You may have heard of Maqluba (also known as makloubeh, maqlooba, maqlouba), a prevalent Middle Eastern rice dish from Palestine that is sure to impress. It consists of seasoned rice, baked vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, eggplant, and tender pieces of lamb. All these flavors make for a spectacular dish served by flipping over the pot into the serving platter. The reveal makes maqluba unique, hence the name, which quite literally means upside down. This dish may sound intimidating, but it is pretty simple to execute. It is SO delicious and worth making! If you prefer chicken over lamb, check out my chicken makloubeh recipe.
So, what is Maqluba (Makloubeh, Maqloubeh)?
Maqluba is a common Arab rice dish, especially in Palestinian and Jordanian households, prepared by layering rice, veggies, and meat into a pot. It is then cooked and known for flipping the pot onto the serving platter, where the beautiful layers are revealed and often topped with toasted nuts and parsley as garnish. This meal is always served with plain yogurt and Arabic salad.
Every family makes maqloubeh differently, making it a versatile and flexible dish. In our family, we always enjoyed it with fried eggplant, cauliflower, and potatoes with lamb. I now do the same but prefer baking the vegetables for a healthier spin. My favorite part of makloubeh, and I am sure many of you who have tried, may agree, is the bottom of the pot. It gets a nice crust and lots of flavors. We always fight over the bits that get stuck in the pot if and so that happens. So, don’t fret if you don’t reveal the most perfectly shaped maqluba and some remains in the pot. It is just as delicious!
What vegetables are used in Maqluba?
The three most common vegetables are sliced eggplant, cauliflower florets, and potato slices. However, other versions use carrots, chickpeas, onions, or seasonal vegetables. Personally, the most authentic way, and my favorite combination, is the eggplant, cauliflower, and potato. Sometimes, I skip out on the potatoes as I find cauliflower and eggplant the most essential and try to avoid a carb-on carb. You will always find tomato slices at the bottom of the pot too. These serve the purpose of protecting the other layers but also adding beautiful color and additional flavor.
There are no rules that you must follow, just preferences. The recipe I am sharing with you is the same recipe my mom would make for us. Maqluba is also very common during Ramadan. Often, it is the first meal made in most Palestinian households in the Holy month. It is filling and has everything you need in one pot, from the grain to veggies to protein, and everyone loves it!
What meat should be used for Maqluba?
Lamb is what is typically used for this dish. In our household, we use bone-in medium size pieces of lamb shoulder. That is what you would request of the butcher. Lamb shoulder will yield better results than lamb leg pieces in most stew recipes. I almost always use lamb shoulder in my Arab meals, whether cauliflower stew or qidreh. It is not very common to use beef, and I wouldn’t recommend using it either, as lamb is more flavorful and tender.
Some people shy away from using lamb or are intimidated by cooking it, but it is straightforward and not gamey in this recipe. The lamb is prepared in two steps for makloubeh. First, it is cooked in a broth with bay leaves, cardamom, onions, and seasonings until tender, which takes roughly 2 hours. Any residue is skimmed off from the top of the pot, as pictured below, so the broth is clean of any gamey flavor. It is then taken out of the broth and layered into the pot with the other components, taking on flavor from the rest of the ingredients. The lamb truly comes out perfectly in this maqluba with lamb.
What type of rice & spices are used for Makloubeh?
The rice used is essential, as it is a rice dish. For makloubeh, long-grain rice is preferred and most commonly used, such as the basmati variety. However, you can mix rice, such as Egyptian rice, with basmati rice (half of each). It also yields an excellent outcome, or just one or the other. Just be sure to adjust the cooking liquid ratio appropriately.
For Makloubeh, the rice is often seasoned with turmeric for color, seven spice for various Arab flavors, salt, pepper, and cumin. In some recipes, the broth is seasoned rather than the rice, but that is not how we have always made it in my family. The broth leftover from the lamb will be so flavorful since it has bay leaves, onions, cardamom, allspice, and the lamb. That, with the rice seasoning, will yield a delicious maqluba.
