Like many neighbouring countries in the Levant, Jordan is known for its dips and tiny, tasty dishes called mezze. Scattered on the table in bowls and mopped up with fresh pita or saj breads, meals begin with an overwhelming array of options. Mouttabal to tabouli, hummus, labne yoghurt, and a variety of other rich and creamy appetizers, each with its own distinct taste but fitting seamlessly, one after the other, into a crescendo of flavours.
To start each meal with such a wonderful swirl of tastes felt decadent at first. I am not used to the dance of flavours that mezze brings, and I loved every bite. And then, I got to main dishes like maklouba.
Maglouba can also be spelled magloubeh, maglouba, maqluba, makloubeh and sometimes ma’aloubeh, and has its origins in the Middle East generally, not only Jordan. I learned this recipe in Jordan, from a Jordanian chef – but there are versions from Syria, Lebanon, and beyond.
Origins of Maklouba / Makloubeh
The origin of maklouba appears to be a medieval Arabic cookery book, but the dish is found throughout the Middle East today.
In Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking, chef and author Rawia Bishara refers to the dish – spelled makloobeh there – as “the impressive Palestinian lamb dish meant to serve a crowd.”
Guidebooks to Jordan, Syria, and the Levant all refer to makloubeh as common dishes in the region, with no treatise on origin.
In his May 2019 cookbook Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant recipes from the heart of Lebanon, John Gregory-Smith writes, “makloubeh is a delicious rice dish found throughout the Middle East.”
Even Wikipedia notes that the dish’s origin is simply, “Middle East,” adding that it dish goes back centuries and is found in the Kitab al-Tabikh, a collection of 13th century recipes.
One thing is certain: the dish – perhaps from Baghdad, perhaps not – is a popular feast in the Middle East today.
The name maklouba – meaning “upside down” in Arabic – speaks to the dish’s main features: with roasted vegetables, spiced rice, and a meat of choice, it is presented by carefully flipping the pot over and serving it upside down.
As per the recipe for Maklouba below, it is pre-cooked in segments. Vegetables first and rice second, folded with a mix of traditionally Middle Eastern flavours. Piled artfully into a pot and cooked over the stove, the whole lot of it is tipped upside down on the plate once complete, revealing the patterns of meat and vegetables below. The rice (used to getting its own plate) is relegated to second billing. Sorry, rice! The chicken-eggplant-cauliflower combo is just too good to ignore.
It’s not a difficult dish to make, though it does take a few hours. Presentation, however, is key: when you up-end the pot as you serve the dish, you want a neat pile of vegetables and meat to stare at.
Not spilling everything out as you flip over the pot is also key; let’s just say when I tried this at home, the first iteration ended up on the floor.
It’s been fun to experiment with different versions of maklouba, building a tapestry of colours and textures that is only visible when I flip over the dish. I’ve tried it frying up the onions with turmeric first, rendering them yellow, and leaving the rice white.
Another version included curls of eggplant skin to add some purple to the end result. Lots of room for creativity here!
An Easy Maklouba Recipe
(Adapted from Beit Sitti Cooking School, with some changes)
- 1 onion
- 2 medium sized eggplants
- 1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1kg of meat (chicken, lamb or beef works) diced or cut into pieces
- 2 cups of plain rice
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp Baharat (“7 spices”). Note: this can be obtained at most Middle Eastern grocers, but if not, you can make your own. The 7 spice blend is a mix of ground spices: black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom. Go easy on the cardamom if making your own – it’s quite strong!
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 200ml vegetable oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- Optional: sliced almonds and pine nuts.
Instructions for Maklouba
PART 1: Preliminary steps:
- Peel and cut up the eggplant into thick horizontal slices and marinate them in salt for 2 minutes. Wash the eggplant in water to get rid of the salt, and then drain the slices over paper towels.
- Soak 2 cups of rice in warm water with two pinches of salt and 2 teaspoons turmeric powder and leave for 30 minutes. (Note: After the 30 minutes, you will strain the rice to use for Part 2 below. If timing does not match up, please make sure you strain after 30 minutes).
- In a large saucepan, fry the cauliflower florets and eggplant slices in the vegetable oil until brown. Place the fried vegetables in a strainer lined with paper towels to drain off any excess oil. Note: If you prefer a healthier alternative, brush the florets and eggplant slices with olive oil and roast at 400F/200C until golden brown.
- In the same pan, heat the almond pieces and pine nuts until they are fried. Set aside for later.
