Ottolenghi’s maqluba | Something New For Dinner
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Ottolenghi’s maqluba

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Ottolenghi Maqluba

I had never heard of maqluba until I spotted it in Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook. This layered vegetable, chicken and rice torte is a traditional Palestinian one-pot meal that means "upside-down." I think of this maqluba recipe as a savory pineapple upside down cake, but made with chicken, tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower and rice. Maqluba can also be made with lamb, beef or eliminate the meat for a vegetarian dish.

Middle Eastern Comfort Food

My family really enjoyed this dish. The maqluba is seasoned with an array of spices including garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, allspice, and a middle eastern spice blend called baharat, which includes ground coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cumin seeds, cardamom and nutmeg. You can purchase baharat at Middle Eastern markets or online at Amazon or the Savory Spice Shop. This is not a light meal, but one that you will enjoy on a cool night after a hard-working day.

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Inverting the Maqluba Can Be a Challenge

I had my husband and son invert the maqluba while I snapped a few pictures. If you are using a heavy dutch oven, which I recommend, inverting the maqluba is a challenge, and not a one-person job. Ottolenghi recommends you wait three minutes before removing the pan after you invert it. Sami Tamimi says all family members must rest their palms on the inverted pot for three minutes to get the best outcome. Don't worry if your maqluba doesn't invert perfectly. If it does, you are more talented than I am! And perfect or imperfect, your maqluba will be delicious.

Eggplant Refinements

Please note there are some differences between the pictures and the instructions. Follow the instructions, not the pictures. The eggplant should be sliced in circles not lengthwise as shown. And the eggplant should be the second layer, after the tomatoes, and not after the cauliflower as shown. None of this is critical, but it makes for a nicer presentation.

One-Pot Meal

This is truly a one-pot meal. Serve with herbed yogurt and cucumber sauce. The cool, tart sauce contrasts nicely with the savory maqluba. It takes a little time to sauté the chicken and fry the cauliflower and eggplant, but once assembled, you have a complete meal-in-a-pot.

Alternative Method

For this recipe, I did not stray far from Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's recipe. In the future I think I would try changing a couple things. Instead of frying the cauliflower and eggplant, I think I would roast them in the oven. This would accomplish two things: 1) It would reduce the time it takes to make the dish, 2) It would use considerably less oil. You could also play with the spices a bit if you wanted to.

Please let us know if you try an alternate method for your maqluba.


Ottolenghi’s maqluba

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A Middle Eastern vegetable, chicken and rice torte, that translates to “upside-down.” Think of it like a savory pineapple upside down cake chock full of tomatoes, cauliflower and eggplant.

  • Author: Something New For Dinner
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hours 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


  • 2 eggplants sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds (note pictures are not correct)
  • 1 2/3 cups white basmati rice
  • 8 skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sunflower oil – approximately
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 4 tomatoes sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
  • 1 t ground turmeric
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 t baharat
  • 1/4 c pine nuts, slivered almonds or pistachios
  • Lemon wedges


  1. Salt both sides of the eggplant slices and layout on paper towels for about 30 minutes. The eggplant will literally bead up with water.
  2. Rinse rice until the rinse water is clear. Put rice in a bowl and cover with water to soak for about half an hour.
  3. Pound the chicken thighs with a tenderizing mallet. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Put a teaspoon of sunflower oil in a large medium hot sauce pan. Sear chicken for 3-4 minutes on both sides. Add onion, pepper corns, bay leaves and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside. Strain broth and reserve.
  4. In a dutch oven that is about 10″ in diameter and 5″ deep, add remaining sunflower oil. The oil should be about 3/4″ deep. Heat oil over a medium hot burner. Working in batches, cook cauliflower florets in the hot oil until they begin to brown, about 4 – 5 minutes, turning with tongs as they brown. Remove to paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Dry the eggplant slices and fry them in batches in the same oil until they begin to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Let drain on paper towels.
  6. Discard the oil and wipe clean. Cut a parchment circle the size of the pan and lay it in the bottom. Brush the parchment and the sides of the pan with melted butter.
  7. Begin layering the maqluba, starting with the tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes in an overlapping circular pattern. Then layer the eggplant on top of the tomatoes. Next scatter the cauliflower over the eggplant. Place the cooked chicken thighs on top of the cauliflower. Scatter the rice and garlic over the top. Using your hands press the rice evenly.
  8. Skim any residual fat off the chicken broth. Put 3 cups of broth into a bowl. Whisk in the spices and 1 t salt. Pour the seasoned broth over the rice. Using your hands press down on the rice until the broth covers the rice. At first it may seem too dry, but if you keep pressing the broth will surface to the top. If there is not enough broth to cover the rice you can add a bit more liquid, but just enough to cover.
  9. Now you are ready to cook the maqluba. Put the pot on a medium burner and heat until the liquid just begins to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Keep the lid on as the steam is necessary to cook the rice through. Don’t peek! After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid briefly. Place a clean kitchen cloth over the top of the pot. Quickly put the lid back on and allow the maqluba to sit for 10 minutes.
  10. When you are ready to serve, remove the lid and place a serving dish over the top. Invert the pan and let the maqluba sit for three minutes before removing the pan.
  11. Scatter pine nuts over the top of the maqluba and serve with the cold herbed yogurt and cucumber sauce. Serve with a wedge of lemon.




