Chicken Biryani Recipe - Secrets of Making a Perfect Biryani

Chicken Biryani is by far the most popular Indian rice recipe around the globe.

Biryani and Pulao are the two types of Indian rice recipes that form an integral part of any formal or even informal lunch or dinner. The main difference between the two is the cooking technique.

Biryani, is made from par boiled rice, which is then assembled with the other ingredients, sealed and put on "dum" (put on a very low heat, so that all the flavors inside the pot amalgamate well) for at least 45 minutes.

Pulao on the other hand, is made by tempering the rice in desi ghee (clarified butter) and spices. Exactly measured water is added to the rice. For 1 cup of rice 2 cups water is used. If using a pressure cooker, for every 1 cup of rice 1 and 1/4 of water is sufficient.

Use only good quality basmati rice for the best flavor and appearance. The key to making a good biryani lies in the way you par boil the rice. I cannot stress enough that never over cook the rice.

As far as the list of ingredients goes, please try to use all the ingredients. Each spice, contributes to the overall flavor. Most of the spices will be easily available at any supermarket or definitely at an Indian store.

Please don't get intimidated by the long list, most of them are spices used in a small amount. The onions have to be deep fried to a light brown color (this are called "barista"). Desi ghee (clarified butter) is also very essential.

There are two ways of making a chicken biryani, one is called Pakki biryani, in which you cook the meat separately and then layer it with the rice, seal and cook on a very low heat.

The other method is Kachi biryani, in which you marinate the meat, place it at the bottom of the pot and cover it up with par boiled rice, seal and cook on a very low heat.

This recipe is the layered chicken biryani in which chicken is cooked separately.

Making a chicken biryani is a lengthy process BUT totally worth it. Plus you make biryani only occasionally so do put your heart into making it and I promise it will turn out fabulous.

This recipe will easily serve 4-6.

So lets us begin.

The Ingredients required for a chicken biryani are

  • 7-8 Onions (very thinly sliced and deep fried until light brown)
  • 10-15 Cashews (fried in a little desi ghee/clarified butter)
  • 1 Kg Chicken on the bone cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 Tsp Garlic paste
  • salt to taste
  • 500 gm Basmati Rice (washed and soaked in salted water for at least half an hour)
  • 3-4 Tbsp oil
  • Oil for frying the onions
  • 6-7 cloves
  • 2 (1 inch) Cinnamon
  • 4 green Cardamoms
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1/4 Tsp Caraway seeds (shahi jeera/black cumin seeds)
  • 4 large Tomatoes (chopped finely)
  • 1/4 Tsp of mace powder
  • 1/4 Tsp of grated Nutmeg
  • 1 Tsp Coriander powder
  • 1 Tsp red Chili powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 Tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2-3 green Chilies (to taste, chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp Ginger (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic (chopped)
  • 6-7 dried, pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • a few strands of Saffron (kesar)
  • 3-4 Tbsp Desi ghee (clarified butter)
  • 2 cups of fresh green Coriander (chopped)



Marinate the chicken pieces in 1 cup yogurt, 2 Tsp garlic paste and little salt, for a good 8 hours.


Making Barista (fried onions) for chicken biryani

Slice the onions very thinly (almost paper thin) using a sharp knife. Heat oil in a pan or kadai.
Separate the sliced onions using your finger tips. Put the onions in the oil and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Keep stirring the onions, so that they get evenly browned. The trick is to evenly and slowly brown the onions. If the flame is very high the onions will burn on the outside and remain watery on the inside.

Once a uniform color is obtained, drain on thick layer of kitchen paper, so that maximum oil is soaked. Keep these aside.
As they cool down, the onions will become crispy.


Boiling the rice

Boil the rice. For this take a BIG vessel (deep and wide), put lots of water in it, tip in the soaked rice along with 1 stick cinnamon, 3-4 cloves, 2 green cardamom, 1/4 tsp of Shahi jeera (caraway seeds) and more salt.

Remember that you should boil the rice in lots of water and salt (pretty much like a pasta). The rice should absorb the salt otherwise the biryani will be tasteless. Boil on a high flame and let the it boil vigorously on high flame for about 5-7 minutes.

You have to par cook the rice (meaning 3/4 cooked and rest will get cooked later). Do not over boil the rice. To check if the rice is done you can take a grain of rice out and press in between your thumb and forefinger. If the grain breaks into 3 parts, it means your rice is cooked just right. Now strain the rice and spread it out on a flat tray or surface, so that it cools faster.


Preparing the chicken

Heat oil in a deep pan, add the remaining bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon and green cardamoms. When they crackle, add the ginger, garlic and chilies. Saute for a minute and add the marinated chicken, along with the marinade. Cook on a medium heat till all the water dries up (water from the chicken and yogurt).

Add the tomatoes, 1/3 of the fried onions, all the powdered spices, salt and cook till all the water from the tomatoes dries up. If the chicken is cooking too quickly then either cook on a high flame to fasten the evaporation or remove the chicken pieces aside.

The chicken should be just cooked and dry (because it will get
cooked further in the final step and if any water is left in it the rice will become soggy).

Once done, sneak a taste, adjust the seasoning. Mix in the dried prunes.


Make saffron milk

In 1/2 cup of warm milk crush a pinch of saffron strands and put some whole strands. Wait till it turns yellow. Keep on one side.

Final STEP Assembling the chicken biryani

Use a deep heavy bottom pan with a lid.

First spread some desi ghee at the bottom of the pan.
Second a layer of rice, followed by a layer of chicken. Now sprinkle a generous handful of chopped coriander and fried onions.

Repeat the layers with rice being the top most layer. Sprinkle the leftover onions and all the cashews.

Pour the milk and saffron on the top using a spoon, evenly covering the whole area.

Once all layers are set, take melted desi ghee and with a spoon pour it around the rim of the vessel and a little on the rice.
Close the lid and seal.

There are 2 ways to seal the lid in order to prevent the steam from escaping.

1) Take a large foil, cover the pot/vessel with it and place the lid on top.

2) Take some dough made from whole wheat flour. Roll it into a thin strip and stick it going around the rim of the pan half on the lid and half on the pan in order to seal the whole pan.

Keep this pot on a very low heat for 45 minutes. Place this pan on top of a cast iron tawa (on which chapatis are made) or another heavy bottom pan in order to prevent the bottom layer of rice from getting burnt.

After 45 minutes turn off the heat. Let it stand for 5 minutes and open.

Enjoy the delicious chicken biryani!!!

Note:- Please don't eat the bay leaves and the other whole spices. They are used to add flavor. You can remove them to one side.

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Manila Williams is the owner of where she shares her easy, healthy and free recipes and cooking tips. If you liked this Chicken Biryani Recipe, then please visit her website to find out more tasty recipes. You will find many secrets of healthy cooking in store for you.