Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Chicken Biryani

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

A few years ago, cooking a biryani from scratch would have filled me with fear. I would have immediately resorted to those handy powder packets that are so easily available nowadays. But when I found this simple recipe online that required only the freshest ingredients, I had to give it a go. And, I was not disappointed. This was a wonderfully flavourful dish and had all the taste that a real biryani should have, and with not a packet in sight.
This is not the only way to make biryani but it is perfect for the first-time biryani novice!

A Simple List of Ingredients:

1. Onions

2. Oil
3. Crushed Ginger
4. Crushed Garlic
5. Cinnamon Stick
6. Green Cardamom
7. Bay Leaves
8. Whole Cloves
9. Salt
10. Chilli Powder
12. Cumin Seeds
13. Chicken
14. Tomatoes
15. Green Chilllies
16. Yoghurt
17. Mint Sauce or Concentrate
18. Green Coriander
19. Boiled White Rice
20. Saffron or Yellow Food Colouring
21. Water

Bismillah, let's begin!

Peel and slice 4 onions. Heat a little oil in a pan and add the onions.

Cook the onions on a medium heat until they are golden brown and sticky.

Transfer the cooked onions to a bowl, and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the same pan, and keep on a low heat.

Take 2 teaspoons of crushed garlic and 2 teaspoons of crushed ginger. I used frozen but it's best to use fresh.

Next, take:
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamoms
3 bay leaves
3 whole cloves

This step is totally optional, but I did it because I don't like whole spices in my food. I grinded them in a spice mill and that way, the  flavour is still there without getting chunky spices in your mouth.

To the heated pan, add the cinnamon, bay leaves, green cardamoms and cloves, crushed ginger and crushed garlic. Stir fry on a low heat for a minute or two.

Add 2 pounds of boneless chicken. You can use whole chicken, if you want.

Next, take:

2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste
2 teaspoon of red chilli powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds

Add the salt, chilli powder and cumin seeds to the chicken. 


Stir fry until the chicken is browned.

Next, take 1 tomato, chopped.

And, 2 green chillies, sliced.

And, 125 ml of plain yoghurt.

And, 1 teaspoon of mint concentrate. You could use mint sauce or fresh mint.

Once the chicken has browned, add:
the tomato
the green chillies
the yoghurt
the mint
1/3 of the fried onions
handful of chopped fresh green coriander

Stir everything well to combine. 

Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked. 

While the chicken is simmering, boil 2 cups of rice. I am a huge fan of peas so at every opportunity, I add peas to my boiled rice. You can add then or leave them out.

Take a large saucepan, preferably a deep one. It's time to start layering! First, a layer of boiled rice.

Next, a layer of the cooked chicken.

Another layer of rice.

And, another layer of chicken.

And lastly, a final layer of rice.

In a small bow, mix together a pinch of saffron and 4 tablespoons of water. If you don't have saffron, you can use yellow food colouring.

Drizzle the saffron mixture over the top of the rice.

Next, take the leftover sticky onions.

And spoon over the top of the rice.
Cover the pot with a lid and allow the biryani to steam on the lowest heat for 20 minutes.

Serve hot with my green chutney!

Full Written Recipe:

Chicken Biryani


4 Onions, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons Crushed Garlic
2 teaspoons Crushed Ginger
1 Cinnamon Stick
4 Green Cardamoms
3 Bay Leaves
4 Cloves
2 pounds Boneless Chicken Pieces
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder
½ teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 Tomato, chopped
2 Green Chillies, chopped
125 ml Plain Yoghurt
1 teaspoon Mint Sauce
Handful of Fresh Coriander, chopped
2 cups Basmati Rice
Pinch of Saffron
4 tablespoons Water


1.                    Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook them on a medium heat until they are golden brown and sticky. Remove them to a bowl, and set aside.

2.                    Heat a little more oil in the same pan. Grind the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf to a powder in a spice mill.