- Place meat into a large pot and cover with water. Add in an onion chopped into quarters, the bay leaves the 7 spices mix and cook until meat is done, approximately 30 minutes.
- Remove the meat and season with salt, saving the broth for later in a bowl.
PART 2: Time to build your maklouba:
- In your large pot (the one you used to cook the chicken), layer the cauliflower florets and eggplant at the bottom in a desired pattern, then add the chicken pieces as a third layer.
- Spread the garlic cloves over the chicken, and then arrange the strained, uncooked rice over it all.
- Add some salt and additional turmeric powder and cumin powder to the chicken stock, and then pour it on top of the chicken-veggie pile you have just built. Make sure the sauce just covers the rice (2cm over the rice is ideal).
- Cook the saucepan on high heat for 7 minutes, and then cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
- When the water has fully evaporated (and the rice is fully cooked) take the pot off the heat and leave to cool for approximately 5-10 minutes.
- Flip the pot onto a serving plate and slowly and carefully remove the pot leaving a your masterpiece in its wake.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and the fried nuts.
If you prefer a video recipe…
For those who prefer getting their recipes in video format, I’m sharing a video by The Cookbook on YouTube, who make their own version of maklouba / makloubeh on their channel. I am not affiliated with them, but over the years people have asked me to do videos for my recipes, and I am unfortunately too unwell to do so now. So I’m linking to someone else, who does it well.
Want more great recipes from the Middle East?
I recommend these cookbooks:
- The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden
- Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by powerhouse duo Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
- Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking, by Rawia Bishara
- Eating Out Loud: Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day by Eden Grinshpan
- Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen, by Yasmin Khan
- Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen, by Adeena Sussman
- Bavel: Modern Recipes Inspired by the Middle East, by Ori Menashe, Genevieve Gergis, & Lesley Suter
- Falastin: A Cookbook, by Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley
If anyone tries this at home, please send me your photos to jodi-at-legalnomads.com – I’d love to see what fun upside-down deliciousness you come up with!
73 thoughts on “Easy Maklouba Recipe, Upside Down and Delicious”
oh yum, jodi!! will have to try this! thanks for the yummy recipe.
I Have been cooking this dish for years but always chicken first then eggplant rice on top then stock am about to try your method cheers Henry
Looks yummy and as a Jordanian, I must say that you have done a great job describing Maklouba! Thank Jodi
This looks scrumptious! Thanks for sharing the recipe!
Gorgeous collage! Everything looks delightful:)
That collage of dips made me drool on my keyboard and this recipe is definitely on my to do list! Living in Japan, the land of 2 spices, makes me really want to learn how to cook more spice-heavy cuisines.. knowing my current cooking skill level, however, my first attempt will probably also end up on the floor (and somehow in my hair).
thank you jodi. marvelous!
I just read this while starving for lunch, middle eastern food it is!!!
Looks deliciously similar to Lebanese food (my favourite alongside Vietnamese). I especially love how this recipe calls for tumeric, which is so very good for you. I’m going to have to try this recipe very soon!
Let me know how it turns out!
Yes, I bet the spices are similar to those used in some Lebanese dishes. I call Maklouba Jordanian Paella! I know there is no sea food in Maklouba but the fried veggies blend with rice and chicken somehow give that flavor.
Hi Burhan! Yes, they are quite similar to Lebanese food, I agree. Like the idea of calling it Jordanian paella – that definitely fits. And I had some today for lunch. :)
Jodi: I am envious! Enjoy!
I wonder if we should call paella Spanish Maklouba! considering Arabs where in Andalus for such a long time… Just kidding…A joke with some of Spanish friends.
I really wish I’d eaten before I read this. Looks absolutely delicious! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe – I have bookmarked so that I HAVE to give it a try.
Thanks Cherina! I hope you enjoy. It’s delicious:)
Thanks a lot for sharing this precious recipe. i am definitely going to try at this weekend.
Jodi,you are an inspiration to me.For having the courage to quit a high paying job and travelling solo for so long! I love the way your content is intelligent and articulate.If you ever come by India,don’t forget to stop by! I’m currently living in Gurgaon,Haryana which is near Delhi.
Wow this looks delicious…too bad I can’t cook at all. Might have to enlist a friend to help.
