Chicken biryani step-by-step recipe with photos.
What is biryani
Biryani is a rice-based dish that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is made with long-grain rice (mostly Basmati rice) and meat or vegetables that are cooked in whole spices. Be it a party or indulging your guests, biryani is a winning dish loved by all. The secret behind making the perfect biryani is the use of whole spices.
Biryani has two main variations - kachi biryani and pakki biryani. Some regional variations call for adding boiled eggs or big chunks of potatoes.
Kachi biryani calls for layering soaked uncooked rice and uncooked marinated meat along with spices and simmering them together until they are all cooked. Pakki biryani is where the rice and meat/vegetables are par-cooked separately, assembled in layers, and finished with cooking them completely on "dum" (steam).
About this recipe
The recipe I am sharing here is the Hyderabadi-style pakki biryani or dum biryani. The chicken curry and par-boiled rice are assembled by layering them alternatively and then cooked on "dum" (steam). This lets the rice soak up the flavors of the gravy/curry making it flavourful and delicious.
The layering and steaming create a beautiful variation of texture, color, and flavor which makes this biryani truly royal.
Don't be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients. All these spices are easily available in any Indian grocery store. And if you don't find any spice, just skip it.
I have earlier shared the recipe for easy vegetable biryani. Here is my fail-proof recipe to make chicken biryani. Read on for ingredients, tips and tricks, and all FAQs to make delicious Hyderabadi biryani at home.
Chicken: Use thigh and leg pieces in this dish.
Rice: Use Basmati rice to make biryani.
Spices: There are a variety of whole spices used - bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, star anise, and black cardamom. The powdered spices (turmeric powder, chili powder, garam masala) are used to marinate the chicken.
Yogurt: Plain yogurt is used to marinate the chicken.
Onion, ginger, and garlic: They form the base of the chicken gravy.
Ghee: I make this dish with ghee; however, you may replace it with any cooking oil of your choice.
Other ingredients: Mint leaves, coriander leaves, and saffron.
Marinate chicken with yogurt, salt, turmeric powder, chili powder, and garam masala for 30 minutes (steps 1,2,3).
Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot and add whole spices - bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black cardamom, star anise, and mace (step 4).
Add the rice. Let it cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes (until the rice is half done). Drain the water and cool the rice uncovered (steps 5,6).
Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a thick bottom pot. Add a handful of sliced onions. Fry until the onion is crispy and golden. Set aside (steps 7,8).
Heat 1 tablespoon ghee. Add shah jeera, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and pepper. Saute for a few seconds (step 9).
Add the remaining onion and fry until golden (step 10).
Add ginger and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes (steps 11,12).
Add the marinated chicken and mix well. Bring to a boil. Simmer (keeping covered) until the chicken is almost done (steps 13,14).
Start assembling the biryani next. The chicken itself forms the first layer. For the second layer, add half of the cooked rice to completely cover the chicken (step 15).
For the next layer, add mint leaves, coriander leaves, and fried onions (step 16).
Lastly, add the remaining rice and spread it. Add saffron milk and 1 tablespoon ghee (step 17).
Heat a tawa or griddle. Once it is hot enough, place the biryani pot on top of the tawa and reduce the flame to the lowest setting. Let the biryani cook on very low heat for 30 minutes (step 18).
A good biryani should have
- long-grain rice that is not sticky yet cooked to perfection
- fresh vegetables/good-quality meat
- aromatic whole spices
Use Basmati rice. Not only does Basmati rice have a great aroma, but it also has long grains that if cooked correctly, are separate, non-lumpy, and do not stick to each other.
Wash the Basmati rice thoroughly in running water, till the water is clear. Once it is washed, soak it for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Soaking the rice is an important step while making biryani and should not be skipped. Washing and soaking the rice will help to remove excess starch from the rice and achieve a non-sticky texture.
It is important to check the salt in boiling water as this is the only way you are adding salt to the rice. Before adding the soaked rice, check the saltiness of the water. It should be very salty. The water will be drained and the salt in the rice will be fine.
