This vegetable maklouba is an extravagant presentation of upside down rice topped with an assortment of vegetables and browned nuts. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Is also naturally gluten free.
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What is Maklouba?
I first came across Maklouba from my son’s Palestinian Grandmother.
I thought it was the most extravagant presentation of rice, meat and vegetables I have ever seen.
Some would consider this upside down rice to be one of Palestine’s national dishes.
I fell in love with the whole process, preparing the sections, layering, cooking and then the big reveal. It’s always so exciting flipping a pot of Maklouba.
Even on the odd occasion when your flipped vegetarian maklouba it doesn’t stand, you know you’re still in for a treat.
Traditional Maqluba is made with layers of browned meat (usually chicken, lamb or minced beef), vegetables, rice, all topped with brown nuts such as pine nuts and almonds.
In this recipe, I will show you how to make a vegetable maqlouba which is perfect for a vegan or vegetarian diet.
How to pronounce Maklouba?
Maklouba is pronounced in English as Mak·loo·ba or Mak·loo·beh, however in Lebanese colloquial speak it’s pronounced as Mah·lube (mah·loo·beh).
This pronunciation differs between different regions across the Middle East, you can find this aromatic Arabic upside down rice in countries such as Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and so forth.
As each country has its own dialect of Arabic, upside down rice can also be known as maqlooba, makloubeh, and maqluba.
😋Why you’ll love this recipe
- Packed with flavor and a variety of vegetables - you’ll never want standard rice again
- Albeit it’s an extravagant look, this vegan maklouba is relatively easy to make in comparison to the traditional version, which requires more time and effort.
- Healthier - a reduced amount of salt, fat and oil without skimping on an amazing flavor.
- Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, is also gluten-free (check your vegetable stock)
✔️What You’ll Need
Notes on some of the ingredients, the full list of ingredients and their measurements can be found in the recipe card below.
Vegetables - Use only good quality fresh produce. I have used eggplant, potato, garlic, onion and capsicum (bell pepper) See variations below of other recommended vegetables which can be used.
Rice - long grain or basmati rice is ideal. They are quicker cooking kinds of rice and work well within this upside down rice dish.
Nuts - pine nuts, slivered almonds, and cashews are generally used to top off. Use good quality nuts, and avoid stale ones.
Garlic - use a whole head of fresh garlic. Keep the cloves intact, but ensure they are peeled. Once cooked, the garlic melts in your mouth - so so good!
Spices in makloubeh include allspice and cinnamon. I love to include turmeric for its color and anti-inflammatory properties.
🔪Step by step guide
Preparation of a vegan vegetable maklouba is easier than preparing the traditional meat version, as the time & steps saved is considerable.
I do recommend you prepare in 3 stages. I also recommend watching the video.
Step 1 - Coat eggplant, potato and capsicum in 1 tablespoon oil and place on a baking tray. Roast in the oven at 200C (392F) for approx. 30 minutes until lightly golden brown.
Step 2 - In a mixing bowl, combine rice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, all spices really well. Set aside.
Step 3 - Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and brown pine nuts and slivered almonds (do this whilst vegetable maqlouba is cooking) set aside.
Vegetable Maklouba Assembly
Step 4 - Brush pot with olive oil and start layering vegetables. Place eggplant first, then potato, and capsicum (bell pepper) in between by filling gaps. Then place a layer of onion and scatter garlic on top.
Step 5 - Cover vegetables with an even layer of slightly compacted rice (affiliate link), ensuring the vegetables are fully covered. Carefully and slowly pour vegetable stock (affiliate link) onto the contents. Cover with lid.
Step 6 - Bring to a slight boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, then turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, do not open the lid, and allow Maklouba to sit for 10 minutes.
Step 7 - Open the pot and place a large serving plate or platter on top. Flip everything upside down and allow it to sit for 10 minutes, then slowly lift the pot to reveal the vegetable maklouba. Garnish with brown nuts and parsley. Serve warm.
Other vegetables - makloubeh can also be made with cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini or any vegetable you think will work well and complement each other.
The preparation of any vegetables is precisely the same as listed within this vegetable maklouba recipe. Cauliflower should be cut into bite-sized florets.
Preparing vegetables - whilst I mostly bake my vegetables to avoid excess oil, on the odd occasion, shallowing frying vegetables until golden brown is enjoyed.
Other spices - if you desire, you can adjust the flavoring of your spices by adding in your favorite spice. Try Lebanese 7 Spice blend. Remember to taste test.
Extra protein - add a can of drained and washed slightly salted chickpeas (affiliate link) (garbanzo beans) on top of the vegetable layer and under the rice layer. You may need to adjust your spices.
