May 13, 2007 | 38 Comments

This Hyderabadi dish is also called Qabooli or Qubuli. It is of Afghan origin.

It features in the book Hyderabadi Cuisine by Pratibha Karan . Recipe HERE.
Another version here.

Qabuli is the poor man’s version of biryani. The meat is replaced with plant protein in the form of chana dal (split bengal grams), which has a sweet, nutty flavour and holds its shape while cooking. It is coated in yogurt and spices and baked between layers of rice, fried onions and mint for a one-pot meal. The saffron and rose water give it a wonderful aroma.

It is occasionally made with chickpeas, as in this version.

We added two big handfuls of mixed greens from our garden and made it the way we traditionally prepare biryani.

QABULI (Bengal Gram Biryani)

1. Soak 1/2 cup chana dal in 2 cups water for 1 hour.

2. Soak 1.5 cups basmati rice in 4 cups water for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in 4 tbsps oil/ghee fry 2 cups thinly sliced red onion (about 1 big onion) until reddish brown and crisp. This will take close to 30 minutes on medium heat. Layer a plate with paper towels, and put the onions on them to soak up the oil.

4. Drain the chana dal. Bring 1.5 cups water to a boil, add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, the dal and a little salt, and cook it uncovered until done, but firm.

5. Drain the dal and set aside.

6. Meanwhile, boil 4 cups of water separately. Tie in a cheesecloth with some kitchen twine, 1 small stick cinnnamon, 4 cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 cardamom, and 6 peppercorns. Add this bundle to the boiling water with the rice, a little salt and 1/2 tsp oil. Cook it until the rice is 3/4 done. It should have a tiny bit of bite left to it. Remove the spice bundle, drain the water and keep the rice aside.

7. Crush coarsely, a tiny piece of cinnamon, 4 cloves, 4 peppercorns, 2 green cardamoms and a small piece of mace using a mortar and pestle. In the oil in which the onion was fried, add the crushed spices, 1 bay leaf and 1 tsp shah jeera (black cumin).

8. After a few seconds, add 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste. Fry for 20 seconds, then add 3/4 cup plain yogurt, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and 1/2 tsp cayenne (chilli) powder. Add a pinch of salt, and cook the mixture down on medium heat until it recudes to half the quantity, then add the cooked dal. Cook it for a minute, and turn off the flame.

9. Preheat the oven to 250 F.

10. This step is optional. Take 2 big handfuls of spinach or other greens, or any veggie of your choice cooked with some salt. If using greens, wash and chop them, then put them in the microwave on high uncovered for 40 seconds to wilt them a bit.

11. Chop 1/3 cup each mint and coriander leaves, and 4 green chillies very finely.

12. Microwave 3 tbsps milk wih 2 pinches of saffron for 20 seconds.

13. Take a wide oven safe dish. Layer it with half the cooked rice. On top of it, spread the whole dal mixture, half the fried onions, half the mint, coriander leaves and chilies, and all the cooked greens/veggies.

12. Spread the rest of the rice on top, then add the remaining fried onions, mint, coriander leaves and green chillies. Drizzle 2 tbsp ghee on top of the dish, 1 tsp rose water, and the saffron-milk mixture.

13. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

14. Remove the dish from the oven, mix it very gently.

15. Add 1/2 tsp ghee to 3 tbsps. broken cashews and microwave on high for 40-50 seconds until golden. Use as garnish.

Serve with salad, cruncy papad, and/or raita. 

Our entry for the “Q” veggie dish at Nupur’s A to Z of Indian Vegetables event at One Hot Stove.

This is also our contribution to the Regional Cuisine of India event organised by Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine, and hosted this month by Latha of Masala Magic. The current theme is Andhra Cuisine.

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  1. beens says:

    wow,thats sooo yummy looking!!i think i could give it a try.the presentation is so beautiful.

    try it with kadala or chickpeas, beens. – b.

  2. viji says:

    Interesting Recipe bee. Viji

  3. roopa says:

    delicious looking Qabuli, i never heard of this dish very interesting. thks for sharing Bee.

  4. Suganya says:

    Rhymes with tabbouleh. I remember seeing the background (in a different colour tho) in yr olan post. Is that a cloth or cardboard?

    it’s paper. we live in the world of funky paperdom. – b.

  5. nandita says:

    Fantastic find…need to ask a tip from you though on how you find all those exotic recipes for A-Z! Any special search tips for us?
    Like this and I’ll make it soon, may be half paneer and half chick peas will be fantastic too :)

    we just browse through the cookbooks we have, and for this one, i had a hunch there would be something with kabuli chana spelt with a ‘q’, so i googled ‘qabuli’ and found it. just luck, i suppose.


  6. sra says:

    I recently bought that Hyderabadi Cooking after eyeing it for many, many years! It seems to be quite good! And I approve of all those cashews!

  7. Jyothi says:

    Really very interesting recipe. Thanks for sharing such a nice recipe.

  8. Reena says:

    When I saw the name I was sure that you were talking about Qabuli chana :lol:

    This is awesome and so tempting.

  9. Sig says:

    You clever guys found a real Q dish!!!! I thought you made up the name, had to google it to believe it :D

  10. Meeta says:

    Poor man’s Biryani? are you kidding? This looks like a real feast to me. What a moouth watering dish!

