Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice

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This middle eastern chicken and rice recipe is very easy to put together. It’s a whole big dinner in one pan, it’s delicious, simple, and healthy.


Spending time in Israel means spending time in my mama’s kitchen. You won’t hear me complain! Only made-from-scratch, mostly healthy, and oh so delicious things come out of that kitchen. I often learn new tricks and learn how to make my childhood dishes that I loved and still love so much (since I wasn’t present anywhere close to a kitchen when I was growing up).

This simple Middle Eastern chicken and rice is one of those dishes. It’s made of ingredients and seasonings that most of us already have on hand, it’s a great simple dinner for the whole family, and it will fill your belly with filling yet not too heavy and hard to digest calories.

Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice…

Middle eastern chicken and rice ready for serving.

If you are a homesteader who raises their own meat birds (here is how to raise Cornish Cross and how to butcher a chicken), this is a great dish for you as well since it can stay in the oven for a long time. We all know that home-raised meat is often tougher than store-bought and sometimes takes longer to cook. This Middle Eastern chicken can be baked in the oven low and slow for as long as you want until the meat is literally falling off the bones.

A whole chicken on a cutting board.

Ingredients…

  • Chicken – you can use whole chicken or pieces (8-10 legs or/and thighs), or a combination of the two. You’ll see below that we used a whole chicken and since we had a little bit of extra room in the pan, we added a couple of legs and a thigh as well.
  • Rice – use any kind of rice. You can use white rice or brown rice, it really doesn’t matter.
  • Onions and garlic – I don’t think that there is a Middle Eastern dish that doesn’t include these two and this one is no different…
  • Water – to help the rice cook.
  • Seasonings – it’s really simple… We used salt, black pepper, paprika (sweet or spicy just make sure that it’s good quality and not dry and tasteless), and a little bit of olive oil. If you are local to me and purchase the chicken seasoning mix that I sell at the local market every Saturday, feel free to use it instead of the paprika.

Kitchen Tools…

How to Make Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice…

Washing rice in a strainer.

Step one – set the pan. Before you start working on setting the pan, if you are using white rice, wash your rice in cold water for a couple of minutes and set it aside (there is no need to wash brown rice).

Adding onions, salt, pepper, and olive oil to the pan.

Line the pan with parchment paper. Slice one large onion or a couple of medium onions into thin slices and lay the rings so they cover the bottom of the pan. Season the onions with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper, then drizzle them with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Adding rice on top of the onions in the pan.

Next, add the rice over the onions and sprinkle it with another teaspoon of salt and another teaspoon of black pepper.

Cutting the breastbone of the chicken.

Step two – add the chicken. If you are using pieces of chicken, simply organize them over the rice. If you are using a whole chicken, place it on its back and use your knife to break the breast bone right between the two breast pieces.

Adding the chicken to the pan.

Then, open up the chicken and lay it on top of the rice skin side up.

Adding garlic cloves under the chicken.

Step three – add garlic, water, and seasonings. We used eight cloves of garlic. You can use fewer or add a few if you like garlic. Peel the garlic and quarter each clove. Then take a few pieces at a time and insert them under the chicken (this way they won’t burn). Add a few here and a few there right on top of the rice and under the chicken.

Adding water to the pan.

Next, add three cups of water to the pan. Usually, we use four cups of water to cook two cups of rice but since the juices of the chicken are going to join the party while it’s baking we don’t need more than three cups of water here.

Seasoning the chicken with paprika.

Season the chicken with one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of black pepper and lastly, with one tablespoon of paprika (or again, with the Mediterranean chicken seasoning mix if you are my local customer).

Middle eastern chicken and rice right out of the oven.

Step four – bake the chicken. Cover the pan with tin foil and bake the chicken in a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes. Then, lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional hour and a half. We didn’t remove the tin foil at all and as you can see in the image above the chicken still got that golden color to it. If you find that your chicken is not getting this beautiful color and crispy skin, remove the tin foil for the last 20 minutes or so of the baking.

