The Best Chicken Biryani
Chicken biryani is a one-pot dish for celebration and indulgence. Packed with bursting flavor, this chicken and rice cooked in spicy masala is a must-have item for any occasion.
This chicken and rice dish is about cooking the chicken in biryani masala before adding the rice. It’s a heartwarmingly delicious one-pot dish. You don’t need anything else.
If you insist on having something on the side, you can serve it with minted yogurt and salad.
Rooted in India’s sub-continent, you may come across different but similar biryani from all those regions.
Kolkata biryani, Bengali biryani, Hyderabadi biryani, Dum biryani, Sindhi biryani, and Pakistani biryani are just some varieties of traditional biryani.
And now there is chicken tikka biryani which is a contemporary one that requires you to marinate the chicken beforehand. This one has become more and more popular these days.
I have been lucky to try so many of them, if not all. And every one of them is tasty in its way.
However, here, I am sharing an easy chicken biryani recipe rooted in the Pakistani way of cooking authentic biryani. You might find it slightly different from Indian recipes in terms of spices.
This recipe is quite simple and easy to make. And it’s a recipe I am happy with after countless attempts to get the right balance of spices.
In the early days of cooking the biryani, I made it using ready-mixed spices from the shop.
But, I found they were quite spicy as they have a high content of hot chili powder.
So if I used the spices mix according to its suggestion, it resulted in a delicious but spicy biryani. And if I tried to cut down the spices, the dish would be less spicy, but the flavor was not quite right.
In the end, I tried to mix my spices. And after testing it for so many years, I am settled with this recipe. Because the recipe works well and makes the biryani flavorful with the right amount of spices and tender chicken.
And I’m happy that every time I make it, it always goes down well among my family and friends.
This recipe doesn’t use a lot of chili powder. So, it’s mild enough for children or those not good with spicy food.
Yet, if you prefer spicy food, you can increase the chili powder to your liking. It’s easy to adjust and easy to follow.
The difference between biryani and pulao
Both biryani and pulao rice (also often called pilau rice) are traditional rice recipes from South Asian regions and are equally flavorsome.
However, they differ in how they are made and their ingredients.
Pulao rice is a meat and rice dish cooked in spiced stock. You can make the stock with red meat such as beef, lamb, mutton, or goat’s meat. And you can also use chicken or even vegetables to make the stock.
As for the spices, pulao rice uses whole spices. The spices used in biryani are ground and whole spices, along with some dried herbs such as bay leaves. In some recipes, they also use garam masala.
In short, biryani is like adding rice on top of a curry.
What does chicken biryani taste like?
As you fork the rice grains, the rice will mix nicely with the chicken masala. And even better because the rice gets more flavor from the spices when you steam the chicken along with the rice.
When and how to enjoy the dish
Traditionally, this rice and chicken dish is enjoyed as a part of festivity or celebrations such as Eid, weddings, family gatherings, etc.
But now, people cook biryani rice whenever they feel like it.
I make biryani rice almost once every two weeks. Because it really is an easy dish to make. It’s like a one-pot dish.
This is a dish that has carbs and protein at the same time. It’s an ideal midweek menu because any leftovers can be eaten the following day. So you’ll only need to prepare some vegetable salad to go with it if you like to.
However, on the full food spread on special occasions, chicken biryani is often served with a simple vegetable side dish such as Aloo Palak. And it usually pairs with Aloo Gosht, achari chicken, or Chicken Shorba.
Ingredients for chicken biryani
There are 8 ingredients for making this chicken biryani. They are chicken, potatoes, onion, spices, tomatoes, yogurt, rice, and cooking oil.
However, when it comes to spices, you need more than one. For this recipe, you will need ginger, garlic, cumin powder, ground coriander, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, ground black pepper, whole green cardamoms, whole cloves, whole black peppercorns, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks.
In the end, you will need 20 items in total. It may sound like a lot, but I promise it’s all worth it.
Variations of biryani rice
As mentioned above, many types of biryani rice exist in Indian and Pakistani cuisines.
Tips to make this recipe work
- Please stick to good quality basmati rice; aged basmati rice is always preferable.
- When it comes to chicken, I often use ground chicken (chicken keema) because they cook faster. But you can always use boneless chicken thighs, chicken breasts, bone-in chicken legs, or whole chicken cut into small pieces.
- As for the potatoes, I suggest you choose waxy potatoes such as Charlotte potatoes, new potatoes, Jersey Royal, or baby potatoes. The reason is that they hold their shape well, do not break easily, and do not go mushy.
- Now, for tomatoes, you can always use fresh ones. Though I often use canned tomatoes more often than not. Because it’s more convenient and lasts longer to keep them at home rather than keeping fresh ones.
- Please choose the flavorless natural yogurt. And if possible, use natural yogurt from Asian shops. Because its tangy taste enhances the flavor of the spices even better.
- You can choose any neutral cooking oil that you like. Vegetable oil/ rapeseed oil, or sunflower oil are the ones I mostly use. You can also use ghee if you like.
How to make chicken biryani at home
This recipe calls for 2.5 cups of rice which is usually enough to feed 4-6 people.
If you invite family or friends around and serve chicken biryani for more than 6 people, you can easily double this recipe. Or even triple it if needed. Just click the 2x or 3x on the recipe card. It will show the recipe according to the amount you need.
So firstly, prepare the rice by washing, rinsing, and soaking it in plenty of water. Set aside.
