Biryani, a popular rice dish, originated in the Indian subcontinent and typically features long-grain rice, particularly Basmati rice, along with meat or vegetables cooked in fragrant whole spices. Biryani is a crowd-pleasing dish enjoyed by many, whether for entertaining guests or celebrating a special occasion. To craft the ideal biryani, the key lies in using whole spices.
Hyderabadi chicken biryani is a special variation of the traditional biryani dish that originated in the city of Hyderabad in South India. It is a rich and flavorful dish that combines tender chicken, fragrant Basmati rice, and a unique blend of aromatic spices. Chicken biryani is a complete meal in itself, combining aromatic basmati rice, succulent chicken, and a blend of aromatic spices and herbs. Biryani is known for its rich flavors, tender meat, and fragrant rice.
What sets Hyderabadi chicken biryani apart is the use of 'dum' cooking technique, which involves layering the marinated chicken and partially cooked rice in a heavy-bottomed pot or handi and cooking them together over low heat. The pot is then sealed with dough to trap in the steam, allowing the flavors to infuse into the dish.
I have earlier shared the recipe for easy veg biryani (vegetable biryani). Here is my fail-proof recipe to make chicken biryani. Read on for ingredients, tips, tricks, and all FAQs to make delicious Hyderabadi biryani at home.
Why you will love this chicken biryani recipe?
- Crowd-pleaser: This crowd-pleasing chicken biryani is both delicious and flavorful, making it the perfect dish for parties and gatherings. With restaurant-quality taste, it's sure to impress your guests.
- Detailed instructions: I am including step-by-step instructions that are clear and easy to follow, to ensure that you can replicate the dish successfully.
- Correct ingredient proportions: There is a precise measurement for each ingredient used, including the spices, to ensure that the flavors are balanced and the dish turns out perfectly.
- Tips and tricks: Whether it is cooking the rice perfectly or mastering the layering technique, I have covered everything to make sure the biryani comes out perfectly.
My experience with Hyderabadi biryani
During my time living in Hyderabad, I had the privilege of experiencing the vibrant biryani culture that thrived throughout the city. It was a delightful journey as we discovered numerous renowned biryani establishments nestled in every neighborhood. Indulging in Hyderabadi biryani from these iconic spots became a cherished Sunday tradition, often leading us on a quest from one corner of the city to another. It was absolutely worth it with the exceptional flavors and aromas that graced each plate of Hyderabadi biryani. Those memories remain etched in my mind, reminding me of the culinary delights that made my time in Hyderabad truly memorable. I have tried and tested this recipe over many years to recreate the same authentic taste. I can confidently say that my Hyderabadi chicken biryani can earn a spot in those renowned places.
There are mainly two types of biryani - kachi biryani and pakki biryani. 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). Some regional variations call for adding boiled eggs or big chunks of potatoes.
The recipe I am sharing here is the Hyderabadi-style pakki biryani or Hyderabadi dum biryani. It is an integral part of the Hyderabadi cuisine from South India. 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.
Hyderabadi biryani also incorporates a variety of spices like saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves, which are used in different proportions to create a complex and rich flavor profile. Chicken Biryani is a popular dish in India and around the world and is often served on special occasions and festivals. Don't be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients needed for this Hyderabadi chicken biryani recipe. All these spices are easily available in any Indian grocery store or online store like Amazon.
Chicken: Use bone-in chicken pieces to make Hyderabadi chicken biryani. Thigh and leg pieces of chicken work best for this dish.
Rice: Use Basmati rice to make biryani.
Spices: There are a variety of whole spices used - shah jeera, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, pepper, star anise, and black cardamom. The powdered spices (turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masala) are used to prepare the chicken marinade.
Yogurt: Plain yogurt is used to marinate the chicken. You can also use Greek yogurt for this biryani recipe.
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, cilantro, and saffron.
Step 1: Take the raw chicken in a large bowl. Add the marinade ingredients - yogurt, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and garam masala powder. Mix well and let it marinate for 30 minutes (images 1, 2, and 3).
Step 2: Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot and add whole spices - bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black cardamom, star anise, and mace (image 4).
Step 3: Wash rice thoroughly and add it to the water. Let it cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes (until the rice is half done). Drain the water and cool the rice grains uncovered (images 5 and 6).
Step 4: Heat one tablespoon of ghee in a thick bottom pot or large cooking pot. Add a handful of sliced onions. Fry until the onion is crispy and golden brown on medium heat. Set aside (images 7 and 8).
Step 5: To the same pot, add one more tablespoon of ghee and let it heat. Add shah jeera (caraway seeds), bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and pepper. Saute for a few seconds (image 9).
Step 6: Add the remaining onion and fry until golden (image 10). Add ginger paste and garlic paste. Saute for 1-2 minutes (images 11 and 12).