If you are using homegrown chicken, or if, for some reason, you’d like to bake your chicken for a longer period, just lower the heat to 300 degrees and you can leave it in the oven for up to four hours.

What to Serve With This Dish…

Of course, it’s better to serve this dish hot right out of the oven! The onions and bottom layer of the rice become a crispy layer that is delicious (see what’s on the left side of the plate in the image below), the garlic melts and can’t be found, and the chicken is flavorful and falls off the bone. This dish is a whole meal! If you ask me, the only thing that we need to add here is a salad…

  • Israeli beet salad – this salad works so so well with a chicken dish!
  • Red cabbage salad – the one and only. It’s an Israeli classic and a twist on the famous American coleslaw salad.
  • Israeli mixed vegetable salad – in my book, when there is rice, there’s gotta be a mixed vegetable salad involved. This is our go to salad that we eat pretty much every day.
  • Green beans – I love green beans! I steam them for a couple of minutes and then toss them with fresh garlic, butter, and some salt. They fit great beside this dish.
How to serve middle eastern chicken and rice.

How to Store And Reheat Leftovers…

We just made a huge pan of this Middle Eastern chicken and rice, and as much as we love this dish, we often find ourselves with some leftovers. Just scoop everything out of the pan and into a plastic container that you can store in the fridge for a few days.

When you want to serve it again you’ll have to reheat it in the microwave (that’s the easiest) or, if you don’t have one, you can reheat it in the oven. Transfer the leftovers to an oven-safe dish, cover the dish with tin foil and you might even have to add a little bit of water so the rice doesn’t dry out. Reheating will probably take around 15 minutes in a 300 degree Fahrenheit preheated oven.

Frequently Asked Questions…

Can I add vegetables around the chicken?

Yes! Feel free to add any vegetable you want from zucchini to tomatoes, or cabbage, or beets. Just take into consideration that the pan is going to be in the oven for a long time so, if you add the vegetables at the beginning, they are going to be very soft when the dish is ready. If you like this texture that’s fine.

Can I change the seasonings?

You can, but that will, of course, change the taste of the dish a bit. You can try curry or cumin, add some cayenne or chili flakes for heat, or if you have some sort of chicken seasoning mix that will probably work as well. I’d change the seasonings on the chicken only and keep the simple salt and black pepper on the onion and rice though.

Can I use pieces of chicken instead of a whole one?

Definitely. Use as many chicken pieces as you can fit in the pan.

Can I use brown rice instead of white?

Yes. I’d keep the rest of the recipe exactly the same.

Variations…

  • Make it in a dutch oven – feel free to follow the same recipe but make it in a dutch oven instead. It’s a bit tighter there so it might be easier to use pieces of chicken instead of a whole chicken.
  • Make it with turkey or duck meat – you can use this same recipe but instead of the chicken you can use turkey meat or duck meat. Take into consideration that these types of meat are drier and don’t have as much fat as the chicken, so you might want to add a little bit more olive oil and another cup of water.
  • Add potatoes – many times, under the onions, my mother adds potatoes. She slices them into half inch round slices and set them to the pan first before she adds the onions. They work surprisingly well!

This Middle Eastern chicken and rice is a very simple dish that we make often. It’s filling and healthy and can go with any simple salad on the side. I hope that you’ll give it a try!

More Dinner Recipes…

Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice

Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

This middle eastern chicken and rice recipe is very easy to put together. It's a whole big dinner in one pan, it's delicious, simple, and healthy.

