Chicken Biryani

A slightly longer intro from me for this recipe. I spent lots of time in Hyderabad, India last year. Hyderabad is famous for its biryani, which combines the best of Mughlai and Telugu cuisines. Consider this recipe an homage to the Hyderabadi biryani, a dish that I absolutely love! While I would never claim that it is 100% authentic (I won’t bore you with my thoughts on food and cultural appropriation), I can confidently say that it’s pretty close, and most importantly, absolutely delicious!

The rice is the star of the show so splurge on some high-quality, aged basmati rice if you can – it makes a huge difference. And while you’re at it, splurge on some ghee – it imparts a wonderful flavour to the dish that you can’t get from elsewhere.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Rice and Risotto, Chicken


For the chicken:
  • 150 g natural yoghurt
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 2 tbsps ginger paste
  • 2 tsps garlic paste
  • 3 green cardamom pods, shells and all
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  •  tsps sea salt
  • 640 g chicken thigh fillets, quartered
  • 2 dried bay leaves
For the onions:
  • 120 ml melted ghee
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
For the rice:
  • 1 star anise
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 350 g aged basmati rice
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads
  • 3 tbsps hot water


Making the chicken:

  1. Add the yoghurt, red onion, ginger paste, garlic paste, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala, clove, lemon juice and salt to a small blender and blitz until smooth. Pour the marinade over the chicken, add the bay leaves and stir to combine. Cover and let marinate in the fridge at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

Frying the onions:

  1. Heat the ghee in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. There will likely be some browned, charred bits at the bottom of the pot; don’t worry, that’s normal!
  2. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the fried onions to a plate and set aside. Drain all but around 1 tbsp of the ghee into a small bowl. Set both the Dutch oven and the bowl of ghee aside.

Parboiling the rice:

  1. Heat your oven to 180℃. Fill a large saucepan with 2 litre water. Add the star anise, cinnamon stick and 1 ½ tbsp sea salt. It might sounds like a lot but in reality, the rice will only absorb a little of the salt. Bring the water to a rapid boil over high heat.
  2. Rinse the rice thoroughly with cold water until the water runs clean, then drain.
  3. Add the rinsed rice to the boiling salted water. The water will immediately stop boiling and the rice will sink to the bottom of the saucepan. Stir to prevent sticking.
  4. Once the water comes back to a boil, cook the rice for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the grains have almost doubled in size but the inside remains firm.
  5. Drain the rice and rinse with cold water. Drain again then set aside.

Assembling the biryani:

  1. Add the saffron threads to a small bowl, cover with the hot water and stir. Set aside.
  2. Return the Dutch oven to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the chicken (with the marinade) and bring everything to a simmer. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat.
  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer at the bottom of the Dutch oven. Cover with half of the fried onions. Top with the drained rice, gently spreading it into an even layer. Finish with the remaining fried onions and drizzle the reserved ghee and saffron water over the top.
  4. Pokes a few holes in the rice with the back of the wooden spoon until you reach the chicken.
  5. Cover the Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid and return it to the stove over medium heat. Cook the biryani until you hear the chicken start to gurgle; this should only take a couple of minutes.
  6. Transfer the covered Dutch oven to the oven and bake at 180℃ for 40 mins. Make sure you don’t open the lid at any point! If you do, lots of steam will escape, which means the rice won’t cook through properly.
  7. Let the biryani sit for 5 to 10 minutes before uncovering. To serve, gently spoon the rice onto a platter and top with the chicken pieces. Enjoy!


You can substitute the ghee for neutral oil but you’ll get much better flavour if you use ghee (and it’ll taste more authentic).

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