Maqluba

5 from 28 votes

Maqluba is a traditional Middle Eastern recipe that means "upside down." It's one of the most popular Palestinian traditions that includes a pot of rice, stewed meat or chicken, and vegetables that gets flipped into a beautiful presentation.

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This is an authentic recipe for Maqluba (also spelled maqlooba, makloubeh, maqlouba) which translates in Arabic to upside down. It’s a rice dish made with layers of vegetables like onions, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and/or cauliflower, seasoned beef, chicken or lamb, and a spiced broth. The pot is layered with the ingredients then flipped over to reveal what looks like a rice cake. Maqluba a traditional and celebratory recipe that is a labor of love but truly worth it when you taste it.

Top down view of maqluba on a serving plate garnished with fresh parsley with a small dish of yogurt nearby.
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This recipe for Maqluba is one that I learned about from my kitchen assistant, who is Palestinian. It’s a traditional and popular recipe in Palestine, although it’s also made in other countries in the Middle East like Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. I did not grow up eating this recipe but I’m so glad I learned how to make it. There’s something so joyous and celebratory about this dish and it’s often served for special occasions because the flipping and uncovering of the pot feels so ceremonious!

Recipe At a Glance

Cuisine Inspiration: Palestinian/Middle Eastern
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop & Oven
Dietary Info: Gluten-free
Key Flavor: 7 Spice and Caramelized Onions
Skill Level: Medium (you’ll need some flipping skills)

Summary

  • Authentic But Not Inaccessible: Everything you need to make the recipe, you can find at your normal grocery store except for 7 Spice which you can buy online or make your your own.
  • Extremely Flavorful: You’ll notice that the potatoes and eggplant get seasoned and baked in the oven, the onions and chicken get sauteed on the stovetop, and the rice gets smothered in a spiced broth which creates layers upon layers of so much flavor.
  • Showstopper: This dish is all about the moment of flipping the large hot pot of the vegetables, meat and rice layers over a large serving dish. So it’s usually done right at the dinner table with a lot of cheers and claps. It’s truly ceremonial!
  • Versatile and Adaptable: Maqluba is so flexible when it comes to how you make it. You can choose what spices to add or flavors as well as what veggies to add or even leave out.

What is Maqluba

The name Maqluba translates in Arabic to upside down, which is a description of how to recipe is compiled in layers and then flipped upside down right before serving. The beauty of Maqluba is in the final presentation of what looks like a rice cake with layers of colorful vegetables, well-seasoned beef or chicken and spiced rice.

Ingredients to Make Maqluba

Ingredients for recipe before prepping: tomatoes, spices and seasonings, uncooked rice, potato, eggplant, onion, chicken thighs, and water.

For the Vegetables:

  • Eggplant: A medium firm eggplant is ideal for this dish, sliced into half-inch rounds or into plants if you want it to drape along the sides of the pot. Eggplant adds a meaty texture and absorbs flavors well.
  • Yukon Potatoes: Sliced into quarter-inch rounds. Yukon potatoes hold their shape well during cooking, making them perfect for layering.
  • Tomatoes: Large tomatoes, sliced, add a juicy and slightly acidic layer to the dish, balancing the other flavors.
  • Olive Oil: Essential for roasting the vegetables, olive oil enhances their natural flavors.
  • Salt & Black Pepper: Used to season the vegetables, bringing out their inherent tastes.

For the Chicken

  • Chicken Thighs: Skinless, boneless thighs are used for their tenderness and flavor.
  • Olive Oil: Helps in browning the chicken and onions, adding depth to their flavor.
  • Onion: A large onion, sliced, adds a sweet depth when caramelized.
  • 7 Spice Blend: A key seasoning in Middle Eastern cooking, it gives a warm, aromatic flavor to the chicken.

For the Rice:

  • Basmati Rice: The long grains of basmati rice are perfect for absorbing the flavors without becoming mushy.
  • Boiling Water: Ensures the rice cooks evenly and becomes perfectly fluffy. You want the water to be boiling so that you can cover the pot and cook immediately instead of waiting for the water to boil with all the layers of vegetables and chicken, which can impact the layers staying put.
  • 7 Spice Blend & Salt: Adds a consistent flavor profile throughout the dish.
  • Use beef or lamb instead of chicken. I find that using chicken is much easier for this recipe which already has many steps. But using stewed meat or lamb shanks cooked in a pressure cooker tends to be more authentic.
  • Add or swap cauliflower. Cauliflower is a very popular choice for making this recipe instead of potatoes or eggplant or in addition to them. Just prepare it the same way you’d prepare the potatoes and eggplant.
  • Fry the vegetables. It’s more traditional to deep fry the potatoes, eggplant and/or cauliflower when making Maqluba. But baking them in the oven or even air frying them is also a great option for making them easier and with less oil.
  • Add chickpeas. My Palestinian kitchen assistant shared with me that her family enjoys adding a layer of chickpeas as well, which is a great option for bulking the recipe or even swapping out the meat or chicken for a vegan version.
  • Swap water for vegetable broth. There is so much flavor packed in all the ingredients of the maqluba, but you can add even more flavor by using vegetable broth instead of water to cook the rice in. Just make sure to heat it before mixing with the spices so that it is boiling.

