15:08 | #33

    Thanks for the recipie it sounds lovely.
    I’m actually doing a skwl project on Arabic cuisine and I’m using yr recipie as the main, hpe u don’t mind!
    U should try out Baba Ganoush _ type of salad

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 6th, 2013 at 16:54 | #34

      HI Tazzy,
      Feel free! I hope it works out for you.
      I LOVE baba ganoush (& mutabal which is another eggplant salad).
      Thanks for the idea & thank you for reading! Holly

  25. Celmah
    January 29th, 2013 at 13:32 | #35

    Hi Holly, I really love your website and thanks for showing us this recipe. I want to try it but should I cut all ingredients into half if it only serves 2 people ?

    Also instead of long grain rice, can I use Indian basmati rice ? I just bought 5 kilo at home.

    Thank you.
    Celmah

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 6th, 2013 at 16:36 | #36

      HI Celmah,
      Sorry for my slow reply!
      Yes, you can halve the recipe & use a smaller pot.
      Basmati rice works perfectly.
      Thanks for reading!
      Holly

  26. Talia
    February 9th, 2013 at 19:51 | #37

    Hi Holly, Both my parents are Palestinian, I was born & raised in Jordan and have grown up with my grandmothers Malube recipe. I enjoy your recipes and your take on this dish. Malube has always been my favorite dish and is now my easy go to weekly staple at my house since its also my sons favorite. We have always made it with Allspice, nutmeg cinnamon with a touch of coriander and use both cauliflower and eggplants- and serve it with plain yoghurt- the traditional way- but I never added toasted almonds for garnish until last night after coming across your recipe and I must admit it made my dad smile saying that it was how his own grandmother presented the dish. Apparently His mom (my grandma) revised her recipe since she didnt tolerate nuts. People here make it with slight variations in flavor and its delicious no matter what : )

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 24th, 2013 at 12:24 | #38

      Talia, Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for sharing your family experiences here. There are so many ways to make this dish. (In my husband’s family they have actual arguments over whether or not to add spices.) Reading your comment makes me hungry for maqluba! Thanks again, Holly

  27. Yani
    April 13th, 2013 at 09:49 | #39

    Ladies I have made this dish 100 times as my husband is Palestinian, this recipe needs more spices. You can add salt pepper onion powder season all Sazon while you are boiling the chicken and add all spice or 5 spice. Also if you fry potatoes and eggplant with it it will make it even more delish. Olive will also give it a great taste :) good luck ladies

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      April 18th, 2013 at 21:09 | #40

      Thanks, Yani! Yes, there are so many variations to this dish. Some people love it with lots of seasonings, whiles others like it more plain. Personally, I prefer it with curry! But husband and children like it “white” so that’s how I prepare it.

  28. brigitte
    October 3rd, 2013 at 12:08 | #41

    A favorite dish in our family..

  29. Jackie Forlani
    October 30th, 2013 at 10:00 | #42

    I just watched the Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown show on Jerusalem where he was treated to a feast of Maqluba. The people cooking the dish used the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardimon but I have no clue as to how much of each spice. Can you give me some idea as your recipe is the only one that has my interest, but we do love spices. Also, when they were making their rice it looked as though they had added chick peas, and the rice seemed to take on a yellow color … do with think it’s saffron?

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      November 6th, 2013 at 20:48 | #43

      HI Jackie,
      Thank you for the comment. I am going to have to track down that episode!
      First of all, there are many many variations to this dish. There are people who make “white maqluba” without spices (like my recipe) and there are others who insist to have spices. Believe it or not, this difference has been known to cause family arguments!
      I would just experiment with adding 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg & 1/4 cardamom. If that is not enough spice, work up.

      When the rice is cooked, it’s cooked with onion, and chicken (or lamb) & vegetables (often cauliflower). This can give a texture to the rice. Bits of cauliflower & bits of onion may look like the chickpeas. I haven’t heard of chickpeas in maqluba, but it wouldn’t surprise me!

      Thanks for reading and stopping by. I will look for that Jerusalem episode. Holly

  30. November 18th, 2013 at 11:30 | #44

    Hi Holly,

    Thank you for this recipe. Let me forward it to my fiancee :)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      November 20th, 2013 at 19:08 | #45

      Hi Jithin, Thank you for stopping by! I hope you try this dish. :-)

  31. Wayne
    December 29th, 2013 at 02:54 | #46

    My son just returned from serving 2 years in the Peace Corps in Jordan and this was his first request. We will be making this tomorrow. Thanks for the recipe and illustrated directions.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      January 4th, 2014 at 19:07 | #47

      HI Wayne, Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. That’s wonderful that your son served in the Peace Corps in Jordan for 2 years. I hope he had a good experience & I hope you enjoyed the recipe. All the best, Holly

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    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
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      HI Mary, Thanks for reading & commenting. All the best to you & happy cooking!

  1. October 4th, 2012 at 23:20 | #1
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