Tender chicken in a richly spiced sauce, layered up with fragrant, flavour-packed rice and topped with saffron and thinly sliced fried onion.
Chicken Biryani is one of those special dishes that gets passed down through generations. Second helpings are a must!

chicken biryani and natural yogurt on a plate with naan bread. Plate is on a blue background.

Some recipes are a case of throwing it all in a pan for an easy dinner (one pot chicken and pasta is brilliant on those busy week nights), but sometimes it’s almost meditative to take some time and put together a food creation that’s made with love and care.
This biryani is one of those dishes (and yes, we do dirty a few dishes along the way…).

Made of several layers, it goes into the pan like this:

  • Marinated chicken
  • Fresh herbs
  • Fragrantly spiced rice
  • A little saffron-infused milk
  • A good drizzle of melted ghee
  • Some beautifully browned fried onions
  • And last but not least, a handful of toasted almonds.

This is a Hyderabadi biryani – using the dum method of cooking – which involves letting the ingredients in the dish ‘breathe’ in its own aroma to make it more flavourful. In this case the flavourful chicken at the bottom of the dish cooks and releases steam and aromas into the rice.

What do we need?

Ingredients for chicken biryani on a wooden table

There are a lot of ingredients that go into a biryani, so I’m not going to list them all here (check out the recipe card at the bottom of the post for that). I do use a lot of spices, which makes the chicken marinade intensely flavourful.

One of the spices I do want to mention though is Asafoetida (<–affiliate link), also known as hing. This is a spice used in some Indian dishes. It adds a deeper savoury flavour, like onion or garlic to a dish. You only need a little – I use 1/4 tsp (too much is overpowering). If you can’t get hold of any, or if you’re unlikely to use it for anything else, then don’t worry, it can be left out. There are plenty of spices already in the dish to give it a fantastic flavour.

Jar of asafoetida powder on a wooden table next to chopped coriander.

How to make this biryani

***Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.***

  • First, we marinate the chicken thighs in spices, natural yogurt, oil, ginger, garlic, tomato puree (paste) chopped chillies, salt and lemon juice. We want that to marinate for at least 2 hours for the best flavour.
4 image collage showing how to marinade chicken for chicken biryani
  • Next we parboil the basmati rice in plenty of salted water and a few aromatics. Then drain it.
  • We also fry off 2 sliced onions in oil until fragrant and dark brown.
4 image collage showing how to par boil rice and fry onions for chicken biryani
  • Add the marinated chicken to a large cast-iron pan with a splash of water and cook for a few minutes to heat up the sauce and lightly seal the chicken.
  • Sprinkle on chopped coriander (cilantro) and mint.
  • Mix together a little saffron and milk and leave for a minute or two.
  • Add the par-cooked rice to the pan on top of the chicken and drizzle over the saffron/milk mixture plus some melted ghee.
  • Top the rice with the fried onions and toasted flaked onions.
  • Wait until steams starts to rise from the pan, then place a lid on, lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes.
6 image collage showing how to make chicken biryani

Turn off the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle on some freshly chopped coriander (cilantro).

Cast iron pan filled with chicken biryani on a blue background. Spices and naan bread also in shot.

When you scoop it out (be sure to scoop it right from the bottom to get all the layers) you should find the outside of the chicken that was touching the base of the pan is a tiny bit crisp. The interior should still be juicy though. Personally I think that slight crispness adds even more flavour.

Serving spoonful being take form a pan of chicken biryani.

What to serve it with

Why use chicken thighs?

Chicken thighs can take the direct heat from sitting at the bottom of the pan without drying out.
I prefer to use boneless and skinless chicken thighs, but you could use bone-in thighs if you prefer. Just cook the whole dish for about 5 minutes longer if you do.

Plate of chicken biryani with pile of naan breads in the background

Why are you adding salt to the rice?

A fair amount of the salt is drained off with the water from cooking the rice. The remaining salt really enhances the flavour of the whole dish. That salty taste mellows during the cooking with the chicken and disperses to flavour the rest of the ingredients.


More fantastic curry recipes


Watch how to make it

YouTube video

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4.85 from 20 votes

Chicken Biryani Recipe

Tender chicken in a richly spiced sauce, layered up with fragrant, flavour-packed rice and topped with saffron and thinly sliced fried onion.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 55 minutes
Servings: 6
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian

Ingredients

Chicken and Marinade:

  • 575 g (1 1/4 lbs) chicken thigh fillets chopped in half
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) natural yoghurt full-fat
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree paste for US
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida *(affiliate link) see note below
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp ground fenugreek
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp mild chilli powder go for medium or hot if you like it really spicy
  • 2 mild green chillies roughly chopped
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Par-boiled rice:

