Lebanese couscous (Moghrabieh)

February 24, 2012  •  Category:


This is the Lebanese equivalent of couscous, aptly called moghrabieh

  Moghrabieh, (meaning ” a dish from the Maghreb”) is a much-beloved traditional dish in Lebanon and is considered a feasting type of meal to which many relatives or friends are  invited. It used to be made with both lamb shanks and chicken but nowadays most people prefer a streamlined version with only one or the other.

Moghrabieh can be purchased fresh in Beirut (at places like Al-Rashidi);  outside of the country,  it is sold dry  in any Middle-Eastern market.

Moghrabieh refers to both the grains and the finished dish. This dish involves  two main  steps: The first is to cook the chicken (or meat) and the onions and obtain a good bouillon which will be used to cook the moghrabieh grains. The second is to cook the moghrabieh grains in the bouillon. 

Moghrabieh keeps very well in the fridge for several days without loss of flavor and can be reheated in the microwave.

INGREDIENTS: 6 servings

  • 1 pound (1/2 kilo or 500 g.) of dry moghrabieh
  • 3/4 pound of small boiling onions
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 can of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 whole chicken weighing about 3 pounds, free-range and organic if possible
  •  Spice mix: 1 1/2 tbsp of ground caraway and 1 tbsp of ground cinnamon, 1 tsp of allspice or seven-spice mix, and salt and white pepper  to taste, 1 tsp of cumin (optional). For flavoring the chicken:  one cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, a carrot
  • olive oil or clarified butter, as needed
NOTE: Middle-Eastern stores will have a spice mix called moghrabieh in their spice rack. 
  1. Clean the chicken, season it with some allspice, salt, pepper;  brown it in a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven as well as the large onion. Pour 8 cups of water over the chicken, add a cinnamon stick, bay leaf and carrot, and let it simmer gently for at least one hour, skimming the froth at the surface. This step could be done the day before.
  2. Peel and brown the small boiling onions in some oil (or better yet, clarified butter)until the onions are evenly browned on all sides. Strain the chicken, keeping the bouillon simmering gently in a large pot or saucepan. Add the chickpeas and boiling onions  and half the spices to the chicken bouillon. Take apart the chicken, dumping bones and skin;  cut the chicken meat into large pieces and set them aside on a plate. 
  3. Boil the moghrabieh in a large pot filled with salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil or butter and fry the moghrabieh in the oil on very low heat, adding the rest of the spices  for 5 minutes. Gradually add to the moghrabieh several ladles of chicken bouillon (about 2 1/2 cups) and keep over low heat simmering gently and stirring the moghrabieh from time to time with a wooden spoon until the grains feel soft and thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes (make sure to taste it and do not overcook it). Add to the moghrabieh one cup of the chickpeas and one cup of the  small boiling onions, leaving the rest for the sauce.
  4. Boil down the remainder of the broth until you have  3 cups left; add about 3 tablespoons of cornstarch diluted in a little water to the steaming broth and stir to thicken it. Keep a few chickpeas and onions in the sauce and serve in a separate saucer with the moghrabieh. Serve the moghrabieh with the chicken pieces, chick peas and onions and have the warm sauce available in a separate saucer.

NOTE:   In this recipe, I have omitted a step which is to steam the moghrabieh in a colander set over the simmering chicken broth for about 20 minutes to infuse the grains with flavor and moisture; I cooked it with and without this step and did not notice much difference. Now if you own a couscoussière with the steamer already in place, by all means use this step. 

NOTE: If you are using fresh moghrabieh, then it is not necessary to boil the grains. Proceed with the other steps.


46 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    Moghrabieh is so versatile and fabulous. That dish is great!



  2. Sarah says:

    I have had some of this grain and was looking for some recipes to try with it. This looks good and I love all the spices/flavorings. Thanks! Have a great weekend.

