Kabuli Pilaou

Kabuli Pilau is the perfect dish with just the right flavours and textures. The sweet and savoury combined with the aromatic spices it is a celebration of flavours in one’s mouth.

The sweet raisins and soft tender carrots deeply compliment the rich, moreish mutton chunks and the rice. This is a union made in heaven!

It took me sometime to figure out the essentials for a good Kabuli Pilau. Whilst I am not Afghan, nor do I have any Afghan influences on my cooking, I have learned by researching on the internet and of course from eating out at Afghan restaurants.

Here is what is absolutely essential to make a good Kabuli Pilau

1. The meat should be mutton and should be cut into large, meaty chunks. It needs to be cooked till tender to the touch and should fall apart with no resistance at all.

2. There is a fine balance in the spices and I think my recipe is really close.

3. The raisins and carrots should be tender. The raisins should be cooked till they swell up and the carrots should not have any rawness in them.

Here is the recipe:


For the meat:

• 1 kg mutton, bone in

• 2 medium onions (sliced)

• 1 tsp of garlic paste

• 2 tsp salt

• 1/2 tsp turmeric

• 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

• 1/2 tsp cardamom powder

• 1 tsp garam masala (Indian all spice powder)

• 1 tsp coriander powder

• 1 tsp cumin powder

• 1 glass water

• oil, to fry the onions

For the rice

• 4 glass basmati rice (1 kg)

• Water to boil the rice

For the carrot raisin topping

• 2 medium sized carrots, julienne cut

• 1 big handful raisins or sultanas

• oil to fry

For the carmel syrup

• 2 tbsp sugar


Preparing the meat:

If you have a pressure cooker than this recipe works as follows: (I’ll add notes later for those cooking without a pressure cooker)

1. In your pressure cooker add about 4 tbsp oil or slightly more if it is bigger in base and put on medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onions and fry till golden brown. This will take 10 minutes, keep flame at medium and stay close by and stir regularly to make onions colour evenly.

2. Add the mutton and now fry for 4 minutes to give it a nice brown colour.

3. Add the garlic paste and fry for 2 minutes.

4. Now add the salt, and all the remaining spices (in the Meat section). Give it a good stir and then add one glass water. Close the pressure cooker and let it cook on medium low heat for 30-35 minutes.

5. Check the meat it should be absolutely tender but not falling of the bone. There should be about 3/4 cup of water left with the meat.

6. If cooking without pressure cooker the water should be enough to submerge all the meat. Bring to a boil and then cover, simmering for 1.5-2hrs, till the meat is tender but not falling off the bone. Keep checking after the 1.5hr mark to get till the right doneness. The water should have reduced to 3/4 glass. In the situation of more water remove the meat and cook it till water is reduced to 3/4 glass.

Preparing Carrots and Raisins

1- Meanwhile, in a pan heat 3-4 tbsp of oil and add the julienne-cut carrots. Saute these on medium heat for 5 minutes, till they are tender. Drain in a colander.

2- Using the same oil sauté the the raisins and cook for 5 minutes, till the raisins begin to swell up. Drain in colander.

3- Take a clean sheet of aluminium foil and place the carrot and raisin mixture with 2-3 tsp oil. Fold it around the edges tightly into a parcel shape. Set aside.

Preparing the Rice

1- In a big pan fill the water, add a 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp ghee/butter/oil.

2- Put on high heat and bring to a boil.

3- Add the rice stir 2-3 times and cook for 8 -10 minutes. The rice should be partially done and hold shape when squashed in finger.

4- Drain the rice in a colander

5- Transfer the rice back to a heavy bottom pan with a lid.

Assembling the dish:

1- In small frying pan add 2 tbsp sugar and let it melt. When melted pour it on the rice in the pan.

2- Using tongs place the meat on the rice and pour the stock over it.

3- Place the carrot raisin parcel on the side of the rice.

4- Cover the lid of the pan with a cloth. And place the lid on the pan. Cook on slow flame for 15 minutes. Do not open the lid for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes open lid and check the rice it may need a 2-5 more minutes.

Serving the dish

1. To serve, plate the rice on a rice platter, add the chunks of mutton so they are at the top and on full display and scatter with raisins and carrots from the foil parcel.

2- Serve with some yoghurt.



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