Tavuklu Pilav: Turkish chicken pilaf with chickpeas

turkish pilaf with chickpeas and chicken

Guess! Quickly! What is THE street food in Turkey?

No, definitely not kebab. Ok, maybe cigköfte. But if you're in a hurry, you just buy tavuklu pilav - rice with chickpeas and chicken.


What is tavuklu pilav?

Tavuklu pilav is Turkish for "rice with chicken". It is based on rice with chickpeas, which is either mixed or topped with cooked chicken. Alternatively, the Turkish rice with chicken is also called "nohutlu pilav", i.e. rice dish with chickpeas. However, this is usually the case when the chicken pieces are not served with it.


To be honest, we didn't realize how common this dish was until we moved to Turkey. In Turkey, it is even known as "Sokak PIlavi", or "street rice dish" aka street food.


When we lived in Vienna, a Turkish snack bar serving this very rice opened in the neighborhood one day. Personally, we didn't find the idea of a store called "Nohutlu Pilav", i.e. rice with chickpeas, very promising and even wondered who would only offer chickpea rice. Well, unfortunately the idea didn't really go down well in Vienna and the snack bar had to close. When we came to Turkey, we realized that Tavuklu Pilav is a classic snack bar here.


You can basically find a small restaurant on every corner in Istanbul that has masses of rice with chickpeas on display. This is served plain or usually with boiled chicken. The typical street vendors, who drive through the streets with a cart or simply stand in the alleyways in summer, also often have tavuklu pilav on offer.


So it really isn't just any dish on the menu. No, just like kebabs and cigköfte, there are simply snack bars and restaurants that only serve the turkish chicken pilaf and perhaps a lentil soup. 


What does tavuklu pilav taste like?

chicken pilaf recipe turkish

The preparation is the crux of the matter. When tavuklu pilav, Turkish pilaf with chickpeas and chicken, is prepared correctly, it is incredible. Very simple, no big explosions of flavor, but simply delicious. 


To put it simply, it's just rice with chickpeas and chicken. However, one important ingredient that makes tavuklu pilav really good is butter. Lots of butter.


In Turkey, butter has become almost unaffordable, which is why the pilaf snack bars like to specify that their pilaf is really "tereyagli", i.e. with butter.


The rice is also mostly cooked with chicken stock, which gives it even more flavor. Regardless of these two tricks, tavuklu pilav is really just plain rice with chickpeas and chicken. 


How is Tavuklu Pilav served?

You work in a store in Turkey; lunchtime. You go to the chicken rice restaurant next door and get a paper plate with chickpea rice and chicken on it. Now you take the packet of ketchup, which is also in the white plastic bag, and squeeze it on the edge of the plate or use it to garnish all your rice.


With every bite of your rice, you put a small yellow pepperoni which comes in a plastic bag in your mouth. Swallow with ayran.


Too little salt? Thank goodness there is always (!) a sachet of salt to go with your meal in Turkey.


That's what we've learned. We definitely don't eat ketchup with our Tavuklu Pilav recipe and not everyone will - but you can get a sachet of ketchup almost everywhere here (especially at Pizza????).


Spicy pepperoni or pickled vegetables and ayran must be served alongside the tavuklu pilav. You have to understand that it's the combination of all these things. 


A nice trick to refine the tavuklu pilaf is to add (lots of) freshly grounded pepper to the rice. This is not added during cooking, but only when serving. 


Other ideas for serving tavuklu pilav:

  • a nice salad (or simply sliced tomatoes, cucumber, greens, etc.)
  • Soup so that the whole thing is not so heavy
  • Salgam Suyu (a spicy turnips juice)
  • Sriracha
  • Yoghurt or tzatziki/cacik instead of ayran
chicken pilaf turkish recipe

The right ingredients for Tavuklu Pilav

Good ingredients are all the more important for a simple recipe such as tavuklu pilav.


In Turkey, round grain rice is usually used. Baldo rice or Tosya rice, for example, is ideal for the tavuklu pilaf recipe. But honestly, you can also use regular short grain or risotto rice.


You can do the same with long grain rice. The only thing we wouldn't necessarily recommend is basmati. Or rather: You can also use basmati, but then it will definitely taste different to Turkish tavuklu pilaf. 


When it comes to chickpeas, you can use canned chickpeas as well as soaked and pre-cooked chickpeas. We used some from the tin.  However, we usually always have soaked chickpeas in the freezer so that we can spontaneously cook 'nohut yemegi' or throw a few chickpeas into the soup, for example.


We've mentioned it many times before, but the butter really does make all the difference to the taste. Use the best you can get and don't skimp on it. This time we used real sour cream butter from a farmer's store. It's a little salty and makes every meal a poem. In general, we think that there should always be "real" butter in the fridge for cooking.


Finally, please don't be afraid of the long preparation below; the Tavuklu Pilav recipe is really really easy! Boil the chicken, fry the rice, cook the rice, mix - done.

For some extra flavor, you can cook the chicken with spices and vegetables. We used 1 bay leaf and a whole onion (peeled and cut in half). 


Vegetarian idea for the Tavuklu Pilav recipe

Basically, tavuklu pilav (in this case, you might prefer nohutlu pilav) is also a delicious dish that you can easily make vegetarian. This makes it even easier to prepare. You simply leave out the chicken and chicken stock. Instead, just cook the rice with chickpeas and use vegetable stock if you like. Incidentally, we wouldn't necessarily recommend the nohutlu pilav for vegans - the taste is very much based on really good butter. 

turkish rice with chickpeas chicken pilaf
The ready-made rice with chickpeas without chicken

Tavuklu Pilav: Turkish chicken pilaf with chickpeas

Ingredients (approx. 4 portions)

  • approx. 350 grams/2 cups of rice
  • 2 chicken legs (or other part of the chicken)
  • 5 tbsp canned chickpeas (or more to taste)
  • 2 really full tbsp butter
  • salt
  • For the rice: 500 ml/2 cups stock, 200 ml/1 cup water 

Optional for the stock:

Onion, garlic, bay leaf... 

Optional for serving:

grounded pepper


Step 1: First cook the chicken. To do this, put the chicken pieces in a pot and fill it with water (approx. 1 liter, the pieces must be covered in any case). We used a pressure cooker, which makes it quicker. Salt well and let the stock boil until the chicken is cooked. After about 45 minutes in a normal pot and 20-30 minutes in a pressure cooker, it's ready.

Step 2: Melt two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the rice and fry for a good three minutes. Make sure you stir constantly and keep the heat low so that the rice doesn't brown. 

Step 3: Add the chickpeas and mix well.

Step 4: Drain off 500 ml of chicken stock. Make sure that there is only broth. Pour the stock and 200 ml of water over the rice. Add salt according to the saltiness of your chicken stock and close the pan with the lid when the water is bubbling. 

Step 5: Turn the heat down to low (e.g. 2 out of 9) and allow the rice and chickpeas to cook. When you see that the water has evaporated, turn off the stove.

!!! Do not open the lid during cooking or after switching off the stove!!! Leave the rice on the switched-off stove for at least 15 minutes (the longer the better) with the lid closed.

Step 6: Pluck the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Step 7: Mix the rice. Either add the chicken pieces to the pan and mix everything well or serve the plucked meat on the rice plate.


Tip: You can use any leftover stock to make soup.

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