💡What to serve with maklouba?
Makloubeh is best served with a side of fresh salad, try fattoush or tabouli or a simple garden salad, along with some pickles.
I use a gas stove, cooking times may differ slightly with electric.
Chopping vegetables - be uniform with cutting your vegetables into 1cm (approx. ½ inch) thicknesses.
Depending on how you’d like to present your vegetables either cut lengthways or across.
You can also add extra vegetables if you like. Though you may need to adjust the salt so that your vegetable maklouba isn't mild in flavor.
Onions and garlic - I like to use these raw, I find the flavours to be boosted this way - the onion is delightfully sweet. If you desire though, you can also roast or fry these off. Though, keep those garlic cloves intact.
Potatoes - if opting to add extra potatoes, as this is a starch, it will soak up a lot of the flavour. Be mindful of this, you may need to add more salt.
Roasting vegetables result in them being cooked before adding them to the pot.
Rice - following the instructions of the rice producer i.e., wash the rice as instructed (if needed). Do not use pre-cooked rice pouches.
Mixing the oil, spices through the rice prior to cooking ensures even distribution of flavour, basically, every grain of rice will be covered in wonderful spices.
As this is a reduced-fat version of the meat maklouba (fat is normally from the meat), it is important that the oil is evenly distributed through the rice.
Layering - you can get creative here and layer the vegetables how you desire, creating patterns.
Remember - whatever you layer first will end up presented as the top layer when the makloubeh flipped.
I love to always add my batinjan “eggplant” first, as it’s generally the biggest and malleable, it can be curved against the pot.
Only compact the rice slightly, do not overdo it as this may result in the rice not cooking or cooking unevenly.
You want to slightly compact the rice to ensure it sits securely on the contents of the pot. You can use your hands or the back of a spoon to do this. See video.
Vegetable stock (affiliate link) - should cover the rice approx. 1 ½ cm (½”). A slight boost of salt may be needed for this recipe, depending on the stock used.
Do a taste test of the vegetable stock, it should taste saltier than usual, this will diffuse whilst cooking. Or add more salt at the end.
I tend to try and under salt, giving individuals the ability to adjust this as they require. I always use a good quality vegetable stock such as Massel (affiliate link).
Pouring vegetable stock - when pouring the stock in, do it gently. The rice layer shouldn’t be disturbed and should remain even. Start by pouring the outer rim in a slow circular motion. See video.
As tempting as it is, try to not open the pot during cooking, trust the process. The contents will cook perfectly. (if you do, the world won’t end - haha, but don’t leave the pot open for too long - have a quick peek)
Do not bring this dish to a hard boil, it will disrupt the makloubeh contents which can result in uneven cooking and the maklouba not conform to shape when flipped over, it’ll just fall apart.
About the 5 minutes mark of cooking, the outer perimeter of the maklouba will start bubbling, this is the point to reduce the heat to low.
If unsure if it is boiling, listen for it or take a quick peek (until you get used to cooking this dish).
Serving plate or tray - this should be bigger than the pot with a decent perimeter to catch any parts that may fall during serving.
The rim of the plate/tray should be a little upright to also assist with spillage.
If using a pot where the handles are flush with the top of the pot, you will need to factor these handles in when selecting your serving plate/tray.
Here are the main pieces of equipment you’ll need to make this vegan makloubeh recipe (all other non-listed items are standard).
- Baking sheet trays x 2 - for roasting vegetables
- Pot (affiliate link) - to cook the vegetable maklouba in (see FAQ below for which I used)
- Serving plate/tray - to flip the maklouba into and serve
- Frying pan (affiliate link) - to brown the nuts
There is no hard rule for which pot to use, the pot should fit the content. Although, it is best to use a wider pot rather than a taller one, as when the maklouba is flipped the likelihood of it toppling over with a shorter pot is lesser. Within this recipe, I used a 20cm (2.4l) (approx. 8”) dutch oven pot, which is approx. 9cm high (approx. 4”), this will feed 4-6 people. Adjust the size of your pot to suit the number of people to be served.
The best type of pot to use for Maklouba is a non-stick pot that isn’t too tall. Always grease the pot slightly before adding the contents, this will ensure nothing sticks to it.
Check that the rice is evenly placed inside the pot on top of the vegetables. Then ensure the rice is submerged, by approx. 1.5cm, in vegetable stock. Try to avoid opening the pot during cooking and allow the rice to steam through at the end by allowing it to stand without having ever opened the lid. Ensure there is no steam vent, the pot should be securely shut.