Jodi, this looks sooo good! My Mom has been making me Pineapple upside down cake for years. It’s something that is always served whenever I come home from somewhere overseas :)
Hi Jodi, Melissa here from Food Bloggers of Canada. Just popping by to let you know we’ve added you to our Membership Directory (due to your nomadic nature we changed you to “Canadian Abroad” :)). Welcome aboard!
Thanks Melissa! Happy to be a member and looking forward to sharing many more good eats.
I’ve just returned from Jordan. I can’t believe I missed this! Will have to have a crack at the recipe.
Love the blog, kind regards, Si
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Mmm, my Jordanian friend’s mum made this for us – she was very upset when it didn’t bind together though. But didn’t make a difference to me – it was deelish!
That looks amazing. Yum. It’s making me hungry! Thanks for sharing.
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I’ve recently started dating a Jordanian man and was looking for a traditional dish to make for him. This sounds perfect – thank you for posting.
I had this at a multi-ethnic potluck last summer and it was amazing! My kids loved it, too, and wanted more! The Jordanian woman who made it provided a very vague recipe (I bet she’s made it so long, she doesn’t even use a recipe anymore!) and I needed something with a bit more detail than “chicken, spices, vegetables.” haha Thanks so much for posting the recipe and the process. (And I have to believe that some of your upside-down floor maklouba was salvageable. It’s just too sad, otherwise!)
Glad to hear the recipe is useful! Hope your family enjoyed it.
That looks great!! I used to live in Jordan, so I’ve eaten maklouba a lot and it’s one of my favorite foreign dishes! :)
Hey Jodi! Just got back from Jordan and Maklouba was my FAVORITE dish. I got to have it with a local family which was the best part. Thanks for posting the recipe so I can attempt to make it myself! :)
Glad it was a fave for you too. It’s been fun to try at home and make with patterns on the bottom of the pan. It’s like a small gift whenever you turn over dish to serve – always fun!
I also just returned from Jordan where I had lunch at a Jordanian home and they served Maklouba or what they called “upside down.” It is now my favorite dish. I’m planning to try it at home.
This recipe looks great and easy to follow – I’ve eaten it many times, but haven’t made it. Have I missed it – how many does this recipe serve? I’m an Aussie living in Jerusalem and am in love with all the spices here and what you can do with them!
Would appreciate comments.
Hi Sandra, it served about 4 when I made it.
In the Old City in Jerusalem, you can sometimes order Makloubeh (in advance) in restaurant Basti, opposite from the Austrian Hospice. Delicious!!!
Thank you Sietske!
Beit Sitti is the best!
While the recipe above is a good one, I have to offer one correction about the origin of Maklouba. It is a Palestinian dish originally, and became more popular in Jordan by the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in diaspora who wound up in Jordan forced into diaspora in 1947 and 1968. Most Jordanians and Palestinians will tell you that Jordanians generally take more pride in their Mensef while Palestinians do the same with their Maklouba.
Thank you for your comment Ed!
Ed is 100% correct. Maklouba is a Palestinian dish, and while it is eaten by Palestinian refugees in Jordan, it is incorrect to describe it as a Jordanian dish. It’s 100% Palestinian – in fact, it’s a strong candidate (along with Musakhan and a couple of others) to be considered the Palestinian National Dish.
Hi AJ, per the origins section, the dish is said to be from an old cookbook from medieval times. Certainly, the dish is very popular in Palestine and I quoted cookbooks to that effect. But there is very little about origin available even via library books, other than that Baghdadi text from many centuries ago. I have no doubt it is very prevalent in Palestine, as you said, but as with hummus and other dishes from the Levant, origin (and borders!) get murky. The point of this post was to share a recipe from Jordan where I learned it, and hopefully inspire people try to cook what is likely an unfamiliar meal.
Hi. Great recipe! It’ll be my first time making makloube and I was happy to find an easy recipe.
You mentioned plain rice. Could I use white basmati rice?
Hi Nadine, thank you for reading. You can use basmati, but it has a different flavour and I think it’s better with the shorter grain rice, but it’s definitely possible :) For basmati, I usually use a bit less liquid-to-rice ratio (1.5 cups liquid to 1 cup of rice).
But with the same cooking time and temp?
Hi Jodi, Thank you.I am from India and Have been to Jordan Quite a Few Times and Love their Food.Mansaf and Maklouba are my favorites and the Jordanian people too.!!!I find the recipes you posted to be easy to follow and authentic so keep it up and God Bless!!!
