Delicious & Easy

Lamb Kabuli Pulao

In mid-October of 2021, Kitchens For Good received a call from the Alliance for African Assistance requesting 400 meals per week to feed the 125 Afghan evacuees resettling into homes in San Diego. Much research and adjustment went into planning new menus around traditional Afghan meals. A colleague connected me to Waheedullah, an employment specialist and data coordinator at a resettlement agency in San Diego. Waheedullah is from Kabul and formally collaborated with the US during their occupation in the region. Waheedullah graciously guided us on the preparation of Kabuli Pulao, a national dish of Afghanistan composed of braised lamb and basmati rice.

The dish is brightened with saffron and sweetened with raisins and caramelized carrots. We served it with Qorma-e-Sabzi, a citrusy and herbaceous stewed spinach side dish with dill, cilantro, lemon juice, and cumin.

Image: Courtesy of Dani Heckman.

Ingredients for

Lamb Kabuli Pulao

3 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 onion, medium dice

3 cloves garlic

2 halal lamb shanks or lamb shoulder, at least 2 pounds

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1 tablespoon reserved 

3 cups halal beef broth

2 tablespoon butter or ghee

3 large carrots, cut in juliennes

½ cup raisins

2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 pinch saffron, preferably Afghan saffron

1 cup water, lukewarm

2 cups Basmati rice

Chopped toasted nuts of choice, optional

1 scallion, thinly sliced, optional

SERVES 4 to 6

Instructions for

Lamb Kabuli Pulao

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat grapeseed oil over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.

Remove onions and garlic from the heat and set aside. In the same pan over medium-high heat, sear the lamb. If using lamb shanks, keep the lamb on the bone and sear the whole shank. If using a boneless shoulder, cut the lamb into 2-inch cubes before searing. Sear for 5 minutes on each side.

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. In the same pan on low heat, toast the tomato paste with the sautéed onion and garlic. Add the black pepper, cumin, cardamom, garam masala, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Gently fry the paste for 5 minutes.

Add the beef broth and bring to a simmer. Return the lamb to the pan and cover. Cook on low for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a medium pan, melt butter or ghee on medium heat. Add carrots and raisins and cook until the carrots soften and the raisins plump. Mix in sugar until dissolved and absorbed by the carrots and raisins. Remove from heat.

Dissolve the saffron in 1 cup of lukewarm water.

After 1 hour of simmering, check the lamb for desired tenderness. With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the lamb from the broth and set aside. Add saffron water into the broth and return to a simmer. 

Taste and adjust the broth for salt, adding up to 1 tablespoon of salt if desired. Add rice into simmering broth and cook until al dente, about 15 minutes.

Once cooked, strain the rice from the broth and reserve the broth. Return the broth to the pan and reduce by half or until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Plate the dish with rice topped with caramelized carrots, raisins, and lamb. Spoon au jus on top of lamb and garnish with green onions and chopped toasted nuts of your choice.

Serve alongside sautéed greens of your choice.

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