Maqluba (Arabic Rice Dish Upside Down)

Maqluba is one of the most popular Middle Eastern rice dishes. In fact, it’s one of the most common dishes that you’ll find on special occasions such as weddings, during Ramadan and on Eid holidays. Maqluba is one of those dishes that everyone loves! So, if you’re looking for a traditional Middle Eastern rice dish to impress your family or guests, Maqlouba is an excellent choice.

In this article, I’m going to show you step-by-step how to prepare Maqluba at home.

Maqluba Welcome2Jordan

What is Maqluba?

Maqluba (pronounced Maqloubeh) is a traditional Middle Eastern rice dish. It’s a layered one-pot dish consisting of layers of vegetables, meat (usually lamb) and rice, cooked in a fragrant broth. The unique feature of this dish is that it’s served “upside down”: the pot is flipped over onto a large serving platter, where it typically retains its round shape.

Maqluba is originally a Palestinian dish. It’s especially famous with Palestinians and Jordanians, but also appreciated in other parts of the Middle East.

Maqluba Ingredients

The concept of Maqluba is always the same. Maqluba consists of different layers of vegetables, meat and rice, cooked in a broth (or water). However, every household makes Maklouba in a different way which makes it so versatile and interesting.

Traditionally, Maqluba is made with meat, either lamb or chicken (usually bone-in meat). In terms of vegetables, a combination of eggplant, cauliflower and potatoes is most common and what most people prefer. However, you could play around with the vegetables (using only 2 of those 3), or add different types of vegetables such as carrots or bell peppers. Some people prefer a vegetarian variation of Maqluba with only vegetables (though that’s much less popular than the traditional recipe containing meat).

Here’s a list of ingredients that my family uses for Maqloubeh.

  • Lamb: Lamb shoulder or leg are most commonly used for Maqluba. Medium size bone-in pieces are a perfect choice. Be sure to use lamb (not beef), as lamb will be much more tender when compared to beef.
  • Meat seasonings / broth: The meat will be initially cooked in a sauce which will later become your broth. For seasoning and cooking the meat, you’ll need: a yellow onion, cardamom pods, bay leaves, cinnamon, Seven Spice (Baharat), salt, ghee or olive oil and water.
  • Vegetables: As for the vegetables, the choice is yours. A combination of eggplant, cauliflower and potatoes is probably what most people prefer. However, using only two of those or adding a different type of vegetable (e.g. carrots, bell peppers) is totally fine too. Traditionally, the vegetables are fried in oil before adding to the pot. Oven-roasting is a lighter alternative. Tomatoes are often used as a first layer (bottom layer) in the pot.
  • Vegetable seasonings: The vegetables will absorb the seasonings of the broth while cooking. To oven roast the veggies, you’ll need some olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Rice: Basmati rice (long grain white rice) is commonly used for Maqluba. As with other one-pot dishes, you’ll add the raw rice to the pot and cook it with the other ingredients.
  • Rice seasonings: After washing the rice, it will be seasoned with a few ground spices. You’ll need Seven Spice (Baharat), salt, turmeric, coriander powder and cumin powder.
  • Garnish: For the final touch, you can garnish your Maqluba with a handful of ingredients. Slivered almonds and/or pine nuts (toasted in ghee or oil) are most common. You can also add some finely chopped parsley.

Note: 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.

How to Make Maqlouba (Step-by-Step)

Ready to make Maqluba? Yallah, let’s get started!

Step 1: Chop an onion

Peel an onion and chop it into quarters.

Step 2: Fry whole spices in oil

Heat ghee or olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the whole spices (cinnamon stick and cardamom pods) to the oil. Fry them for about 30 seconds to release their aromas.Remember to crack open the cardamom pods before to allow them to release their flavors.You can do so by using a mortar and pestle or a fork/spoon.

Step 3: Add meat

After those initial 30 seconds, add the lamb pieces, the quartered onions and all ground spices (spice powders) for the meat to the saucepan (Seven Spice and salt). Stir well to ensure that the meat is evenly coated with oil and spices. Fry on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. The onions should turn soft and the meat brown on the outside. Naturally, the meat will only be browned on the outside but far from being cooked at this stage.

Step 4: Add water and cook

Add water to the saucepan and bring to a boil (still on medium heat). Once it’s lightly boiling, cover the saucepan with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1 hour. One hour is a good time for medium cut meat. If you have large cuts, you should cook it longer.

