Mixed Nut Rice Pilaf, Lebanese Hushweh
This Mixed Nut Rice Pilaf is a version of the classic Lebanese dish, hushweh, and our weekly go-to. The “fried” or toasted nuts are a salty, incredibly flavorful topping to the rice, which is packed with savory beef and chicken. Everyone loves this dish for its deliciousness and ease, a winner.
It’s true that I make certain same dishes often, weekly. I’m not this cook: Sunday is roast, Monday is spaghetti, Tuesday is meatloaf, etc. (P.S., I don’t make meatloaf. Ever. And I like it. I just don’t make). But I do enjoy a routine dish or two that I can put together with my eyes closed and that I know everyone will like, no matter who comes walking in.
But within the ease of the consistent making of a dish is that need, that desire to improve upon it. To learn. To grow.
Our favorite routine-dish is hushweh. This rice pilaf dish with ground beef and chicken is a classic in Lebanese cuisine, with a flavor so deeply savory and easy on the eater (and cook), that we make ours for Sunday supper, sick days, and what-the-heck-should-we-make-for-dinner days alike.
The word itself means “stuffing.” I have yet to experience our hushweh stuffed in a bird, though I understand this is done still in some kitchens here and there (meaning here in the U.S., and there in Lebanon). The drippings from the chicken must impart a similar umami richness as they do in my roasted chicken fattoush.
Hushweh is the dish that inspired my first serious piece of published food writing (in the Washington Post, here), an ode to my father and even more so to the generous, loving and hospitable ways of the Lebanese.
The finest hushweh I ever laid eyes on was brought to our home when Sitto passed away. It came from her family who are owners of Beirut Bakery in Detroit (note to self: you can order their food, frozen, for your parties and whatnot…it’s fabulous). Their massive pilaf was topped with such a stunning layer of toasted nuts that one could not look away. I never forgot this and think of it every single time I make my hushweh nuts, always adding another handful to the pan of buttery, toasting goodness. Because, why not?
Also, once I heard an off-hand comment from our friend Greg Abraham, noting that in his family, they’ll put on a big mix of their favorite nuts. After that, my nut-loving taste buds were wanting to nut-up my Hushweh. Then, after trying the hushweh Greg’s brother made, I experienced a moistness that had nothing to do with mushiness. I saw Chuck was pouring on a bit of chicken stock after the Hushweh was said and done (but before the addition of the toasted nuts).
I don’t mind saying that I’ve turned out a mushy hushweh or two in my day. Sometimes there are very basic culinary rules that escape one’s mind. Here: how about rinsing the rice, Maureen? There is plenty of starch on the rice that can cause a mush. Sittos/grandmothers/aunts/whoever makes a lot of rice know this: rinse that rice.
Once I started rinsing, my hushweh was far less prone to mush. Also, I’ve been holding back on the liquid by a lot. I save that final ½ cup to add to the hushweh once it’s fully cooked and done, if it seems at all dry.
Now that I have upped my hushweh game, I have to hold myself back from reaching for the hushweh pot more than once a week. Wouldn’t want to get into a rut. Or, maybe I would….
Mixed Nut Rice Pilaf, Lebanese Hushweh
For the Mixed Nuts:
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews (raw is also fine)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Rice Pilaf:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Few grinds Black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, plus more for finishing, if needed
- 2 - 3 cups warm cooked chicken meat, shredded into bite-size pieces
- In a dutch oven or skillet with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the nuts. When the butter foams up, leave the nuts undisturbed for a minute or two so the nuts will toast in the foamy butter. Then stir constantly until the nuts are golden. Transfer the nuts to a bowl and add a teaspoon of salt while they are hot, and stir to combine. Set aside. And try not to eat them all.
- In a medium bowl, cover the rice by several inches with cool water. Rinse, and repeat several times until the water runs fairly clear. Set aside.
- In the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces with the side of a large spoon as it browns. Season the meat with cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Add the rice and chicken stock, stir to combine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Do not stir while the rice is cooking. Remove the lid toward the end of cooking to allow steam to escape.