How to Make Maqluba

Alright, so I know this recipe has a lot of steps more than most of my other ones, BUT it is so worth it! Don’t skip out on roasting the veggies or caramelizing the chicken and the onions; those extra steps are so worth it!

Prepare and Cook the Zucchini and Potatoes

  1. After removing the excess moisture, place the eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, and season with pepper.
  2. Bake in the oven, flipping halfway through until roasted.
  3. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the potato slices on the baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake in the oven with the eggplant, flipping halfway through.
4 image collage preparing vegetables for layering in recipe: 1- eggplant slices on a parchment lined baking sheet before baking, 2- after baking, 3- potatoes slices before baking, 4- after baking.

Cook the Chicken

  1. Place the chicken thighs, olive oil, 7 spice, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  2. Coat the chicken with the seasoning mix and you can let this marinate if you’d like or cook it immediately.
  3. Add the chicken thighs to the large heavy-bottomed pot with the cooked onions and cook on one side.
  4. Flip the chicken and cook on the other side until cooked through. Remove the chicken and onions from the pot and set aside.
4 image collage preparing one layer of recipe: 1- chicken thighs in a bowl with oil and seasonings added, 2- after tossing together, 3- chicken added to pot with sauteed onions, 4- after cooking.

Layer Maqluba Ingredients in the Pot

  1. Arrange tomato slices at the bottom of the pot used to cook the chicken.
  2. Add the roasted eggplant slices over the tomatoes.
  3. Add the sliced potatoes on top of the eggplant.
  4. Layer the cooked chicken and onion mixture on top of the potatoes.
  5. And finally, top with the drained rice.
  6. Place a large round plate on top of the rice to hold the ingredients together. Carefully pour your prepared broth mixture over the plate, making sure it covers the rice.
6 image collage layering recipe in a dutch oven: 1- tomato slices in a single layer, 2- roasted eggplant slices added, 3- roasted potato slices added, 4- cook chicken thighs and onions layer added, 5- uncooked rice added, 6- plate place on top and pressed over layers with broth being poured over.

Watch Me Make Maqluba

Tips for Making the Best Maqluba

  1. Use a deep heavy-bottomed pot. This allows for even cooking of all the layers so that it’s all tender and juicy. If possible, opt of one that is tall instead of wide and one that has straight edges that don’t curve. It helps to improve the presentation, which is so key in this recipe.
  2. Prepare a large rimmed flat round plate for serving. I find that a charger plate works really well for this so that you can see all the layers of the Maqluba. Look for one that is about 4-8 inches wider than the pot you’re using.
  3. Use a round plate to hold down the layers. Make sure the right plate is heavy enough to hold down the layers and you can remove it after 20 minutes of cooking to allow the water to reach all the rice and fully cook them.
  4. Add more water and cooking time if needed. You can check on the rice at the end of cooking and fluff it to make sure it’s well cooked. If not, it’s completely fine to add another ¼ cup of water if needed or just cook it for an extra 5 to 10 minutes. I found that the measurements and timing used here works perfectly though!
Maqluba on a serving plate with a serving removed nearby.

What to Serve With Maqluba

How to Store & Reheat Maqluba

Let the Maqluba cool completely before placing any leftovers into an airtight container. This container can then be stored in the refrigerator.

For reheating, you have a couple of options. If you prefer the stove, gently heat the Maqluba in a pot over medium-low heat until it’s thoroughly warmed. Alternatively, you can reheat it in the microwave, at 1 minute intervals until warmed through. Use a vented cover to avoid splattering.

How long with maqluba last in the fridge?

Stored properly in an airtight container, your Maqluba should keep well in the fridge for about 3-4 days.

Can I freeze maqluba?

Yes, Maqluba can be frozen. Place it in a freezer-friendly container, and it can be stored for up to 2-3 months. For the best taste experience, it’s recommended to add fresh garnishes like parsley after reheating, right before serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Maqluba is sticking to the bottom of the pot. How can I prevent this?

To prevent sticking, make sure the bottom layer of the pot (the tomatoes) are laid out evenly and the pot is well-oiled. There should be oil leftover from cooking the chicken and onions in the pot. Also, use a heavy-bottomed pot, like a dutch oven to distribute heat evenly.

How do I flip the Maqluba without it falling apart?

