This beautiful and balanced rice is Afghanistan’s national dish. Pieces of lamb or chicken are usually buried beneath the rice, with the stock from the meat used to flavour it.






Skill level

Average: 3.8 (55 votes)

In a time before the convenience of julienne slicers and shop-bought peeled and slivered nuts, kabuli palaw was time-consuming and elaborate to prepare, and was reserved primarily for ceremonial events. These days, although it takes less time to make, it still commands reverence. The delicate blend of spices and a crowning glory of glistening carrot, sultanas and nuts gives kabuli palaw pride of place among Afghan rice dishes.

If you prefer, you can leave out the meat and use vegetable stock instead. This version uses lamb, cooked to tenderness in a pressure cooker.



  • 125 ml (½ cup) sunflower oil
  • 2 medium brown onions, finely diced
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) coarsely diced boneless lamb leg
  • 600 g (3 cups) sella basmati rice, soaked for 2–3 hours
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom


  • 500 ml (2 cups) sunflower oil
  • 2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 170 g (1 cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 1 tbsp slivered almonds
  • 1 tbsp slivered pistachios
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom


Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soak the rice 2-3 hours before beginning this recipe.

1. To prepare the palaw rice, add the oil and onion to a pressure cooker pan over high heat and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the lamb and stir occasionally for 5 minutes, or until the meat is browned and sealed. Add 1 litre (4 cups) hot water and 1 tbsp salt, place the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes, then carefully release the pressure to remove the lid. Using a slotted spoon, take out the meat (which should be lovely and tender) and set aside. Reserve the stock to flavour the rice.

2. Bring 2.5 litres (10 cups) water to the boil in a large saucepan. Meanwhile, drain excess water from the rice, add it to the boiling water with 1 tbsp salt and cook for 6–8 minutes, or until the rice is parboiled and the grains look like they have doubled in length.

3. Drain the rice in a colander and return to the saucepan. Pour the meat stock over the rice, then add the cumin, cardamom and 1 tbsp salt to the mix. Using a large, flat slotted spoon, known to Afghans as a kafgeer, mix gently. With the kafgeer, create a well in the centre of the rice and place the lamb in the well. Cover the meat with rice and place the lid on the saucepan. Cook over high heat until steam escapes from under the lid, then reduce the heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes.

4. For the topping, heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat until shimmering. Add the carrot and fry for 4–5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Add the sultanas to the oil and fry for 3 minutes, or until they are plump and float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the carrot. Add the nuts, sugar and cardamom to the bowl, and mix gently.

5. Using the kafgeer, layer the rice and lamb onto a large serving platter, creating a heap. Liberally spoon over the topping and serve immediately.


Images and text from Parwana by Durkhanai Ayubi; recipes by Farida Ayubi with assistance from Fatema Ayubi. Photography by Alicia Taylor. Murdoch Books RRP $45.00