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Chicken Biryani

Chicken biryani is a sensory feast that will delight your palate with each tantalizing mouthful. Imagine succulent pieces of chicken steeped in a vibrant blend of spices, tucked amidst fragrant basmati rice.

Chicken biryani on a white plate with chutney on the side.

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Chicken Biryani encompasses a medley of flavors, from the warm heat of black pepper to the subtle sweetness of cinnamon and cardamom. Crispy fried onions, creamy Cucumber Raita, and bright fresh mint and cilantro provide irresistible contrasts in flavors and textures.

This Chicken biryani recipe is more than just a dish. It’s a journey of flavors, a dance of spices, and a testament to the magic that happens when simple ingredients are transformed with love and skill. While my Instant Pot Chicken Biryani recipe delivers all the same flavors, this version is more authentic.

Chicken biryani on a plate with raita.

What is Biryani?

Simply put, biryani is a celebration in a pot. Originating from the Indian subcontinent, this vibrant dish is a glorious mix of basmati rice, tender chicken, and a medley of spices, all slow-cooked to perfection. Chicken biryani is essentially a chicken and rice dish, but it layers deliciousness on top of deliciousness to create a dish that seems to wrap you in a big, warm comforting hug.

Ingredients You Need

Full disclosure: The list of ingredients for this dish is long, but all of these pieces are what come together into this puzzle of mouthwatering deliciousness. Here’s what you need:

  • Basmati rice: The VIP of the biryani world. Jasmine rice can pinch-hit if you’re in a bind, but the fragrance of basmati is hard to beat.
  • Ghee: This is clarified butter that’s richer and nuttier than the regular version. Find it in the international aisle of most supermarkets. If you don’t have it, you can substitute regular butter or oil.
  • Whole dried spices: Cloves, green and black cardamom pods, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cumin seeds: These whole spices are the soul of your biryani. Ground versions can sub in, but whole spices really bring the A-game.
  • Ground spices: Ground Black Pepper and turmeric bring color and warmth to the dish.
  • Salt: The unassuming but essential taste enhancer.
  • Chicken drumsticks: Juicy and flavorful, they’re the heart of the dish. Other chicken cuts can work too, but drumsticks are traditional. I like to use bone-in or boneless chicken thighs as well. I don’t recommend using chicken breast as it can dry out during cooking.
  • Prunes: These add a sweet note to counterbalance the spices. Feel free to substitute other dried fruit like dried apricots.
  • Aromatics: Onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chile peppers, cilantro, and fresh mint lend a refreshing contrast to the dish.
  • Vegetable oil: You can use any high smoke point, neutral-flavored oil you like.
  • Garnishes: Crispy fried onions and creamy Cucumber Raita add contrasting textures and flavors.
Chicken biryani on a plate with raita.

How to Make It

The process of making biryani is an art in itself. Because of the cooking method, you don’t even need to marinate the chicken to infuse it with flavor. First, you cook the rice, and then cook the chicken in yogurt and spices. Then comes the magic — layering. You layer the partially cooked rice and marinated chicken in a pot, throw in some fried onions, mint, and cilantro, then let it all slow-cook until the flavors meld together. The result? A potful of pure deliciousness.

Here is how you make this easy-to-follow recipe for delicious chicken biryani at home:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice with the 6 cups of water, ghee, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and salt. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice is not quite cooked all the way. Drain the rice.
  2. To prepare the chicken, in a deep saucepan, combine ½ cup water with the ground turmeric, cumin seeds, ginger garlic paste, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the chicken. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the  whole spices and cook, stirring, for a minute or so. Then add the ground coriander, chili powder, garam masala, and ground black pepper and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes and cook another minute or so. Stir in the yogurt. Add the cooked chicken mixture and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped fresh herbs and chiles and cook over high heat for 5 minutes more.
  5. Add the rice, along with the prunes. Remove the mixture and add half of the rice to the pan. Layer on the chicken, fried onion, and lemon slices, and then repeat with the remaining rice, fried onions, lemon slices, and any remaining sauce.
  6. If desired, you can add some ground turmeric mixed with water or a bit of yellow food coloring.
  7. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for about 5 more minutes.
  8. Serve topped with more fried onions and cucumber raita.
chicken biryani on a plate with a blue and white napkin.

What to Serve with It

Biryani is pretty fantastic on its own, but if you want to level up your meal, try pairing it with some cooling raita, tangy pickles, tamarind chutney, cilantro-mint chutney, and kachumber salad. A side of boiled eggs is also a traditional accompaniment.

As you savor each bite, appreciate the harmony of flavors, the balance of heat and sweet, the textures, and the fragrant aroma that make chicken biryani such an enduring favorite across the globe. So the next time you crave comfort food with an exotic twist, remember the humble chicken biryani.

closeup of chicken biryani on a white plate.

Chicken Biryani

Robin Donovan
On its face, Chicken Biryani is a simple chicken-and-rice dish, but the whole is way more than the sum of its parts. Fresh herbs, heady spices, meaty chicken, and delicate rice all come together to create magic in a pot.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Course Main Dish Recipes
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 792 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the rice

  • 3 cups basmati rice soaked
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 green and black cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the chicken

  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Green chilies
  • 5 pieces of green and black cardamom
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 2 pounds chicken drumsticks
  • 8 dried plums
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ¼ cup onion fried
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 teaspoons red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon biryani masala
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns

Instructions
 

  • Boil water in a pot with rice, salt, ghee, and spices and cook until they are boiled 80%. Now strain the water from the rice and set aside.
  • In a pot, add water, turmeric powder, salt, cumin seeds, ginger garlic paste and mix well.
  • Add sliced onion, chicken drumsticks and mix until well combined.
  • Cover with a lid and cook on low heat for about 5-6 minutes. And then cook on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Then set aside.
  • In another pot, add oil, green cardamom, black cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and mix. Then add coriander powder, red chili powder, garam masala powder, black pepper powder, mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and stir.
  • Add yogurt and mix until well combined.
  • Add cooked chicken mixture and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Add chopped fresh coriander, mint leaves, green chilies, mix well and cook on high heat or until the oil separates.
  • Add the biryani masala and dried plums and stir.
  • Take out half of the chicken mixture in a bowl and set aside.
  • Layer the biryani. Add boiled rice, half of the fried onion, lemon slices, remaining chicken with its gravy and remaining boiled rice.
  • On top of the rice add remaining fried onion, orange food color, cover and cook on low heat for 10-12 minutes, or until fully cooked.

Nutrition

Calories: 792kcalCarbohydrates: 96gProtein: 27gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 13gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 827mgPotassium: 686mgFiber: 7gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 729IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 127mgIron: 3mg
Keyword biryani, fried rice, indian
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on May 17th, 2023

ABOUT ROBIN DONOVAN

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

5 thoughts on “Chicken Biryani”

  1. 5 stars
    This is such an aspirational recipe for me. It’s something completely different and very impressive, yet looking at it in depth it seems totally doable. So I’m going to take a deep breath and try it!

    Reply
  2. 5 stars
    Biryani is truly a special version of rice, all the flavors make it wonderful. I’ve always ordered it at my favorite Indian restaurant, and now I can try to make it myself – thank you!

    Reply
  3. 5 stars
    I always order biryani when I am out for indian, but I have never made it at home as I thought it would be hard.

    But my son asked for it as part of his birthday meal so I gave it a go. Your recipe was so easy to follow and the dish turned out so well.

    THNAK YOU

    Reply
  4. 5 stars
    Biryani is the king of the kitchen for a good reason!!! Aromatic, flavorful and full of succulent bites of chicken. It also kept very well for leftovers!

    Reply

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