- Add the pulled chicken pieces to the hot rice mixture and combine. If needed, stir in a touch more chicken broth to moisten. Top with all of the toasted nuts, and serve immediately.
Leave a Comment
I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Dad always stuffed the turkey with Hushweh on holidays. I never quite understood what people were talking about when they talked about “stuffing” and it wasn’t rice. Have never thought of adding cashews, but now I might be obsessed with the idea.
No kidding! Do you stuff your turkey with hushweh too? Let’s discuss. And you are going to die for the cashews on this. I’ll make for you….
that was the only way i remember a turkey being stuffed back in the day. Today it is regular stuffing. I will say that hushweh is number one on my list and also for my 3 grown up boys. They always look forward to having it when they come to visit. without a doubt …..the best! Well, lets add Kibbee Neyyeh in there as well, and for my kids…. Ghrabey! I guess I could keep going.
Haha! On and on! But I think hushweh is number one here with my crew too.
Is it possible to use brown rice or quinoa or would it ruin the texture?
You know Karen, that is so worth trying. I might cook the quinoa separately so it doesn’t get mushy, then stir into the beef and chicken. Keep us posted if you try either one! And I’ll do same.
I have done Hushwea with brownrice and my recommendation is to just soak the rice a bit before cooking or if cooking longer I believe it takes more liquid.
Great tips, thank you Amy!
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my Mother-in-law would serve two dressings along side the turkey; one was a cornbread dressing and the other was the “meat” dressing; Hushweh. She added diced celery and onions simmered until soft in butter and seasoned with poultry seasoning (no cinnamon) to the dish before covering with foil and baking in the oven. At times she would also mix some toasted pine nuts into the cooked dish before serving rather than placing on the top. She always made extra Hushweh so everyone had plenty to take home for another meal. We loved this dish and when the children were still at home, I usually made it at least once a month. My Mother-in-law was a very special, wise, caring, giving, gracious person and no one ever came into her home without being fed and taking food home with them when they left. Thank You Maureen for posting this Hushweh recipe, reminding me once again of this special person. I am going to include your recipe in my meal plans this week.
Just wonderful Frances. Thank you for sharing this! Your mother-in-law was such a treasure indeed. As are you.
YES! From my Sitto to my mother and father to my own kitchen, we stuff the turkey with hushweh- toasted slivered almonds and spanish pine nuts, adding chopped flat-leaf parsley to the mix once cooked. I add allspice (or Lebanese 5-spice) to the cinnamon and the flavors permeate the bird and the gravy we make from the drippings is to die for!
I just can’t wait to try the hushweh stuffed as you described, Ron! Is the rice mixture already cooked before stuffing it in the bird, so that you can be sure the rice will cook?
Simple but tasty. The nuts made it something special. Maybe a sacrilege but next time I may spice it up a bit with some onions and garlic and harissa.
Bet that will be extra-delicious…
Love it with the game changing nuts.
Can we have it tonight?
Very interesting recipe and I can’t wait to try it asap!!
I’m going to make this dish for the holidays but in the meantime I wanted to say thank you to Maureen for giving a shout out to Beirut Bakery!
I just moved to Dearborn for work and I’ve been searching for my Lebanese favorites for 2 weeks. I’ve found some good, some bad… I tried BB yesterday and I’m going to purposely schedule a trip up to Livonia at least once a week. It’s the next best thing to making your recipes, thank you!
Lucky you, Thomas, hitting up Beirut Bakery every week! Thanks for your comment!
My mother was from Colombia and met my Lebanese father in a grocery store. This was an irony for me always given their mutual love for food! Mom hardly cooked Colombian dishes and early on in her marriage, learned all the tricks from my Lebanese aunts (dad’s sisters). At holidays, as others mentioned, mom stuffed the bird with this dish. Cornish hens were my favorite combination! The kitchen was a tight galley, remained 70s style with tan and brown wallpaper that I believe had layers of aromas held tightly to the surface over the course of 5 decades. If there was one scent on that wallpaper that remained, it was of Husweh, as this was the staple, the go-to filler in so many meals! Thank you for reviving these memories for me. I have your book now too and this year plan to follow in mom’s footsteps and begin these traditions in my home.
