Kabuli Palaw, National Dish of Afghanistan

Afghan Pilaf, Qabili Pulao, Kabuli Palaw, blogging Marathon, National Dish

Last Updated on

For my second week of blogging marathon # 37, my theme is National Dish. For the next three days, I will take you to three different countries to taste their national dish. For the first day, we are traveling to Afghanistan for a flavorful, aromatic Kabuli Palaw. Kabuli Palaw or Qabili Pulao or Afghan Pilaf is a one pot meal prepared with rice and lamb, and garnished with fried carrots, dry fruits and nuts. I used meat but a vegetable version can also be prepared with vegetables, which I have not tried.

Afghan Pilaf, Qabili Pulao, Kabuli Palaw, blogging Marathon, National Dish

Preparation of Afghani pulao is similar to Dum Biryani but this pulao has only garam masala & black pepper for seasoning the meat and rice. When I looked at the recipes for this pulao, I was hesitant to try it, fearing it might not be spicy enough for our palate. And moreover, the pulao is garnished with carrots and raisins, which are sweet and we do not like sweet in our main course. I still went ahead with the preparation and was pleasantly surprised how flavorful the rice was! I did not mind the carrot and almond garnish but did not care for the raisins. In fact, did not like all that sweetness from the raisins. We picked out all the raisins from the pulao. I had reddish black Sun-maid raisins and green raisins that I picked up from the Indian store. It was so funny, for couple of minutes I kept on tasting both these varieties of raisins to figure out which variety was sour and less sweet. I must have eaten at least 2 tbsp. of raisins yet could not figure out which was sweeter. I finally gave up and used Sun-maid raisins.

Afghan Pilaf, Qabili Pulao, Kabuli Palaw, blogging Marathon, National Dish

Coming to the recipe, I followed Hatifa’s video and this recipe. Most of the preparation I followed the video and finished it off with second recipe. In the video, rice and meat are cooked separately and are arranged in layers before serving. In the second recipe, rice and meat are cooked separately, both the rice and meat are arranged in layers and cooked together for 15-20 minutes, just like biryani preparation. For serving, meat and rice are separated and arranged in layers and garnished with carrots, raisins and almonds. I followed the second recipe towards the end; for last step of cooking and serving. By the time I finished my cooking, the sun had set and could not take pictures in natural. Took this pictures in my kitchen with a point & shoot camera. I tried another recipe to replace this but it did not turn out good. Hence sticking to this recipe and will replace the pictures in the future, when I prepare this pulao again. Excuse the pictures. The recipe is long but is not as tedious as it appears to be.

Afghan Pilaf, Qabili Pulao, Kabuli Palaw, blogging Marathon, National Dish

Adapted from: Hatifa’s Video and this recipe
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Serves: 3 – 4

The measuring cup used is the cup that comes with the rice cooker.
Garam Masala

  • 50 Black Peppercorns
  • ¾ tsp. Cardamom Seeds
  • 12 Cloves
  • ½” Cinnamon Stick

For Cooking the Meat

  • 825 grams / 1.8 lbs. Goat Meat with bones, cut into small pieces
  • ½ tbsp. Salt (adjust to taste. This is an approximate measure)
  • Garam Masala (powder of above mentioned garam masala ingredients)
  • ¼ cup Oil
  • 1 medium Onion or 1½ cup Sliced Onion
  • 2 tbsp. Garlic Crushed
  • 2 tsp. Coriander Powder
  • ½ tsp. Turmeric Powder
  • 1 medium to large Vine tomato or 1 – 1¼ cup diced Tomato
  • 1/3 – ½ cup Water

For Garnish

    • ½ cup Oil
    • 2 cups shredded Carrots (I used store bought shredded carrots)
    • ½ cup Raisins
    • ¼ – 1/3 cup sliced Almonds
    • ½ tsp. Cardamom Seeds, powdered

Cooking Rice

  • 3 cups Rice soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1 ½ tsp. Cumin
  • ½ tsp Cardamom Seeds
  • 25 Peppercorns or ½ tsp. Black Pepper Powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt


  • Grind all the ingredients listed garam masala
  • Marinate meat with garam masala and salt.
  • Wash and soak rice for at least 30 minutes.
  • Cooking Meat:Heat oil in a pressure cooker and sauté onions for couple of minutes.
  • Add garlic and turmeric and mix well.
  • Add meat and sauté for 2-3 of minutes. Stir the meat to evenly sear the meat.
  • Add coriander powder, tomatoes and cooked for another couple of minutes until tomatoes are soft and mushy.
  • By now the meat will release juices. Depending on how much juices are released, add water. I added about ¼ – ½ cup of water. Total liquid should barely cover the meat. Do not add to much water as the meat will release more juices when pressure cooked.
  • Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles and 5 minutes on low or until the meat is well cooked.
  • Let the pressure subside and open the cooker. Separate the meat and juices/broth, and keep it aside. Reserve the broth for later use and it should be approximately 2 cups.
  • Preparing Garnish: Powder cardamom powder listed under garnish.
  • Heat oil listed under garnishing ingredients.
  • Fry the carrots for couple of minutes.
  • Add raisins and fry them for a minute or until they swell up.
  • Add almonds and fry for few more seconds.
  • Remove from heat. Add cardamom powder.
  • Take an aluminum sheet/foil and fold it in half. Slightly fold the two sides to seal foil to make a pouch. Now we have a pouch with 3 closed sides.
  • Remove the carrots, nuts & raisins from oil and put them in the aluminum pouch. Seal the fourth side too by folding the edges. Keep it aside. This idea is from Hatifa’s video.
  • Cooking Rice:Heat water in a big pot to cook rice. Once the water boils, add soaked rice and cook for 5 minutes or until rice is almost cooked, about 80 – 85% cooked.
  • Drain the rice and keep it aside.
  • Arranging the Rice:Grind together the spices and salt listed under cooking rice ingredient list.
  • In a wide big Dutch oven or a sauce pan, pour some oil. Use the same oil that was used for fry the carrots and nuts. Layer ½ the rice at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle ½ of the remaining oil and ½ the spice powder. Layer rest of the rice, oil and spice powder. Pour the reserved stock from cooking the meat. I used a 5 qt sauce pan but for this quantity, even 4 qt pan would also work.
  • Place the meat pieces on top of the rice.
  • Place the carrots pouch on top of the meat or to the side of the meat. It doesn’t matter.
  • Place an aluminum foil on the pan. If the foil is not wide enough to cover the pan, use two sheets. Cover the pan with the lid and seal the pan & the lid with the same foil that is used to cover the pan. This will stop the steaming from escaping. A kitchen towel can be used instead of an aluminum foil.
  • Cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 12 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let it sit for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.
  • To Serve: Open the pot; carefully separate the meat from the rice. Mix the rice. Arrange a layer of rice in a serving platter, top it with a meat and finish it off with remaining rice. Garnish with the carrots, nuts & raisins mixture from the pouch.
  • Serve hot.

Steps to follow:
There are many components in this preparation. Cooking the meat, cooking rice, preparing the garnish and putting it all together. The way I did is,

  • Wash and soak the rice.
  • Grind the spices for garam masala, cardamoms for garnish and the spice powder for rice.
  • Marinate the meat.
  • Start cooking the meat.  And at the same time, up a pot of water to cook rice.  It will take approximately 20 minutes to big the water to a boiling point.
  • Once the meat is sauteed and is pressure cooking, fry the carrots, raisins and nuts.
  • Once the water comes to a boil and rice is soaked for 30 minutes, cook the rice.
  • While the rice is cooking, by this time the pressure of the cooker will subside.  Separate the cooked meat and the broth.
  • Assembles the rice, meat and for final step of cooking
  • Arrange the pulao in the platter and serve.


  • I cooked the meat in a pressure cook but it can also be cooked in a sauce pan. It will take at least 1 hour to cook the meat. At least the meat I get takes one hour to cook in sauce pan.
  • Original recipe calls for using sugar syrup to give the rice a brown color. I skipped this step.
  • I used raisins for garnish and next time I prepare it, I would omit raisins.
  • I liked fried carrots but would not mind fried onions instead.

This day in 2009:Chikkudukaya Kura ~ Indian Broad Beans Fry
This day in 2011:Mushroom Bruschetta & a Sandwich
Recipes I posted this month in 2009, in 2010, in 2011 and in 2012.
Blogging Marathon: Checkout what my fellow bloggers are doing this week on blogging marathon page.

10 thoughts on “Kabuli Palaw, National Dish of Afghanistan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top
%d bloggers like this: