Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani
Featured in the The Kitchn- Delicious Links.

Biryani is a well known rice dish from the Indian sub continent. It is a magnificent dish redolent of myriad spices, saffron and caramelized onions, and is probably the most aromatic rice ever cooked. In all its elegance, it is a dish fit to be served on a royal court. The cooking process of Biryani manifests a perfection of culinary art.

Friends are our life! You meet someone along the road and you just know that you are meant to be in the very first few minutes that you have met; vibes ripple through you before the exchange of words. And that is the story between me and Fatema. The first time was not the usual first time, it was more like we met after a long time – calm and steady with a promise to last for a life time!  Both of us just recently stepped into our twenties and just got married, far away from home, sharing a lot and also teaching and encouraging each other out in our culinary adventure in our little basic apartment kitchen.

Chicken Biryani

I never dared to cook Biryani till I saw her make it. I stood by her and watched her every move; the meat, the rice and the innumerable spices, along with little stories from home got laid out in front of me. She was confident, I was fascinated. Her Biryani always came out perfect with flying colors; aromatic with spices, the meat rightly cooked and the rice grains nestled against each other standing out separate and proud – just the way it should be. That day seems a long time ago, but every time I make my Biryani, I feel her standing by me. I did experiment over the years with the spices and the amount of each to suit the taste of the rest of my family and I can proudly say that I am pretty much satisfied with what I make, but her’s will always be the best. I owe this post of my very very dear friend Fatema. Thank you again!

Chicken Biryani

Biryani originated in Persia and as it was brought in to India by the Iranian travelers many years ago. It slowly left its footsteps in different parts of India, traveling with the royalty and the locals from north to south, while each region adapted the original in their own ways. In the present times, there are more than one kind of Biryani, and the way it is cooked depends from one region to another. But the basics remain the same – the precious fragrant spices, the layering of the meat and the rice and finally the dam or the steam which combines it all and culminates into this treasured royal recipe.

In its more original form,  the dish is known with the general name of “Dam Pukht/Dam-pukhtak” – the words in Persian means “steam-cooked”—a reference to the steamed rice  and the meat in layers that forms the basis of the dish.  In some preparation the meat is marinated but uncooked and finally cooked during the steaming process along with the partially cooked rice. This process is called the Kacchhi/Kutchi (raw) Biryani. While the other one is the Pukki (cooked) Biryani, that I have done here today. Here the meat is cooked into a curry/with sauce, the rice is partially cooked and the rice and the cooked meat is layered for final cooking.

This is a recipe to indulge, during family times and special times. The list of spices are long, but the spices are the probably the most important of all ingredients here. Cinnamon, mace, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, dried mint and also the nuts and the dried fruits combine contributing to the fragrance and the taste.  While it indeed is a royal dish, it is however enjoyed in the most casual atmosphere; during special occasions but with friends and family among love and laughter. Cooking Biryani could take many hours, but it is a labor of love!

Chicken Biryani

The amount here that I have for the ingredients will make Biryani for an army as this was for a party. Do read through and adjust amounts if making for a small party.

Chicken Biryani

Ingredients: (serves about 18-20 as main meal)

  1. 6 lbs chicken, skinless and cut into big pieces
  2. pomegranate arils, nuts, chopped cilantro/coriander for garnish (Optional)

for marinade:

  1. 2 tablespoons ginger paste
  2. 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  3. 1 teaspoon dried mint
  4. 1 cup strained yogurt/Greek yogurt
  5. salt
  6. 2 tablespoon lemon juice

To cook the chicken:

  1. 3/4 cup oil
  2. 10 small green cardamom pods
  3. 2 black cardamom pods
  4. 8 cloves
  5. 3 sticks of cinnamon
  6. 1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
  7. 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
  8. 5-6 medium onions, sliced thin
  9. 3 tablespoons garlic paste
  10. 2 tablespoon ginger paste
  11. 1 tablespoon chopped hot green pepper
  12. salt
  13. 1 teaspoon turmeric
  14. 3/4 cup tomato paste

to combine:

  1. 1 cup thick strained yogurt/Greek yogurt
  2. 1 teaspoon mace
  3. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  4. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper/chili powder
  5. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  6. 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  7. 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  8. 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  10. 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
  11. 1/2 cup alubokhara/dried plums (substitute: prunes)
  12. 1/2 cup sliced/chopped toasted almonds

Note: If you do not want to make a completely homemade combination of spices, you can use store bought Biryani Spice Mix, available at the Indian Groceries instead of the the spices in the “to combine” list. I usually use Shan Sindhi Biryani Masala.