  11. shammi says:

    Ahhhh… the more I look at lovely biryani recipes like this, the more I want SOMEONE TO MAKE IT FOR ME – much the easier way when it comes to biryani!!! Can I invite myself over, Bee? :)

    sure, shammi. do visit us the next time you come to the u.s. – b.

  12. musical says:

    Lovely :) i love qabuli!! made with daal or qabuli chana, its good either ways :)

    Bee, and to think of it, this was one of the first things i thought for the letter Q and am glad i saw it here :)


  13. Manisha says:

    Musical, Google bows down to you. So do I. You are incredible!

  14. sia says:

    i was waiting what u guys will come up for Q dish and u didn’t dissapoint me a bit :) poor man’s biriyani? i wonder!!! beautiful beautiful dish….bookmarked it and this is what we gonna have this weekend :)

  15. Anita says:

    Quabooli is TH’s absolute fav one-pot meal thing! I once served it to a friend who said, “you’ve made khichadi?” Needless to add, he has not been invited solo ever since. It is really good served with a garlicy raita or dahi wale baingan!

    A lot of work, but very very rewarding! Good work with the spelling – my book spells is conventionally with a ‘k’!

  16. Nupur says:

    This poor man’s biryani is fit for royalty! Thanks for being so creative :) I’m hoping some of it will rub off on me :)

  17. Asha says:

    Great looking dish.I have a Afghani Q too!;D

  18. richa says:

    biryani looks so tempting, so many yummy ways one can cook biryani :)

  19. prema says:

    Qabuli… Never heard of this before… Pic looks nice and good to know its poor man’s biriyani.I too was wondering what recipes will be up for the letter’Q’. good entry.

  20. Coffee says:

    I have had this in mumbai and it tastes fabulous!!!!!! Thanks for the recipe dear. :)

  21. Mishmash! says:

    hey…does a poor man use so much of cashew nuts in his biriyani? :P btw, it looks quite appealing:)


  22. Lata says:

    I was thinking of posting this recipe too on the coming Sunday. My guests are coming for Hyderabadi dinner at my place. Looks great though.

  23. Deepa says:

    Too good ..Cashew all over ….love it

  24. The picture looks too tempting Bee. I love the colors in the picture. Good job…

    I am sorry, I am not able to catch up with your posts :( .

  25. Swapna says:

    Wow..this is a must-try..Great entry..
    I wud like to make one suggestion to u guys..Why don’t u place the watermark in the centre of the image? That way it will be difficult to copy the picture.

  26. Sharmi says:

    Never heard of this one before. the pic looks simply awesome. must be tasting great.

  27. pelicano says:

    This looks excellent Jai and Bee! There wouldn’t be any feelings of forlornment in the absence of meat with this dish, and no, I’ve never made it before! ;-) However… I have made a mango biryani… :-D

    ripe or raw mango? post it, na? – b.

  28. indosungod says:

    Briyani with Channa Dal does not have to jostle for space with Chicken Biryani, looks fantastic.

    Pelicano, Mango Biryani did you say?

  29. sandeepa says:

    You are a dictionary, you have something for Q too !!!! Lovely looking Biryani

  30. pelicano says:

    I apologize…I checked the recipe; it is a mango pulao… but it’s made in a similar way: rice cooked for 15 min, mixed with a sauteed mixture that has cashews, coconut, raisins, saffron, and semi-ripe mangos,etc; placed in a roasting pan and finished in the oven (replacement for dum pok cooking I assume); served with a sweet chutney. I could send you the recipe if you like? I have too much on my posting list that I wouldn’t get to it for awhile. :-(

    never tried semi-ripe mangos with rice. i love savoury dishes with fruit. thanks for the idea. – b.

  31. [...] especially when served with another of his favourites – the Hyderabadi Qabooli (here is Bee and Jai’s version), a layered pulao of rice and split chickpeas cooked with garlic and [...]

  32. Meena says:

    Hello, This is the first time I am giving a feedback though I regularly visit your site…late than never..though…

    I am very very bad when it comes to making Biryani..But seeing the picture and your very detailed description, I think I must try this.Thanks for such an authentic recipe.

  33. reeta says:

    wowwwww!! awesome awesome post that!

  34. Zain says:

    Qabuli is actually a Afghani dish. It is popular in Hyderabad among its muslim popluation. Afghans make a variety of rice dishes with various dals. I never caught their names too busy eating :tongue: There are some Lebanese/arab dishes with dals similar to the Afghan dishes eaten them mostly at restaurants here in US they were expectedly not very impressive as is most ethnic cuisine.

    My friends mom used to add an interesting twist to it she would make tiny about 1cm wide balls of kofta(the Hyderabadi one) roast them in a kadhai and put them in the Qabuli ;;) ;;)

    And no it is not poor mans Biryani.

  35. Sp says:

    I made this today and it was pretty good – though I’d reduce the chillies (a bit overpowering, even for a red-blooded desi) and the onion (ditto). I don’t have a functioning oven, so I made it biryani style in a dutch oven over very low heat.

  36. priya dilip says:

    Hai Bee and Jai, i tired this qabuli for a potluck, following your instrcutions . it turned out delicious.. everybody liked it.. thanks.. Your instructions made it easy for me to follow..

    Happy diwali…

    glad to hear that. wishes to you too.

  37. [...] it is first cooked separately in water and layered with meat and other ingredients, it is known as biryani. In Delhi the most popular food was biryani but the taste in Lucknow was more for pulao. To the [...]

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