  1. Karen Rookwood says:

    I made a delicious version of this dish with courgette instead of the aubergine and cauliflower ….
    A couple of points re the recipe …. I think that the tsp of salt referred to in the instructions should also be in the ingredients list as I left it out and it was definitely under salted. Also the instructions don’t mention what to do with the garlic.

    1. Kim says:

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I love the idea of making this dish with courgette (zucchini). Thank you for sharing. I have corrected the recipe to include the garlic. You scatter the garlic together with the rice over the top of the maqluba, just before you add the stock. My bad for leaving this out.

      Regarding the salt, I usually do not list the exact quantity of salt in a recipe, because I think salt is largely a matter of taste, and few people actually measure it. Between salting the eggplant, the chicken, the cauliflower and the chicken stock, there was plenty of salt for me. I serve the maqluba with wedges of lemon, which I think is a great way to add flavor without salt.

      Ottolenghi also salts his rice with another teaspoon of salt. So there is another opportunity to add more salt to the dish if you wish.

  2. Daniel Campbell says:

    Outstanding recipe! This is by far one of the best comfort foods I have ever cooked! Heck, my 4 year old even thought it was delicious!

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Dan,

      I am so glad you enjoyed it. You might want to try my Maqluba Reconstructed recipe. I use the same rice torte concept, but instead of frying the vegetables I roast them, for a lighter version. I change up the seasoning a bit too.

  3. Rosie says:

    Hi there
    I would love to try this recipe. Am wondering where the herbs and baharat fit in as they are not mentioned in the instructions.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Rosie — The bay leaves and peppercorns are added in step 2, when you are making the chicken broth.

      The turmeric, cinnamon, allspice, ground pepper, crushed red pepper, salt and baharat are added in Step 8 “Whisk in the spices and 1 t salt” to season the broth.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions. This is a fun meal to prepare. Make sure you have plenty of hands to help you flip the maqluba, but don’t worry if it doesn’t come out perfectly. It will still be delicious.

  4. Ellen says:

    Can I bake it in a spring pan instead of stove top?

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Ellen,

      All of the recipes I have seen for maqluba are done stove top, but that doesn’t mean a baked maqluba is not possible. I have made other baked rice dishes, including a baked risotto and I often finish my paella in the oven. So it is possible that a baked version might work out. Additionally, cooking it in a springform pan might make the unveiling easier and more successful. Please give it a try and let us know how it works.

  5. Karen says:

    Has anyone tried freezing this dish once cooked, and if so, how? In the pot, or unmolded?

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Karen,

      I have not tried freezing maqluba, and although I will never say something won’t work until I try it, I have my doubts. I think this dish is best served fresh. Unmolding is a little tricky. I hold my breath during the process and don’t sweat it if it doesn’t come out perfectly. It tastes great even if some of the dish topples over. If you decide to try freezing it please let us know how it works out.

  6. Yvonne says:

    I made this for Sunday supper yesterday, and found that it needed to cook a lot longer than the recipe specifies. Even with a long soak time, the rice was crunchy after the recommended simmering and standing time. It took about 1 hour of simmering total, and the entire amount of broth. Absolutely gorgeous once flipped however! We served it with Arabi bread and the yogurt sauce, and the whole family loved it!

  7. Edna says:

    Hi! I would like to try this for a large family dinner/gathering. Is there any way to double the recipe? I also plan to roast the veggies the night before to save some time. Thanks!

