Elevate your dinner plans with this recipe for chicken biryani. Layers of marinated chicken, crispy onions, and fluffy rice are infused with a plethora of aromatic spices and drenched in a saffron ghee before being gently cooked together. We top the whole thing off with fresh mint and cilantro for a one-pot meal like never before.
If you are a fan of simple and comforting, yet highly flavorful meals, today’s chicken biryani recipe is going to be a keeper! We start with tender chicken and fluffy basmati rice to craft an absolute flavor sensation with the help of warming spices and vibrant herbs. Everything is layered in a Dutch oven and steamed together for maximum flavor infusion. You end up with an irresistible, spicy and savory chicken rice pilaf type dish.
Don’t be intimidated by the number of spices or steps either. This recipe is really quite simple once you get the hang of it!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Chicken - For this chicken biryani recipe, boneless breasts tend to dry out. That’s why I recommend using six bone-in thighs — they’re both juicy and flavorful!
- Onions - Add a sharp, pungent, and earthy flavor.
- Oil - Vegetable oil has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor.
- Saffron - Sweet, musky, and vanilla-like. A little goes a long way, so you’ll only need about a large pinch. Grind with a mortar and pestle, then mix with melted ghee and water to really bring out the flavor.
- Ghee - Clarified butter is a great substitute.
- Cilantro & Mint - Fresh herbs add a pop of brightness and cool flavor.
- Spices - Warming, aromatic spices are the superstars of this recipe! Use paprika, ginger, cumin, chili, cardamom, turmeric, cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, and star anise.
- Tomato Puree - Adds tangy acidity to the marinade.
- Garlic - Adds a pungent, spicy kick.
- Garam Masala - A delicious blend of sweet, earthy, and warm spices. I prefer my homemade blend, but storebought works too!
- Rice - I recommend basmati for its delicate flavor and fluffy texture.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN BIRYANI
1. Marinate the Chicken. Mix all ingredients for the curry marinade together in a large bowl, then add the chicken. Toss to coat and refrigerate from 30 minutes to overnight. If refrigerated overnight, return to room temperature before cooking.
2. Parboil the Rice. Bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil and add the rice. Return to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the rice is just barely cooked and still firm in the center. Drain and set aside.
3. Cook the Onions. Use a Dutch oven or large skillet to heat ½ cup of oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, cook the onions for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate and season with salt and pepper. If a skillet was used for this step, transfer the remaining oil to a Dutch oven.
4. Prep Herbs. Grind the saffron and mix with 2 tablespoons each warm water and melted ghee. Set the mixture aside to bloom. Chop the cilantro and mint leaves, put in a small bowl, and set aside.
5. Cook the Chicken. Over medium high heat, heat the oil from the onions plus an additional tablespoon. Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
6. Layer. With the chicken skin side down, sprinkle on half the crispy onions followed by all but 2 tablespoons of the mint and cilantro leaves. Next, layer all of the rice on top and pat it down to flatten. Drizzle the saffron ghee mixture over the top.
7. Cook. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and keep it covered for another 10 minutes.
8. Serve. Transfer to a large serving bowl or dish by carefully scooping deep into the Dutch oven. Top the entire dish with the remaining crispy onions and the rest of the cilantro and mint leaves.
Is Biryani Pakistani or Indian?
This timeless dish is considered traditional cuisine throughout the Indian subcontinent, but its origins may be elsewhere. The word biryani comes from the Persian word birian which translates into “fried before cooking.”
It is believed that the dish originated in Persia, present day Iran, and was introduced to India by traders, pilgrims, and others traveling the Silk Road.
How Do I Serve Chicken Biryani?
This one-pot sensation is hearty enough to be a meal on and is dynamite with many traditional side dishes. Try serving it with one or more of my condiments like tomato chutney, Indian mint chutney, or a tahini yogurt sauce.
How Do I Store Leftover Biryani?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Note that the texture will begin to deteriorate after 2 days.
- 1.5 lbs chicken thighs skin on, bone-in (See Note 1)
- 2 medium yellow onions finely sliced
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads kesar, (See Note 2)
- 2 tablespoon warm water
- 2 tablespoon ghee melted
- ½ cup cilantro leaves chopped
- ½ cup mint leaves chopped
- ¾ cup yogurt plain
- ½ cup tomato puree
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoon ground paprika sweet not smoked
- 1 tablespoon ginger (adarak) finely grated fresh
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin (jeera)
- 2 teaspoon garam marsala
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder (lal mirchi powder) or cayenne powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (hari elaichi)
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric (haldi)
- 2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 ¼ cups basmati rice
- 5 cloves (lavang)
- 4 green cardamon pods (hari elaichi)
- 3 dried bay leaves (tej patta)
- 1 cinnamon stick (cassia bark)
- 1 star anise (chakra phul)
- Mix Curry Marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken, tossing to coat well. Marinade 30 minutes to overnight, covered. If chicken is refrigerated overnight, bring to room temperature before cooking.
- Bring 8 cups water with salt to the boil. Add rice, bring back to the boil then cook for 5 minutes, or until rice is just cooked, but firm in the middle. This is par-boiling the rice. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the ½ cup oil in a Dutch oven (or large deep skillet) over medium-high heat. Shallow fry sliced onion in 2 batches for 4 to 5 minutes, or until a deep golden brown. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain. Season with salt. Repeat with remaining onions. Transfer remaining oil to a large Dutch oven if using skillet.
- Grind saffron and place in a small bowl. Mix with 2 tablespoons warm water and the 2 tablespoons melted ghee (or butter). Set aside to bloom.
- Chop both cilantro and mint leaves and place in bowl. Set aside.
- Heat Dutch oven over medium heat with oil from onions and add 1 tablespoon oil. Transfer chicken and marinade to pan, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid. Turn chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Remove Dutch oven from heat and place on other burner without a flame.
- Turn chicken skin-side down and scatter half the crispy onions on top, then the cilantro/mint leaves, reserving 2 tablespoons for serving.
- Top with all the rice and gently pat down and flatten top. Drizzle saffron water ghee mixture over the rice. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes. Remove from stove, rest with lid on for 10 minutes.
- Discard any whole spices and bay leaves that you can find if preferred. Carefully scoop deep into pot to get chicken and mixed rice and place into large serving bowl or platter. Garnish with remaining crispy onions and reserved 2 tablespoons cilantro and mint leaves.
- I find when using chicken breasts they tend to dry out, get tough and loose flavor. I recommend using (6) chicken thighs in this dish as the dark meat has more flavor and will not dry out.
- A large pinch equals about 50 threads, or ¼ gram, which equals ½ teaspoon. Saffron is expensive and worth noting a little goes a long ways if quality. I like to grind the threads in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder and then mix with warm water, milk or stock depending on the recipe. Here we will mix with the melted ghee and water.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.