Ingredients

  • One whole chicken or 8-10 thighs
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of rice (white or brown)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 3 teaspoons of salt
  • 3 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika

Instructions

  1. Before you start working on setting the pan, if you are using white rice, wash your rice in cold water for a couple of minutes and set it aside (no need to wash brown rice).
  2. Line a deep pan with parchment paper. Slice one large onion into thin slices and lay the rings so they cover the bottom of the pan. Season the onions with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper, then drizzle them with about a tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Add the rice over the onions and sprinkle it with another teaspoon of salt and another teaspoon of black pepper.
  4. If you are using pieces of chicken, simply organize them over the rice. If you are using a whole chicken, place it on its back and use your knife to break the breast bone right between the two breast pieces (photos in the body of the post above). Open up the chicken and lay it on top of the rice skin side up.
  5. Peel the garlic and quarter each clove. Then take a few pieces at a time and insert them under the chicken (this way they won’t burn). Add a few here and a few there right on top of the rice and under the chicken.
  6. Add three cups of water to the pan.
  7. Season the chicken with one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of black pepper and lastly, with one tablespoon of paprika (if you purchased the Middle Eastern chicken seasoning mix from me at the local farmer's market, feel free to use that instead of the paprika).
  8. Cover the pan with tin foil and bake the chicken in a preheated 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes. Then, lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional hour and a half. If you find that your chicken is not getting a beautiful golden color and crispy skin towards the end of the baking, remove the tin foil for the last 20 minutes or so.
    Note - If you are using homegrown chicken (that needs longer cooking time for the meat to soften), or if, for some reason, you’d like to bake your chicken for a longer period, just lower the heat to 300 degrees and you can leave it in the oven for up to four hours.
  9. Serve hot right out of the oven with a salad as a side (ideas for some classic Middle Eastern salads in the post).

Notes

  1. How to keep leftovers - just scoop everything out of the pan and into a plastic container that you can store in the fridge for a few days.
  2. How to reheat - you’ll have to reheat it in the microwave or, if you don’t have one, you can reheat it in the oven. Transfer the leftovers to an oven-safe dish, cover the dish with tin foil and you might even have to add a little bit of water so the rice doesn’t dry out. Reheating will probably take around 15 minutes in a 300 degrees F preheated oven.
  3. Variations -
  • Make it in a dutch oven – feel free to follow the same recipe but make it in a dutch oven instead. It’s a bit tighter there so it might be easier to use pieces of chicken instead of a whole chicken.
  • Make it with turkey or duck meat – you can use this same recipe but instead of the chicken you can use turkey meat or duck meat. Take into consideration that these types of meat are drier and don’t have as much fat as the chicken, so you might want to add a little bit more olive oil and another cup of water.
  • Add potatoes – many times, under the onions, we add potatoes. Slice them into half-inch round slices and set them on the pan first before you add the onions. They work surprisingly well!


Frequently Asked Questions...

    1. Can I add vegetables around the chicken?
      Yes! Feel free to add any vegetable you want from zucchini to tomatoes, or cabbage, or beets. Just take into consideration that the pan is going to be in the oven for a long time so, if you add the vegetables at the beginning, they are going to be very soft when the dish is ready. If you like this texture that’s fine.
    2. Can I change the seasonings?
      You can, but that will, of course, change the taste of the dish a bit. You can try curry or cumin, add some cayenne or chili flakes for heat, or if you have some sort of chicken seasoning mix that will probably work as well. I’d change the seasonings on the chicken only and keep the simple salt and black pepper on the onion and rice though.
    3. Can I use pieces of chicken instead of a whole one?
      Definitely. Use as many chicken pieces as you can fit in the pan.
    4. Can I use brown rice instead of white?
      Yes. I’d keep the rest of the recipe exactly the same.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 541Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 232mgSodium: 1092mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 53g

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2 thoughts on “Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice”

  1. I just did this chicken for the first time. I have roasted many chickens, but I have never cooked rice like this. This is super easy but SO delicious! Thank you so much! This is going to be on a pretty frequent rotation in our house. It’s a perfect meal to throw together and forget about while I ferry kids to/from sports and music lessons.

    1. YES! Oh, I’m so happy that you liked it. Middle Eastern flavors are so different than American flavors that when I share an Israeli recipe I am usually really afraid that it won’t sit well here in America. It is a really simple recipe and you can definitely forget about it and go do something else.
      Thanks for taking the time to let me know. If you’d like, please rate the recipe in the recipe card.

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