Step 5: Set aside meat and broth

Once the meat is cooked, remove the lamb from the water (use a pair of tongs or a spatula). Place the meat pieces in a large bowl. Don’t discard the water! The water in which you cooked your lamb will be very fragrant and will make the perfect broth for your Maqluba. You’ll use it later, when cooking all ingredients together in a saucepan. All you have to do is to “filter out” the whole spices, and set aside the liquids. The easiest way to do so is to place a fine-mesh colander onto a large bowl. Drain the liquids in the colander. Discard the whole spices in the colander and set aside the broth for later.

Step 6: Chop the vegetables

To save time, you can prepare the vegetables and the rice (steps 6 to 8) while your meat is cooking. But you can also do something else during that hour and prepare your vegetables after your meat is cooked. Don’t worry about it getting cold – you’ll cook it again with the rice anyway.

Before you chop the vegetables, preheat your oven to 200°C (400F).

Chop off the stems (both sides) of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into slices. Place on a double layer of kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt to remove any excess liquid and bitterness (this step is optional!). Keep the eggplant on the paper while you prepare the potatoes and cauliflower.

Potatoes can be used peeled or unpeeled, the choice is yours. Cut them into thin-medium slices.

Cut cauliflower head into medium size florets. Be sure to cut any large florets into medium-size pieces.

Step 7: Roast vegetables

Transfer the chopped vegetables onto a baking sheet. To save time, you can bake them all at once. Spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake them in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, flipping over halfway through. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. They should be slightly golden and tender. Set aside.

Note that the traditional way is to deep fry the vegetables in oil. Oven-roasting is a lighter alternative which results in the same taste but will require less oil. If you don’t have an oven, you can deep fry them in oil. In that case, be sure to deep fry each type individually. They should get a slightly golden color and be tender, which takes about 5-7 minutes.

Step 8: Wash and season the rice

While the vegetables are roasting, it’s a good time to prepare your rice. First, you should wash the rice to remove any excess starch. This makes your rice lighter and fluffier. To do so, add the rice in a large bowl and add water. Swirl with your hand (the water will turn white). Discard the water. Fill up with fresh water again and repeat the process. Wash the rice three times until the water runs clear.

Add the rice seasonings (Seven Spice, salt, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder) to the washed rice and mix well to ensure the rice is evenly coated with the seasonings.

Step 9: Assemble the pot

Once all the ingredients are ready (meat, veggies, rice), it’s time to assemble your saucepan.

The first part of this step is optional, yet recommended. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a circular shape, about the size of the bottom of your saucepan (can be slightly larger but not smaller). Place the cut parchment paper on the bottom of the saucepan and brush it with a thin layer of olive oil.

For Maqluba, the saucepan is assembled in layers. First the vegetables, followed by the meat, and then the rice. For the first layer, cut the tomatoes into thick slices and place them onto the parchment paper to cover the bottom of the saucepan. Place the roasted vegetables onto the tomatoes. The order in which you place the vegetables is not important. Just make sure that you spread them evenly until the sides and avoid large gaps.

For the second layer, place the cooked lamb pieces onto the vegetables.

The third layer is the rice. Pour the seasoned rice onto the lamb pieces.

Step 10: Add broth and cook

Once you have assembled the layers, transfer the lamb broth to the saucepan (it should cover the top of the rice). For 3 cups of soaked rice, you’ll need about 4.5 cups of broth. Place a small plate onto the top layer (rice) to keep the layers in shape while cooking.

Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the water bubbles, reduce to low heat. Cover with a lid. Simmer for 35-40 minutes until the rice is tender and all the water has been absorbed.

Step 11: Serve by flipping upside down

After your Maqluba is cooked, it’s best to let it sit for 5-10 minutes before you remove the lid. This is mainly to improve the taste and texture of the rice. Besides, Maklouba is also easier to serve when the pot has cooled down a little.

In the meantime, you can prepare your garnish to give your dish the final touch. Heat ghee or olive oil in a small pan (medium heat). Once the oil is heated, add nuts (slivered almonds or pine nuts) to the oil and briefly fry until slightly golden. Finely chop some parsley leaves. Set aside the garnish.

Now comes the highly anticipated part of Maqluba, which is probably the best part of it: serving it upside down. That’s the traditional way to serve Maqluba and what makes this dish truly unique and special. To do so, open the lid of the pot. Place a large serving platter onto the saucepan. Quickly flip around the saucepan (holding the serving platter tightly onto the saucepan). Place the serving plate onto a table. The content of the saucepan will be on the serving platter now. Carefully take off the saucepan. If you’ve done everything right, the Maqluba should maintain its shape (more or less) when serving, so the layers will be seen. It’s perfectly normal and fine to have a thin crust on the bottom of your saucepan! It’s edible.

