Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani is my absolute favorite Indian dish. Hands down. I always debate between it and Lamb Korma when I go out, because I suppose it depends upon my mood that day, but really, if I’m craving Indian, I’m probably craving Chicken Biryani. I’ve tried out a couple different home recipes for this magical rice dish and they’ve all been good, but haven’t really hit the mark. This recipe hits very close to bullseye. I’d make a few additions and tiny changes next time but it is absolutely delicious (and MSG free! Take that, certain local Indian restaurants!). All I need next time is a cup of homemade chai and some homemade parathas and I will be the happiest girl in the world. Yup. Actually.

Read on for the recipe and photos…

Ingredients, Step 1: The marinade

(NOTE: This is a double recipe and is enough to feed AT LEAST 6 people a really filling portion)

2 1/3 cups basmati rice

1/4 cup yogurt (I used plain, non fat Greek yogurt)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
6 chicken drumsticks

Directions, Step 1

  • Rinse the basmati rice and soak for half an hour, then drain. Set aside for later.
  • Mix the spices with the yogurt.
  • Place the chicken in a shallow dish, I used a pie dish, and brush with the marinade. For best results, make little cuts in the chicken so the marinade can really soak in to the deeper parts of the chicken. Do leave the chicken on the bone, it comes out sooo tender.
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour (or more).


Ingredients, Step 2:  Cooking the Chicken

10 tbsp oil
1 large cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom (this I didn’t have so I added a teaspoon of powdered cardamom later with the chili powder and turmeric)
2 – 4 bay leaves
4 cloves
1 large onion, sliced (I diced mine which is fine too)
5 – 6 garlic cloves, pounded
2 tbsp ginger, pounded
3 – 4 green chilies, slit, seeded, and pounded (I chopped these up after pounding them and took the skins of two of them away – otherwise I think it would have been really firey. If you’re into spice, leave them all in!)
2 tomatoes, diced
2 – 4 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp yogurt (again, nonfat, plain Greek works great)

Directions, Step 2

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet and pan fry the chicken until golden. When cooking 6 drumsticks you need to cook them for quite a while, almost 15 – 20 minutes. They don’t need to be fully cooked yet, but they need to be close. I had to flash cook the chicken separately at the very end because it was still raw near the bone, so save yourself the frustration and just do that now!
  • Once your chicken is almost fully cooked, remove from pan and set aside.

  • Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom (if you have it fresh), bay leaves, and cloves to the hot pan. Fry on medium until aromatic.
  • Add the onions and saute until brown around the edges.
  • Add the pounded ginger, garlic, and chilies and fry about a minute (until fragrant).
  • Stir in the diced tomatoes, the powdered spices, the yogurt, and the salt.
  • Add in the chicken and stir to coat. Let sit on low for about 5 minutes, then set aside (I moved it into another pie dish so I could use the same large skillet to cook the rice).


Ingredients, Step 3: The Rice

(Your 2 1/3 cup basmati that has now been rinsed, soaked for 30 minutes, and drained)
2 tbsp ghee (or melted margarine/butter…ghee’s still better)
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamoms (again I used ground cardamom, here about 2 tsp)
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
3 cups water
a pinch of saffron threads

Directions, Step 3

  • Heat the ghee in a large skillet and add the cinnamon stick, cardamom (fresh or powdered), bay leaves, and cloves. Fry until aromatic.
  • Stir in the rice and make sure to coat all the rice with ghee.
  • Rub the saffron threads together with your fingers over the water and let the soak a minute or two, then add the water to the skillet.
  • Bring to the boil over high heat.
  • Cover the pot and turn heat to low. Cook for 4 – 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the chicken. (At this point I would add in a handful each of golden raisins and cashews – a great textural and flavor addition to biryani!)
  • Mix well but gently so as not to break the rice. Cover and cook another 2 – 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes.
  • Serve garnished with chopped cilantro accompanied by paratha or naan and a cup of chai (find the recipe at the bottom of this post!).

Aside from adding golden raisins and cashews, I would also cut the chicken off of the bone if you’re going to save leftovers. It’s fun to have the whole drumstick the first night, but if you want to grab some for a lunch the next day, it’s easier to have the chicken already cut up into bite size pieces. Do cook it on the bone though because it comes out amazingly luscious and tender!

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