Flipping Maqluba can be tricky. Let it cool for about 15 minutes after cooking. Place a large plate over the pot, the plate should cover the entire pot with some overhang around all sides, then quickly and confidently flip it over. Hesitation is what usually cause the most issues so you just got to go for it. Make sure the plate is big enough to hold the entire dish.

My rice is undercooked or too dry. What can I do?

If your rice isn’t fully cooked or seems too dry, it may need more liquid. Try adding a little more water or broth, then continue cooking on low heat for another 5-10 minutes. Ensure the pot is covered tightly to retain steam. Make sure to use basmati rice and measure it with a dry measuring cup so you have the right liquid to rice ratio.

Serving of maqluba in a bowl with a fork.

Maqluba is one of those dishes that might seem a bit intimidating at first with all its layers and the big flip at the end. But honestly, once you get the hang of it, it’s not just impressive, it’s incredibly satisfying to make. And hey, it tastes so good too.

More Middle Eastern Rice Recipes:

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Maqluba

Maqluba is a traditional Middle Eastern recipe that means "upside down." It's one of the most popular Palestinian traditions that includes a pot of rice, stewed meat or chicken, and vegetables that gets flipped into a beautiful presentation.
5 from 28 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Calories 470
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Resting time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
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Ingredients
  

For the vegetables

  • 1 medium firm eggplant sliced into ½ inch rounds
  • 2 pounds yukon potatoes sliced into ¼ inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper divided
  • 2 large tomatoes sliced

For the chicken

  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons 7 Spice
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large onion sliced

For the rice

  • 2 cups basmati rice rinsed
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon 7 Spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Chopped parsley for garnis

Instructions

  • Prepare the Eggplant & Bake. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line one baking sheet with paper towels, place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet and sprinkle with ½ a teaspoon of the salt. Allow the eggplant to sweat for 30 minutes, then pat it dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Remove the paper towel from the baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Place the eggplant on the baking sheet, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on top and season with ½ a teaspoon of the pepper. Toss to combine, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through
  • Bake the Potatoes. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper, place the potato slices on the baking sheet. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top and season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pepper. Toss to combine, then bake in the oven with the eggplant for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through
  • Cook the chicken. In a medium bowl, mix together the chicken thighs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 7 spice, salt and pepper. In a large heavy-bottom 8-quart nonstick pot, over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken thighs to the pot and cook for 7 minutes undisturbed. Flip the chicken and cook on the other side until cooked through, 5-7 more minutes. Remove the chicken and onions from the pot and set aside.
  • Arrange the pot. When the eggplant and potatoes are done cooking, arrange tomato slices at the bottom of the pot used to cook the chicken. Add the eggplant slices over the tomatoes, followed by the sliced potatoes, the cooked chicken and onion mixture, and finally the drained rice. Place a large round plate on top of the rice to hold the ingredients together.
  • Make the broth and cook. Place the water, 7 Spice, salt and pepper in a heat-proof bowl or jar and stir together to make the broth. Carefully pour the broth mixture over the plate, making sure it covers the rice. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the plate and continue cooking for 10 more minutes.
  • Let it cool down for 15 minutes before flipping over a large serving plate. Garnish top with chopped parsley and serve with yogurt sauce, if desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.8of recipe, Calories: 470kcal, Carbohydrates: 60g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 0.02g, Cholesterol: 108mg, Sodium: 856mg, Potassium: 933mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 585IU, Vitamin C: 28mg, Calcium: 50mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine Arabic
Course: Entree
5 from 28 votes (25 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. Kania says:

    Does the recipe require 2 pounds potatoes or 2 pieces of potatoes? from the pictures, it looks like 2 pieces. I am excited to try and make this for Eid.

    1. Yumna says:

      2 pounds of potatoes, if you click “jump to recipe” at the top of the page, you will find the full recipe.

  2. Chris says:

    So if you triple the recipe does it fit in an 8qt pot?

    1. Yumna says:

      No, my recipe actually is made in an 8-quart pot, so you would need one three times the size if you triple the recipe. Just keep an eye on it as the cooking may take slightly longer than a single batch.

  3. Sidrah says:

    So excited to make this today. Thinking of Palestine, always.

  4. Selwa says:

    Made this on New Years Day!!
    Used cauliflowers instead of potatoes.
    Yum, it was a big hit!

  5. Kelly says:

    Making this today for my family on a rainy day, reminding me of the incredible home cooked food in Palestine. Perfect way to hold prayer for the Holy Land and her precious people.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Beautifully said! Can’t wait to hear what you think when you make it!

  6. Ali says:

    I cant wait to try this! What temperature should the oven be for the eggplant?

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Hi Ali, so sorry the temperature is the same as the potatoes, 400 degrees. I fixed it in the recipe. Hope you enjoy!

  7. Rena says:

    Making this. Thanks so much for the recipe