This tasty Chicken Mandi combines an amazingly flavorful roasted marinated chicken with smoky rice that is an unbelievable treat for dinner! Your whole family is sure to love this popular Arabic chicken meal with its intensely flavorful rice and perfectly cooked chicken!
Chicken Mandi is the Ultimate Chicken & Rice Dinner
Chicken Mandi is a dish that originated in the middle eastern country of Yemen and has spread across the globe to restaurants everywhere! While there are many chicken and rice dishes that come from Arabic countries, Mandi seems to be the most popular and well-loved.
True and authentic chicken mandi is cooked in a Tabloon (tandoor oven) underground, over coals, which gives it an incredible smoky flavor. My recipe instructs on how to replicate this flavor by using charcoal and I promise, it will not disappoint!
It may look like there's a lot to this, but follow along and you'll be rewarded with a great homemade chicken mandi!
What You'll Need
I've broken down the list of ingredients to re-create this spectacular dish at home into 3 groups, plus a spare for getting that smoked flavor!
Mandi Spice (Hawajj)
- Ground Cumin - I love the taste of cumin, it's one of my favorite spices! Curry powder can be used as a great substitute.
- Ground Cardamom - Ground cardamom pods work well also. They're a great whole spice for roasting!
- Ground Black Pepper - Or use peppercorns and roast them as directed below.
- Ground Coriander - This aromatic spice is also called Chinese parsley.
- Turmeric - In addition to adding great flavor, the turmeric will also add color to your roasted chicken!
- Ground Ginger - Typically I say fresh is best, but in this case, ground ginger is better because it blends so well with the other spices. It's also going to be augmented by the use of ginger garlic paste in the recipe.
- Ground Nutmeg - Adds warmth and pungent flavor.
Mandi spice, also called hawajj (hawaij, hawaj, hawayij, or hawayej) is a blend of 4 spices and is what makes this recipe so fragrant and delicious. I have made my own additions to recreate the amazing chicken mandi at home with the best results!
The core four hawaij spices include black pepper, cardamom, cumin, and turmeric. For an even more amazing flavor, your whole spices can be roasted in a dry frying pan and then ground for use in this Yemeni spice blend.
Chicken Mandi Marinade
- Olive Oil - Extra virgin (use the 1st portion) to make a great paste for applying the marinade.
- Butter - Melted butter to add to the marinade paste for rich flavor. Ghee works great also!
- Lime Juice - Fresh lime juice if you have it, otherwise bottled lime juice is fine.
- Mandi Spice (Hawajj) - From above (use the 1st portion).
- Chicken - Whole, spatchcock, halved, or chicken pieces can all be used in the recipe.
- Salt - A small amount to taste to bring out all of the wonderful marinade ingredient flavors!
To add a vibrant 'red' color to your marinade, use a small portion of tomato paste, paprika, or even red food color!
- Olive Oil - Extra virgin (use the 2nd portion) adds the most amazing flavor!
- Onion - White onion is best for your rice, however, a yellow onion can also be used.
- Garlic - It is best to use fresh garlic for this recipe!
- Diced Green Chiles - Substitutes can be any mild chile, such as banana peppers, anaheim, or poblano peppers.
- Ginger Garlic Paste - You can use freshly diced ginger and garlic but the paste is awesome!
- Mandi Spice (Hawajj) - From above (use the 2nd portion).
- Bay Leaves - These add an herbal, slightly floral flavor. Be sure to remove them from the rice before serving!
- Cinnamon - Whole cinnamon sticks add just the right amount of the warm spice flavor. Substitute with half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to one stick.
- Saffron - This spice is expensive, as it is very labor-intensive to harvest, but the wonderful earthy, floral taste is worth it!
- Basmati Rice - The best rice for this dish, as it is light and fluffy, with a nutty flavor that pairs deliciously with the spices.
- Chicken Broth - Homemade or store-bought chicken broth or chicken stock all work wonderfully!
Charcoal (to smoke)
- Charcoal - A single briquette is all you'll need to add the smoked flavor.
- Cooking Oil - Canola oil is best for high heat, as are avocado and sunflower oil.
How to Make Chicken Mandi at Home
This is more than a simple roasted chicken, as the time and care put into making this restaurant-worthy dish is time well spent! Even though I've kept everything as easy as possible for this homemade version of chicken mandi, I think the end result will pleasantly surprise you!
Combine the Mandi Spice (Hawajj)
- Combine all of the ground spices together in a bowl - ground cumin, ground cardamom, ground black pepper, ground coriander, turmeric, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg.
- If you choose to use whole spices, you should lightly roast them in a dry frying pan until fragrant (2 - 3 minutes). Let them cool away from the heat, then grind in a spice grinder until you reach a powdery texture.
Mix the Marinade
- In a bowl, combine the melted butter, lime juice, olive oil, and Mandi spice.
- Thoroughly coat all of the chicken or chicken pieces with the marinade mixture.
- Place chicken in a covered dish and marinate for a minimum of 1 hour, but overnight is preferable (8 hours or more). *If in the fridge overnight, remember to set the marinated chicken out until it comes to room temperature before cooking (between 30 minutes to an hour).
