Chicken Biryani Recipe

A chicken biryani recipe made with tender chicken on bone, saffron, cashews and long grain basmati rice. So good!

Chicken Biryani

Who isn't familiar with chicken biryani? Only someone living under a rock!

The online space is full of one chicken biryani recipe after another. Just type in the phrase in Google and see the sheer number of results that the search engine spits out. It's startling.

Like all things very popular, there are countless variations, and needless to say, all of them are not good. To eat ho-hum biryani is quite a drag, so it's nice to know a few facts about it. Here goes!

1. The wrong ingredients can ruin a chicken biryani recipe before it's even had a chance 

To the old khansamas (chefs) of North India, it would be nothing short of blasphemy to add ingredients like potatoes, tomatoes, turmeric (ugh!) or even too much spice in a biryani recipe. These ingredients alter the very nature of biryani, and if I may go so far, corrupt it. 

And yet, I have suffered through one overly yellow, impossibly hot, potato filled disaster after another in my biryani eating adventures! I don't know the reason why these versions have become so ubiquitous, but I do know that I prefer biryani the way it was made through the ages in the kitchens of North India: a delicately spiced rice and meat preparation with loads of flavour and taste.

Here, I share with you my chicken biryani recipe that I have perfected over the years. And if you'd rather have a mutton biryani, simply sub the chicken for mutton. Only, cook it longer so that the meat becomes tender. If I'm making mutton biryani, I always cook the mutton in a pressure cooker. And that brings me to my second point.

2. Mutton biryani is considered to be superior in taste to chicken biryani 

Surprised? Since traditional biryani has always been made with mutton, not chicken, connoisseurs of the dish actually look down upon biryani made with chicken! It's true that white meat doesn't pack the same punch as red, but I personally think this is a matter of individual taste; it really boils down to which meat you prefer. Chicken or mutton .... it doesn't matter in the end as long as you follow some basic biryani-making principles:)

3. The rice you use can make or break a biryani 

I can't stress this enough ... you must use the best quality Basmati rice you can find to make biryani. If you make biryani with sub-par rice or any rice other than Basmati, you won't be doing justice to this king of dishes. I use Tilda (no affiliate links) because it is the most fragrant, long-grain Basmati rice I can find in the market. 

A special note about my chicken biryani recipe: I have stopped adding food colour to my biryani, so I'm not including it here. Yes, biryani looks very pretty with those fiery red streaks, but food colour is an artificial ingredient which is really very harmful for your health, even in small amounts. 

The solution? I colour my biryani with a pinch of saffron dissolved in a little milk. Good quality saffron adds a suffused orange-ish tinge to the rice. Your biryani will not look so flamboyant, but it's a much better choice than food colour. Just don't go overboard with the saffron because it has a very distinctive fragrance and taste too. You don't want a biryani that's too saffrony. 

Ready to give the most awesome chicken biryani recipe a try? Let's go!

Chicken Biryani Recipe

INGREDIENTS

For the chicken gravy:

  • 400 grams chicken on the bone, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced fine
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, pureed
  • 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt, slightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp Shan Sindhi Biryani Masala

For the rice:

  • 500 grams basmati rice, washed and soaked for 15 minutes
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 3-4 green cardamom
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 3 tbsp salt

For the garnish:

  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced finely
  • 8-10 cashewnuts (optional)
  • 8-10 strands saffron dissolved in half a cup warm milk

METHOD

The Chicken Gravy:

1. In a dutch oven or deep pan, fry the finely sliced onions until reddish brown. Add cumin seeds and stir.

2. Add pureed onion, ginger-garlic paste, coriander and Kashmiri chilli powders, Shan Sindhi Biryani Masala. Cook this mixture for 5-7 minutes, adding yoghurt 1 tablespoon at a time in between. Keep stirring the masala throughout.

3. Add chicken and cook until the oil separates and the chicken is tender. Keep adding splashes of water to keep the gravy from burning (25-30 minutes). The gravy should be thick and shiny when the chicken is done, not watery.

The Rice:

4. While the chicken is cooking, take around 12 glasses of water in a large pot and set it on high heat. Add salt and whole spices. 

5. When the water starts boiling, add rice and cook until the rice is 80% done (al dente). 

6. Drain the rice in a colander and discard the water and whole spices. 

Assembling the chicken and rice for biryani: 

7. In a heavy-bottomed, deep and wide pot (it could be the same one in which you boiled the rice), spread half the rice at the bottom. Then, spread the cooked chicken in a layer above the rice and top with the remaining rice.

The Garnish: 

8. Fry cashews (if using) in oil until light brown and add them to the biryani. Reserve the oil.

9. Fry onions in the same oil as above until they are reddish-brown and pour immediately over the biryani.

10. Pour the saffron-infused milk over the biryani.

11. Cover the pot with a lid and set it on the lowest heat possible for 15-20 minutes.

12. Take off the lid and with the help of a wide spoon, gently mix the rice and meat together. Your chicken biryani is ready to be served now!

Serves 6-8

Shan Sindhi Biryani Masala
Cooked Chicken
Cooking Rice
Assembling the biryani
Assembling the biryani (topmost layer)

TOP TIPS

1. Shan Sindhi Biryani Masala and Tilda rice (no affiliate links) are available at any Indian or Pakistani grocery shop or the international aisle of major supermarket chains like Walmart. If you can't find Shan, any biryani masala will do. I just have a personal preference for Shan.

2. It is important to assemble the biryani in a large enough pot as mentioned earlier in step 7 above because the rice needs space to bloom. If the pot is smallish and the rice and chicken are crammed in, the rice will break and the biryani will look smushed.

3. If you don't want to go to the trouble of removing the whole spices from the cooked rice by hand (step 6), take the spices in a square piece of cheesecloth and tie the ends firmly. Immerse this bag in the pot of water at the same time as you add salt. Simply remove the bag once the rice is done and ready to be layered. The rice would have absorbed the flavours of the spices just as well.

 4. Serve the biryani with raita (cold, whisked yoghurt mixed with dry-roasted and ground cumin plus salt) for a truly lip-smacking combo!

Chicken Biryani
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