No matter where you live on the planet, what your ethnic background may be, how old you are, or how well you cook, chicken and rice tops the list of favorite comfort foods around the world. For most of us, the smell and taste of chicken and rice evoke some of the best memories of childhood. The chances are good that your grandmother always made this delicious, filling and healthy dish for you whenever you came to visit and she passed the recipe on to your mother.

My mom’s easy recipe, of course, has a distinctly Lebanese flair, subtly spicing up an old standby with allspice and cinnamon to give the chicken a Middle Eastern flavor while pungent almonds and pine nuts turn the rice from a staid side dish into a crunchy, savory surprise.

Every Lebanese family serves a version of this dish handed down from mothers to daughters and every daughter thinks their mother’s version is the best.  I’ll admit I’m no different.   The smell of the chicken broth and the butter-toasted nuts still conjures images of my high school years and the pure bliss of snuggling up on the couch with a big bowl of leftovers.

Lebanese Chicken and Rice

1 whole roasting chicken

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 cinnamon sticks

2 cups long grain rice

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 cups reserved chicken broth

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 stick butter

1. Place whole chicken in a stock pot and add enough water until the chicken is just barely covered. Add the cinnamon sticks, salt and pepper. Simmer over a medium heat until the chicken is tender, about 1 hour.

2. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and set it aside to cool and reserve the broth.

3. Wash and drain the rice. In a medium pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter, add the rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

4. Mix in the salt, allspice and cinnamon, stir and add the reserved chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.

5. While the rice is cooking, sauté the almonds and pine nuts in butter until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

6. Debone the chicken and set the pieces aside.

7. On a large platter or wide-mouthed bowl, create a mound of rice in the center. Pour the nuts and butter over the rice. Arrange the chicken pieces around the rice.

Serve with a  green salad dressed with lemon, oil, and garlic.

serves 4-6


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