My husband is Palestinian and I have made this many times using cauliflower, potatoes and eggplant and tomatoes really good with all of it. I also like to use white meat chicken and half water and half chicken broth to cook it in after the vegetables are deep fried (this is the traditional way ). I also use allspice, and cinnamon, fresh garlic and onions. IT IS DELICIOUS!
Thanks for the comment Tracie! Happy to know of the ingredients you use, and thanks for reading.
I had always love Makloubeh. My Palestinian friends in Houston served this dish every time I am invited at their home. Alla’ prepares this with a whole leg of lamb and nuts. Yum, Yum. It is always a feast fresh bread which she baked from her oven, mixture of olives, hummus, yogurt with mint, salads, baklavas that she prepared. The best Palestinian Hospitality in Houston. I miss it so much cause I live now in West Virginia.
I made it according to the recipe and it was great .
The second time I added fried onions to the rice and it was even better .
Glad to hear Barrie!
I ate this in Jordan years ago and its one of the dishes I still dream about! I’ve tried making it once before with little success (using a different recipe). Any tips for what type of pan works best?
Hi Melissa, I used a basic pot with a thick bottom – anything with higher sides (not a frying pan) has worked for me!
While your recipe looks lovely, I’m a little confused as to how many Arabs you’ve actually met, or how extensively your Middle Eastern experience is if you were able to mention maklooba without mentioning the Palestinians
Actually the reason for maklooba’s popularity in Jordan, is that Jordan houses so much of the Palestinian diaspora. Unlike falafel, imjadara, hommous, babaghanoosh and other shared Middle Eastern foods, maqlooba is one of the few dishes that is uniquely Palestinian. In fact, mansaf is to Jordan as maqlooba is to Palestine (definitely another dish you should look into if you like Middle Eastern cuisine) Hope that helps!
Hi Hilary, this post was from a cooking school in Jordan and as I note in the piece the dish is certainly not limited to that country. Thanks for reading.
I’ve experienced that Jordanians make it better though.
Thank you for setting this misconception straight, this is 100% a PALESTINIAN Dish!
Again, this was a dish I learned to make at a Jordanian cooking school, and like many other dishes in the region there is some dispute as to origin.
I made maklooba last night for my family. Thank you so much for your wonderful recipe. It was delicious and easy to follow. My family could not get enough!!!
So glad to hear that, Susan!
This is my first time encountering your blog. I was actually looking for ingredient of maqlooba, and I am grateful I found the recipe quite similar as authentic maqlooba in Jordan. How did you learn cooking jordanian food? I am a half jordanian, and this is one of my favorite food. It is like our jordanian version of Paella.
I am currently residing in the Philippines, and finding a prepared baharat is impossible. I decided to buy separate spices and try to modify the dish. Do you know which spices is considered a must for making maqlooba?
Hi Saif, thank you for reading. I hope you’re getting some great food in the Philippines. I loved my time there. For the baharat, the recipe I’ve used is:
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
1½ tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Thanks for the baharat recipe. It is almost similar like my grandmothers recipe. I appreciated.
I so enjoy your site and your recipes. Would you please consider adding a print option so we can enjoy your recipes a little more easily. Thank you.
Thanks Rose, as soon as I’m well enough to do so I will plan on it. Thank you!
Hi Jodi, Jordan is a great tourist place and Maklouba is my favorite!
Hi Monika, I really enjoyed my time there as well! I’ve received so many great maklouba photos from readers who’ve tried the recipe too. Hope you are staying safe and well.
Looks and sounds amazing! How long do you let the pot cool before turning the masterpiece out onto the serving plate?
Hi Carla, I’m glad you think it sounds appetizing! I can confirm it is delicious. I let the pot cool for 5-10 minutes before flipping it out to serve. I will amend the recipe to make that clear; thank you for the question.
Can I add potatoes and sweet potatoes too? Thank you in advance for your co-operation.
Hi Judy, I haven’t tried it with potatoes or sweet potatoes personally, but if so I would ensure they are mostly cooked before adding them to bottom of the pot and adding the uncooked rice, as you don’t want them interfering with the cooking rice, nor getting too soggy or mushy if you put them elsewhere in the dish. Hope it tastes great!
Fantastic recipe!!! Did not change anything in recipe. Tastes wonderful!! This is my new go-to chicken recipe! Thanks!!!
Love this recipe! We use it quite often. I double the carrots and celery and add minced onion flakes to it and use Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice. After a couple hours check it to see if it needs a little bit more water added.