A Colourful Chicken Biryani

biryiani2This is it. The aromatic, flavorful, spicy, delicious chicken biryani. If you don’t like spending time in the kitchen, this dish is not for you. But if you really enjoy cooking (and eating) then all the time you spend will be justified when you eat the first bite of this fantastic dish. In India, this is a celebration dish, usually cooked with goat. It consists of aromatic, saffron infused basmati rice, layered with fragrant meat curry and sweet onions. I made this with chicken and it was absolutely delicious. With this dish, I went through the life changing experience of the amazing, golden fried onions and how well they compliment curries. I served the biryani with chopped coriander leaves, raisins, blanched almonds, pistachios and fried onions. It was a feast for the eyes and comfort for the soul. Make this, please.

 To marinate the chicken

  • 1 kg chicken thighs, halved, no bones or skin
  • 300 grams thick, greek yogurt
  • 10 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 green chilies, finely chopped (4 chilies deseeded, 2 chopped with seeds)
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric

For the fried onions

  • 6 medium onions thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
  • Vegetable oil for frying (about 2 cups)

To cook the chicken

  • 15 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 10cm)
  • 10 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • salt to taste

To assemble the dish

  • 1 kg basmati rice
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 8 Tbs milk
  • 200 grams butter
  • 1 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

To serve:

  • Fresh coriander leaves
  • Unsalted pistachios
  • Blanched almonds
  • Raisins


First, marinate the chicken. Put chicken in a large bowl. Stir together all the ingredients for the marinade and mix with the chicken. Marinate for at least two hours or preferably the day before cooking.

Soak the basmati rice in plenty of cold water for one hour.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and add the saffron threads. Take off the heat and leave to infuse until needed.

Make the fried onions. Put two cups of vegetable oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Fry the sliced onions in batches until golden. Don’t burn them as they will taste bitter. Drain on kitchen paper. The onions will become crunchier as they cool on paper towels. Keep about 6 tablespoons of the oil you fried the onions to cook the chicken.

Put the 6 tablespoons of onion oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon, cardamoms, bay leaves and cumin seeds on the pot and cook stirring for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and slightly darker in colour. Add the chicken with it’s marinade and cook stirring for a minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cook over medium heat, uncovered until chicken is cooked and sauce is thick. Turn off the heat, cover and leave chicken in the pot while you prepare the rice.

Drain the rice and wash until water runs almost clear. In a large pot, bring about 3 litres of water to a boil. Add 3 teaspoons salt and the drained rice. Cook uncovered for six minutes only. Drain and spread rice on a baking tray to stop the cooking process. Rice at this stage will be undercooked.

Assemble the biryani. Preheat oven to 150 C. In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Choose a large deep pot, which can be later transfered in the oven. You can also use a deep, clay pot or a heatproof glass bowl (like «pyrex»). If you don’t have one, see note on how you can cook the biryani on the stove.

The idea is to create 5 layers: Rice, chicken, rice, chicken, rice. Start by pouring half of the melted butter on the bottom of your pot. Add 1/3 of the rice and pour over it 1/3 of the milk/saffron mixture. Top rice with half of the chicken and sprinkle with 1/3 of the fried onions, half of the coriander and half of the mint leaves. Repeat process one more time. Top with the remaining 1/3 of the rice and pour over the remaining 1/3 of the milk/saffron mixture. Finally pour the remainining melted butter around the walls of your pot. Cover pot tightly. Peersonally I cover with the lid and then cover again with a large piece of foil to prevent any steam from escaping. Bake biryani in the oven for 1 hour.

Fill small bowls with almonds, pistachios, raisins and the remaining fried onions. Uncover the pot and serve this divine dish with the accompaniments, for your guests to help themselves.


  • You can cook your biryani on the stove. Just add 3-4 tablespoons of water on the bottom of the pot, together with the melted butter. Cover the pot and cook on very low heat for 30 minutes.
  • I think raisins and nuts are fantastic with this dish, so if you are a fan you could add them to the biryani while assembling instead of serving them separately. Just sprinkle on top of the chicken together with the fried onions.

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