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Edna, I would simply make two. You could vary the vegetables and protein if you wanted to provide choices. The reason I would not make one enormous maqluba is they are tricky to remove from the pan. I think a very large one would be very difficult to cleanly remove from the pan. Roasting the vegetables the day before is smart. Good luck and have fun making this festive dish. Please let us know how the recipe turns out.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Thank you Smitetheewithapples! I recommend making maqluba on a weekend night. Have plenty of treats and toys on hand for your puppy while you cook. You might also try my revised version of maqluba that substitutes roasting the vegetables instead of frying them. It reduces the prep time and is a bit healthier.

  8. Helen Smith says:

    This is a fab recipe and works well. It was fun to make and we ate it for several days! Luscious.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Helen, This is a great idea for a coronavirus shelter in place project. It is primarily rice and you can use whatever vegetables and/or meat you have on hand. Check out my modern version that does not require you fry the veggies: Maqluba Reconstructed.

  9. Leslie says:

    I made this and loved it. I didn’t invert it. The broth never absorbed completely so I had to ladle it out. I would cook the rice ahead of time and try it that way.

  10. Leslie says:

    I kept the onion in the stock when I poured it over the rice since I love onions. What that intended?

  11. Angie says:

    Could this be made in an instant pot? Anyone tried that? Guidance please. 🙂

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Angie, I don’t see how this could be made in an Instant pot. It is really a layered rice, vegetable and chicken tort that is made by layering the ingredients in a deep dish, straight-sided pot. I use a Dutch oven. The labor is in making the individual ingredients. Layering them does not take much time, and the actual oven time is only 30 minutes. I did a little research and could not find instant pot maqluba anywhere. I did develop another vegetarian maqluba that is made from healthier roasting of the vegetables instead of frying. You can check out the recipe here. It takes less active time than this Ottolenghi recipe.

  12. Ellen says:

    I just made this dish and can’t for the life of me figure out what went wrong! My rice was completely undercooked. I could tell the broth wasn’t fully absorbing so I left the whole pot simmering on low for an entire hour.

    I rinsed the basmati rice well, and soaked it for more than 30 minutes (probably about an hour and a half).

    Was it me? Or did I just have rice from hell? Honestly, I need a sanity check because I feel like I’ve lost my mind. And it’s such a gut punch after 3 hours of cooking.

    I did have an Arabic friend say he always made it with a starchy rice. Maybe I shouldn’t have rinsed the rice or used white rice? I don’t know.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Ellen, I am so sorry your maqluba didn’t turn out. I feel terrible when one of my recipes doesn’t work out for our readers.

      Not being there it is very hard for me to know what went wrong, but there maybe a clue in your last sentence where I think you are saying “maybe you should have used white rice.” This recipe calls for white basmati rice. I have corrected the recipe to read white basmati rice instead of just basmati rice. If you used brown rice that would change things immensely. Brown rice has an outer coating of bran that takes more time and liquid to cook than white rice.

      You definitely should rinse and soak the rice for this recipe. This helps the rice cook evenly and removes any powder coating on the outside of the rice.

      Another issue if you used brown rice is that it has a much shorter expiration date than white rice. Brown rice should be used in 3 – 6 months, where as white rice can last for years.

      Again, I am so sorry this dish didn’t turn out for you.

  13. Karen says:

    I spray the eggplant and cauliflower with olive oil cooking spray then bake them before adding to the stovetop pot. Keeps the frying out of the mix and is pure flavour

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Karen, I agree 100%. After making Ottolenghi’s traditional maqluba using fried vegetables, I re-did the recipe and used a combination of braising and roasting to prepare the vegetables. It is definitely healthier and in many ways easier than frying the veggies. I think you could also prepare them in an air fryer and be happy with the results.

  14. Beverly says:

    I was soooo disappointed with this dish! I’m sure I did some things wrong but it turned out an oily mess, like a greasy soup with crunchy rice. I’ve made a vegetarian version before from NYTimes and that one was scrumptious.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Beverly, I am so sorry this recipe did not work for you. I’ve made it several times and it is based on a recipe published in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. It is hard for me to know what went wrong from your description, but I think it may have had something to do with the frying of the vegetables. I will tell you that after making maqluba the traditional way described in this recipe, I revamped the recipe to try make what I consider a healthier version. You can see this version here. Instead of frying the vegetables, I roast them. I also eliminate the meat for a vegetarian version. If you like the idea of a maqluba, then perhaps my revised version might be more to your liking. Thank you for writing in!

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