For caramelized onions:

  1. 4 medium  onions, sliced in to very thin half moons
  2. 1.5 tablespoons ghee
  3. a pinch of sugar

For the rice:

  1. 12 cups Basmati rice
  2. 3 tablespoons oil
  3. 3 tablespoons garam masala
  4. salt

for layering:

  1. cooked chicken
  2. partially cooked rice
  3. caramelized onions
  4. finely chopped fresh cilantro/coriander
  5. 2 teaspoons good quality saffron
  6. 1/2 cup warm milk
  7. 1/2 cup ghee. melted
  8. food color (optional)
  9. 1/2 teaspoon kewra/screw pine (optional)
  10. 1 teaspoon rose water (optional)


Wash the chicken and pat dry. Rub the lemon juice and salt on the pieces and let them sit for about 15 minutes.
Combine all the other in ingredients of the marinade and whisk. Place the salted chicken in the marinade and toss. ( I usually use a large ziploc bag and put everything together in it and give it a good shake). Let the chicken sit in the marinade for at least 2 hours. Overnight really works better.

Heat the 3/4 cup oil in a large pan. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves to the oil; when the spices sizzles and when they are fragrant, add the cumin and the peppercorn. When the cumin starts to sizzle, add the onions and cook till they start turning brown. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and save the marinade. Add the chicken to the pan and cook till the chicken is light brown on both sides. Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and the tomatoes. Toss everything together. Add salt and turmeric and chili peppers and cook till the chicken is completely cooked and the oil starts separating from the sauce. While cooking slowly add the marinade. The chicken should be cooked and there should be about 4 cups of sauce left in the pan.

Caramelizing the onions:

Heat ghee in a pan; add a pinch of sugar and the onions and fry them slowly at low to medium heat till they are caramelized, crisped and dark brown. Once they are uniformly brown , drain on thick layer of kitchen paper, so that extra oil is soaked. As they cool down, the onions will become crispy. Set aside.

Cooking the Rice:

Note: The rice is going to be only partially cooked. The cooking of the rice will be completed when the meat is layered with the partially cooked rice and steamed/baked again.

Wash the rice till water runs clear. Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain. Use 2 cups of water for every cup of rice. (Since I had cooked in a big quantity, I had to cook the rice in 3 containers.) Bring the water to a boil; add salt, oil, garam masala and rice. Cook till the rice is about 3/4 cooked. They will look long and segmented and whitish in some parts. To test, take a grain in between two fingers. If the rice breaks in about 3 parts, the rice is cooked just right. It is very important not to overcook the rice. Drain immediately and spread the rice in a tray/plate for the remaining water to dry off – for about 15 minutes.

Combining yogurt and spices and the chicken:

Whisk the yogurt till smooth and creamy. Combine all the spices and the dried plum and the nuts with the yogurt evenly. Add this mix to the cooked chicken and toss well to combine. DO NOT COOK. Set aside and get ready to layer the rice, chicken spices and the final cooking.

Layering/Final Cooking:

Combine the saffron in warm milk and let it rest for about 10 minutes; the milk will turn deep yellow. If you are using orange food color, use a couple of drops in the milk.

Divide the caramelized onions, so you have about a few tablespoons left for final garnish of the finished dish.

You will need a thick bottomed deep pot with a very tight fitting lid. If you want to cook in the oven, use a an oven safe deep dish.

Coat the bottom of the pot with ghee. Spoon a thin layer of the sauce from the cooked chicken. The bottom most layer has to be the sauce to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Next will be a layer of rice. Do not make a thick layer; it should be about 2 cups of rice for each layer. Over the rice layer, spoon some of the sauce and the chicken and gently spread it out evenly. Add some of the caramelized onions, top a tablespoon of chopped cilantro, and a tablespoon of ghee. Next drizzle some of the saffron milk. Cover this layer with another layer of rice. Keep going with the rice, meat/sauce, caramelized onion, cilantro/coriander, ghee and saffron milk sequence. The top most layer has to be rice.

(Since I had a big quantity, I used 2 big pots to cook the Biryani)

After the final layer of rice is done, use the back of a wooden spoon and make several (about 6) holes from the top layer to the bottom of the top. This allows the stream to distribute and cook evenly. Drizzle the rest of the saffron milk on the top. Drizzle a few drops of screw pine/kewra and/or rose water. Cover the pot tightly. (If the cover if not tight enough, use aluminum foil to tightly cover the pot and use the pot over over that.

If cooking on the stove top:

Leave the pot on the stove top at the lowest heat and cook for about 30-40 minutes.

