What is Nasi Kebuli?
Originally introduced by traders from Afghanistan and the Middle East, such as Yemen, Nasi Kebuli is now one of Indonesia’s most popular rice dishes.
One can see why the locals adapted this dish because it offers a complex flavor of Middle Eastern spices and Indonesian herbs. It results in a mouthwatering rice dish one can never get enough of.
Although it is not really clear what the word Kebuli derives from, many think it is from the name of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan.
This dish resembles Afghan pilaf rice, Yemeni Kabsah, and Indian pilau rice. All of them use spiced meat stock to cook the rice.
I remember growing up having this dish shared by our Arab-Indonesian neighbors whenever they had gatherings or celebrations such as Eid, weddings, birthdays, etc.
We used to love it. The rice was fragrant and savory thanks to the spices and the goat meat. It was rich as it used clarified butter called Minyak Samin in Indonesian.
Enjoying the dish was always a privilege, as my mom could not make it then. And in those days, it was not easy to get recipes from people. Not everyone would be willing to share their family recipes, and most treat the recipes preciously so they never leak out to the world.
Goat meat vs lamb meat
Then, when I was at university, I came across a cookery book called Indonesian Dishes and Desserts by the local women’s magazine Femina. And it has a recipe for Chicken Nasi Kebuli.
Needless to say, we tried and tested this recipe out of longing for our much-loved rice dish.
But we found it light and less flavorsome. So, we tweaked the recipe.
We used goat meat and changed the proportions of the spices and herbs. And we are happy with it.
Since Indonesia is a tropical country, sheep can not live there. But goats do.
Therefore, you won’t be able to get lamb meat or mutton meat unless they are imported. Instead, you can get goat meat.
And here in the UK, a four-season country, it is the other way around. You can not get goat meat, but lamb or mutton are available in most butcher shops.
I’d say both are good if you ask me which is better, goat meat or lamb meat. It’s just a matter of availability.
So, in this recipe, I used lamb meat. If you’re not keen on lamb meat, use other red meat, such as beef or goat. And you can even use chicken if that is what you prefer.
What do you serve the rice with
Because of how it is cooked and the ingredients that go with it, Nasi Kebuli has depth in flavor and is considered a ‘heavy’ food.
Therefore, the side dishes that are served with this rice are usually light and simple. Salads are definitely among the options.
Key ingredients for Nasi Kebuli
Apart from the rice and lamb meat (or any meat you prefer), you will need onion, ginger, garlic, ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper, black cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon stick, lemongrass, cooking oil, and butter. You can also use or add ghee/ clarified butter if you want.
I think most of the ingredients are self-explanatory. The only thing I would note is the rice.
Indonesian rice is like long-grain rice. So you would want to choose this one. Or, if you’re like me who loves Basmati rice, feel free to use this one instead. I do. All. The. Time.
Ah, also, you don’t always have to use lamb when it comes to protein. You can use either beef or chicken instead.
How to make
Like its ancestors, pilaf rice and pilau rice, Nasi Kebuli is cooked in a spiced broth.
So, you will have to make the stock before adding and cooking rice.
Firstly, wash, rinse, and soak the rice in plenty of water.
Then, get your spices ready. Use a food chopper or processor to turn your onion, ginger, and garlic into a paste.
By the way, I have tried a few different food choppers and food processors in the past. But my current chopper is my favorite so far. It is very simple to use and chops, processes or grinds quickly. It’s not too big so it doesn’t take much space to store. And the best thing is, it is reasonably priced.
Back to our cooking.
Heat the cooking oil and butter (and/or ghee) in a 4-5 qt/ 5 ltr cooking pan. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper, salt, black cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemongrass.
Stir the spices until all are covered and mixed in fat. Let it cook at moderate heat until the spice paste reduces and the spices release the aroma. Take care not to let the spices get burned. So keep stirring every now and then.
After 2-3 minutes, the spice mix will look darker and shiny.
Add the meat, and stir until all meat pieces are covered with spices. Cook for about 5 minutes until the meat is brown and firm. Then, pour the water in.
Let the water and spiced meat cook at medium-high heat until it reaches boiling point. Then, turn the heat low and continue cooking until the meat is tender and the water is reduced.
