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What Is Kabsa?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kabsa, which is also called al kabsa, is a kind of traditional food that is popular in Saudi Arabia and other nearby areas; it is a rice dish made with different kinds of meat and other ingredients. In terms of its overall makeup, this dish is somewhat similar to other ethnic dishes like the Spanish paella, where rice is simmered with spices and other meat and vegetable elements are added. Kabsa comes in many different varieties, according to various family recipes that have naturally been handed down through the ages.

Many different kinds of meats can be used in a kabsa dish. These range from the elements that are traditional in the majority of world cuisines, such as chicken, beef, and lamb, to others that are more exotic or specific to the region, such as goat or even camel meat. Seafood is another option for kabsa dishes, where fish or shrimp can be used.

The meat that is used in kabsa is also cooked in a variety of different ways. In some of the more modern forms of this dish, the meat is simply cooked in a pressure cooker, which provides for various precise food handling standards, temperatures and cooking times. In more original versions of the dish, the meat may be cooked on a series of flat stones. Some authentic cooks may also cook the meat in a hole in the ground, where covering the hole with various items seals in the heat and provides for a slow cooking that results in a tender meat.

In addition to meat, some vegetables like onions may be used in a kabsa dish. Almonds or other nuts may also be added. Some cooks add raisins or other dried fruit to this dish.

Another major element of the dish is the unique spices that go into it. Many cooks add varieties of sweet spices, from cloves and cinnamon to the flavorful nutmeg. The rare spice called saffron, which is also used in Spanish paella, is sometimes added to kabsa. In addition, peppercorns and other general spices may also add flavor to this dish.

Some versions of this dish rely on simmering all of the ingredients together, often for over an hour. Other flavor ingredients will add complexity to the dish, where lime juice, tomato sauce, or garlic are also traditional elements of the dish. This sort of food is a tasty way for people around the world to enjoy the flavors of the Arabian region.

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Discussion Comments
By andee — On Nov 02, 2011

When my son came back home from serving in the military, he shared some new foods with us, and kabsa was one of them.

I am not sure what type of meat he ate with this dish when he was overseas, but he knows I like chicken, so he made us a chicken kabsa recipe for dinner one night.

Even though the recipe had a long list of ingredients, it didn't take that long to put together. It takes longer to let all of it simmer than it does to actually make it.

It is the spices that really make this dish stand out. This is full of good ingredients and is a very filling dish.

He said many people like to top theirs with raisins, but since I don't like raisins, he used pine nuts instead. These really added a nice crunch.

This is something that was very good, and a recipe that I will keep and use again.

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