Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole (Kabeli Palau)

The Recipe: Chicken with rice, all bound together with a quick sauce made with caramelized onions and warm spices, topped with a quick sauté of matchstick carrots, raisins, almonds and saffron. Sound, um, unusual? It's amazing.

The Conversation: So what do you think, would you eat with your fingers? Just once, maybe, to try it, in the company of friends?

Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole @, starts with a rotisserie chicken, great for feeding a crowd ~ Weight Watchers PointsPlus 7 or 8

A couple weeks back, my book club met to talk about the book A Thousand Splendid Sons by Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini. (You may know him from his first book, the amazing story called The Kite Runner.)

"Come hungry," I told everyone the day before. "I'm cooking Afghan food."

"Will we eat with our fingers?" one friend asked with an email giggle. "Why not?" I thought.

So when we sat down to what turned out to be a great meal and excellent party food, this Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole and an amazing eggplant and tomato layered casserole, Afghan Eggplant & Tomato Casserole (FYI, that recipe will come online on May 20th), I suggested give eating with our hands a try.

And call me surprised but only half our group attempted to eat with our fingers. It was weird and awkward but y'know, what an easy thing to try. Why not?!

"QUICK" CARAMELIZED ONIONS Oops, no time to make Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions? No problem! Just slice a pound of yellow onions and cook slowly on the stove, stirring often, with 1/2 tablespoon butter, 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon white wine, bourbon or dry sherry. Watch the onions carefully, they'll burn in a flash. Allow about 30 minutes of cooking time, that's why "Quick" is in quotes. The time is mostly unattended but do stay close!

GARAM MASALA What's this, you ask? It's a spice blend from India, there are many, many variations based on locale and personal taste. You can buy a commercial spice blend for garam masala but it's easy to make your own. This is the spice mix I used for this recipe. I make a triple batch to keep on hand but to make your own, just enough for this recipe, combine 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon each coriander and cardamom, 1/3 teaspoon each black pepper and cinnamon, 1/6 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg.

ALANNA's TIPS So right off, let me say that you may want to play with the proportions of chicken and rice, depending on how much meat the rotisserie chicken yields. Both times I made Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole, I bought rotisserie chickens from Sam's Club. They are H-U-G-E, a real value for five bucks. That first chicken yielded almost two pounds of meat and I considered using less than the 16 ounces of rice (cooked) – that's a trick I use all the time, intentionally reversing the proportions of a starch (like rice or pasta) and vegetables/protein. So for the second casserole, I fully planned to cook only 8 ounces of rice. But then that second chicken yielded a full three pounds of meat! So I stuck with cooking the full 16 ounces of rice. My recommendation? Stick with 8 ounces of rice for a smaller chicken, the full 16 ounces for a larger chicken. Is rinsing the rice really necessary? Probably not but when I made the same casserole with beef, not chicken, I did and that version version was especially good. For rice, both times I used a Trader Joe's package of "Basmati Rice Medley" – it's got a little wild rice plus dehydrated carrot, leek. Honestly, I love the bit of added color! (You wouldn't want to rinse this rice, however.) With plain basmati rice, I'd be tempted to throw in some wild rice. Both times, I also thought about adding some other ingredients to the chicken and rice, roasted red pepper and chopped artichokes were my top candidates.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Makes 15 cups (freezes beautifully)
    RICE (see ALANNA's TIPS)
  • 3 or 6 cups water
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 or 16 ounces basmati rice
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 cup Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions or "Quick" Caramelized Onions, see left
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, optional
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat "picked" from the bones, torn into bite-size pieces (or 2 – 3 pounds cooked chicken)
  • 1 12-ounce jar roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
  • Caramelized Onion Sauce
  • Cooked Rice
  • Additional chicken stock, if necessary
    TOPPING (don't skip this!)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 carrots, cut in matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
  • 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds
  • Pinch saffron, optional
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Heat oven to 350F/180C.

RICE Bring the water (3 cups for 8 ounces of rice, 6 cups for 16) to a boil. Rinse the rice under running water in a strainer or colander two or three times. Add the salt and rice to the water, bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and let boil quite hard for 6 minutes until the rice is "almost cooked". Turn off the heat and let the rice rest, it will absorb the rest of the water, it's fine if there's a bit of unabsorbed water.

CARAMELIZED ONION SAUCE While the rice cooks, in a food processor (a mini food processor works fine), pulse the garlic cloves a few times to mince. Add the Caramelized Onions, tomato paste, garam masala, saffron and process until smooth. Add the chicken stock, process until smooth. On its own, this sauce will taste very salty but it's seasoning all the chicken and all the rice, salt is necessary!

CHICKEN In a large bowl, collect the meat. Stir in the roasted peppers, the Caramelized Onion Sauce, then the Cooked Rice. Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish.

BAKE Place the baking dish, uncovered, in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check it every 15 minutes, the edges should get a little crispy and crackly but if the casserole seems to be getting too dry, drizzle it with chicken stock to moisten. (A turkey baster simplifies this job, I filled one three or four times.)

TOPPING In a skillet, melt the butter until sizzly. Add the carrots and sauté until soft and beginning to turn color. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the water has cooked off.

TO SERVE When the casserole is hot and bubbly throughout, remove from the oven. Spread the topping over top and serve hot.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Both times I made this, I made the casserole a few hours ahead of time and refrigerated the chicken-sauce-rice combination until it was time to go in the oven. The topping can also be made ahead of time, just keep it separate.

NUTRITION INFORMATION (assumes 3 pounds of chicken and 16 ounces of uncooked rice) Per Cup: 320 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 71mg Cholesterol; 623mg Sodium; 34g Carb; 2g Fiber; 6g Sugar; 27g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 6.5 & WW Points Plus 8.

NUTRITION INFORMATION (my best estimate for 2 pounds of chicken and 8 ounces of uncooked rice, sorry, I didn't measure the yield for this, so that's why it's a looser estimate than usual) Per Cup: 274 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 60mg Cholesterol; 759mg Sodium; 28g Carb; 2g Fiber; 8g Sugar; 24g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 5.5 & WW Points Plus 7.
Inspired by Global Table Adventure, a wonderful blog.

Afghan Chicken: Except with Beef!

Afghan Beef & Rice Casserole @, starts with a rotisserie chicken, great for feeding a crowd ~ Weight Watchers PointsPlus 7 or 8

When you have a freezer full of grass-fed, corn-finished beef raised by your neighbors in the country, it's just crazy to buy chicken and pork! That's why you'll find so many beef recipes here at Kitchen Parade. We loved-loved-loved this beef version of Afghan Chicken. Since there' no "rotisserie beef" to conveniently buy at the grocery store, instead I made some Slow Cooker Shredded Beef. The salsa added a little heat, that was good too! Other than that, I followed the recipe just the same. Wonderful!

More Favorite Casserole Recipes

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More Favorite Rice Recipes

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