Jordanian Ouzi (Chicken)

One of the most iconic festive dishes throughout the Middle East is Ouzi. Every country (and even every family) prepares in a slightly different way, but what all variations have in common is that they are packed with flavors!

Jordanian Ouzi is one of the most popular variations of this dish. It’s made with fragrant rice, loaded with a mix of ground meat and veggies and topped with chicken (drumsticks). A generous amount of toasted nuts add crunch to every bite.

Today I’m sharing with you my recipe for Jordanian Ouzi with chicken.

Jordanian Ouzi

Ouzi Varieties

If you’re a loyal reader of my Middle Eastern food blog, you might have seen my Ouzi rice recipe. And you’ve probably heard about Ouzi pockets (rice pockets) as well.

All of them are referred to as “Ouzi”, but there are some differences to be aware of. The most popular Ouzi varieties at a glance:

  • Jordanian Ouzi: Jordanian-style Ouzi typically consists of flavored rice topped with a mixture of ground meat and veggies (in layers or mixed), and chicken drumsticks as a final layer. It’s garnished with toasted nuts (typically slivered almonds). This dish is often served on special occasions, during Ramadan and Eid.
  • Ouzi with lamb: A second version of Ouzi that is a classic on special occasions is lamb ouzi. It’s much more tedious to make when compared to Jordanian Ouzi (chicken). It typically consists of bone-in lamb which is cooked in broth for a couple of hours. It doesn’t have ground meat, but instead, the vegetables are mixed with the rice.
  • Ouzi rice: Ouzi rice is a “cheat version” of traditional Ouzi. It’s very similar to Jordanian Ouzi, but less festive and therefore perfect for regular days (or even busy workdays). Ouzi rice has only rice and a mixture of ground beef and veggies (no drumsticks on top). There are some slight differences in the preparation of Ouzi rice and Jordanian Ouzi, but the dishes look and taste very similar.
  • Syrian Ouzi: Syrian Ouzi is a type of “advanced version” of ouzi rice. It consists of ouzi rice (rice mixed with ground meat, veggies and nuts), stuffed in phyllo dough shells.

Ingredients for Jordanian Ouzi

Below is a list of ingredients for Jordanian Ouzi. Don’t be overwhelmed by the rather long list of ingredients. Ouzi is a festive dish packed with flavors but it’s much easier to make than what you might think, promised!

  • Rice: Basmati rice (or a similar type of white long grain rice) works best for this recipe. You could also use Jasmine or Pandan rice.
  • Chicken drumsticks: Many people use chicken drumsticks for Ouzi, which is what I recommend, too. If you’re hosting a large amount of people, you could even use a whole chicken or chicken legs, but these require much more time when compared to drumsticks.
  • Broth: The drumsticks will be cooked in a mix of water and spices first, which will later become the broth to cook your rice. To make the broth, you’ll need water, butter or ghee, bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, Middle Eastern Seven Spice powder (make your own using my Seven Spice recipe or use a store-bought one), salt and pepper.
  • Chicken marinade: After cooking the chicken, it will be roasted in the oven in a second step. It will be wrapped in a simple marinade, for which you’ll need tomato paste, lemon juice, vegetable oil (e.g. sunflower oil), Middle Eastern Seven Spice powder, salt and pepper.
  • Ground meat mixture: The rice will be topped with a mixture of ground meat and veggies. You’ll need ground lamb (or beef), frozen green peas, carrots, onion, garlic, butter, Seven Spice, salt, pepper as well as a pinch of ground cardamom, ground cinnamon and nutmeg (powdered or grated).
  • Nuts to garnish: For garnish, toasted slivered almonds are a popular choice. If you don’t have them available, you could substitute with whole almonds (blanched) or pine nuts.

Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.

Jordanian Ouzi recipe

How to Make Chicken Ouzi (Step-by-Step)

Ready to get cooking? Let’s get started! You’ll find the detailed step-by-step instructions below. For a shorter version (to print out), simply scroll down to the recipe card.

Step 1: Prepare the broth for the chicken

Heat butter or ghee in a non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the whole spices in butter/ghee for 30 seconds to release their flavors. Add the chicken drumsticks to the pot. Mix well to combine with the butter/ghee and whole spices. Add the powdered spices to the saucepan: salt, pepper and Seven Spice. Mix well to combine and fry for 1-2 minutes before you add any water.

Add hot water from the kettle or tap to the saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat. Boil on high for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the stove to medium, add the lid to your saucepan, and cook for about 25-30 minutes.

