Chicken Machboos with Baharat & Sella Basmati Rice

Made a small batch of Baharat spice mix and used the highly recommended Sella basmati rice to make my already popular Bahraini Chicken Machboos but this time with added veggies. Machboos is best served with laban (buttermilk) or yoghurt for lunch or dinner. Am I a fan of Sella rice now? Hmmm, I prefer the regular basmati but Sella has better points for being a low GI grain.
A pot of Chicken Machboos with carrots and potatoes

I never expected my Bahraini Chicken Machboos to become so popular that I regret not trying a Baharat spice mix recipe. I was not too keen to buy a pack of Baharat either but you know, I am a curious cat, so sneaked around the internet to find all about it. 

What I learnt is that Baharat is Arabic for "spices" so it can be a blend of any spices. The Levant has its own Baharat that they call 7 spices, and the gulf has their version which is primarily used for Machboos or Kabsa. My recipe is more of the Gulf version. Think it like this way - Baharat is Arab's Garam Masala, therefore if you are an Indian/Pakistani, you know there are plenty of garam masala recipes but a few spices will be part of every blend. Similarly, the Baharat spice blend has a few indispensable items. 

A plate of whole spices for Baharat Spice Mix

What is baharat made of? Baharat is a warm spice blend that varies by region and household and typically includes black pepper, cumin, cardamom, cloves, allspice, coriander and paprika. Some blends call for nutmeg or dried lime or even dried mint depending on the region. 

What can I use instead of Baharat? You can pretty much use any other middle eastern spice mix like Bezar or Hawaij. It is okay if you do not have some of the spices to make the blend, you may choose to skip them and still have a flavourful dish. If you have ground spices, then you can make a tiny batch just for one dish by mixing already ground spices.

Is Baharat the same as ras el hanout? No, they are not the same but they do have common ingredients. 

Chicken Machboos using Basmati Rice
Machboos with Baharat and regular Basmati rice

My first batch of baharat was used in the above image of chicken machboos. Here, I had used Kashmiri red chilli powder instead of paprika powder. As you can see from the other pictures, they don't make any difference in the colour of the rice. So you can replace paprika with Kashmiri red chilli powder. I know we Indians, don't have much to do with paprika! I had a stash from Yanbu days about to expire so used them for my second batch of baharat.

Homemade Gulf Baharat Spice Mix Recipe

I chose to make my stash with whole spices because I didn't have ground cloves, so I anyways had to use the processor so might as well use all whole spices. But if you have only the ground (powder) version, then go ahead and just measure and mix! I have included the powder measurements based on the conversion guide seen on multiple established websites.

Yields: approx 4 tablespoons.

Ingredients for a homemade baharat spice mix

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns or 1 tbsp powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds or 1 tbsp powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds or 2½ tsp powder
  • 2 teaspoon whole cloves or 1½ tsp powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp powder
  • 3 green cardamom pods or ¼ tsp powder
  • 2 teaspoon allspice powder
  • 1½ tablespoon paprika or Kashmiri red chilli powder

How to make a Baharat spice mix?

  1. Break down the spices in a mortar and pestle so it makes it easier to process in the mixie. 
  2. Process peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, and cardamom until fine in a processor or chutney maker or coffee grinder. 
  3. Stir in the allspice and paprika powder until combined.
  4. Store in a clean dry bottle with a tight lid. 
How to use the Baharat spice mix? Apart from making machboos, I have used them as a marinade by mixing in some olive oil and rubbing them over the chicken or meat for a pan roast dinner. 

