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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!


Chicken marinated in a spiced yoghurt is placed in a large pot, then layered with fried onions (cheeky easy sub below!), fresh coriander/cilantro, then par boiled lightly spiced rice.

The crowning glory is to finish it off with a drizzle of saffron infused water to give it the signature patches of bright yellow rice, as well as ghee (or melted butter) for buttery richness.

The pot is then covered and cooked over a low heat for about 25 minutes during which time the rice absorbs the aromas and flavours of the curry underneath, whilst still being beautifully fluffy.

That moment when you lift the lid and are greeted with this sight, that moment is only second to this: when you dig deep into the pot, ensuring you get some of every layer, and the full force of the aroma from the curry buried deep under the rice hits you, and it takes every single bit of will power to gravitate that spoon towards a bowl instead of attempting to shove that entire giant scoop in your mouth….


  • 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.

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