Absolutely! Simply air fry the vegetables until golden-brown, as per your air-fryer. You decide how golden the vegetable should be. The layer them as per maklouba recipe instructions.
I usually place my hands wherever I feel most comfortable and with the plate and pot's best grip. I then do one swift fast flip. Do not hesitate, as this will shake the pot around. If not confident, ask someone else to do it for you. Once flipped, do not lift the pot off, allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
Try maghmour, which is Lebanese moussaka, also featuring eggplant.
Another Arabic rice recipe is vermicelli rice, which is used as a side to stews such as bamia - okra stew.
Or perhaps give this rice substitute a try instead - bulgur pilav made with tomatoes.
Did you enjoy making this recipe? I would love to hear from you, leave me a comment below and give me a ★★★★★ rating. If you love sharing your vegan food pics, join the PBF community group
Vegetable Maklouba Without Meat (Makloubeh)
- 1 Large Potato sliced 1cm thick
- 1 Med Eggplant sliced 1cm thick
- 1 Med Onion sliced 1cm thick
- 1 Med Capsicum (Bell pepper) sliced 1cm thick
- 1 head Garlic peeled and cloves left whole
- 1½ cups Long grain rice or basmati rice
- ½ tablespoon Ground turmeric
- ½ tablespoon Ground all spice
- ½ tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
- 4 tablespoon Olive oil divided into 4. 1 tablespoon for vegetables, 1 tablespoon for rice, 1 tablespoon for brushing pot and 1 tablespoon browning nuts
- 2¾ cups Vegetable stock
- ¼ cup Pine nuts
- ¼ cup Slivered almonds
- 1 pinch Salt to taste (optional)
- Coat eggplant, potato and capsicum in 1 tablespoon oil and place on a baking tray. Roast in the oven at 200C (392F) for approx. 30 minutes until lightly golden brown.1 Large Potato, 1 Med Eggplant, 1 Med Capsicum
- In a mixing bowl, combine rice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, all spices really well. Set aside.1½ cups Long grain rice, ½ tablespoon Ground turmeric, ½ tablespoon Ground all spice, 4 tablespoon Olive oil, ½ tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and brown pine nuts and slivered almonds (do this whilst maklouba is cooking) set aside.4 tablespoon Olive oil, ¼ cup Pine nuts, ¼ cup Slivered almonds
- Brush pot (see suggest pot) with olive oil and start layering vegetables. Place eggplant first, then potato, capsicum (bell pepper) in between by filling gaps. Then place a layer of onion and scatter garlic on top.1 head Garlic, 1 Med Onion
- Cover vegetables with an even layer of slightly compacted rice, ensuring the vegetables are fully covered. Carefully and slowly pour vegetable stock onto contents. Cover with lid.2¾ cups Vegetable stock
- Bring to a slight boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, then turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, do not open lid, allow Maqluba to sit for 10 minutes.
- Open pot and place a large serving plate or platter on top. Flip everything upside down and allow it to sit for 10 minutes, then slowly lift the pot to reveal the maqlouba. Garnish with brown nuts and parsley. Serve warm.
N.B., nutrition info is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. This will vary based on the specific ingredients you use.
It's been over an hour and the water is still bubbling in the bottom of the pot. The rice seems cooked, but the vegetables are swimming. I am sure they are pretty overcooked.
How much water did you use?
This is the tastiest vegan rice I’ve ever had! How did you manage to have your vegetables bubbling for an hour? Logically this doesn’t make any sense, it would burn. My guess is you used too much water or you just didn’t follow the recipe. If you follow it as instructed it works out.
Haven't made this yet, but I'm planning it for a birthday/Easter celebration. It looks great!!!
Wow! So flavorful!:) Maqlouba is delicious 🙂 Thanks.
Wonderful and full of flavor. Everyone needs to try!
Could you use brown basmati rice.
Whilst I've never made maqlouba with brown rice, always with basmati. I would say it needs to be cooked for longer if you do try it with brown rice.
Randy Barbara Kaplan
I'm making it right now with brown basmati rice. It's been 42 minutes and I'm not close to done. We don't eat white basmati, so I guess this is just going to come with the territory, but it smells great!
I am keen to know how the brown rice version turned out? It would take longer to cook, as brown rice does.
I’ve now made this three times for the family. Previously I had never known about this Makloubeh. The family is impressed with the flavors and the display. My husband even wanted to flip it the last time I made. We get so excited. Thank you for sharing this recipe. We going to make your spinach pies next. Vegan food never tasted so good.
I am delighted to read your family loves this vegetable maqluba. It's so tasty. I also love the flip!
Thank you for your lovely comments.