Sella Basmati Machboos

A half empty pot of chicken machboos

I also had dozen of recommendation to try Sella Basmati rice to make machboos. Initially, I thought it was a brand name like India Gate, Tilda etc, but when I looked up for it, I realized it is a par-boiled version of basmati. Wow, seems like I was living in a cave. 🙊 A quick search on Amazon and I found my favourite rice brand, India Gate had their own Sella basmati. My package arrived but it had nothing printed in English (everything except the title was in Arabic) My dear Arab friend, Farida helped me translate every word. Since then, I have been testing Sella basmati Machboos adding veggies and I am finally happy to say that the pack instructions didn't work for me but I do have a perfect sella rice machboos recipe.  😊 
Instagram stroies screenshot of machboos with sella rice

I am not the only one who struggled to get perfectly cooked sella rice that is not overcooked to mush or undercooked to hard grains. It is known for being a cook's nightmare. But the secret is in the SOAKING! The pack does mention that you need to soak for 2 to 3 hours, which requires a bit of planning and reminder setting etc. But even then the water to rice ratio was not black and white like regular basmati. If you are an expert in cooking rice, then you will manage to get to the good side of Sella soon. I am glad I found a very convenient method - Soak Sella rice overnight without rinsing. 

I soak the sella rice without washing in room temp water before I go to bed. The next day, I rinse and soak in water again. An hour before I start the lunch prep, I drain and leave the rice in the colander until needed. This way, I had to use only 2 cups minus 2tbsp of water for every cup of sella basmati rice, similar to my original recipe. 

A pot of Chicken Machboos with Baharat & Sella Basmati Rice

Chicken Machboos using Homemade Baharat & Sella Basmati Rice


  • 1 tablespoon ghee or butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 to 5 green chillies, slit
  • 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 600gms chicken or 3 chicken whole legs, washed, pat dried, scored (a few shallow cut lines)
  • 1 tablespoon Baharat spice mix (refer to the recipe above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 dried black lime (loomi), pierced
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 2½ cup hot water (reserve 2 tbsp and add only if required)
  • 1 carrot, large roundels
  • 1 potato, large roundels (or more carrots)
  • 1¼ cup sella basmati rice, soaked for 5 to 8 hours
  • Fistful coriander leaves, chopped
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil or butter to roast the chicken 


  1. Heat butter or ghee in a deep wide pot on medium flame.
  2. Add finely diced onion, green chillies and saute until onions turn golden.
  3. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a minute.
  4. Add the chicken along with spice powders and cook on high until all of the chicken pieces turn white.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they breakdown into liquid. Meanwhile, prepare hot water.
  6. Add the hot water and salt to taste. Bring this to a boil. Cover and cook on a medium flame for 10 minutes. 
  7. Open and add the chopped carrots and potatoes if using and bring to boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes and chicken are cooked through. 
  8. Remove the cooked chicken pieces and the vegetables using a slotted spoon and transfer a greased skillet. 
  9. Stir in a fistful of chopped coriander leaves, lime or lemon juice, drained rice and salt to taste.
  10. Bring this to boil on a high flame until you can see the grains on the surface. Reduce the flame to the lowest. Slide a heat diffuser or flat pan underneath, cover the pot with foil and then the lid. Let it cook for another 15 mins. (If using an oven to roast, this is the time you may preheat to grill or broiler)
  11. Open and carefully bring the bottom rice to the top using a rubber spatula. Cover and let it cook for 5 minutes and switch off. 
  12. Meanwhile, sprinkle some baharat spice over the cooked chicken and veggies and roast them on the stovetop or oven with a drizzle of olive oil or butter.
  13. You may place back the roasted chicken and vegetables on top of the rice and serve or transfer the rice to a platter and place over it. Serve chicken machboos with salad and laban or yoghurt.
Chicken machboos served in a casserole dish
Machboos with Baharat and regular Basmati rice

More rice and meat dish recipes?

Try my Tamil Nadu style mutton biryani or Persian Kalam Polow with Kofte or Indonesian Nasi Goreng or Afghani Kabuli Palaw!

I would love to hear from you. If you have made this recipe then please do leave a comment below. If you like this recipe then please do share the recipe with your friends and family on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Please do follow me on Instagram and mention @butfirstchaai or tag #butfirstchaiblog so that I can see your creations!