Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf): My First Blog Post!

Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf) on yellow background

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I’m not kidding, you need to make this darn rice. Right. Now.

I’ve been planning on and dreaming about this k

abuli pulao for at least two months, and it did NOT disappoint.

Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf) full palte

When I conceived the idea for The Foreign Fork, I was in the middle of a 5 month trip to Europe. Taking 13 hour bus rides across Eastern Europe and living in the cheapest hostels you can find on HostelWorld doesn’t really allow for much money/space/time to be cooking 5 course meals from other countries. But I was still so excited about my idea, so before I went to bed every night, I would plan the menus for my first couple of countries.

The very first thing that I KNEW I was going to be making for The Foreign Fork was this kabuli pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf) dish. The thought of putting raisins in my rice was so out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t wait to try it. Kabuli pulao is a traditional meal in Afghanistan, served very often at weddings and for special occasions. The first meal to kick off cooking every country in the world is pretty darn special, so I thought that this dish would be perfect to celebrate.

The recipe calls for 1 lb., 2 oz of boneless lamb, which I (obviously) couldn’t find in the pre-cut meat section of my local grocery store. A trip to a butcher was in order. I found a Lebanese grocery star not far from my house, so I called and pre-ordered my lamb the day before.

When I walked into this store the next day to pick up my lamb, I felt like I had walked into another world. Middle Eastern cookies lined the walls, racks of spices stood the length of the whole store, and the butcher counter displayed all kinds of meats I’ve never even thought about buying before. I spent WAY too long in that store exploring all of the foreign products, and I can’t wait to go back and explore it more as I continue cooking!

Lamb and onions cooking in skillet

So when I say that kabuli pulao is a time commitment, I’m not kidding. It took me about 5 hours to make from start to finish.

But when I say that kabuli pulao is worth the time commitment, I’m not kidding either. If you’re having a bad week and just want a way to relax and de-stress, carve a few hours out of your Saturday to keep this rice simmering on the stove. By the end, your house will smell incredible, and you’ll have a great bowl of warm, yummy comfort food waiting for you.

The one thing that I think I would change about this dish is maybe adding a little more lamb. The way that the lamb is slow simmered in the liquid for an hour makes it SO tender and flavorful, and I wished I had more pieces of it in the rice to enjoy.

Try it out! If you like the recipe, I’d love to hear it! If there’s something you’d do differently, I’d love to hear that too! Happy cooking!

Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf)

Kabuli Pulao, or Spiced Lamb Pilaf, is a common dish in Afghanistan. It is often made to celebrate big occasions such as weddings. 

Course Main Course
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 1/2 cup ghee or vegetable oil (or 2 oz)
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 lb 2 oz boneless lamb, cut into 2 cm cubes (or 500 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, not roasted or salted (or 40 grams or 1 1/2 oz)
  • 1 1/2 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup seedless raisins (4 oz or 125 g)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups basmati rice (or 14 oz or 400g)


  1. Heat 2 tbps ghee or olive oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan. 

  2. Add the onion and fry over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until translucent and golden brown. Remove and set aside. 

  3. Add the lamb to the pan with the remaining ghee and fry over high heat until browned, stirring often. Sprinkle with spices and 1 tsp of salt. 

  4. Stir over heat for 1 minute, add 1 1/2 cups water, then return onion to the pan. Cover and simmer for one hour. 

  5. While the meat is cooking, add 1/4 cup ghee to a frying pan and lightly brown/toast sliced almonds. Remove from pan, leaving ghee behind. 

  6. Add carrots to the frying pan and fry over medium heat until lightly colored, stirring often. 

  7. Add raisins and continue to fry, stirring until raisins become plump. Sprinkle carrot and raisin mixture with sugar and set aside. 

  8. Wash and strain rice. Bring 6 cups (1.5 litres, 51 oz) of water to a boil with 1 tbsp salt. Add rice, return to a boil, and boil for 6 minutes. Strain. 

  9. Remove the cooked lamb and 1/2 cup (4 fl oz. or 125 ml) of liquid. Stir the rice and the remaining 1 tsp salt into the juices still remaining in the pan. 

  10. Make 3 or 4 holes in the rice with the end of a wooden spoon. Place lamb mixture over half of rice and carrots/raisin mixture over the other half of rice. Pour reserved meat juices over the top. 

  11. Place two paper towels over pan and cover tightly with a lid. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes more. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. 

  12. Pile the lamb into the center of a platter and top with carrots and raisin mixture. Fluff up rice grains with a fork and mound the rice around the meat in the middle. Sprinkle with reserved almonds and serve. 

Recipe Notes

Recipe taken from The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos

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2 thoughts on “Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf): My First Blog Post!

  1. Yes. It’s delicious. I make the Buharian version. This is almost identical to Uzbekistan’s plov. The Uzbek dish has no raisins nor cinnamon. And it cooks much faster. I think mine is cooks in about 2 hours. And the meat, onions, and spices go on the bottom, then carrots, and then rice on top. After 20 minutes, the rice is flipped over, spoon full by spoonful, and you check the water level with the wooden spoon. The longest labor is cutting matchstick carrots by hand. However, real Uzbeks use a mandolin slicer these days and large Asian carrots. Instead of paper towels, they use a tea towel to trap in moisture, but you have to wrap it upwards or it would catch fire.

    1. Oh this sounds interesting! I would definitely like if this one cooked a little bit faster too; The hardest part about making this recipe is just waiting for it to be done already! Haha. I’m lucky because in my grocery store they sell matchstick carrots pre-cut… But a mandolin slicer is a great work-around as well.

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