If cooking in the oven:

Cook in the oven at 350 degree F for about 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm/hot as a mail meal.

Chicken Biryani

Serve with Raita (Thick whipped yogurt + dried or fresh mint + cucumber + salt to taste)

Chicken Biryani

If you would be interested, here is a comprehensive history/information of Biryani.

Related Posts:

Chicken Pilaf

Malai Kofta – Cheese Dumplings in a Creamy Sauce

Spicy Tomato and Mushroom Rice with Fresh Mint

Cumin Flavored Peanut and Tomato Rice

Rice and Lentil Pilaf

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49 comments to Chicken Biryani

  • What a great post Soma! First of all that Biryani just made me drool and its so very well described with all the steps and details. Job well done!

  • Sig

    WOW! Hats off to you Soma, it has come out sooo well in that large quantity…

  • Fatema


    Thank you….This recipe is yours…only thing I did was, first time you saw me cooking biryani..but anyone can look at your blog and say it looks so profession, cooking, writing, presentation and photography. It is a fact. The best thing, I earned in this country is your friendship…Hugs…

  • platter looks so good,..luv the biryani dish,..;-)

  • Wow….this biryani looks amazingly delicious. Bookmarked for my next endeavour!

  • Simply marvelous! A divine dish.



  • zahera shaikh

    feeling hungry………

  • I love biriyani and my daughter loves it when i make it, hubby thinks why i ahould mix rice and chicken in one pot if yo can serve it seperate and I am like what how can you say that 😉
    This looks absloutley super deliciious, it is morning here and i wish i had this right now and i just had my breakfast.

  • Ufff … ekkhuni khabar khelam … tarpor ei. Ki je kori … baare baare scroll up kore snaps gulo dekhte icche korche.
    Ekta thyang debe? Ar ettu bhaja peyaj? 🙂

  • Ben

    Looks delicious! I love the pot 🙂

  • I’m droooling! I guess for most of us biryani is such a treat ! I have a friend called Fatema who hates biryani and always tell her she is crazy! 🙂 Love the post and love the recipe, I never add pom seeds, shd do tht next time

  • Delicious!
    That is indeed a grand biryani fit for a King with an elaborate procedure to go with it.

  • Biriyani looks delicious and made straight out of Royal Kitchen. Great.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  • Mmmmmmmmmmm yummy looks so authentic and as deepa says straight out of Royal Kitchen.. beautiful Soma

  • Ivy

    Must be a wonderful dish full of flavour. Your pot looks beautiful and I wish I was a guest at your party.

  • I love any kind of Biriyani, just posted one this week too. Looks very delicious and it is indeed a labor of love.

  • This looks too yummy, Soma! Like the way you’ve arranged the chicken on top :). I could use some of those nice serving dishes, too. I saw nice ones in our very good neighborhood Indian restaurant and seriously considered asking them if they would sell some? Is that a sign of prop addiction? 8)

    Yes prop addiction:-) I have all my senses open all the time. I suppose we all do it. Just recently I brought back the cups from a restaurant after having dessert (the take away kind). Hubby could have have run away when I told I will do that. I got these pots from India. Here some Indian groceries sell them, but at a price too high, esp. if you know how much u can get it for in India.

  • Oh gosh Biryani looks soooo good!!! I am bookmarking this one too Soma! Love it! 🙂

  • I want that right now! It looks incredible. I’m going to try it. Love a new recipe – thanks.

  • That looks and sounds so good. Isnt that funny about friends. I love that. Such destiny.

  • Oh, you know how to make me hungry at any time of the day Soma 😉

  • I absolutely adore biryani and took on the feat of cooking it a few years ago. Now I do it quite regularly. This looks incredible Soma. Looks like it’ll be biryani for the weekend! ;o)

  • jagruti

    biryani looks good….pics are great

  • Your biryani looks excellent – it sounds spicy and fresh, and must be miles ahead of the greasy Indian-restaurant stuff served at parties. Yum…

  • Feel like eating it right now(it’s my breakfast time)….U have done it so beautifully, can’t even imgine cooking it for 20 people mine is max. for 8….

  • Cham

    Oh gal did u cook for such a crowd. Great, came out perfect! U should be a biryani expert!

  • Its almost dinner time, Soma. You got me hungry and drooling over your Biryani. Love the handi – that exotic copperware dish make it more delectable to the eyes. I completely agree with Fatema. I have had good Biryani karma, and you complete the experience.

  • anh

    THANK YOU!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE biryani. Saw your tweet the other day and I thought I would wait until things are calmer over here so I can read through this. OMG it’s awesome 🙂

  • What a feast. It looks so sumptuous – especially in those dishes.