Then, make the chicken biryani masala by frying the onion in a heavy bottom pot until the fried onion is lightly golden, then add all the spices, herbs, and salt.
When the spices mix, release an aroma and add the chicken. To allow the chicken pieces to absorb the masala, continue to fry at medium-high heat.
Because the chicken releases water, we don’t really need to put water to cook the chicken.
When the poultry turns opaque, add in the tomatoes.
Continue cooking for about 10 minutes as you mash the tomatoes now and again. So the sauce will be smooth.
Next, add the potatoes, cover the pot, and let it cook. Take care, and keep checking now and then.
At the same time, boil 5 cups of water in a large pot and cook the rice. When the rice is undercooked, take the rice off the heat, and drain the rice. Your rice will look quite opaque but shiny with a firm bite.
By now, your chicken and potatoes should be fully cooked with about 1-1 ½ cups of sauce in the pot. And the oil slightly separates from the sauce.
Add the beaten yogurt to the chicken biryani masala and quickly stir. Let it cook for a minute or two before turning the heat off.
Now, spread the rice over the chicken masala until it covers the biryani masala. You can scatter some chopped cilantro and mint leaves over the rice if you like.
Then line the inside lid of the pot with a tea towel and put the lid on.
Turn the heat to medium-low and let the rice cook until the steam comes out. It takes approximately 12-15 minutes for the rice to be fully steamed.
If you make this recipe in multiple quantities, I suggest you put the biryani masala on top of the rice in an even layer. You can do so by taking half the ratio of the biryani masala and leaving the other half in the pot. Cover it with half the rice ratio, then put the other half of the masala followed by the rest of the rice.
Top tips to make the best biryani
- The rice should hold its shape and have a firm texture. It should not be too soft and go mushy when you spoon it. To achieve this, you must keep an eye on the boiling rice. Make sure the rice is not fully cooked when mixed with the masala.
- To know that the rice is ready to mix with the masala, its texture should be firm but not as hard as the raw rice and neither as soft as the cooked rice. Its color should still be slightly opaque and not translucent.
- Cook the spice masala until the oil separates from the edges. This means there’s not too much liquid, aka water, in the masala. Break and mash the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon to get a smooth masala.
- If you use boneless chicken pieces, prick the meat using a fork or skewer all over it. This will allow the chicken to absorb the flavor of the masala.
- Chicken releases water. So try sautéing the chicken in the spices at medium-high heat so the liquid will evaporate faster. You want to get a tender yet succulent chicken.
- Don’t skip lining the pan; cover with a tea towel. It’s good to stop the steam water from dripping onto the rice.
- When your chicken biryani is ready, carefully turn and stir the rice to ensure the masala spreads nicely in the rice. At the same time, you can pick the whole spices in the rice.
More recipes for Pakistani rice dishes
I hope you like this easy chicken biryani recipe and will try it out. If you did, it would be great to share your thoughts in the comments below so that others will benefit.
Take care and all the best.
- Large cooking pot
- Medium cooking pot
- Wooden spoons
- Tea towel
- Kitchen knife
- Chopping board
- 1.8 pounds boneless chicken cut into small pieces.
- 12 ounces new potatoes cut into big cubes.
- 2 brown onions chopped.
- 1 inch ginger finely grated/ minced.
- 4 cloves garlic minced.
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin.
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander.
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt.
- 7 green cardamom.
- 10 cloves.
- 15 whole black peppercorns.
- 2 bay leaves.
- 1 inch cinnamon stick.
- 1 cup cooking oil.
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons tomatoes chopped.
- ½ cup yogurt lightly beaten.
- 2 ½ cups basmati rice washed and soaked in water.
- 5-6 cups boiling water.
- A handful of fresh coriander optional.
- Wash and rinse the rice about 3-4 times until the water looks clear. And soak the rice in clear water. Set aside.
- In a large cooking pot, heat the oil and fry the onions until lightly brown.
- Add in the ginger and garlic, give it a stir and fry for a few minutes until it smells fragrant.
- Then put all the spices in. The cumin, coriander, chili powder, paprika, black pepper, turmeric, salt, cardamoms, cloves, whole black peppercorns, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes until the spices give an aroma.
- Put the chicken in and stir until all the pieces are covered with spices. Let it fry until the poultry turns opaque in color.
- Then add the tomatoes to the chicken mixture and give it a good stir. Put the lid on and let it cook at low heat. Leave it to cook for about 20 minutes. Keep checking and stirring every now and again to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- In the meantime, boil the water in the other pot. When it reaches boiling point, add in the rice and let it cook for about 7 minutes or until the rice is half cooked.
- Add the potatoes in, stir well and continue cooking with the lid on for another 10 minutes then put the yogurt in. Let it cook for about 5 minutes more.
- When the oil slightly separates from the sauce, and you have about 1-1 ½ cups of gravy left, turn the heat off.
- Using a colander, drain the half-cooked rice and pour it over the chicken biryani sauce. Spread it evenly to cover all the chicken masala (chicken curry sauce). Put the lid on. Then cook the biryani rice at low-medium heat until the steam comes out.
- Chicken releases more water when it’s cooked. So you may have to cook the masala sauce at medium-high heat to make sure the liquid evaporates quickly. But do take care and keep checking so that it won’t get too dry either.
- Line the pot lid with a tea towel before you put it on the pot for steaming. It helps absorb the steam water so that it won’t drip or fall onto the rice.
Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.