I·ATE Food Term of the Week: Maqluba

February 15, 2020 9:00 am

Maqluba banner This week, the spotlight is on Maqluba (also, Maqlooba or Maqlouba), which literally means “upside down”. You may now wonder why. Well, the explanation is simple: the reason is that, when served, the pot is flipped upside down. Beforehand, all the ingredients are placed in the pot in layers in a certain way so, when flipped, the dish appears like a layer cake.

Maqluba has its origins in Jordan and Palestine, but is also a traditional meal spread throughout the Arab world. This includes Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as Kurdish areas. Besides, it is the national dish of Palestine.

Maqluba picMaqluba is composed of fried vegetables with rice and meat. Although the common used vegetables are cauliflowers and eggplants, you can include a wide variety of other vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes or mushrooms. In addition, vegetables are usually accompanied with chicken but once again, you can choose other meat. However, if you do not eat meat, you can cook a vegetarian version. Furthermore, the latter is usually eaten with a side of yoghurt salad, made of yoghurt, cucumber, tiny amount of onion/spring onion, mint, and tiny amount of chili. On top of that, Maqluba is typically garnished with chopped fresh parsley and pine nuts. As you could understand, there are multiple variations, which implies that Maqluba is more of a method than a recipe. Once you master the principles behind the dish, being the layering and the use of allspice/vegetables/meat, you are free to create your own version of the dish.

As a way to start though, here is a recipe you can use:

Serves 6 to 8 people


– 1½ teaspoon (tsp) of ground turmeric                                   

– 1 tsp of ground ginger                                             

– 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

– 1 tsp of ground allspice

– 1 tsp of ground cumin

– 1 teaspoon of ground coriander

– ½ tsp of cardamom

– ½ tsp of ground cloves

– ½ tsp of black pepper

– Vegetable oil (corn or sunflower)

– 1 kg of chicken (1 whole chicken cut up in pieces or 6 to 8 large pieces on the bone – legs,    thighs and/breasts)

– 2,5 tsp of salt

– 3 to 4 bay leaves

– 1 cauliflower

– 2 large carrots

– 1 large potato

– 450g of rice (medium grain rice is best but long grain is fine too)

Optional: a handful of pine nuts and some chopped parsley


  • First, mix all the ground spices (bar the salt) in a bowl and set aside
  • Prepare the chicken broth. Roughly chop the onion, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish and fry the onion on medium heat for about 5 minutes. If you went for a whole chicken, cut it up into pieces. You can remove the skin off the chicken prior to frying it, if you prefer. Add the chicken to the saucepan and fry evenly on each side for about 5 minutes. When the chicken has some color, pour about 1.3 liter of water in the pan, ensuring the chicken is completely covered. Throw in 3 to 4 bay leaves, 1-heaped teaspoon of salt and 1-heaped teaspoon of the spice mix, bring to boil then cover with the lid and let it simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes
  • While the chicken is cooking, get the vegetables ready. Peel the carrots and the potato and cut into slices of about 1 cm. Chop the cauliflower into big chunks and wash. In a frying pan, heat a generous quantity of vegetable oil – about 0,5cm to 1 cm deep. Fry all the vegetables in small batches until golden brown on each side. Use paper towel to soak up the oil
  • Thoroughly rinse the rice under running water to remove the starch. Some types of rice might need to soak in water in advance so check the instructions on the pack
  • Once your chicken is cooked, take the pieces out of the broth and put aside. Pour the broth through a sieve into a separate bowl so you keep only the liquid, which you’ll use to cook the Maqluba
  • You can now assemble the Maqluba. In the same saucepan used to make the broth, lay down the chicken, then the vegetables and finally spread the rice to make three even layers. Sprinkle some more of the spice mix over the rice (a small tablespoon) plus 1,5 heaped-teaspoon of salt. Now, pour the broth in the pan until it reaches the same level as the rice or 0,5cm above it (you will need about 700/800ml of broth). Place a small plate on the rice- this will keep it all in place as it cooks. Do not mix the ingredients. Bring to boil, then cover and let it simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until there is absolutely no liquid left. Keep an eye on it to make sure it does not burn – once there is no water left, take it off the heat and leave to rest for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid on
  • The final step is to flip the dish upside down. Open the pan and remove the small plate. Put a large tray or plate over the pan, hold it tight and flip it over so the maqluba transfers to the tray or plate. And here it is. Your maqluba is ready!

Note that many people sprinkle a handful pine nuts (which you can quickly roast in a small frying pan) and parsley over the maqluba when it is ready.

Sahteen! (Equivalent of enjoy your meal in Arabic)


– Maqluba – Eating Upside Down. Robert Swift. https://themedialine.org/news/featured/maqluba-eating-upside-down/ (Accessed on 06/02/2020)         

– Maqluba. Revolvy. https://www.revolvy.com/page/Maqluba (Accessed on 06/02/2020)

– Maqluba (Maqlooba), Palestinian Upside Down Rice Recipe. Azlin Bloor. https://www.linsfood.com/maqlooba/ (Accessed on 06/02/2020)

– Jamila’s maqluba: chicken, rice & cauliflower pot. Taste of Palestine. https://tasteofpalestine.org/recipes/maqluba-chicken-rice-pot (Accessed on 06/02/2020)

Samira JoineauWritten by Samira Joineau

Communication Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg. She holds a Bachelor degree in Languages, Literature and Foreign Civilizations (English). She is a student of the Master in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg.

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