Recipes > Middle Eastern Chicken Pilaf

Middle Eastern Chicken Pilaf


Chicken, rice and exotic spices, such as Aleppo pepper, star anise and turmeric come together perfectly in this easy, inexpensive and highly-flavorful one-pot meal.
  • Serves: 3 to 4
  • Active Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Views: 57,705
  • Success Rating: 84% (?)
    0% - I fed it to the dog


Step 1: Browning the Chicken

Browning the Chicken
  • 6 chicken drumsticks (or thighs)
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp ras el hanout* (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


If desired, rub the chicken with the ras el hanout and let marinate for an hour or two (or even overnight) in the refrigerator.

To cook the chicken, first preheat the oven to 350°F (175° C).

Next, heat a large, oven-proof pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil, followed by the chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides. Cook it until it is almost done and then transfer it to a plate.

Step 2: Cooking the Onions & Rice

Cooking the Onions & Rice
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice


Finely dice the onions and then add them to the pot. Once the onions are translucent and have browned, add the rice. Sauté the rice for a few minutes until it is translucent around the edges.

Step 3: Adding the Spices

Adding the Spices
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 pieces dried orange peel (optional)


Once the rice is translucent around the edges, add the spices and sauté for a few minutes to bring out their aroma.

Step 4: Adding Additional Ingredients

Adding Additional Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


Next, add the raisins, bay leaf and salt. Stir gently to combine.

Step 5: Cooking the Dish

Cooking the Dish
  • 2 1/4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)


Add the stock and stir to combine. Place the drumsticks back into the pot, making sure that they are pushed down into the liquid and rice. Bring the dish to a simmer. Then turn off the heat, cover and place into the oven. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or according to the instructions for the rice.

Step 6: Toasting the Nuts (Optional)

Toasting the Nuts (Optional)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds


While the pilaf is cooking, toast the nuts until golden brown. Once done, set aside to cool.

Step 7: Checking the Rice

Checking the Rice


Check the rice to see that all of the water has been absorbed and that the rice is cooked through and tender.

Step 8: Resting the Rice

Resting the Rice


Once the rice is done, let the dish rest for at least 10 to 20 minutes.

Step 9: Preparing the Garnish

Preparing the Garnish
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


To serve the dish, fluff the rice and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and toasted nuts, if using. Taste for seasoning.

Chef's Notes

*Recipe for Ras el Hanout. If you don’t want to make your own, you can either buy it or omit this part altogether. Here is some information on Aleppo Pepper.

**The amount of stock needed will depend on the type of rice used, so check the packaging for the appropriate ratio of liquid to rice.


  • Marcelo B
    Marcelo B
    Made this last night with chicken thighs. The flavors were really nice and not overpowering at all. I substituted a pinch of cayenne for the Aleppo pepper because I ran out. I also didn't toast the nuts but they still gave the dish a nice contrast in texture. Everyone enjoyed it. Thanks again.
  • Romeo G
    Romeo G
    Congratulations Dawn,,this was just like you described it exotic, inexpensive and highly-flavorful,,,Middle Eastern real,,,,,
  • Rebecca B
    Rebecca B
    For health reasons, I'm trying to stay away from white rice as much as possible. I find, though, that the brown rice needs more time, and perhaps even more spice mix, to make it palatable. What I did: I used brown basmati rice. For the sake of time, I cooked the onions, rice (1 1/2 cups stock) and spices about 1/2 way (12 minutes high pressure in a pressure cooker and 10 minutes natural pressure release.) I increased the spices to 1 1/2 tsp aleppo pepper, and doubled the coriander portion of the spice mix. Once this was cooked, I combined ingredients (including a couple of drops of rose water) into a casserole. I topped the rice with a layer of unbleached wax paper (to seal in the steam), I added a layer of tin foil to the top for additional steam control. I placed this in the oven for 35 minutes to steam open the grains. I then let the rice rest for about 10 minutes uncovered, added the nuts and chopped cilantro while fluffing up, and then served. It was quite good, but was wondering if there are easier ways to steam the brown rice grains open in an oven casserole. (I learned the wax paper/foil technique from an Indian cook who makes Biryani in this manner.
  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    You may want to check out the lessons in the Rice & Grains section. We go into quite a bit of detail about steaming methods and the pilaf method for cooking rice. Cheers!
  • Dana K
    Dana K
    Hi there, I love this recipe! But I do have a question about the amount of ras el hanout added to the chicken. The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp but that seems like a really small amount for the amount of chicken. I always end up adding more.
  • Kimberley S Rouxbe Staff
    Kimberley S
    Yes, definitely feel free to adjust the seasonings in any recipe. Since the flavors in ras el hanout can vary greatly depending on the spices that were mixed together, 1/2 tsp may be enough in some cases. But good that you made adjustments to suit your tastes - that's what it is all about. Cheers!
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    What I loved most about preparing this dish (along with the Ras el Hanout) was that I actually had all the spices in my pantry! It was delightful to be able to put all these amazing spices into one dish. As Dana did, I simply ignored the 1/2 tsp of Ras el Hanout called for in the recipe and put a Tbsp or two in a zip-loc bag along with the chicken legs and shook it until the chicken was completely dusted with this delicious spice blend! I felt like a mad chemist working in his lab! Great fun -- with a delicious final result.
  • Kendall B
    Kendall B
    This looks like a great one pot meal for a dinner party to do something a little more unique, but if I wanted to get a "green" into the menu somehow, what would you recommend pairing this with? And once finished, how long could the pot sit to rest before serving? Thanks so much!
  • Leigh S
    Leigh S
    Kendall. You are right, this is a deliciously different and delightful dish for a dinner party! Step 8 in the recipe states that you should leave the dish to rest at least 10 to 20 minutes before serving. In a heavy dutch oven, you can safely leave it much longer. My leftovers were equally as delicious the second day ... if not better. You are also right about the need for some additional color. I have a couple of recommendations for you. Almost any Mediterranean dish will pair well with this. Since the pilaf is already a blend of spices, rice, nuts, and raisins, I would keep the accompaniment simple but colorful. Some bold green broccoli florets would also be awesome but since the main dish is so monochromatic you probably need more than just a green. I'm thinking Greek Salad would offer some great contrasts in flavor, texture and color. If I remember right, I think I served this with a Caesar Salad and added a few cherry tomatoes for extra color.
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Thanks Leigh! Always thrilled to have you chime in. I might suggest simple green beans/haricot vert with lemon and herbs or another bright/fresh/lifting profile. I like to mix up simple green beans with fresh fruit, such as thinly sliced (just ripe) apricots or peaches. Sometimes I'll grill or roast the fruit - just depends. ~Ken
  • Yuseph K
    Yuseph K
    Hi, What is the advantage of finishing this dish in the oven as opposed to the oven?
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Ovens offer more even heating, versus heating (mostly) from below only like on a stove top. So, it can be more even or consistent for some. ~Ken
  • Mika L
    Mika L
    I happened to have my own Ras el Hanout blend on hand and honestly didn't compare it to the recipe for it. However, after letting it marinate in it for an hour then cooking it I noticed it had no seasoning (salt). Unfortunately, it was completely cooked so adding it later didn't have the same effect, but it's worth noting that if you go with a pre-made blend, it might not have any or enough salt.
  • Melodie P
    Melodie P
    Hi! Can the cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and coriander seeds be replaces by grounded spices? Thank you!
  • Melodie P
    Melodie P
    Hi! Can the cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and coriander seeds be replaces by grounded spices? Thank you!
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Melodie, Yes, they can! However, cut back a little on the quantity, as the ground spices have more surface area to release flavor than whole spices. Of course, there will be some variability in flavor intensity based on the freshness of your spices, too.
  • Nelson E
    Nelson E
    Im clearly missing something here. Every time I boil rice it comes out softer than it should be as compared to when I just put it in the rice cooker.
  • Sandy S
    Sandy S
    Hi Nelson, There will always be some adjustment between different equipment. Try checking the rice a bit sooner on the stove or adding slightly less liquid. Also, pilaf method is different from straight steaming, so it will have different results. Best of luck! Cheers, Sandy

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