Thursday, June 13, 2019

Lebanese Chicken and Saffron Rice

Hi Everyone! How are you? Today I'll be teaching you how to make my go-to Lebanese dinner.  This meal has been on roatiation for years around here. I grew up eating my grandmother's hashweh, which is a Lebanese meat and rice pilaf.  My father adored her hashweh which was always served at holiday time. My modernized version takes a departure from tradition by using ground chicken and saffron rice. I also use a rice cooker to speed things along during the busy workweek. Ground beef is traditional and wonderful. But we're always looking for new ways to prepare chicken. This is a warm and cozy dish during colder months. It's light enough to serve in summer too. The signature Lebanese flavor profile comes from a blend of warm spices. If you're looking for an extraordinary chicken recipe, then I hope you'll give this a go.

The recipe comes together quite easily, despite the multiple steps. Once you make this dish, you'll get into a familiar rhythm and master cooking it in no time. I can practically make it in my sleep. My Polish husband requests this meal once week. The thing about cooking the same dish over and over is that you get very good at it. Somehow this dish never gets old. It's a nice departure from the usual sauteed chicken breast for dinner.

When cooking this meal, your house will smell wonderful. If you're like us, you'll want to enjoy chicken and saffron rice on a regular basis because it tastes like you went to great lengths to make it. We serve the dish with a garden salad or a cucumber salad, olives, thick yogurt, harissa and a sprinkle of aleppo pepper. Any of the suggested sides listed below are great paired alongside this dinner. The saffron rice is also lovely with my Lebanese Roast Chicken, Middle Eastern Meatballs or my Greek Chicken and Olives.

Lebanese Chicken and Saffron Rice Recipe
Serves 3-4 with some sides that are listed below the recipe. If serving hungry eaters, you may want to double this recipe. 

Some Notes & Tips:

I use a large red onion because its sweetness complements the warm spices but a regular yellow onion is fine too. Just remember to brown it for some caramelization.

Smoked paprika is not traditional but I love the rich flavor. Regular paprika works too.

I love using fragrant jasmine or basmati rice but Carolina long grain white rice is what my grandmother used back in the day.

My favorite saffron to make flavorful saffron rice is this one.  My go-to zatar is made with hyssop instead of thyme. I buy it from The Spice Way.   The best pourable, non-bitter tahini I've found is Soom Tahini.   Once you try these wonderful brands, you'll never look back. They're authentic and delicious! (This is not a sponsored post)

Pomegranate Molasses  is a staple in any Middle Eastern kitchen. You can use it as you would balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients For The Lebanese Seven Spice Blend:

In a small bowl mix together 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1/8 teaspoon of ground fenugreek and 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger. A scant 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika and a tiny pinch of freshly grated or ground nutmeg. Set this spice blend aside to use in the recipe below.


Ingredients for the Ground Chicken:

  • 16-ounce package of ground chicken or beef. I use humanely raised, organic. 
  • 1 large red onion, diced 
  • Lebanese Seven-Spice Blend (see above)  
  • A teaspoon of pomegranate molasses or more to taste (optional)
  • Olive oil for sauteing the onion and meat
  • Salt and pepper to taste. I use gray celtic salt and fresh cracked pepper. 
  • A generous tablespoon of toasted pine nuts (optional) 
  • Finely chopped herbs such as parsley, dill or mint
  • Sliced lemons for serving

Ingredients for the Saffron Rice:

  • A cup of uncooked, white rice. I use Jasmine or Basmati rice but Carolina long grain will work too.
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron
  • Salt to taste. I use Celtic gray sea salt. 
  • A tablespoon of olive oil or butter
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)  


Put a cup of rice in a rice cooker. Crush the saffron threads between your fingers and add to the rice cooker. Salt to taste. Cook the rice according to the package directions. Once the rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork while adding olive oil or butter. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the rice and keep it warm in the rice cooker.

Make the Lebanese seven spice blend and set aside.

Make the toasted pine nuts by putting them in the same fry pan you will use to make the chicken. Add some salt. Place the pan on medium heat and toast until the pine nuts are light brown. Keep a watchful eye on them because they can burn very quickly. Set the toasted pine nuts aside.  

In a large nonstick or regular fry pan, saute the onion in three tablespoons of olive oil, with a pinch of salt and pepper, over medium-high heat until it's lightly caramelized and tender. When the onion is and cooked, transfer to a plate and set aside. Add more olive oil to the pan, along with the ground chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Saute the chicken over medium to medium-high heat, being careful not to overcook it. Some of the chicken will turn brown but it's not necessary to brown all of it. The key is to keep the ground chicken from getting too dry. Once the ground chicken is done, immediately stir in the reserved onions, the seven-spice blend and the pomegranate molasses (if using). Continue cooking for a minute or two more to toast the spices and warm the onion. Serve the ground chicken with the reserved saffron rice. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts and some chopped herbs over the rice and chicken. Serve with lemon wedges and any other suggestion listed below.       

For Serving: olives, Greek yogurt that's sprinkled with sea salt and zatar, sumac, Aleppo pepper, harissa, a side garden salad drizzled with tahini and lemon juice, cucumber salad, tzatziki or Lebanese Chopped Salad with Tahini Dressing

Happy Cooking! xx ~ Jilly    


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