Garnish your Maqluba with toasted nuts and finely chopped parsley. Serve warm with plain yogurt or a yogurt sauce and a salad of your choice. Enjoy!

Maqluba Maqloubeh recipe

How to Serve Maqluba

Flipping the saucepan upside down is the traditional method for serving Maqluba, which is what gives this dish its distinctive and exceptional character. To achieve this, lift the pot’s lid, position a sizable serving platter on top of the saucepan and swiftly invert the saucepan while securely holding the serving platter in place.

Enjoy it warm, accompanied by either plain yogurt or a yogurt sauce. Most people will serve a simple salad or chopped vegetables alongside.

Make Ahead & Storage

Maqluba can be prepared ahead of time. In fact, it’s quite convenient to do so, especially if you want to save time on the day you plan to serve it.

You can either prepare the entire dish ahead of time and simply reheat and serve it. Alternatively, you can prepare some of the ingredients ahead of time and assemble and cook the dish on the day of serving. The latest is what I often do and that’s also what I’d recommend you to do.

The meat (and broth) is the best thing to prepare ahead of time, as it will shortcut the cooking time on the day of serving. Cook the meat as per the instructions. Store the cooked meat in an airtight container (ideally use the next day). The broth should be stored separately, it keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge.

The vegetables can be oven roasted ahead of time (as per the instructions) and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Be sure to store them in an airtight container.

Washing and seasoning the rice is very easy and fast. It’s not something I’d do much in advance, but you can totally keep the seasoned rice aside for an hour or two before you cook it.

To store leftover Maklouba, be sure to cool to room temperature, then store it in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on your stovetop (add some water or broth to moisten as you reheat it).

Additional Tips for the Best Maqluba

Although the instructions and list of ingredients might seem long and intimidating, believe me, Maqluba is not that difficult to make! Once you understand the idea behind this dish (and once you taste it!), you’ll surely add it to your favorites to serve on special occasions too!

Nevertheless, I’d like to share some additional tips for you to ensure that things go smoothly from your first time making Maqluba. Keep those in mind.

  • Use a non-stick pot. That’s very important here to avoid any mess. Keep in mind that even with a non-stick pot, there will usually be a type of “crust” on the bottom layer. That’s perfectly fine and normal. In the Middle East, many people will actually fight for that part of the dish, as the crust is what many people like most. If you want to keep the bottom layer smooth, you can add a layer of parchment paper to the bottom of your saucepan and a layer of tomatoes on top. That’s what I usually do and that’s what my family prefers.
  • Order of layers: The order in which you layer the ingredients is always the same: Vegetables, meat, rice.
  • The water (broth) is added to the saucepan after assembling the layers. You can optionally place a small plate onto the rice (same as when making grape leaves) to help keep the layers intact while cooking.
  • Simmer: Bring to a boil on high-medium, then reduce the heat to low (simmer). This is very important to ensure that all the layers cook evenly.
  • Flip upside down to serve. That’s the special feature of Maqluba. You can use a large serving platter for this. Read the instructions (step 11) for more details.
  • Let sit for a few minutes after cooking (lid closed).
  • Make ahead: To save time on the day or serving, some ingredients can be prepared ahead of time. For detailed information see the section Make Ahead & Storage.

Any Questions or Feedback?

If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.

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Maqluba Welcome2Jordan

Maqluba (Arabic Rice Dish with Lamb)

Kitty Ramasamy
Maqluba is a popular Middle Eastern rice dish consisting of rice, lamb and vegetable which is often served for special occasions. Maqluba is traditionally served by flipping the pot “upside down” onto a serving platter, which is a unique feature of this dish.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Servings 8 people
Calories 592 kcal

Ingredients
 

Lamb

  • 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) lamb shoulder bone-in, medium cut
  • 1 onion yellow, medium
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Seven Spice Baharat, see notes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 1.5 liters (6 cups) water to boil the meat

Vegetables

  • 2 eggplants medium
  • 1 cauliflower head small
  • 4 potatoes medium
  • 3 tomatoes for the saucepan
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil for roasting the vegetables
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil for brushing the saucepan
  • Pinch salt and pepper for roasting the vegetables

Rice

  • 600 g (3 cups) Basmati rice
  • 3 tsp Seven Spice Baharat, see notes
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder

Garnish

  • 2 Tbsp almonds slivered
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 tsp ghee for frying the nuts
  • Parsley optional

Instructions
 

Prepare the meat

  • Peel an onion and chop into quarters.
  • Heat ghee (or olive oil) in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add the bay leaves, the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods (crack open before!) to the oil. Fry for 30 seconds to release their aromas.
  • Add the lamb pieces, the quartered onion and the ground spices (Seven Spice and salt) to the saucepan. Stir to combine with the oil and whole spices. Fry for 3-4 minutes until the meat is browned on the outside and the onions soft.
  • Add water to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, cover the saucepan with a lid and let simmer for about 1 hour (if using medium cut, longer for larger pieces).
  • Once the lamb is cooked, remove the lamb from the water and set aside. Place a fine-mesh colander onto a large bowl. Drain the liquids in the colander. Remove the whole spices from the colander and discard them. Keep the water in the bowl, it will be used as a broth to cook your dish!

