Chicken Biryani

Let me begin this post by giving you a little background-

It was the first day I was going to cook for my husband after getting married, and I made a huge deal about how I had the best recipe for Chicken Biryani (a Pakistani/Indian rice dish consisting of spiced meat and rice).  I promised him that he was going to come home from work to an amazing meal.

Fast-forward to the evening where I was standing in front of a pot full lackluster rice.  My husband came home and I sadly said to him, “The rice didn’t really turn out that great.”

My husband replied by telling me that he was sure it was fine and that we should sit down to eat.  I brought out the tray of rice and we both took some out into our respective plates.  The poor guy, bless his heart, was a trooper.  He ate every grain of rice he had taken out onto his plate and told me that it was delicious.  A few hours later he said that we hadn’t gone out to eat in quite a while and asked if I wanted to go grab a bite.  I happily obliged, and I’m sure deep down inside he was thanking his lucky stars.

So now that you’ve heard the back-story, I’m sure it will make sense that I’ve had a rough time perfecting this quintessential Pakistani/Indian meal.  Up until a few weeks ago, I was heavily relying on ready-made Shan Masala sachets.  Then I stumbled upon a recipe on Ambreen’s ever-reliant blog, and my life has changed ever since! I adapted the chilies based on out milder tastes, and I’ve gotten rave reviews!  This is now my go-to recipe for Biryani and I’m sure it will be yours too after giving it a shot 🙂



Chicken Biryani

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings


For Gravy:

  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds chicken, cut into desired pieces
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 cardamoms
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 whole black peppers
  • 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  • ½ tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 6 pieces dried plum
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and halved

For Rice:

  • 2 ½ – 3 cups parboiled/sela rice
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 whole black peppers
  • Salt, to taste
  • Water, as needed

For Layering:

  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 green chilies, stems removed
  • Handful mint, chopped
  • Handful cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup milk
  • Pinch of orange food color, optional
  • A few drops of kewra essence, optional


Make Gravy:

Heat oil in a large cooking vessel over medium-high heat.  Add onions and sauté until golden-brown.  Transfer to a blender, add tomatoes and yogurt, and puree until a thick paste is formed.

Add ginger-garlic paste and chicken to oil and cook until chicken is lightly cooked through.

Add cardamoms, black cardamom, cloves, black peppers, cinnamon, and cumin seeds and cook for a few minutes.  Add pureed onion mixture, red chili powder, coriander powder, dried plums, and salt, and mix well.  Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the chicken is no longer rare and the gravy has thickened significantly.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat, and add a few tablespoons of oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add potatoes, cover, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until potatoes are almost cooked through.

Be sure to stir every once in a while to prevent burning.  Remove from heat and add to chicken gravy.

Make Rice:

Wash rice.  Add enough water so that rice is completely covered, and allow to soak for one hour.  Drain and set aside.

In a large cooking vessel, heat enough water to boil rice in, over medium-high heat.  Once water comes to a boil, add all spices and rice and cook until rice is ¾ done.  Drain through a colander and set aside.

Make Layers:

In a large cooking vessel, spread about ¼ of cooked rice over the bottom.  Add half of the gravy followed by half of the rice.  Top rice with tomato, lemon, green chilies, mint, and cilantro.  Add remaining gravy and remaining rice.  Combine food color and kewra essence with milk and pour over rice.

Cover tightly with lid and cook over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes.  Mix before serving.



19 responses

  1. The Biryani looks scrumptious, ma sha Allah! Kewra water and potatoes are my star ingredients here other than the Chicken of course.

    I love Ambreen’s recipes. They are foolproof!

    • Thanks! And I agree, potatoes are a must in biryani! Well, my reasoning might be different than yours lol. You see, my husband doesn’t eat chicken, so I HAVE to put potatoes in my biryani lol.
      And yeah, Ambreen’s recipes are my favorite! I’ve always had amazing results from them! She is such a big help in my kitchen 🙂

  2. A very cute story 🙂 Growing up I had only ever eaten Hyderabadi biryani…then I married a Pakistani and my world was opened up to the huge variety of biryani! I used to use a lot of Shaan Masala when I got married but it didn’t feel like I was cooking since the hard part was already done. I’ve moved away from Shaan but I still do go to it for biryanis. Will have to give this recipe a try!

    Can u email me at…I didn’t want to continue the conversation on my blog in such a public fashion.

    Take care,

  3. LOLed at the story. So very cute n sweet! 🙂
    Biryani has always been that dish which I enjoy OTHER people making, and ME eating! Simply because I’ve found it all too hard to put together and perfect. I guess I’ve lots of Paki and Indian friends here, too, which make it really nice, so I’m always relying on their skills to make the dish. Perhaps in the summer I can try it out for myself and see how I go 🙂

    • Yes, biryani is VERY time-consuming. The thing is, I think you need at least a few people who enjoy it to want to make it. I think it’s too much work to make for one person to eat. In the case that only one person wants to eat it, it’s much easier if someone else makes it LOL

  4. Biryani was the first dish you cooked for your husband? Wow! The first dish I made was frying a bunch of onions and tomatoes, and adding in the chicken. I don’t even know what you’d call that! But I must say, I have improved now.

    I’ve never heard of biryani with potatoes. I will make sure to try your recipe soon! 🙂

    • You can do it! My biggest problem with biryani before was that at the end the rice would be too soft and mushy. That all changed after I discovered parboiled rice (also known as Sela Rice). It maintains its shape even if its accidentally left to cook for too long.
      It just takes some practise, then you’ll be fine! 🙂

  5. I used this recipe to make Biryani today and it turned out quite well! I forgot to add the cooked potatoes into the gravy (and had to end up adding them during layering), and boiled the rice too much initially – which resulted in a slightly mushy, but nevertheless tasty biryani. Thank you for this recipe!

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