Cook the Marinated Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF (205ºC) and use parchment paper to line a baking tray.
- Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 40 - 45 minutes, checking periodically until the internal temperature is 180ºF (82ºC) on a digital meat thermometer. Cooking time may be slightly less for pieces of chicken, and longer for a whole chicken. Remove from the oven when done.
Make the Mandi Rice
- Heat olive oil in a Dutch Oven or a large pan. Add the diced onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent and fragrant (2 - 3 min). Then add the fresh, crushed garlic cloves and sauté for 30 more seconds.
- Add the Mandi spice blend, bay leaves, cinnamon stick(s), green chiles, and ginger garlic paste then keep sautéing for 2 - 3 minutes.
- Add the rice (after soaking and rinsing) and fry with the chiles, spices, and onion. Sauté for 10 minutes while stirring continuously.
- Next, add in the chicken broth, stir, and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. *If after 10 minutes there is still visible water in the rice, cook for another 5 minutes.
- When the rice is fully cooked, fluff with a fork.
Heat the Charcoal
- Take your single charcoal barbeque briquette and place it on a ring of your gas stove until red hot, approximately 5 minutes. *You can also place it under the broiler on high.
- Use aluminum foil to make a double-layered bowl or pouch and lightly coat in cooking oil. Put the hot coal in the bowl and then place it in the center of the rice, pushing it down just a bit.
- Place the cooked chicken on top of the rice and charcoal, then seal the pot with aluminum foil, followed by a lid. Leave it for 10 minutes.
- Open the pot just before you’re ready to eat and serve the chicken on a bed of rice. Garnish with slivered almonds, roasted almonds, and/or raisins if desired.
While this recipe for Mandi Chicken may seem a bit labor-intensive at first, after tasting it once, I promise you won’t want to take shortcuts the next time! The amazing blend of spices is so complex and savory and the smoky taste of the roasted chicken is perfection!
The Hawajj spice mixture gives the chicken a beautiful color for presentation and don’t forget to scrape all of the drippings from the pan onto the rice to capture every last bit of spicy, smoky goodness!
Mandi Spice (Hawajj)
Chicken Mandi Marinade
- 2 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin - 1st portion)
- 2 tablespoon butter (or ghee - melted)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon mandi spice (hawajj) (from above - 1st portion)
- 4 lb whole chicken
- salt (optional, to taste)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin - 2nd portion)
- 1 white onion (or yellow onion - diced)
- 3-4 garlic cloves (crushed)
- 12 oz diced green chiles
- 1 tablespoon garlic ginger paste (see recipe)
- 1 teaspoon mandi spice (hawajj) (from above - 2nd portion)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ teaspoon saffron (2-3 strands + 1 tablespoon of warm water)
- 3 cups basmati rice (soaked for 20-30 minutes, then rinsed)
- 4 ½ cups chicken broth
Charcoal (to smoke)
- 1 charcoal (1 bbq briquette)
- cooking oil
Mandi Spice (Hawajj)
- In a small bowl combine the ground spices including cumin, green cardamom, black pepper, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and nutmeg.
- If using whole spices: lightly roast the whole spices in a small dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow the spices to cool slightly. Then transfer to a spice grinder and grind until the spices reach a fine powder consistency.
Chicken Mandi Marinade
- In a small bowl combine the olive oil, melted butter, lime juice, and a portion of the mandi spice.
- Coat your whole chicken, spatchcock chicken, halved chicken (remove the neck if you cut the chicken in half), or chicken pieces with the marinade thoroughly.
- Cover, refrigerate, and marinate the coated chicken for at least one hour, and preferably overnight (or 8 hours). *Remember to place the marinated chicken out before cooking for about 30 minutes to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and line a baking tray or sheet with parchment paper.
- Roast the chicken for 40-45 minutes (check earlier if roasting chicken pieces, or cook longer for a whole chicken) or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) as read by a digital meat thermometer. Remove from oven when done.
- Heat a large pan or Dutch oven with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and becoming translucent. Add the crushed garlic cloves and saute for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add the diced green chiles, garlic ginger paste, mandi spice blend, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Continue to saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the soaked and rinsed rice and fry with the sauteed diced onion, green chiles, and spices. Stir continuously for 10 minutes.
- Pour in the chicken broth, stir, cover with aluminum foil and your pot or Dutch oven lid. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10-15 minutes. *If the rice still has water after 10 minutes, cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Once the rice is cooked, fluff the rice.
- Place a single barbecue charcoal briquette on your gas stove ring (or under a broiler on high) for about 5 minutes or until red hot.
- Make a double-layer pouch or bowl of aluminum foil that is lightly coated with cooking oil. Place the red hot coal into the pouch and nestle it into the center of the rice.
- Place the chicken over the rice and charcoal, then seal the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil again and seal with the lid. Leave the pot sealed for at least 10 minutes.
- Open the pot just before serving, carve the chicken pieces if needed, and serve over the smoky rice.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!