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Chicken Biriyani

Chicken biriyani is made with chicken marinated in yogurt, chile powder, and garam and biriyani masala layered with fragrant, spiced basmati rice, and caramelized onions.

With its endless layers of nuanced flavors, chicken biriyani is perhaps India’s most iconic comfort food. As the author of this recipe explains, “A perfectly made bowl of chicken biriyani is India’s answer to Italy’s spaghetti, France’s beef bourguignon, and Spain’s paella.” As with those other comfort food classics, chicken biryani does take a touch of time and patience to assemble. But the sensational mingling of gently spiced chicken, fragrant rice, and caramelized onions more than justify the making of it.–Angie Zoobkoff

Chicken Biriyani

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • 10 H, 50 M
  • Serves 4


  • For the chicken
  • 1 pound bone-in, skinless chicken pieces, preferably thighs or drumsticks
  • Mild vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions (about 12 oz), sliced 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick
  • One (1-inch |2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 green chile peppers, such as Thai green chile peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 dried red chiles
  • Water, if needed
  • 1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • homemade biriyani masala*” data-metric=”24 g store-bought or homemade biriyani masala*“>3 tablespoon store-bought or homemade biriyani masala*
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
  • homemade ghee“>2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade ghee
  • For the rice
  • Water
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • One (1-inch | 2.5-cm) cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ghee or mild vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cups uncooked basmati rice
  • For the layering components
  • Vegetable oil (as needed)
  • 4 medium onions (16 oz), sliced 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 2 tablespoons lukewarm milk
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • Finely chopped cilantro and mint (as needed)
  • 3 tablespoons ghee, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (optional)


  • Marinate the chicken
  • 1. Rinse the chicken pieces under running water. Pat them dry with paper towels.
  • 2. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoons oil. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low and cook until they are softened and a little browned, about 15 minutes.
  • 3. In a food processor, combine the browned onions, ginger, garlic, green chiles, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and red chiles. Add a little water if needed to blend it until smooth and transfer to a large bowl.
  • 4. Add the yogurt, Kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, biriyani masala, lemon juice, salt, cilantro, and mint. Mix everything well. Add the chicken to the marinade and stir to thoroughly coat the chicken. Cover the bowl and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours. When you are ready to make the biriyani, take the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  • Make the rice
  • 5. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring plenty of water to a boil. Place the cloves, green and black cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, peppercorns, and star anise on a piece of soft, clean muslin cloth and make a bundle of it. Now add this spice bundle to the water. (Alternatively, you can go ahead and toss the aromatics into the water without a bundle, but you will need to fish them out later.) Add the ghee and salt and let the water come to a full boil. Stir in the rice and let it cook just until it’s about halfway done, 7 to 8 minutes. (Be careful not to overcook the rice.) Drain the rice, remove and discard the aromatics, and let it cool a bit while the chicken is cooking.
  • Cook the chicken
  • 6. In a large, deep, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer with a tight-fitting lid over high heat, melt the ghee. Add the marinated chicken and marinade. Let it cook for 5 minutes without touching or turning it. Then turn the chicken pieces over, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook the chicken for 15 minutes. If you feel the chicken is beginning to stick to the bottom of the Dutch oven, add a splash of water.
  • Prepare the layering components
  • 7. While the chicken is cooking, set a deep saucepan filled with 2 inches (5 cm) oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering but not smoking, add the onions and cook until crisp and brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried onions to paper towels to drain.
  • 8. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and saffron and let it steep while you assemble the biriyani.
  • 9. Turn off the heat under the Dutch oven. Make sure the chicken is spread out in a layer. The chicken should be moist and there should be some pan juices on the bottom of the Dutch oven.
  • 10. Scatter half the rice on top of the chicken and spread it out so that it covers all of the chicken. Sprinkle half the fried onions, some cilantro and mint, half the saffron milk, half the ghee, and all of the garam masala on the rice.
  • 11. Add the rest of the rice in an even layer and top with the remaining fried onions, some cilantro and mint, and the remaining saffron milk. Sprinkle the rose water over this layer and add the remaining ghee in a drizzle, pouring it along the edges and in the center of the rice. After layering everything, there should be about a quarter of the Dutch oven free for the steam to collect and aid in cooking.
  • 12. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the Dutch oven and then place the lid tightly on the foil, making sure no steam can escape. Place over low heat and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • 13. Turn off the heat but keep the Dutch oven sealed for at least 30 minutes, or until you are ready to serve.
  • 14. As you serve the rice, scoop deeply into the rice to make sure to include all the layers.


  • You can easily find Kashmiri chile powder online or in Indian and Middle Eastern markets. However, you can also make a quick substitution using everyday ingredients by relying on a ratio of either 2:1 or 3:1 sweet paprika to cayenne pepper, depending on how hot you fancy your chile powder.

Chicken Biriyani Recipe © 2019 Swayampurna Mishra. Photo © 2019 Swayampurna Mishra. All rights reserved. All recipes and photos used with permission of the publisher.

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