Step 7: Add the marinated chicken pieces and mix well. Bring to a boil. Simmer on medium high heat (keeping covered) until the chicken is almost done (images 13 and 14).
Step 8: Start assembling the biryani. The chicken itself forms the first layer - make sure it is evenly spread in the pot. For the second layer, add half of the partially cooked rice to completely cover the chicken (image 15).
Step 9: For the next layer, add mint leaves, cilantro (coriander leaves), and fried onions (image 16). Lastly, add the remaining rice and spread it. Add saffron milk and one tablespoon of ghee for the top layer (image 17). You can divide the fried onions and sprinkle half of the fried onions on the second layer of the rice.
Step 10: 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 final dish sit on low flame for 30 minutes (image 18).
A good biryani should have:
- long-grain aromatic rice that is not sticky yet cooked to perfection,
- fresh vegetables/good-quality meat,
- aromatic spices.
Tips for cooking the rice for chicken biryani
Use Basmati rice. Not only does Basmati rice have a great aroma, but it also has long grains that if cooked correctly, are separate, and non-lumpy, and the grain of rice does not stick to each other.
Wash the Basmati rice thoroughly in running water, till the water runs clear. Once it is washed, soak it for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Soaking the rice is an important step while making Hyderabadi chicken 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 quite 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.
Tips on layering the chicken biryani
Layering and steaming the Hyderabadi chicken 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 Indian 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 Hyderabadi 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.
Here are some optional ingredients and spices that can be used to make Hyderabadi chicken biryani.
- Use cumin powder and coriander powder along with other powdered spices to marinate the chicken.
- Use ginger garlic paste instead of grated ginger and garlic.
- Sprinkle some biryani masala powder, which is a blended spice powder, when you are assembling the biryani.
- If you like more heat in your biryani, add green chillies to the chicken gravy along with ginger and garlic. Slit the green chilies before adding them.
- Sprinkle some kewra water (or kewra essence) along with saffron water when you are assembling the biryani.
- While ghee makes the best-tasting biryani, you can replace it with vegetable oil.
- Top the biryani with some lemon juice or lime juice just before serving.
You can use this recipe to make mutton biryani. The way rice is cooked and the assembly remains the same; however, the time for the mutton to cook will vary. Use mutton instead of chicken, follow this recipe to make the gravy, and adjust the cooking time.
Pro-tip: If you are planning ahead to make the chicken biryani, marinate the chicken overnight in the refrigerator. This way, you will have melt-in-mouth tender chicken in your biryani.
Check out this recipe to make crispy fried onions without deep frying.
What to serve with chicken biryani?
Hyderabadi chicken biryani is often served with a variety of accompaniments that complement its flavors. Here are some popular options:
Raita: Raita is a yogurt-based side dish that helps balance the spiciness of the biryani. It is made by whisking yogurt with finely chopped vegetables and herbs.
Salan: Salan is a spicy curry often served alongside biryani. It is made with a variety of vegetables or meat, such as mirchi ka salan (made with chili peppers), bagara baingan (made with eggplant), or chicken salan. These curries add an extra layer of flavor and moisture to the biryani.
Pappadums: Pappadums, also known as papads or poppadoms, are thin, crisp lentil-based wafers. They can be roasted or fried and served as a crunchy accompaniment to biryani.
Salad: A simple salad of sliced cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes with a sprinkle of lemon juice and chaat masala provides a refreshing contrast to the richness of the biryani.
Mango chutney: Sweet and tangy mango chutney can be served as a condiment alongside biryani. It adds a delightful contrast to the flavors of the dish.
More chicken recipes
Also, click here to see my Indian non-vegetarian thali collection.
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 tablespoons of cold water during the steaming process.
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Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani
For the chicken:
- 2 lb chicken
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 4 tablespoon ghee
- 2 large onions
- 2 inch ginger grated (or ginger paste)
- 5 cloves garlic grated (or garlic paste)
- 1 teaspoon black cumin seeds shah jeera
- 3 pieces cinnamon
- 5 green cardamom
- 5 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½-¾ teaspoon salt adjust as per taste
For the rice:
- 3 cups Basmati rice
- 5 green cardamom
- 5 cloves
- 1 black cardamom
- 3 small pieces cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 3 mace
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon milk
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- ½ cup mint leaves
- ½ cup cilantro
- 1 tablespoon ghee
Marinate the chicken:
- Clean and cut the chicken into even pieces.
- 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 thoroughly in running water. Soak it for 30 minutes.
- While the rice is soaking, 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 2 tablespoons of 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 2 more tablespoons of ghee and let it heat.
- Add shah jeera, and 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. Spread it evenly in the bottom of the pot.
- Add half of the cooked rice to completely cover the chicken.
- Add mint leaves, cilantro, and fried onions.
- Spread the remaining rice on top.
- Add saffron milk and one tablespoon of ghee. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid making sure the sides are fully sealed.
- 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 or a side dish of your choice.
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