3.                    Add the spice powder, ginger and garlic to the pan, and fry for 2 minutes.

4.                    Add the chicken, salt, cumin seeds and red chilli powder. Stir fry the chicken until golden brown.

5.                    Then, add the tomato, green chillies, yoghurt, mint sauce, ⅓ of the fried onions and the fresh coriander.

6.                    Stir to combine. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

7.                    Parboil the rice.

8.                    Next, to layer the biryani, take a deep saucepan. Add a layer of rice, then chicken, then rice and then chicken.

9.                    Lastly, a final layer of rice. Mix the saffron and water together and sprinkle it over the rice.

10.             Garnish with the leftover cooked onions.

11.             Cover with a lid and allow to steam on the lowest heat for 20 minutes.

12.             Serve with green yoghurt chutney and salad.

{Adapted from Titlis Busy Kitchen}

You May Also Like:

Chicken Pulao

Keema Biryani 

Gujarati Kari Kichri with Rai Potatoes

Keep me in your duas, please,


Spice Enthusiast


  1. do you use red chili powder or flakes?

    1. I use crushed red chilli .. But you could use whatever you have in the cupboard :)

  2. Nice recipe. The thought of making biryani sounds a bit overwhelming, I agree, but this recipe helped me a lot and it didn't feel like that big a challenge. JazakAllah.

    I kind of cheated with the onions as I didn't use them for the dressing and the 1 third that I did use, I used fried onions which come in a pack.

    I added boiled potatoes and eggs and it was a delight. Try it. :) It might be more of a Gujarati thing though. :P

    Tip for others. I wouldn't dry the chicken out too much if there's a lot of the masala left at the end of the cooking time for it because when it comes to layering, it'll give the rice a nice natural colour.

    1. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions! A biryani does sound overwhelming but I think it gets better with practice - I certainly haven't perfected my technique yet lol
      I will try your boiled eggs idea .. sometimes we do put potatoes in but we fry them first to brown them :) P.S. Would love to hear more recipe suggestions and ideas :)

  3. I'm a bit blonde n I need to know how you parboil rice - dyou mean to boil water till bubbling then add rice keep on high till about five minutes?

    And then cool it down Nigerian jollof rice style?

    N when you simmer at the end, with the lid on n a tea towel wrapped round the lid with a langri on top? N not peek till the times up?

    Also, if the chicken and rice are cooked then left to stand for a couple of hours (whether layered or not) before the final damm will it still work? Say your guests are coming at three and you have to finish cooking by twelve to go elsewhere? Can the damm be done just brfore serving or does it have to be done straight after cooking?

    By damm I hope you know ehat i mean

    1. To parboil rice means to bring the water to a boil, add the rice. Let it boil again and then let it simmer for 2 minutes before draining. The rice grains should be slightly hard.
      Yes, at the end you can cover the lid with a tea towel if you want.
      Yes, you can make them in advance but you may need to increase the damm time slightly.
      Good luck!

  4. Salam sis,
    Ive only got low fat yoghurt in the fridge, would that do?

    1. Wa alaikumus salaam Humayra! Low fat yoghurt will be fine - just beat it slightly before using.

  5. Also, I really want my biriyani to appear very colourful so im adding both red and yellow food colouring. Would it affect the taste of the biriyani in anyway if I add the colouring in between the layers?
    Im making this tomorrow sis, please, if you can reply as soon as..I really want to get this perfect. JazakaAllah

    1. No, the food colour shouldn't affect the taste. I hope your biryani turned out ok anyway - so sorry that I couldn't reply to your comments straight away! :)

  6. Love your recipes! I have used a few from you now and it always comes out amazing. May Allah SWT bless you. Ameen x

  7. I love your recipes, I think your amazing so easy when you do step by step. I don't have saffron so how much yellow food colouring do i put in my rice please. X

    1. Thank you! Just put a few drops over the rice - it should be fine.

  8. Do we need to parboil the rice or is it ok if the rice is fully cooked?

    1. Better if the rice is part-cooked as it will fully cook when it's steamed with the chicken.


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