Traditional Bahraini Chicken Machboos

A dish that has been cooked by women for centuries in the Middle East. Chicken Machboos may look ‘difficult’ but it really is the perfect mid-week meal for large families. Full of flavour, lightly spiced and chicken that falls off the bone. What more could you want?

Traditional Bahraini Chicken Machboos

Bahrain week has to be one of my favourites, having visited the country about four times. My husband’s family lived there for quite a number of years, and so during the uni summer holidays, we’d go over and visit. This was probably not the best time to go though, given that it’s the hottest time of the year June-August! We did visit once at New Year, which was less heat-intense, making it a lot easier to go around and do things!

Chicken Machboos is claimed to be the Bahrain national dish, although saying that, a lot of other Middle Eastern countries claim it’s theirs too. I’ll never know for sure but what I do know is, that this is one tasty dish! It’s cooked in one pot, meaning less washing up, and is often eaten the traditional way: with your hands. Of course the Arabs are pros with this. I’ve tried and it’s harder that it looks! Picking up tiny rice grains with your fingers is an art in its self! Us Westerners are just not used to it. Will you be eating it with your hands?

If you’re a regular, skip the next bit! If you’re new and are wondering what the hell i’m on about; basically I’m cooking a dish from every country in the world, just to mix things up a bit, and…

Why, you might ask?

I truly feel that each and every country has a culinary delight hiding within it. I don’t have the time and money to travel to every country right now, and even if I did, I’m really impatient!

Each food post will eventually be accompanied with a travel post, once I manage to visit the country! Do let me know if you’re a traveller and want to be involved! If the country of choice is best not travelled to then i’ll accompany it with something a bit different.

If you’re a brand and want to be involved then drop me an email so we can discuss how we can work together.

Traditional Bahraini Chicken Machboos

I have been lucky enough to have been invited into three Arabic homes and all of them cooked this dish. All of them were so delicious, however all varied ever so slightly. I guess it’s the same as an English person making a cottage pie. They would all appear the same but elements of it would be different. Perhaps some would add a spice to the mince and others would top it with sliced tomatoes. It doesn’t matter. That’s what I love about cooking; you can take a traditional dish and put your own twist on it but at the end of the day, the base still remains the same.


Here’s Fabio and I on the King Fahd causeway in Bahrain. You can almost see Saudi Arabia in the distance.

Five Facts About Bahrain

  • The word Bahrain actually means ‘two seas’.
  • The King Fahd Causeway joins Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and is 25km long! A lot of people commute over it for work in the other country.
  • Bahrain is full of wildlife, around 18 species of mammal; 25 recorded species of amphibians and 307 species of flora. Bahrain is just full of life!
  • The grand prix is held there every year which brings in a ton of tourism.
  • Bahrain is an island but not a lot of people know that it’s technically an archipelago!

If you’d like to read more about Bahrain, check out the Telegraph’s article as well as this one from Time Out Bahrain.

Now for the Chicken Machboos recipe!

The Recipe

Traditional Bahraini Chicken Machboos

  • Serves: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

A great introduction into Middle Eastern cookery, and a great dish for large families to cook in one pot.

What you will need

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 chicken thighs/legs
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 curry leaves
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cardamon pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp baharat spice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp mild curry powder
  • 700ml water
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 400g basmati rice


  • 1Rub 1 tsp of ground turmeric into 4 chicken thighs and legs (skin on). Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan. Fry in the pan until brown and set aside. This should take about 5 mins per side.
  • 2Dice half an onion and fry in the same pan as before, until brown. Add 1 tsp ground ginger, the curry leaves, the diced tomato, cinnamon stick, the cardamon pods and cloves. Mix in and then re-add the chicken. Transfer to a deep pan.
  • 3In the deep pan, add 1 crushed chicken stock cube, seasoning to your liking, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp baharat spice, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tbsp mild curry powder. Cover with 700ml cold water. Cover and cook for 30 mins on low.
  • 4Uncover, add the juice of half a lemon, the rice and cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rice has cooked. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally to stop the rice from sticking. You can add a tiny bit more water if needed. Serve on a large plate.


If you’re feeling inspired by this dish from Bahrain, try my Bahrain Fish Ragout – the perfect light mid-week meal.


Chicken Machboos


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