  • 1.5 litres (6 1/4 cups) water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 450 g (2 ¼ cups) white basmati rice

Crispy fried onions:

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions peeled and sliced

Also:

  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp freshly chopped coriander cilantro
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp ghee melted (or use unsalted butter)
  • 2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds

To Serve:

  • natural yogurt
  • freshly chopped coriander cilantro

Instructions 

  • Place the chicken in a bowl with all of the marinade ingredients.
    575 g (1 1/4 lbs) chicken thigh fillets, 180 ml (3/4 cup) natural yoghurt, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp minced ginger, 2 tbsp tomato puree, 1/4 tsp asafoetida, ½ tsp turmeric, 2 tsp garam masala, ½ tsp ground fenugreek, 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, 3 cardamom pods, 2 tsp mild chilli powder, 2 mild green chillies, 1 ¼ tsp salt, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Stir together to coat, then cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  • For the rice, heat the water in a saucepan along with the salt, cloves, cumin seeds, bay leaves, and cardamom pods until boiling.
    1.5 litres (6 1/4 cups) water, 2 tsp salt, 5 cloves, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 3 bay leaves, 2 cardamom pods
  • Add the rice, stir once, bring back to the boil and simmer (no lid) for 5 minutes.
    450 g (2 ¼ cups) white basmati rice
  • Drain the rice in a sieve.
  • Now make the fried onions. Heat the 4 tbsp oil over a medium heat in a large cast iron pan.
    4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Add the sliced onions, and cook for around 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dark brown. Be careful not to burn them, as they will taste bitter. Note – we're going to be using the same cast iron pan to cook the biryani, so if you're worried the onions are catching on the pan (which may effect the taste of the biryani), you can fry them in a separate frying pan if you prefer.
    2 onions
  • Scoop the onions out of the pan using a slotted spoon and place in a bowl for later.
  • Now take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and add to the pan with the oil from the onions. Stir in 3 tbsp of water.
    3 tbsp water
  • Cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring a couple of times, to just very lightly seal the chicken.
  • Now place the 3 tbsp of chopped coriander (cilantro) and 1 tbsp of chopped mint on top of the chicken.
    3 tbsp freshly chopped coriander, 1 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves
  • Next spoon the rice on top of the chicken and flatten it out slightly.
  • Mix together the saffron and milk and let it sit for a minute, then drizzle the mixture over the rice, followed by the melted ghee.
    1 tsp saffron threads, 3 tbsp milk, 3 tbsp ghee
  • Spoon on the fried onions and toasted almonds.
    2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
  • Place a lid on the pan, but allow just a tiny gap.
  • As soon as you see steam coming from the gap, place the lid on fully and turn the heat down to low and cook for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Top with a little more fresh coriander if desired and serve with natural yogurt.
    natural yogurt, freshly chopped coriander

Video

YouTube video

Notes

Asafoetida
Asafoetida (<–affiliate link), also known as hing, is a spice used in some Indian dishes. It adds a deeper savoury flavour, like onion or garlic to a dish. You only need a little (too much is overpowering). If you can’t get hold of any, or if you’re unlikely to use it for anything else, then don’t worry, it can be left out. There are plenty of spices already in the dish to give it a fantastic flavour.
Can I make it ahead?
It tastes best eaten right away, but you can reheat leftovers in the microwave.
Be sure to cool any leftovers quickly, then cover and refrigerate for up to a day. Reheat until piping hot.
If you want to prep some of the stages ahead, you can marinate the chicken, fry the onions and par-cook the rice in the morning, then put it all together and cook in the evening.
Can I freeze it?
Yes, you can freeze leftovers. Cool quickly, then cover and freeze. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in the microwave until piping hot throughout.
Recipe inspiration:
Recipe is inspired by Nagi from Recipe Tin Eats. I make mine a little differently (different cut of meat, different/additional spices and a few extra ingredients in mine), but I LOVE her version too. 
Nutritional Information is per serving (this recipe serves 6)
 

Nutrition

Calories: 655kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 115mg | Sodium: 1438mg | Potassium: 543mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 419IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 115mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links – which means if you buy the product I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). If you do buy, then thank you! That’s what helps us to keep Kitchen Sanctuary running. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors. For more information please see our Terms & Conditions.

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Hi, I'm Nicky and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this last weekend for the first time in a while and had forgotten how amazing it tastes. I don’t mind a bit of upfront prep and time taken to cook when the food’s as delicious as this! Some is portioned up in our freezer for a mid-week treat when time is tight, and mum has a couple of portions as well for her freezer. Between your website and one or two others online, we’ve never eaten better!

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this! I found it took a while to get organised at least 1/2 hr more, marinated chicken overnight, rice was well cooked light and fluffy and chicken v tasty , will become a staple 👌