Hyderabadi chicken biryani is an aromatic, mouth watering and authentic Indian dish with succulent chicken in layers of fluffy rice, fragrant spices and caramelized onions. It is easier than most recipes while truly retaining the authentic taste and presented step by step. Cook like a native but with more ease!
This blog features healthy and delicious recipes, but as detailed in my food philosophy, there are some special times to enjoy our food cravings. Save this rich and delicious step by step biryani recipe prepared in dum style for a festive time!
This easy Hyderabadi chicken biryani dish, can of course be prepared with brown basmati rice, supplemented with quinoa and such.
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WHAT IS BIRYANI?
Biryani is a classic Indian mixed rice dish that is part of the Indian Mughlai culinary tradition, which traces its roots to central Asian cuisine and a rich fusion with Indian flavors and techniques.
As someone who grew up in a culture where biryani originated, it disappoints me when I see recipes that promise you ease and skip some important steps. Those are actually recipes for pulao (Indian pilaf), which are easier and also tasty but absolutely not the famously tasty biryani.
Recipes that skip these steps will not give you the taste that sets apart biryani for its fame. So you may end up spending the time making the recipe and left wondering why it doesn’t taste like what you had at your favorite Indian restaurant or friend’s place.
It is like you are looking for a classic carrot cake recipe but end up making a carrot muffin or carrot bread. Or you are looking for a pound cake recipe and are led into making an angel food cake.
I am all for innovation, but when you want to retain the authentic taste, you cannot make a creme caramel by skipping the caramelization! You cannot mix red curry paste and peanut sauce with noodles and call it “pad thai”.
Garam masala is a flavorful Indian spice blend but that cannot effectively substitute for a true biryani spice blend. Also, the basic flavors for a classic biryani should include browned onions, cilantro, yogurt, saffron etc.
If you take a fistful of good biryani and throw it on a plate, the rice should scatter as fluffy grains and not clump together. The meat or chicken should be well done, moist with thick juices and traditionally with bone.
This is unlike the Indian pulao which is prepared with all the ingredients together in one dish along with the added liquids. Therefore, the mouthfeel and taste are expected to be quite different.
WHAT IS HYDERABADI CHICKEN BIRYANI?
Hyderabad, the city of my childhood, is justly famous for its biryani – an addictive delicious rice and meat/chicken dish. Hyderabadi biryani is by far one of the most popular among the other regional versions.
It includes the use of yogurt, spices, cilantro, mint, saffron, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chili peppers and fried onions.
There are two versions of Hyderabadi biryani – one called a “pakki” biryani, where the meat or chicken is fully cooked before layering it with the rice and the final steaming.
The other is the “kacchi” biryani, where the raw marinated meat or chicken is placed in one single layer in the bottom of the cooking pot and then topped with partially cooked rice and steamed together.
It is the latter kind that I am presenting here, which has been further simplified for ease.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BIRYANI?
Biryani is typically served at festive occasions and considered a complete meal, along with a gravy side dish such as Hyderabadi Tomato Egg Curry and a small yogurt salad called raita – prepared with yogurt, sliced red onions, cilantro and such.
Other popular side dishes served with biryani are baghare baingan (eggplants in rich gravy) and mirch ka salan (chili peppers in creamy gravy).
Instead of raita you may also like a slightly different Persian version with shallots.
HOW TO MAKE EASY HYDERABADI BIRYANI
- Cooking of the rice grain to perfection is essential for the taste of biryani. And in traditional methods, the rice is boiled in a large quantity of salted water and strained when it has been partially cooked. This requires skill and attention from the cook.
- Here, I am using a rice cooker to do that part, but it is important to use minimal water to cook the rice (see note below). I typically use a ratio of 1¼ to 1½ cups water for 1 cup rice. And that can differ slightly with the age of the rice. Checkout more in the notes section of the recipe below.
- The idea is to cook the rice just enough, to be fluffy, retain its shape and be firm. Another rice dish where I have used a similar technique is a Persian recipe – Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken, Spinach and Prunes.
- If you are unable to fry the onions as described in the recipe, at the very least make sure to saute them until crisp golden brown like it is done in this Persian noodle soup recipe and adjust oil used for the rice and chicken.
- I do not use commercial biryani spice mix, but I have been told that the Shaan Sindhi biryani mix can be a close substitute. It is spicy so use carefully.
- Branded biryani spice mixes may include salt and chili powder. If they are used to substitute the biryani spices in the recipe, then the salt and chili powder should be adjusted accordingly.
BIRYANI SPICE BLEND (BIRYANI MASALA)
Grind all the spices below into a fine powder and store it in an airtight container to use as needed.
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 black cardamom
- 20 green cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 4 large bay leaves
- 4 teaspoons black caraway seeds (shahjeera)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
There are regional variations to the above mix which also include some coriander seeds, cumin seeds etc., but the list of spices above are still the dominant ones in biryani spice blends.