Do not cook the rice completely in boiling water. It should be half done and must have a bite. The rice is going to cook further in steam after the biryani is assembled so cooking it fully in water will make it mushy.
Layering and steaming the biryani is a key step. This will allow the rice to soak up all the flavors from the curry. Always place the biryani pot on a tawa/griddle and then steam it on low heat. Placing the pot on a tawa will prevent the bottom layer of meat from burning.
Don't be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients. All these spices are easily available in any Indian grocery store. For an authentic tasting biryani, use all the spices I used in this recipe. But if you do not have access to all the spices, you may skip them.
Fried onions are an important garnish and I highly recommend not skipping them. Fry a handful of onions in ghee until they are golden and crunchy, taking care not to burn them. Alternatively, you can also use store-bought fried onions.
Use ghee to make the best-tasting biryani.
Seal the biryani pot before steaming. The lid for my pot sits tightly without any gap for the steam to escape. If the lid is not tight enough, cover the pot with aluminum foil and then close it.
Pro-tip: If you are planning ahead to make the biryani, marinate the chicken overnight in the refrigerator. This way, you will have melt-in-mouth chicken in your biryani.
While they are both rice-based dishes, the most important difference is in the assembly of the dish. In pulao, soaked rice is added along with vegetables/meat and cooked while in biryani, the rice is parboiled first and then layered with a gravy/curry made with vegetables/meat.
The biryani will turn mushy if the rice is overcooked. This happens if you let the rice cook completely in the water. Always make sure that the rice is around 80% cooked. This way, it will be cooked perfectly when you steam it. Also, before cooking, wash the rice thoroughly till the water runs clear.
If you overcook the biryani rice, spread the rice on a wide tray immediately and let it sit uncovered. This way, it will cool quickly. Also, if your rice is fully cooked, reduce the steaming time to half.
If you undercook the rice, sprinkle 3-4 tablespoon water during the steaming process.
This Hyderabadi chicken biryani is:
- perfect for parties and gatherings,
- delicious and flavourful
For the chicken:
- 2 lb chicken
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 tablespoon ghee
- 2 large onions
- 2 inch ginger grated
- 5 cloves garlic grated
- 1 teaspoon black cumin seeds shah jeera
- 2-3 pieces cinnamon
- 5 green cardamom
- 5 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Salt to taste
For the rice:
- 3 cups Basmati rice
- 5 green cardamom
- 5 cloves
- 1 black cardamom
- 2-3 pieces cinnamon
- 1 star anise
- 2-3 mace
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon milk
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- ½ cup mint leaves
- ½ cup coriander leaves
- 1 tablespoon ghee
Marinate the chicken:
- Clean and cut the chicken.
- To this, add yogurt, salt, turmeric powder, chili powder, and garam masala.
- Mix well and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
Make the rice:
- Wash the rice well in running water. Soak it for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, take water in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
- Add salt and whole spices (bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black cardamom, star anise, and mace).
- Drain all the water from the rice and add it to boiling water.
- Let it cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes until it is half done. Take care not to cook the rice completely.
- Drain the water and cool the rice uncovered.
Make the chicken curry:
- Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a heavy bottom pot. Add a handful of sliced onions.
- Fry it until the onion is crispy and golden. Set them aside.
- In the same pot, add 1 tablespoon of ghee.
- Add shah jeera, whole spices (bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and pepper). Saute for a few seconds
- Add the remaining onion and fry until golden.
- Add ginger and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the marinated chicken and mix well.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the chicken is nearly done.
Assemble the biryani:
- Soak saffron strands in milk for 10 minutes.
- Once the chicken is almost done, turn off the heat.
- Add half of the cooked rice to completely cover the chicken.
- Add mint leaves, coriander leaves, and fried onions.
- Spread the remaining rice on top.
- Add saffron milk and 1 tablespoon of ghee.
- Heat a tawa or griddle. Once it is hot, place the biryani pot on top of the tawa and reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
- Let the biryani steam on very low heat for 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat.
- Serve chicken biryani with raita of your choice.