Kabul-Style Lamb and Rice Pilaf

  • Serves

    serves 6-8

Qabili pilau is widely considered to be the national dish of Afghanistan. Soaking the basmati rice in water for 20 minutes before cooking helps to keep the grains from clumping together in the finished dish.


  • 2 12 cups basmati rice
  • 4 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 lb. boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄2" pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 12 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 12 tsp. ground black cardamom seeds (optional)
  • 12 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. rose water (optional)


Step 1

Put rice into a large bowl and cover with water; let soak for 20 minutes. Drain rice and reserve. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and brown, turning occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a plate; set aside. Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring, until browned, 12-15 minutes. Return lamb to pot with 2 cups water; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until meat is tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a plate; set aside. Reserve cooking liquid in pot.

Step 2

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, season with salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer carrots to a plate; set aside. Add raisins; cook until plump, 2-3 minutes. Set raisins aside.

Step 3

Combine coriander, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, cardamom (if using), and cloves in a bowl. Add rice to reserved pot; stir in half the spices and 3 cups water; season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, without stirring, until liquid is just absorbed, 8-10 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle remaining spices over rice. Scatter lamb, carrots, and raisins over rice. Cover; continue to cook until rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir rice, lamb, carrots, and raisins together and season with salt and pepper; transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with rose water (if using).

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