Step 2: Prepare chicken marinade

Meanwhile, prepare the marinade for the chicken. The drumsticks will be briefly roasted in the oven after boiling them in water to create a crispy shell. Boiling them beforehand will make them more tender and also creates a delicious broth that will be used to cook the rice later on. For the marinade, combine tomato paste, lemon juice (bottled or frequently squeezed), vegetable oil, Seven Spice powder, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.

Step 3: Marinade the cooked chicken

Remove the boiled chicken drumsticks from the saucepan and transfer them into the mixing bowl with the chicken marinade. Mix to ensure that the drumsticks are evenly coated in the marinade.

Step 4: Bake chicken in the oven

Place the marinated chicken drumsticks on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Roast them in the oven (ideally preheated for 5-10 minutes) for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown and slightly crispy (200°C or 375 F).

Step 5: Set aside chicken broth

Get a large bowl ready and place a fine mesh colander on top. Pour the broth from the saucepan (in which you cooked the chicken) into the large bowl. Discard the whole spices in the colander. Save the water (this will be your broth to cook the rice).

Step 6: Wash the rice & add to saucepan

Wash the rice three times until the water runs clear (this is to remove the starch residues).

Add the washed rice to the saucepan. For each cup of rice, add 1.5 cups broth from the bowl. If you follow the default amounts (6 servings), this will be 3 cups of rice and 4.5 cups of broth. There might be some broth remaining which you can keep in the fridge or freezer and repurpose for another recipe.

Step 7: Cook the rice

Bring to a boil on high heat and boil for 1-2 minutes. Once the water level has reduced a bit, reduce the heat to low, add the lid to your saucepan, and simmer for about 12 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Once the rice is done, turn off the stove but let the rice sit in the saucepan (with the lid closed) for at least 5 minutes or until the remaining components are done.

Step 8: Prepare the vegetables for the ground meat mixture

Prepare your vegetables for the ground meat mixture (you can do this already while the drumsticks are boiling in water): Dice the carrots into very small cubes. Finely dice an onion. Crush the garlic.

Step 9: Prepare ground meat and veggie mixture

Heat butter in a skillet (frying pan) over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add crushed garlic and fry for 30 seconds to release its flavors. Add the diced onions and fry for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden. Add the minced meat, along with the seasonings (for the meat mixture): Seven Spice, salt, pepper, ground cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mix well and fry it for 2-3 minutes until the meat is browned on the outside, but not yet fully cooked. Break up with the spatula while frying.

Add the diced carrots and frozen green peas to the meat in the skillet. Cook for about another 5-6 minutes until the meat is fully cooked and the vegetables are tender.

Step 10: Combine rice and ground meat

Transfer the cooked meat mixture to the saucepan with the rice and mix well to combine (you can set aside a bit of the ground meat mixture for garnish).

Step 11: Assemble

Transfer the rice-meat mixture from the saucepan to a large platter. Spread the remaining ground meat mixture on top (which you set aside for garnish). Remove the chicken drumsticks from the oven and place them on top of the rice-meat mixture.

Step 12: Toast almonds

Optionally, briefly toast some almonds (slivered) and/or pine nuts in a pan for 1-2 minutes until slightly golden. Add them onto the dish for garnish.

Jordanian Ouzi

How to Serve

Jordanian Ouzi is an absolute crowd pleaser. It’s commonly made for special occasions such as during Ramadan or Eid, but also on gatherings with friends and family. It’s traditionally served on a large platter or tray where the layers and garnish really stand out. Serving in a saucepan is not common with Ouzi (as it’s not a one-pot dish).

As a side dish, I recommend a simple chopped salad or a simple green salad. Fattoush (green salad with roasted bread) also pairs well with Ouzi.

Middle Eastern yogurt sauce, plain yogurt or spreads like Hummus or Mutabal make wonderful sides when serving Jordanian Ouzi on special occasions.

Make Ahead & Storage

Ouzi takes some time to prepare and to cook and you definitely don’t want to throw it together last-minute, especially when hosting. You can perfectly prepare it ahead of time to some extent. When making the dish ahead of time, pre-cook the chicken and set-aside the broth. Also prepare the ground meat veggie mixture ahead of time. Both can be perfectly stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before serving. On the day of serving, cook your rice in broth, prepare the marinade (takes 1 minute), roast the chicken in the oven and assemble.

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consumed within 2-3 days (if you prepared all the ingredients that day!). Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.