    Sarah @ Homestyle Cooking Around The World

  3. kouky says:

    ravie de découvrir la version libanaise de notre aich national, un plat d’hiver bien costaud qui tient bien au corps.je testerai bien cette version sans tomate qui doit étre plus délicate. très bon week end Joumana!

  4. jantonio says:

    I have seen never but it sound delicious.

  5. Belinda @zomppa says:

    What a bountiful dish! Sounds like something I have to try for sure!

  6. Magic of Spice says:

    Your couscous looks delicious and I love that bowl!
    Hope you are having a great weekend 🙂

  7. Katie@Cozydelicious says:

    This looks wonderful! So much flavor in the grains from that broth! Yum!

  8. bananawonder says:

    Love this! Could eat it every day.

  9. Mrs. Measurement says:

    I love moghrabiyeh. It warms you up on cold winter days. So healthy and filling.

  10. Caffettiera says:

    I’ve often cooked dry moghrabieh because it is almost identical to a speciality from Sardegna, fregola, which I can’t find here; this is the first time that I get to see a traditional recipe on how to cook it though. The Italian take is usually cooked with seafood and tomato. I’ll have to try this spicier, middle east take.

  11. Jamie says:

    Fascinating! My husband spent 2 years in Morocco so we make North Africa couscous all the time. I’d love to try this interesting version (especially as I love chickpeas).

  12. Oui, Chef says:

    I remember eating a dish similar to this when in Morocco a few years ago….I loved it!

  13. Ryan says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe! Just out of curiosity, where in Dallas can you find moghrabieh spices? I stopped by Sara bakery but didn’t find any.

    • Joumana says:

      @Ryan: They have a spice rack next to the butcher’s counter and another one on the first aisle to towards the door; ask them! In any case, I believe Ziyad brothers in Illinois make the mixes and sell them online.

  14. Martial Canterel says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I just prepared it for my wife who is Moroccan. My mom used to make it exactly the same way except for the onions which she uses cut in wedges.

    I can confirm it, the measurements and directions on this page worked flawlessly!

    It smells divine, but still waiting for my loved one to come back home before I have a taste…

    Cheers from Montreal.

  15. Gabi says:


    thanks for your wonderful blog which I found when looking for moulds for ma’amoul. I did not find them here, but a lot of very interesting information and recipes i stead. I’ll follow you regularly from now on.

    Regarding moghrabieh – can I use maftoul in stead and what’s the difference anyway?

    • Joumana says:

      @Gabi: you can certainly use maftoul; much easier to cook and takes less time. Difference is moghrabieh is made with semolina and maftoul with bulgur and wheat flour.

  16. mrnukem says:

    I found this at our local produce market that imports a lot of dried and canned foods from the Middle East and Europe. Hod cooked some turkey in my crock pot and had a lot of broth left over so added some extra beef broth I had on hand, an onion and a couple of cups of Moghrabieh let it cook an hour or so and it was actually better than the original turkey I had cooked. Perfect on a rainy, cold fall day.Will be buying this again and tring different recipes.

  17. Zanzoun says:

    If I am using the spice mix (called moghrabieh), how many tablespoons total I should be using?

  18. ashleyz says:

    I just wanted to say out of all the recipes on your site this one is by far the best. I have tried 2 other recipes for moghrebieh on the web, and they were no where near as good as this recipe, thank you so much for sharing.

  19. Aida Mallah says:

    Can it be done with meat?

    • Joumana says:

      @Aida Mallah: Of course, it is also done with meat, usually lamb shanks; but beef stew meat also. Just brown the meat, add water and aromatics and make a broth. Follow the same directions.

  20. John says:

    Lovely dish. Tried this at Tawlet in Beirut last year. Just wonderful. I made something inspired by this tonight for dinner. Very soothing, even in warm weather, if eaten not too hot. Nice with some loubieh bil-zeit as a contrasting side dish. Thanks very much!

