Chicken Biryani

Biryani is one of our favorite Indian meals (although some sources claim the dish to be Persian in origin) and it took me some time to master it. I think this is a fairly reasonable biryani recipe, at least closest to restaurant effect I could achieve by myself. Perhaps there are better ones out there or closer to the original taste but I am quite content with this one. What makes biryani different from tikka masala and curry is the cooking process. You are supposed to cook the chicken and rice together in layers.

Ingredients for the marinate:

  • 3 chicken breast fillets (around 400-500gr)
  • 400 ml yogurt
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 3 cm fresh grated ginger root
  • 3 cloves of garlic (grated as well)
  • 1/2 spoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 spoon salt
  • juice from half lemon
  • 2 bay-leaves
  • 6 green cardamon pods
  • 1 spoon of each: chili powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, dry mint, cinnamon


Wash the chicken breast and cut into cubes. Put in a pot, add yogurt and all other components of the marinate. Mix well and put to fridge overnight.


  • 2 onions
  • 2 cm fresh grated ginger root
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 spoon chili powder
  • salt
  • juice from 1/2 lime


Slice onions thinly and fry on olive oil, salt to make them softer. Add grated ginger and chili powder and cook the onion another minute or two until it starts to turn golden. When ready add to the chicken marinate and mix again. Pour in everything including the frying oil. Put aside for another hour.

 Preparing the rice:

  • 1 2/3 cup of basmati rice
  • 5 baby carrots
  • 1 cup of peas
  • fresh coriander
  • saffron

You will first have to half-cook the rice. Measure your cups of rice and cover with cold water. Let it rest in water for minimum 30 minutes. Then drain the water and wash the rice around 3-5 times until you see the water is not white from starch anymore. You want to add the same amount of boiling water as the amount of rice. So add 1 2/3 cup of boiling water. Now you can add salt and other spices if you would like to (like cinnamon, cardamon etc). You don’t have to add any spices though since the chicken and its sauce will already be very flavoursome. Boil covered on medium heat until all water evaporates. Do not stir the rice at any point during the cooking.

When the rice is ready transfer your chicken along with all of its marinate into your cooking pot. This pot should have a very tight lid which will prevent any steam going out. It does matter a lot, I managed to burn one pot thinking it will not make such a difference. It really does. Put a little bit of olive oil at the bottom of the pot and spread the chicken evenly. Then put rice on top of the chicken layer. Finally you can sprinkle the top with fresh coriander and saffron infused water. For that you can just take a few pieces of saffron and place them in hot water. Just a little bit of water though, around 10ml.

Now cover your pot and start cooking on medium heat for the first 5 minutes. Then go to love and cook another 20 minutes. Finally transfer your pot onto the smallest burner and cook another 10 minutes. Again if your pot is not tightly sealed the chicken can eventually either under-cook or burn to coal. Do not at any point disturb your biryani by trying to look inside or even stirring, just let it be. In the meantime take 5 baby carrots and julienne them. Fry on olive oil until soft. Prepare another pot with boiling salted water and cook 1 cup of peas in it. Not too long because you just want them to be tender. Then mix peas and carrots together and add to your biryani when it finishes cooking. Just layer it on top, cover again and let it all rest for 10-15 minutes. Now you can take the lid of and mix all the layers. Don’t be very meticulous about it though, do it just very roughly. It will look so much nicer if you have pieces of clean white rice next to rice covered in the chicken sauce. Plate your dish up and sprinkle some more with fresh coriander.

Apparently the best way to test if the rice and biryani cooked properly is to drop a handful of it on the floor. Each grain of rice should be separate. In this house though not a teaspoon of biryani can be wasted so I actually never applied that test :)


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