Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

November 09, 2015

Was it only me who associated Aleesa or Alsa to a dessert? Well, because it used to be served with sugar!!! Only post my marriage I learnt Aleesa is made with chicken or meat. A Muslim wedding food in the Malabar region of Kerala is not complete without this dish which is served before the main course. I can't believe I had Aleesa so many times at weddings that too with loads of sugar! 😋

Update 2019: The pack in supermarkets of Yanbu mentioned "White Wheat" so I never had to doubt. I was looking for the same white wheat in Abu Dhabi markets and I found that apparently, I have been using "pearl barley". facepalm.  Quick research I learnt that even harees sometimes can be made with pearl barely so I hope I am forgiven and this recipe can stay as it is... because it works charmingly and deliciously! Updated the title and the recipe to reflect the options.

Updated Post with New Pictures: 17th May 2017

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

Upon researching, I learnt that the middle-eastern Jareesh or Harees that is prepared during the month of Ramadan in most of the Arab houses is akin to our Aleesa. When Aleesa is made at home, I have only relished it oblivious to how it is prepared. I heard that it was a huge task and needs a lot of energy to churn etc. Even then, I never imagined it was prepared with chicken. 

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

It was at my in-laws where my mil (umma) said she will make Aleesa for dinner. I was like "eh! Dinner?" and because I was newly married, I was not too comfortable to ask or say anything. I was busy with something else when she came to me with a bowl which had chicken bones and all and asked me to taste and check salt. I was taken aback! I will never forget that day! That was the best Aleesa I had and the day I learnt the fact that it is made with chicken. I was so surprised, I called my mom to cross check if that is how indeed it is made and she confirmed and stated that for weddings due to the large scale requirement it is made with less meat and more wheat. What a revelation! 

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

During one of the grocery shopping here in Yanbu, I saw a pack of white wheat (I had no idea which wheat was used to make Aleesa) and grabbed a pack and sent a picture to my sister who confirmed it! I was super happy and asked her to send the recipe for Aleesa (Thanks to WhatsApp, my sister recorded my mother's voice sharing the recipe) She made the whole process sound so easy but I was doubtful with the preconceived notion about the hard work. 

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

Aleesa is a dish where wheat and meat is cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with fried shallots, nuts and ghee. This can be prepared with goat meat or mutton too.

With the pressure cooker and blender method, we can recreate this traditional rich food with zero hand workout. If you prefer to work out your arms, please go ahead and keep stirring and mashing! 😅😅

The method stated here requires time. Soaking, pressure cooking, and pulsing or blending. If you have a hand blender, then it takes lesser time. Else, we need to cool it and break it down in a mixie or processor. 

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken

Aleesa is a creamy, rich blend of chicken and wheat with a mild taste of the whole spices all cooked in coconut milk - and when hot ghee, fried onions and nuts fall on the hot plate of aleesa, it is too good to resist but you can't have more as you will feel full soon! 😋

Aleesa | Wheat berries with Chicken in Coconut Milk

This recipe yields two servings for two.


1 cup wheat berries or pearl barley, soaked for 5 to 8 hours or overnight
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups thick coconut milk
1 cups of water
Salt to taste
350 to 500 gms Chicken - with bone is better to taste.  
4 cloves
3 cardamoms
1-inch cinnamon stick

For Garnish

4 tablespoon ghee
1/2 medium onion thinly sliced
5 to 6 raisins
8 to 10 cashews

Sugar while serving 


  1. In a Pressure cooker add the soaked white wheat, coconut milk, 1 cup of water, garlic cloves, chicken pieces, whole spices, and salt
  2. Pressure cook on low to medium flame for 2 to 3 whistles. Let the pressure cool on its own. Check if the chicken and wheat are cooked, adjust salt, add more water if required and pressure cook again for 2 to 3 whistles and switch off. 
  3. Once the pressure is released on it own, open and carefully remove and discard the bones and whole spices (my mom had mentioned to tie the whole spices in a cloth and drop it in the pot to cook so it can be removed once done.)
  4. Use a hand blender or wait for it to cool down and pulse the content in a mixie to a coarse paste
  5. If the mixture is too thick, add a cup of very hot water and bring to boil before switching off

For Garnish 

Prepare the garnish while the wheat and chicken are cooking. 
  1. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp of ghee and fry the raisins until puffed - keep aside
  2. In the same pan, fry the cashews and keep aside
  3. Add some more ghee and fry the thinly sliced onions (do not step away and get them burnt)
  4. Mix these together in a bowl and use it to garnish each plate

How to serve

Scoop a ladle of Aleesa and spread on a plate, top it with the garnish mixture and sprinkle generous sugar and dig in!

Aleesa prepared this way is heavy so have it for early dinner days or weekend lunch. 

Aleesa | Skinless White Wheat with Chicken
I am so glad I made this again after a long time, clicked pictures but did not eat off that plate post photo shoot! :-P Waiting for my man... 

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