What a wonderful story Juliette, and what a great combination of cultures in your parents. I can’t wait to hear what you cook and how your journey unfolds. Very special! And that wallpaper…!!!
LOVE hushweh! I have always started by boiling the chicken in chicken stock until it is beginning to fall off the bone, then pop it into a hot oven to roast/crisp up the skin for a short time. Boiling the chicken in the stock makes for a fabulously rich ‘double’ stock in which to cook the pilaf.
While the chicken roasts, finish preparing the pilaf (I fry the meat — I usually use lamb — and wash then soak the rice for 30 minutes while the chicken is cooking). For the nuts, I usually just use a LOT of pine nuts, but will now try this mix, which sounds fabulous. I also throw in a generous handful of raisins or, more often, golden raisins. And I space it generously with Lebanese 7 spice mix.
Turn in the now roasted chicken at the very end. Eat till you are stuffed! (It’s why it’s called hushweh!!)
Terrific Mark, thank you! Love the “double” stock!
The pictures seem to show hushweh made with ground beef (or maybe ground lamb?). Out of curiosity, which do you prefer?
I use ground beef almost exclusively for this. The flavor is more reliable than ground lamb, and the kid crowd seems to go for that too.
We had a Lebanese neighbor when we lived on ardussi in Saginaw years back.
She and her family cooked Lebanese. Now I wish I’d taken more interest in learning from her.
Well Gail it’s never too late! But I hear you, all of the things we missed out on earlier in life for not knowing what was in front of us….
Hi Maureen, I stumbled across your recipe last week and it was like a “Eurkea!” moment for me. My wife (and her family) have made a version of this for years, but always stuffed it into a roast chicken. I read through your version and decided to make it by pulling a rotisserie chicken instead and substituting cumin for the cinnamon (that’s the way her family makes it). It honestly took about 30 minutes total (including pulling the chicken) and it was a smash with the family! Everyone was so pleased with the result that it will now be a guaranteed part of the monthly dinner rotation as it takes so much less time than prepping, stuffing and roasting a fresh bird. The family and I offer our everlasting gratitude 🙂
How special Michael! Thank you so much for this. Hushweh is a wonderful dish to look forward to on a regular basis as a family.
Hi Maureen, just curious why you do not use ground lamb in your hushwe?
Hi Scott! My mother never did, so I guess that’s the short answer! I don’t think it was widely available back in the day here. We love it with ground beef but I know it’s great with the traditional lamb too!
Hi Maureen I made the recipe and I can’t thank you enough! For once, I followed it exactly! So Tasty! Will be one of my favorite dishes! God bless you!
Excellent recipe and I will do it at his Thanksgiving Holiday dinner. I’ll share with my family and friends.
Thank you, Rachid
Wonderful, thank you and enjoy!
I lived in Aqaba, Jordan and some of the roast chickens we bought had a delicious rice stuffing. I wonder if this was it. I’ll ask a couple of Jordanian friends what it was as I’ve wanted to duplicate it.
I bet so!
Thanks for all your wonderful recipes Maureen – I always enjoy reading them. I am vegetarian and am wondering if I could do this dish without the meat – chicken or lamb or ground beef, or if it would need “something”…but what would that something be? I look forward to your thoughts.
Interesting Pam. I would try mushrooms as that “something,” to replace the meat. Love to hear how it goes!
We are grateful for your site. I am Lebanese/Armenian, and my wife is Puerto Rican. Sinc e my mom died many uears ago I have not been able to get a good Lebanese meal. Not much in the restaurants. My wife is trying to make some of my favorites, like mjadra, lubia rooze. So we look forward to your experience.Thank you. One request can you darken your fonts as it is hard to read. to lite.
Fred, thanks so much for your note! I’m happy you are here and what a neat thing that your wife is learning to make your favorites–hope you find all of the recipes you’re looking for here. And thank you for your suggestion, will see about making the type easier to read!