  • This biryani is beautiful and sounds so delicious, it is a brilliant idea to add pomegranate and rose water: fragrant and colourful!

  • this looks delicious soma. It came out so well made in this large quantity. I may use the ready made masala and give it a try 🙂

  • looks delicious and sounds aromatic

  • Oh, you make me hungry. I’m going to cook this recipe. Thanks

  • Have I commented on this yet? It just looks so good! I need a plateful!

  • This post is gorgeous!! The biryani looks delicious!! Looks amazing!!



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    Chicken Biryani | eCurry – The Recipe Blog…

  • Nice photos and recipes. Thanks for sharing.

  • Amber

    Hi Soma, fantastic biryani recipe. I’ve always been terrified of making biryani but your very detailed recipe might giv e me just enough courage to try it. One question though, how much Shan biryani masala should I use? Thanks so much

    For the amount of Biryani mentioned here, you might need the entire packet of the ready made spice or at least 3/4 of it. But it is really up to you. If you prefer a mild one, use less and vice versa. Keep in mind that if you are not used to the heat of the spice (Not the flavors), you might want to start off by using less amount… a lot of brands are quite spicy.

  • Manjari

    Dear Soma,

    I did the unthinkable! I made vegetable Biryani in the exact same receipe as your Chicken Biryani!
    Without wanting to sound immodest, it turned out supremely delicious and scored on all fronts. Taste, appearance, presentation, flavor!!!
    The guests were very generous with their compliments and their servings!
    eCurry has made me into a Chef of sorts! Every time I’ve tried a seemingly difficult receipe, it has only turned out good!
    Thanks a million! You are not just a great cook and blogger but you have a skill of making it all simple!
    I hope to meet you someday coz I think it’s a great thing to share receipes with all those little subtle hints which make a dish truly delectable!
    Thanks again!

    🙂 You are a good and intuitive cook. That is exactly Veg. Biryani is made. The exact same method! So glad that everyone liked it and thank you much for letting me know.


  • Yamato Ronin

    “First time I had a biryani I bit into some woody piece, I thought “how rude”, then suddenly the flavor of the spice exploded and I was fascinated by the surprising layers of spices and flavors. It is a extraordinary fascinating dish. To make this dish even more interesting is that it seems every city in India has it’s own way of making it and every person who love this dish seems to have his or her own way to make this splendid dish.

  • Hi Soma, I’m a huge fan of biryani! I bet you can guess what I’m cooking this Saturday night. 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing this recipe! I have eaten Chicken Biryani many times while travelling through India and Nepal, always in restaurants, never homecooked… I am definitely going to try this soon! Keep up the good work!

  • zarwhitetaker

    Well whenever I feel like I want to try something new, I look for you site. If ask me what I like most then I will say your site has my best of the best vote. I thank you all for sharing such outstanding info with us. I am really looking forward to reading more from you guy.

  • Anar

    Please please can you post a lamb or mutton biryani recipe that serves 18-20! It would be much much appreciated

    The process for mutton or lamb biryani would be exactly same at this recipe, except you will need to cook the meat longer, until it is done. If you would need to cook it faster, you may half cook the marinated meat in the pressure cooker and proceed with the recipe as is here. I hope this helps. Thanks!

  • Nick

    Thanks for the great recipe! I will be making it this weekend for 18 people.

    Question: when cooking the chicken, should I drain the oil from the sauce when it starts to separate? I’m afraid that with the oil and the ghee, I might end up with a rather greasy biryani.

    No you will not drain the oil. Remember it is for 18 people and there is a lot of chicken. If there is not some fat the biryani is going to be dry. The fat for the biryani is going to be from the gravy of the chicken when it is steamed together, to keep the rice moist and separate. Go ahead make it and let me know how it turns out. If you divide a cup of oil betweeen 18 people, it is not a lot 🙂 Biryani is a luxury dish after all!

  • Nick

    >>Go ahead make it and let me know how it turns out.
    I did! It was wonderful! I gave it to (mostly) French people, who are often not very good at eating new things. They were a bit suspicious at first, but then after a short while it all went quiet except for sounds of happy munching. Then they all gave themselves second helpings.

    I was surprised how hot (spicy hot) it was. I’m a Brit, so I can take it, but I was amazed that so little cayenne pepper, plus some rather anaemic chillies, gave such heat. Again, French people might not normally have been expected to like this, but they lapped it up.

    Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Yummy post, it is looking great in tasty yet time consuming but worth to try..Thank you for detail recipe !!

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