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani
- 3/4 lb onions yellow, sliced vertically
- 1½ cups peanut oil
- 1½ lb chicken cut and clean
- 2/3 cup yogurt reduced fat, thick
- 1½ tbsp ginger garlic paste (or grated ginger and garlic)
- 3/4 tsp salt (adjust per taste)
- 1 tsp chili powder (see note 2)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric ground
- 1 chili pepper (jalapeno, serrano or cayenne) adjust per taste
BIRYANI SPICES (see note 4)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 black cardamom
- 5 green cardamom
- 5 cloves
- 1 bay leaf large
- 1 tsp shahjeera (see notes, referred as black cumin or black caraway)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 cups basmati rice long grain
- 1 tsp salt (adjust per taste)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Whole spices (optional - 1 black cardamom, 2 green cardamom, 3 cloves, 1 small bay leaf, half cinnamon stick)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp cilantro fresh, chopped
- 1½ tbsp mint fresh, chopped
- 1 tsp saffron (ground and dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water)
- 1/2 tsp ghee (optional)
FRIED ONIONS FOR BIRYANI
- Heat the oil at medium high in a wide frying pan/kadai. If you place your palm about 3 inches over the surface of the oil, you should feel the heat. Or use a candy/fry thermometer.
- Fry the onions in about 3 batches, depending on the size of the pan. Do not crowd the pan. Fry until a crisp light golden brown. Set aside.
- Combine chicken with all the ingredients for the marinade and about 1/3 of the fried onions. For yogurt, start with 1/2 cup and increase as needed to 3/4 cup. The mixture should be thick and not runny.
- Grind all the biryani spices in a nut or spice grinder. Add the spice blend to the chicken marinade and combine. Marinate for about 3 to 5 hours.
BIRYANI RICE PREPARATION WITH RICE COOKER
- Rinse the basmati rice 4 to 5 times in lots of water until it is clear. Drain well. Soak 1/3 cup basmati rice in water for about one hour. Save the rest.
- Bring 2 ¼ cups of water to a rolling boil in a rice cooker. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil and whole spices if preferred. Then add the remaining 1 ⅔ cups basmati rice and stir. Let it cook just until all the water is absorbed (see notes 6 and 7).
- It is important to NOT let the rice steam until it is fully done. Just when all the water is well absorbed, transfer the cooked rice immediately to another wide open pan. In my rice cooker the whole process takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
ASSEMBLY OF RICE AND CHICKEN LAYERS FOR BIRYANI
- Transfer the chicken with the marinade to a 4 to 5 quart wide thick bottomed oven proof cooking pot (about 9 to 10 inch diameter). Make sure there is not too much marinade around the chicken pieces and that it is not runny.
- Sprinkle the cilantro, mint, half the lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over the chicken/marinade. Spread most of the remaining fried onions over the chicken.
- Drain the soaked basmati rice thoroughly well. Spread this rice over the fried onion layer. (This raw soaked rice will get cooked with the moisture/juices from the chicken).
- Next, layer the rice that was cooked in the rice cooker. Sprinkle, the remaining lemon juice, fried onions and saffron water. If preferred, sprinkle an extra 1/2 tablespoon ghee over the rice.
FINAL STEAMING OF BIRYANI
- Place one to two sheets of aluminum foil over the cooking pot. Place the lid tight over it. Bake the chicken biryani in a preheated oven at 350ºF for one hour, until the steam builds up well.
- Alternatively, this Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani can be cooked on a stove in a thick bottomed cooking pot. Heat the biryani at medium high for about 10 to 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to the low setting and simmer for at least one hour until the steam builds up well.
- Let it cool five minutes and gently mix the rice and chicken. Serve this Chicken Biryani with Hyderabadi tomato egg curry and/or a yogurt salad prepared with creamy yogurt, sliced red onions and cilantro.
- I used the 7.5 mm setting on my mandolin slicer to slice the onions finely.
- I used Kashmiri chili powder as it is mild. If you prefer it hot, then use regular chili powder.
- Shahjeera: These are referred to as black cumin in English in India and although are about the same size as regular cumin, are thinner, a bit curved in shape and black. The flavor is smoky and distinct from that of regular cumin. In the US market it is sometimes referred with various names by vendors - sometimes black caraway, other times black cumin. It is most often available at Indian stores and also from online Indian vendors. So it is best to verify from the seller at the Indian grocery store that it is "shahjeera".
- Rinse the basmati rice several times, until the water is clear and not starchy.
- If using whole spices for the marinade, just double the amount of spices in the recipe. When the spices are ground, the flavors are more intense. You may choose to use a ready made spice mix, but make adjustments for chili and salt accordingly.
- Adjust the oil as needed. If directions are followed well with the frying of onions, then the oil absorbed by the onions should be about 1 ½ tablespoons. But if proper technique is not followed, then more oil will be absorbed and the remaining oil used should be adjusted.
- The amount of water added while cooking the rice is very important to the final texture of this easy Hyderabadi chicken biryani. And it differs with the age of the rice. Basmati rice typically will need less water than other long grain rice varieties to yield a light fluffy cooked rice. With any batch of rice purchased, I usually use trial and error to determine the right amount of water needed for cooking. It may range from 1¼ to 1½ cups water per cup of rice.
- It is important to keep in mind the additional moisture from the other ingredients added to this dish, such as the chicken, herbs and yogurt. Therefore, in the first step, the rice should be cooked in a way to yield a fluffy rice, but holds its shape well and is not too wet and delicate. The soaked rice should be drained well and not be too wet. The chicken should be just lightly coated with the marinade. If the marinade is excessive it can result in the rice becoming soggy.
- A drizzle of ghee on the top adds a great flavor.
- Hyderabadi chicken biryani freezes perfectly well. Just thaw and reheat.