Prepare vegetables and rice

  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the vegetables and rice. Before you start, preheat the oven to 200°C (400F).
  • Chop off the stems (both sides) of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into slices. Place on a double layer of kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt to remove any excess liquid and bitterness. Keep the eggplant on the paper while you prepare the potatoes and cauliflower.
  • Cut the potatoes into thin-medium slices (peeled or unpeeled).
  • Cut the florets off the cauliflower head and cut any large florets into medium-size florets.
  • Transfer all vegetables onto a baking sheet. To save time, you can bake them all at once. Spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake them in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, flipping over halfway through.
  • Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. They should be slightly golden and tender. Set aside.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the rice. Wash the rice three times until the water runs clear.
  • Add the seasonings (Seven Spice, salt, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder) to the rice and combine (see rice section in ingredients lists).

Assemble the pot

  • Place parchment paper on the bottom of the saucepan (cut into a round circle to cover only the bottom of the saucepan, not the sides). Brush with olive oil. This step is optional!
  • Cut the tomatoes into thick slices. Arrange the tomato slices in the saucepan to cover the bottom or the parchment paper.
  • Layer the roasted eggplant slices, potatoes and cauliflower onto the tomatoes.
  • Place the lamb pieces onto the vegetables.
  • Pour the seasoned rice onto the lamb pieces.
  • Transfer the lamb broth to the saucepan (it should cover the top of the rice). For 3 cups of soaked rice, you’ll need about 4.5 cups of broth. Place a plate onto the top layer (rice) to keep the layers in shape while cooking.
  • Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the water bubbles, reduce to low heat. Cover with a lid. Simmer for 35-40 minutes until the rice is tender and all the water has been absorbed.

Serve

  • Let the Maqluba sit in the saucepan (lid on) for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  • Meanwhile, heat ghee (or olive oil) in a pan over medium heat. Add the nuts to the hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes until golden. Finely chop some parsley leaves.
  • To serve, open the lid, place a large platter (ideally with raised edges) and place it onto the saucepan. Flip the saucepan over to empty its contents on the platter. Place the platter on the table. Remove the saucepan carefully.
  • Pour the nuts (with the ghee) over the dish and garnish with finely chopped parsley. Serve warm with plain yogurt or a yogurt sauce and a salad of your choice.

Notes

  • Use a non-stick pot. That’s very important here to avoid any mess. Keep in mind that even with a non-stick pot, there will usually be a type of “crust” on the bottom layer. That’s perfectly fine and normal. In the Middle East, many people will actually fight for that part of the dish, as the crust is what many people like most. If you want to keep the bottom layer smooth, you can add a layer of parchment paper to the bottom of your saucepan and a layer of tomatoes on top. That’s what I usually do and that’s what my family prefers.
  • Baharat (Seven Spice) is a Middle Eastern spice blend. You can buy the ready-made spice blend in any Middle Eastern grocery store, or make your own at home. Here’s the recipe for Baharat.
  • Order of layers: The order in which you layer the ingredients is always the same: Vegetables, meat, rice.
  • The water (broth) is added to the saucepan after assembling the layers. You can optionally place a small plate onto the rice (same as when making grape leaves) to help keep the layers intact while cooking.
  • Simmer: Bring to a boil on high-medium, then reduce the heat to low (simmer). This is very important to ensure that all the layers cook evenly.
    Flip upside down to serve. That’s the special feature of Maqluba. You can use a large serving platter for this. Read the instructions (step 11) for more details.
  • Let sit for a few minutes after cooking (lid closed).
  • Make ahead: To save time on the day or serving, some ingredients can be prepared ahead of time. For detailed information see the section Make Ahead & Storage.

Nutrition

Calories: 592kcalCarbohydrates: 93gProtein: 35gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 222mgPotassium: 1507mgFiber: 10gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 416IUVitamin C: 66mgCalcium: 95mgIron: 5mg

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 Maqluba, Maqloubeh, Upside Down
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