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Afghani Pulao Rice – An Easier Kabuli Pilau Recipe

Afghani Pulao Rice – An Easier Kabuli Pilau Recipe

The first time I had Kabuli Pilau, also known as Afghani Pulao, was in my first year of college, at a local restaurant with my family. I remember seeing the dished out serving platter of lightly browned rice, scattered with glistening raisins and carrots and large chunks of meat and thinking ‘Oh, well. Guess I’m not eating tonight’.

Before that night, I was ethically against mixing sweet and savoury together. I thought it was a heinous culinary crime and the very thought of it sent my taste-buds sprinting away in disgust.

But that was before that night.

Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots

That night, I learnt that with the right flavours, textures and richness, combining sweet and savoury can turn into a celebration of flavours in your mouth. Afghano Pulao/Kabuli Pilau just gets that combination oh so right! Oh, how the sweet raisins compliment the rich, moreish mutton chunks and how the crunchy nuts go so wonderfully with the soft, tender carrots and rice. This was a union made in heaven, I tell you.

After that night, I stopped wanting burgers and chips on the nights I went out for dinner. I began to actively search for Afghan restaurants to eat at because now, the only thing that appealed to me was getting a good helping of The Rice From Heaven. I spent a year or so like this, always wanting to go out for Kabuli Pilau. It wasn’t till I began to venture into the kitchen and cook with aromatic whole spices that it occurred to me that – perhaps I could cook The Rice From Heaven at home and have it more than once every 4 months!


Well, lets say it took more than a few trials before I got there.

Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots

You see, there are quite a few essentials for a good Kabuli Pilau, which took me quite some time to learn. Whilst I am not Afghan, nor do I have any Afghan influences on my cooking, I have learnt by asking friends, researching on the internet and of course eating out from as many Afghan restaurants as possible. Here is what I have concluded make a darn good Kabuli Pilau

  1. The meat should be mutton and should be cut into large, meaty chunks. It needs to be cooked till tender to the touch and should fall apart with minimal resistance
  2. The stock shouldn’t be spiced too strongly, nor should it be too bland. This is a tough combination to get to, but I feel like this recipe is the perfect balance
  3. The raisins and carrots should be tender. The raisins should be cooked till they swell up and the carrots should not have any rawness in them
  4. Rice used should be ‘sella’ rice, not basmati. Traditionally, Afghani Pulao is made with sella rice. That doesn’t mean you can’t use basmati – it’s just that sella enhances the experience
  5. Kabuli Pilau should always be served with a salad. Always
Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots

Here we have it! Those are my essentials for The Rice From Heaven! I am very happy to be sharing this recipe with you all. It’s one that my little brother and husband regularly request from me and I love it all the more because I had to go through many botched attempts before I found the perfect recipe for me!

I’d like to make a disclaimer before I proceed! This is NOT an authentic Kabuli Pilau/Afghani Pulao recipe. The authentic recipe I found very long and difficult to make – I found it put me off wanting to make it, despite my love for this dish! I have trialed my own faux Kabuli Pilau which takes out some of the longer steps and makes this as simple as I found I could make it, whilst still feeling it tastes like it does at the restaurants.

I wanted to make this clear, so as not to offend anyone who may think this is me trying to disrespect any kind of cuisine or culture – that’s not my intention at all!

Enjoy, with love x

Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots

Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots

Yield: 5


For the stock (yakhni)

  • 800 grams mutton, bone in
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole black pepper corns
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 bayleafs
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp salt, or to taste

For the rice

  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 600 grams sella rice
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • oil, to fry the onions

For the carrot topping

  • 2 medium sized carrots, julienne cut
  • 1 big handful raisins or sultanas
  • 1 big handful nuts, lightly crushed (I used pistachios but any will do)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • oil, for frying


  1. Add all the ingredients for the yakhni to a pot and cover with enough water to submerge all the meat. Bring to a boil and then cover, simmering for 1.5-2hrs, till the meat is tender but not falling off the bone. Keep checking after the 1.5hr mark to get till the right donenessKabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  2. Meanwhile, in a pan heat 3-4tbsp of oil and add your julienne-cut carrots. Saute these on medium heat for 5 minutes, till they are tender and then add the raisins. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, till the raisins begin to swell up. FInally, add 2tbsp of sugar and the lightly crushed nuts and cook for just a minute. Turn off the heatKabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  3. Take a clean sheet of aluminium foil and place the carrot mixture with all the oil onto it. Fold it around the edges tightly into a parcel shape. Set asideKabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  4. When the mutton is tender, strain out the liquid stock using a colander and discard the whole spices. Reserve the stock.Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  5. In a heavy based pot, heat 4-5tbsp of oil and add 3 thinly sliced small onions and 1tbsp cumin seeds. Saute this on medium-high till the onions become lightly brown. The darker the onions become, the darker the rice will be. I prefer my Kabuli Pilau to be a light shade of brown, therefore I sauted my onions this much. You can saute them more if you prefer a darker shade.
  6. Once the onions are to your desired colour, add the mutton from the stock. Saute for 5-8 minutesKabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  7. Add the rice, stock and top up with water if required. My rule of thumb for Pilau is to have enough water to get to this level (see picture below).Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  8. Cook on high heat till the water begins to boil and then reduces, until there is very little water left in the pot. Stir once or twice using a 'panja' (see picture below), being careful not to break any rice pieces.Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  9. At this point, reduce the heat to the lowest possible, add the foil parcel full of the carrot mix and cover with a lid wrapped with a tea towel. Allow it to steam like this for 10-15 minutes.Kabuli Pilau - Afghanistani Rice with Mutton, Raisins, Nuts and Carrots
  10. To serve, plate the rice on a rice platter, add the chunks of mutton so they are at the top and on full display and scatter with raisins, nuts and carrots from the foil parcel.
  11. Your Kabuli Pilau is ready! Serve with salad and raita!

Did you make this recipe?

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Tuesday 17th of January 2023

Hi, Do you pre-cook the rice before adding to the stock and meat? Or do you put in the raw rice at this step?


Monday 2nd of January 2023

Is this recipe for 4. Thankyou

Aasma Maz🌹

Saturday 9th of April 2022

Asslam o alikum! Any tip for rice don't get soggy or stuck together? How many pint water or yalhni for 1kg rice ?


Friday 28th of January 2022

sorry silly question but when you say place the parcel with carrots raisins on top - you do mean open it and scatter them on top right? then put the covered lid on?


Friday 28th of January 2022

Hello, no you put the parcel that is filled with the carrots and raisins on top of the rice without opening the foil. So the carrots and raisins get steamed in the foil. You scatter them over right beforr serving


Saturday 20th of March 2021

i have made this a few times and always comes out so yummy!! Thank you :)

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