When the water is about 4½ cups, strain the rice and discard the water. Add the rice to the meat, give it a stir, and let it cook at medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated.
Line the inside lid of your pan with a kitchen towel and put the lid on the pan. Turn the heat and leave it to cook further until steam comes out. It takes approximately 8-12 minutes to steam the rice.
Once the rice is cooked, add 1-2 tablespoons of ghee and gently turn it around. Garnish your Nasi Kebuli with fried onion and enjoy it with Acar Timun (cucumber pickle) or cucumber tomato salad on the side.
Tips to make the best Nasi Kebuli
- Soak the rice in fresh water for at least half an hour.
- Fry and cook the spices until almost all the onion liquid evaporates. And you can see that the mixture is shiny as the oil separates from the spices. This is called “Tanak” in Indonesian, which means fully cooked.
- Take care not to cook the rice in too much stock/ liquid, as it can cause the rice to get too soft and mushy. The basic rule to cook Basmati rice is to put 1½ cups water for every 1 cup.
If you’re unsure how much stock you have in the pot, you can always measure it and use another pot to cook it with rice. If it is less than 4½ cups, you can always add water to compensate for it.
More recipes for rice dishes
Thank you for reading this Nasi Kebuli recipe. I hope you are now interested in making it. When you do, please share your thoughts in the comments. I really appreciate it.
Before you go check my other recipes for rice dishes from my Indonesian kitchen.
- Chicken fried rice: Indonesian nasi goreng ayam.
- Nasi Uduk Jakarta: rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk.
- Nasi Kuning: yellow rice in fragrant coconut milk and turmeric.
- Nasi Goreng Seafood: Indonesian seafood fried rice.
- Nasi Goreng Tuna: Tuna fried rice.
Take care and all the best.
- Food chopper
- Mixing bowls.
- Cooking pans
- Wooden spoon
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 1.5 pounds lamb shoulder cut into pieces
- 2 onions
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste see the note
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste see the note
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons salt or to taste
- 3 black cardamom pods
- 8 cloves
- ½ nutmeg
- 2- inches cinnamon stick cut into an inch of slices
- 1 lemon grass
- ¼ cup cooking oil see the note
- ¼ cup unsalted butter see the note
- 4¾ cups water see the note
- 1-2 tablespoons ghee/ clarified butter optional
- Fried shallots optional
- Wash and rinse the rise. Soak them in water and set them aside.
- Using a food chopper or food processor, chop the onions until they turn into a paste.
- Heat the oil and butter on a large cooking pan until the butter is melted.
- Add the onion paste, ginger and garlic paste, ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper, salt, black cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemongrass. Stir and fry until the spices release aroma and the liquid from the onion has evaporated. It takes approximately 5 minutes.
- Then add the lamb pieces to the spices, and turn around until all the meat is well coated with spices. Cook at medium heat until the meat is brown.
- Pour water into the meat and cook at medium heat until the water reaches boiling point. I use hot water from the tap. Then lower the heat and slow cook the meat until it is tender and the broth has reduced to about 4½ cups. The broth slightly thickens and looks shiny.
- Strain the rice and add it to the meat. Give it a good stir and let it cook at medium heat until the rice grains absorb almost all the liquid.
- Line the inside lid with a kitchen towel and put the lid on the pot. Turn the heat low and let it cook until steam comes out. It takes approximately 10-12 minutes to steam.
- Once the rice is fully cooked, you can stir in 1-2 tablespoons of clarified butter (ghee) though this is optional.
- Garnish the rice with fried shallots and serve it with Acar Timun or spicy cucumber tomato salad.
- I often use premade ginger and garlic paste. I make them in bulk and freeze them. And when I run out of them, I sometimes get ready-made ones from the shop. If you want to make the paste only for this recipe, ½-inch of ginger and 3 cloves of garlic are enough. You can blend them into a paste together in a food chopper.
You can use any neutral cooking oil you like i.e. vegetable oil, or sunflower oil.
- Originally, Nasi Kebuli uses Minyak Samin which is clarified butter/ ghee. So feel free to use it instead of ordinary butter.
Stirring in an extra spoon or two of ghee when the rice is cooked will give extra flavor and depth to the dish.
Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.