TIPS FOR MAKING MAQLUBA
- Use a non-stick pot, preferably wider than narrow. This allows for a more seamless flip and reveal of the makloubeh. I still prep my pot with nonstick spray as an extra measure.
- Use a plate that fits the pot to cover the rice while it cooks. This keeps all the components intact while it simmers. I use this method when cooking grape leaves or cabbage rolls as well.
- Use the recommended spices for the lamb broth and the rice. It will give makoubeh its distinct flavor. There are also all-purpose Makloubeh spices at Arab grocery stores, but I prefer to make my own.
- Don’t be discouraged if the flip doesn’t come out perfect. It will still be so tasty!
Maqluba with Lamb
- 12 Bone-in Lamb Shoulder Pieces, medium cut
- 1 Onion, quartered
- 4 Cardamom Pods
- 4 Bay Leaves
- 1/2 tbsp Ground Allspice
- 1/2 tbsp Granulated sugar optional, but said to help tenderize the meat faster
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 Eggplants, sliced into 1 inch discs
- 1 Cauliflower head, cut into florets
- 2 Potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch slices optional
- 2 Tomatoes, cut into slices
- 3 tbsp Olive oil
- Salt & Pepper to preference
- 2 cups Basmati Rice You can use Egyptian rice or a mix of both (see notes)
- 5 cups Leftover Lamb Broth or enough to cover the top of the rice by 1 inch
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1.5 tsp 7 spice
- 1/4 tsp Cumin
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric
- 1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
- 1/3 cup Slivered Almonds, toasted in ghee or olive oil
- Wash the lamb pieces thoroughly. Add them to a pot and cover with water. Let this simmer on medium heat. You will notice a residue float to the top after a few minutes. Spoon off the residue into a bowl and discard.
- Once the water is clear of the residue, add the onion, cardamom, and bay leaves along with the allspice, sugar (optional) salt, and pepper. Cover and let this boil on medium heat for 1.5-2 hours until the meat is tender.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the vegetables and rice for the dish. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Toss the sliced eggplant, cauliflower, and potato (if using), with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Make sure everything is well coated. Feel free to add more oil if necessary.
- Add the vegetables to a baking sheet baking sure they do not overlap. I typically bake each vegetable variety in their own pan or one huge pan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, flipping once.
- The vegetables should come out tender and lightly golden. Keep it baking longer if necessary, then set to the side.
- Prepare the rice by stirring together the soaked rice with the spices listed above.
- At this point, the meat should be cooked through. Drain the water and save the lamb broth to cook the rice in.
Assembling the Pot
- Start with a scarce layer of rice at the bottom of your prepped pot. The nonstick pot should be lightly sprayed with nonstick spray too or oiled. Then, add a layer of tomato slices.
- Top off the tomato slices with the baked eggplant slices, cauliflower florets, and potatoes (if using).
- Then, add the lamb pieces followed by the rice. Cover the top of the rice with a fitted heat proof plate. This will help keep the rice in tact while it simmers.
- Pour the lamb broth on top of the rice. The broth should cover the rice entirely with an inch extra on top. Let this come to a light boil then simmer for about 25-30 minutes on medium heat while covered.
- Once the rice is cooked through, take it off the heat and let it sit for 20 minutes in the pot before serving.
- When ready to serve, find a large platter with rasied edges and swiftly flip the pot over the top of the platter. Tap at the bottom of the pot a few times and gently raise the pot to reveal the beautiful maqluba.
- Top with the garnishes and serve with yogurt and arabic salad.
- You can use Egyptian rice with Basmati rice in maqluba; make sure the broth ratio is correct. Typically, the broth will cover the rice plus a 1/2-1 inch over.
- You can also use boneless lamb pieces instead. This will cook much faster. Probably in about 1 hour or so instead of 2.
If you try this recipe or have questions, please leave them below in the comments section. I would appreciate a review and star rating if you make any of my recipes! Send your remakes to my Instagram page for me to see and share!