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Jordanian Ouzi

Jordanian Ouzi (Chicken)

Kitty Ramasamy
Jordanian Ouzi with chicken is a traditional Middle Eastern dish that is often served on special occasions and gatherings, mostly in Jordan and the Levant.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern, Jordanian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 881 kcal

Ingredients
 

Rice

  • 600 g (3 cups) Basmati rice

Chicken & Broth

  • 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 1.5 liter (6 cups) water also used to cook the rice, see notes
  • 2 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 6-8 cardamom pods
  • 1 stick cinnamon small
  • 1 tsp Seven Spice Baharat, see notes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Chicken Marinade

  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ Tbsp sunflower oil or canola or olive oil
  • 1 tsp Seven Spice Baharat, see notes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Ground Meat & Vegetables

  • 300 g ( lb) ground lamb or ground beef 20% fat
  • 200 g (1 ⅓ cup) frozen green peas
  • 1 carrot medium
  • 1 onion yellow, small
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp Seven Spice Baharat, see notes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground nutmeg powdered or grated

Garnish

  • 2 Tbsp slivered almonds

Instructions
 

Chicken & Broth

  • Heat butter or ghee in a non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the whole spices in butter/ghee for 30 seconds to release their flavors.
  • Add the chicken drumsticks to the pot. Mix well to combine with the butter/ghee and whole spices.
  • Add the powdered spices to the saucepan: salt, pepper and Seven Spice. Mix well to combine and fry for 1-2 minutes before you add any water.
  • Add hot water from the kettle or tap to the saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat. Boil on high for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the stove to medium, add the lid to your saucepan, and cook for about 25-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the marinade for the chicken. The drumsticks will be briefly roasted in the oven after boiling them in water to create a crispy shell. Boiling them beforehand will make them more tender and also creates a delicious broth that will be used to cook the rice later on. For the marinade, combine tomato paste, lemon juice (bottled or frequently squeezed), vegetable oil, Seven Spice powder, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.
  • Remove the boiled chicken drumsticks from the saucepan and transfer them into the mixing bowl with the chicken marinade. Mix to ensure that the drumsticks are evenly coated in the marinade.
  • Place the marinated chicken drumsticks on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Roast them in the oven (ideally preheated for 5-10 minutes) for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown and slightly crispy (200°C or 375 F).

Rice

  • Get a large bowl ready and place a fine mesh colander on top. Pour the broth from the saucepan (in which you cooked the chicken) into the large bowl. Discard the whole spices in the colander. Save the water (this will be your broth to cook the rice).
  • Wash the rice three times until the water runs clear (this is to remove the starch residues).
  • Add the washed rice to the saucepan. For each cup of rice, add 1.5 cups broth from the bowl. If you follow the default amounts (6 servings), this will be 3 cups of rice and 4.5 cups of broth. There might be some broth remaining which you can keep in the fridge or freezer and repurpose for another recipe.
  • Bring to a boil on high heat and boil for 1-2 minutes. Once the water level has reduced a bit, reduce the heat to low, add the lid to your saucepan, and simmer for about 12 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.
  • Once the rice is done, turn off the stove but let the rice sit in the saucepan (with the lid closed) for at least 5 minutes or until the remaining components are done.

Ground Meat Mixture

  • Prepare your vegetables for the ground meat mixture (you can do this already while the drumsticks are boiling in water): Dice the carrots into very small cubes. Finely dice an onion. Crush the garlic.
  • Heat butter in a skillet (frying pan) over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add crushed garlic and fry for 30 seconds to release its flavors. Add the diced onions and fry for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden. Add the minced meat, along with the seasonings (for the meat mixture): Seven Spice, salt, pepper, ground cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Mix well and fry it for 2-3 minutes until the meat is browned on the outside, but not yet fully cooked. Break up with the spatula while frying.
  • Add the diced carrots and frozen green peas to the meat in the skillet. Cook for about another 5-6 minutes until the meat is fully cooked and the vegetables are tender.
  • Transfer the cooked meat mixture to the saucepan with the rice and mix well to combine (you can set aside a bit of the ground meat mixture for garnish).

Assemble

  • Transfer the rice-meat mixture from the saucepan to a large platter.
  • Spread the remaining ground meat mixture on top (which you set aside for garnish).
  • Remove the chicken drumsticks from the oven and place them on top of the rice-meat mixture.

Notes

  • Amount of water: The broth remaining after cooking the chicken should be enough. For the default quantities in the recipe card, we’ll be starting with about 1.5 litres or 6 cups of water (to cook the chicken). About 1.1 litres or 4.5 cups are needed for 600 grams or 3 cups of rice. In case broth isn’t enough, add some tap water.
  • Seven Spice (Baharat) is a Middle Eastern spice blend. You can find it in any Middle Eastern grocery store or make your own from a few simple pantry spices using my Seven Spice recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 881kcalCarbohydrates: 92gProtein: 46gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 191mgSodium: 1056mgPotassium: 794mgFiber: 5gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 2247IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 104mgIron: 4mg

Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.

Keyword Ouzi, Jordanian Ouzi
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