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Chicken Biryani

Biryani is a celebration of all that is great about Indian food – the heady aromas, the vibrant colours, the fluffy rice and those addictive curry flavours. Make this Chicken Biryani with your protein of choice – or try a vegetable biryani!


  • 750g (1.5 lb) chicken thighs , skin on, bone in, halved along bone (Note 1)


  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) yoghurt , plain

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (or other plain oil)

  • 6 garlic cloves , minced

  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (adjust spiciness to taste)

  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

  • 2 tsp garam marsala (Note 2)

  • 2 tsp coriander

  • 1 tbsp cumin

  • 2 tbsp paprika , sweet / ordinary (not smoked)

  • 1 3/4 tsp salt


  • 2 tbsp salt

  • 10 cloves

  • 5 dried bay leaves

  • 1 star anise

  • 6 green cardamon pods

  • 2 1/4 cups (450g) uncooked basmati rice (Note 3)


  • 2 medium onions (yellow, brown) , halved and finely sliced

  • 1 cup (250 ml) oil , for frying


  • 1 tsp saffron threads (loosely packed) (Note 5)

  • 2 tbsp warm water


  • 1 cup coriander / cilantro , chopped

  • 1/4 cup (60g) ghee or unsalted butter , melted (Note 6)


  • Crispy onions (above)

  • Chopped coriander / cilantro

  • Yoghurt (Note 7)


  • Mix Marinade in a large pot (about 26cm / 11" diameter). Add chicken and coat well. Marinade 20 minutes to overnight.


  • Bring 3 litres / 3 quarts water to the boil, add salt and spices.

  • Add rice, bring back up to the boil then cook for 4 minutes, or until rice is just cooked still a bit firm in the middle. Rice will taste salty at this stage, disappears in next stage of cooking.

  • Drain immediately. Set aside. (Note 10 re: leaving whole spices in)


  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Cook onion, in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Don't burn - they become bitter.

  • Remove onto paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining onion.


  • Place in a bowl, leave for 10 minutes+.


  • Place pot with chicken in it onto a stove over medium heat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

  • Remove lid. Cook for 5 minutes, turning chicken twice.

  • Remove from heat.

  • Turn chicken so skin side is down - it should cover most of the base of the pot.

  • Scatter over half the onion then half the coriander.

  • Top with all the rice. Gently pat down and flatten surface.

  • Drizzle saffron across rice surface in random pattern, then drizzle over ghee.

  • Place lid on. Return to stove over medium heat.

  • As soon as you see steam, turn down to low then cook for 25 minutes.

  • Remove from stove, rest with lid on for 10 minutes.


  • Aim to serve it so you get nice patches of yellow rice, white rice, the curry stained rice + chicken (rather than all mixed up). To do this, use a large spoon and dig deep into the pot, and try to scoop up as much as you can in one scoop.

  • Turn out into bowl - or onto platter. Garnish with remaining onion and coriander with yoghurt on the side (see Note 7 for Minted Yoghurt)


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