Chicken Biryani


You’ve never had rice and chicken if you haven’t had chicken biryani. A meal for kings that remains fit for a king.

The closest thing to chicken biryani would be a very perfectly cooked Cuban style arroz con pollo or traditional Spanish paella, but that too is still a far cry from how amazing biryani really is. I love biryani, can’t get enough of the stuff. And I think you’ll say the same after your first helping.

My favorite spot in Delhi is a hole in the wall. It opens at 11 am and when the biryani is sold out, it closes, which means between 1-3 pm. We would normally line up by 10-10:30 and the line would be around the corner. You’d see business men in suits, local factory workers, and college kids that was skipping class just for biryani. There was always an anxious murmur that would get louder as you got closer to biryani time. The guys running the place would open shop and the mayhem would begin. Everyone shouting out their orders and somehow the employees always heard each person over the din. There would be GIANT cauldrons full of heavenly biryani waiting to be emptied. They would scoop it by the plate full into a bag and into your hands, in one swift move.

And omg it was a taste explosion! The meat was juicy, tender, and completely infused with the masala. You could taste each spice layered on as if you were biting into a pie and tasting layers of it. Each grain of rice was flavored and separate from the rest. And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, there was extra gravy to mix in. In Indian cooking we’re obsessed with rice not being mushy and that you should see each grain on a plate. Which normally is easy to do. But with biryani that is one heck of a task, because you traditionally cook some of the rice in a thick masala. And to keep that from being mush is a monumental task. Partially an annoying one since half the time you want to dump extra gravy on top. None the less, it is what it is.

Biryani, the truth.

Biryani is one of the most famous and fabulous Indian dishes in the world. It’s made throughout India with a significant number of regional variations. I of course, make it in a Punjabi/Pakistani style.

Most of my recipe posts are quite optimistic, in that I always say a recipe is easy if you pay attention, doable with a little practice, and so on. Biryani is HARD. After having made biryani for over a decade of my life I still royally screw it up if I’m not paying attention. The only redeeming factor is, even if you screw it ten ways to Sunday, as long as you put in all the ingredients in the way that the recipe tells you to, it’ll still taste fantastic. It’ll just be an unsightly mush. lol.

That didn’t sound like a good thing, but hey, I’m a silver linings person. Plus no one gets paella or coq au vin right the first time. The first time I made paella my rice was too hard. The first time I made coq au vin my chicken was dry. But like anything, with practice, I now can make both quite nicely. And so can you! There we go. Was that motivational?

Because of how complicated this recipe is I like to take the shortcut of using the Laziza biryani powder. It’s an amazing spice mix worthy of me saying, “I no longer need to make my own”. That said, I don’t follow the directions on the box or the quantity of ingredients. Just the powder and some basics of all masala making. There are a number of Indian recipes that have 30-45 minute recipes on how to make this dish, including the one on the Laziza box, and the truth of the matter is they’re ok. But some recipes aren’t meant to be made fast or easy, and that’s also ok.

As I’ve said previously, when making Thanksgiving dinner nobody says, “Oh hey, I want a 30 minute turkey recipe for a 20 lbs bird, and for it to be cooked perfectly”. A 30 minute turkey recipe is going to be you nuking the bird solid. Similarly, biryani ISN’T a 30 minute meal. A great 30 minute meal is a lamb fry with saffron rice.

When making chicken biryani take your time, hone in your patience, and perhaps line up a favorite audio book. It’s sweat equity. I love to make a double batch and work my way through it over the week. I don’t traditionally serve any other mains with this dish. Just raita and salad. I like to serve this with either pudine da raita or plain raita. You don’t want to get too crazy with your pairings, simply because this dish is so complex in it’s flavors and so savory that it’s a waste to do too many heavy dishes with it. Especially since you’ll serve it with the extra masala as a gravy.

A few more fanciful favorites:


Course: MainCuisine: PunjabiDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time




Resting Time


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  • 4 lbs chicken, skinned, bone in

  • 4 onions, sliced finely

  • 3 tbsp ginger, minced

  • 3 green chilies, minced (optional)

  • 1 packet Laziza Biryani Masala (DON’T follow the directions on the box)

  • 2 dried whole red chilies

  • 1 tbsp cumin, ground

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground

  • 1 Indian bay leaf

  • 2 pods cardamom

  • 2 cloves

  • 1 cup water

  • 4 tomatoes, chopped finely

  • 2 cups yogurt, whisked smooth

  • Salt, to taste

  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, minced

  • 4 cups basmati rice

  • 5 strands of saffron

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or ghee

Equipment/Specialty Items


  • Masala:
  • Lightly score your chicken and set aside.
  • In a large pot heat oil over medium heat, fry onions until they are a deep golden brown. Approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add in ginger and chili peppers. Saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add in the full packet of Laziza Biryani powder, whole dried chilies, ground cumin, ground coriander seeds, bay leaf, cardamom, and cloves. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Mix in water and bring to a simmer. Approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Stirring regularly to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
  • Mix in yogurt and cook for 5 minutes. You should see the mixture turning into a thick paste.
  • Salt, to taste.
  • Turn off the heat and add in the cilantro and meat. Evenly coat the meat with the yogurt spice mix.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes. Then cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, overnight is best.
  • Meat:
  • Thoroughly wash rice and soak for 20 minutes.
  • Return the pot of meat to the stove and over medium-low heat bring to a simmer. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  • Turn off the heat and remove chicken from the masala and set aside in a place it can stay warm. Do NOT discard the masala.
  • Continue to cook the remaining masala over medium-low heat until it is a thick gravy. Approximately 15 minutes.
  • Rice:
  • Drain the rice and separate into two batches.
  • In a large pot, heat 5 cups of water on high heat.
  • Once the water is boiling add in saffron and the first batch of rice. Cook till rice is al dente. Approximately 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on this, you want your rice to be stiff and perfect. No mushiness will do.
  • When batch #1 of your rice is done, drain the excess water and set aside.
  • In a second pot add in 2 cup of your masala and 1.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Once your masala water is bubbling add in your second batch of rice. Cook till rice is al dente. Approximately 10-15 minutes. You have to REALLY watch this one so that it doesn’t get mushy or stick because you won’t be draining this one. Add hot water if you find that your rice isn’t done but you’re out of liquid.
  • When batch #2 of your rice is done remove it from the pot and fluff it up to help keep each grain separate and firm.
  • Biryani:
  • Now for the easy part. In a serving dish, I use a glass rectangular pyrex style dish, create a layer on the bottom of the dish with your masala rice.
  • Next, layer half of your meat on top of the masala rice.
  • Next, layer your saffron rice on top of the meat.
  • Place the remaining meat on top.
  • Serve immediately with the remaining masala.

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