Recipe: Kabeli Palau (Basmati Rice with Chicken & Carrots)

Kabeli Palau

Serves 6-8

Kabeli Palau is a much loved party dish in Afghanistan. The highly seasoned rice dish is finished in the oven, giving the cook 45 minutes to prepare for the arrival of their guests (simply prepare garnish ahead of time). The intense flavor of garaham masala is balanced by sweet bursts of carrot and golden raisins.

Note: You may purchase 6 cups chicken broth and use leftover chicken pieces. This will save you several steps (and at least an hour) if you are in a hurry.


1 lb basmati rice, rinsed
1/4 cup ghee or butter
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 chicken, bone in or 3 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 cups water
1 Tbsp garaham masala
1/4 tsp saffron


2 carrots, cut into matchsticks or shredded
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds
pinch saffron
1/2 cup hot water


1. In a large pot, bring 6 cups water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, rinse rice until water runs clear. Add rice to boiling water, reduce heat to low and simmer for 6 minutes. Drain rice and discard cooking water.

3. Add six cups water to a large pot. Add chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes or until chicken is falling off the bone.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook onions in ghee until deep golden brown in color. This could take 30 minutes. Stir often. Be careful not to let pan dry out and burn the onions.

4. In a food processor, combine onion, tomato paste, and a 1/2 cup chicken broth. This will cook more on the stove and in the oven, so you can take the broth at any point from the simmering pot of chicken.

5. In a very large casserole (I used my new, oven safe wok), combine rice and onion mixture. Add salt, garlic, garaham masala, and saffron.

6. Defat chicken broth and strain into to rice mixture.

7. Preheat oven to 350F. Pick through chicken and add the pieces to the rice mixture. Stir to combine.

8. Cook uncovered in the oven until rice is tender (taste test please), about 45 minutes, adding up to a cup of water towards the end if it looks too dry. Some drying around the edges is normal.

9. Meanwhile, saute carrots in ghee until golden brown and soft. Add raisins, almonds, saffron, and water. Cook until water is reduced and raisins have plumped.

10. Add carrot garnish to the top of the rice mixture when done cooking. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Afghanistan, Enchantment of the World, by Terri Willis
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  1. nice choice on the Whole foods Chicken…i am so partial to Whole Foods..yay!

  2. Looks awesome! I want one for those pans!!!!! Amazing pictures!!!

  3. I like the sound of the recipe… simple with so much colour and flavour! I have a wok that looks like this…YAY!!

  4. Could you give us a print version to take to the kitchen? I am going to cook this sunday evening right here in Maple Ridge, Tulsa OK. My son in San Francisco told me about your blog. I went to Afghanistan many years ago and loved the food!

    • Hi there neighbor :)

      I’m so pleased you decided to try the recipe. I emailed you the printer version. Right now I am not equipped to do print versions on the web site. Thanks for your understanding :)

  5. Brian S. says:

    I’ve been waiting and hoping to make this since I first saw it and today was the day! Oh it was wonderful! All the ingredients combined to produce the delightful and exotic perfume of Afghanistan.

    Cathe made it, we bought the broth and used about 3 cups, which worked perfectly.

  6. I have gone back to the beginning to read about your adventure. Mine also started with Afghanistan and the dish I selected was similar and spelled differently (Qaubili Pilau) and instead of chicken, it called for lamb. It had the same garnish of almonds, carrot sticks and raisins sauteed with oil and sugar. Although the first of my adventure, it could be my favorite dish so far.

  7. where do you find all the ingredients (I mean in general, not for this one recipe in particular)? Or do you substitute? I would like to try this recipe but I can’t find garaham masala. Are there any substitutes for it?

    • Laura, I just started reading this wonderful blog and don’t see any answer to your question. So here is one! I found this recipe for garam masala at

      There are many other versions. I have read that in India, every cook has their own version and they pass down the recipe through the family!


      1 tablespoon ground cumin
      1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
      1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
      1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
      1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
      1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

      Mix cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a bowl. Place mix in an airtight container, and store in a cool, dry place.

  8. I like your personal challenge! It sounds fun!

  9. OK, I’m in. A friend just sent me this web site, and as I type this, the Kabeli Palau is in the oven. Smells awesome. Thanks for doing this. I hope to try one recipe each week.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Steve, you’re awesome! I hope you enjoyed the chicken and congrats on beginning the Adventure. I hereby dub you a Knight of the Global Table :)

      • Thanks Sasha! I made the Kabeli Palau, and my family LOVED it! I like to cook new recipes and always ask the kids to have some patience when trying them. I can happily report that not only did they really enjoy this dish, but they declared is a “keeper” which means that it is officially in my recipe book and will hit our table again. It was a pretty big batch, and I thought I’d have leftovers the next night… only to find my teenage son had gobbled it up! Thanks for the great recipe and for the challenge… on to Albania! I’ll post my knight’s badge on my FB page!

        • Sasha Martin says:

          Hey! That’s fantastic Steve… I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it… happy Adventures and keep in touch as you progress along… good luck!

  10. Holy magillucutty (sp?) – that was INSANELY good. My 5 YO loved being able to eat with his bread instead of utensils. Hubby thought he had died and gone to heaven (and kept saying again and again, this takes like we’re out at a restaurant). Only nay-sayer was my 2YO, but he still ate the bread. :) We also loved learning about Afghanistan as a family – although my son was a tad disappointed that there were no volcanoes there, just earthquakes. ;)


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