  21. Julie says:

    My husband is from Lebanon, I make this dish for him usually on a Sunday. I always make to much so we can have it again during the busy work week. We just love it. I love cooking Lebanese foods for him. They are so delicious. But this dish is definitely a favorite of ours

  22. Nadim Lababidy says:

    Please help me…..where can I buy a good brand Slow Cooker in Beirut

    • Joumana says:

      @Nadim Lababidy: I have had a really hard time finding decent appliances in Beirut, even when I bought a KitchenAid processor from a store selling only to restaurants, it broke after one month, and despite my pleas they NEVER made the slightest effort to service it or replace it. I can point to a few places, but I cannot in all honesty vouch for them. One is Khoury homes, which has a lot of good-brand appliances, the other is BHV, there is also a place in Hamra and Ashrafieh called A&P. In Mazraaa, there is Abed Tahhan, but I did not see good brands there, I did buy initially Italian brands and they were awful in terms of robustness and longevity and quality.

  23. jmc62 says:

    I made this over the weekend; very tasty. Nice to have it for the week with leftovers mixed in with my salad for take to work lunches.

  24. Josh - CA says:


    Thanks for this. We had a moghrabieh fiasco today and the chicken didn’t come out so well. I found your recipe and it seems solid! The browning the chick part is new to me and makes sense! I just didn’t understand if you fry the onion with the chicken. If the onion is chopped or what? I want to get this right! Thank you

    Also, do you have a variation of your recipe to do it all in the same day?

  25. Joumana says:

    The onions are kept whole, they are like pearl onions. They are fried in oil and some chickpeas are added to constitute the sauce. The Moghrabieh can certainly be made in one day, just plan on a couple of hours.
    The trick is not to overcook the grains so they don’t get mushy. Most people boil the chicken first and use the broth to either steam the grains (when fresh, in Lebanon they’re sold fresh), or cook the grains in that broth which has been spiced with caraway and peppers. The cooking of the grains can be gradual, like a risotto. Good luck! Follow me on insta, where am active daily and can respond immediately to your comments. @taste.of.beirut

  26. ของชำร่วย says:

    Truly no matter if someone doesn’t understand then its up to other people that
    they will help, so here it occurs.

  27. Joyce says:

    Thank you for the recipe. I made it today and it was perfect. Just the way my mom prepares it.

  28. Emily says:

    Thank you for the recipe! I cannot find small boiling onions. What do you recommend as a substitute?

  29. Mary N says:

    Thank you for a great Lebanese recipe! This is absolutely delicious!

    My hubby is Lebanese and a vegan, so I’ve adapted a few recipes, like “Spinach and Lentil Soup,” into vegan dishes including moghrabieh. If you have any vegan viewers, I’d like moghrabieh is also delicious in soups!

    [For a quick, fast, and easy Spinach and Lentil Soup, I use 1 large onion diced, 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks sliced, two large cloves garlic chopped, 1 1/2 cups brown lentils, 1/2 cup moghrabieh, 1/2 teaspoon curry and 1/2 cup teaspoon ground cumin, 2 vegetable bullion cubes like “not-chicken brand,” 1/2-1 teaspoon Real salt to taste, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste, and 6 cups water. Throw all of the above in an Instant Pot, and hit the “soup” button (or manual button for 30 minutes). (Or alternatively, simmer on stovetop until lentils and moghrabieh are tender, about 45-50 minutes.) When done, add a few large handfuls baby spinach (or use about 6 ounces frozen cut leaf spinach) and 1-2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice to taste, stir, and allow spinach to warm/wilt for about 5 minutes. Adjust salt & pepper to taste, and enjoy!]

    I have found Moghrabieh is an excellent substitute for any small pasta in longer cooking recipes, like soups.

    Thank you again! This recipe (for omnivores 😉) is absolutely delicious!!!

  30. Sonia says:

    Receipe turned out great! Thanks for the detailed explainations!

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