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.
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.
It is prepared with layers of fluffy basmati rice, marinated meat or chicken, browned onions, cilantro, mint, yogurt, saffron, ghee and spices. Classic biryani can justly be called the crown jewel of Indian cuisine, a dream dish that should not be missed.
What is Hyderabadi Biryani?
Hyderabad, the city of my childhood, is justly famous for its biryani - an addictive delicious rice and meat/chicken dish. And 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 parboiled 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 or raw rice mixed with yogurt and steamed together.
It is the latter kind that I am presenting here, which has been further simplified for ease.
Perfect Biryani Rice
What sets apart biryani from other rice dishes is the texture of the rice grains - fluffy and separate, they almost scatter like pearls. And achieving that texture is one of the challenges faced by many cooks while preparing biryani. The recipe here overcomes that challenge by showing you exactly how to get that perfect rice grain - every single time!
Why is This Recipe Easier?
- You don't have to cook the chicken separately before layering it with the rice.
- Reliable and easy rice cooking technique for perfectly fluffy rice.
Step by Step Overview
Below is a pictorial overview of the cooking process. The full recipe is at the end of the post.
- Fried Onions: Slice the onions very finely and fry until crisp and light golden brown.
- Chicken Marination: Combine chicken with all the marinade ingredients, 1/3 fried onions and ground biryani spice blend.
- Rice Preparation: Rinse basmati rice until clear. Soak 1/3 cup rice in water. Cook the remaining rice in rice cooker.
- Assemble Rice and Chicken Layers: Transfer chicken with marinade to a cooking pot. Sprinkle chopped cilantro, mint, half lemon juice, some olive oil and most of the remaining fried onions.
- Drain soaked rice and spread it over the chicken.
- Then layer all the cooked rice. Sprinkle remaining fried onions, lemon juice, saffron water and ghee over the rice.
- Final Steaming: Cover with parchment paper, followed by aluminum foil and fit the lid tight over it. Bake in oven for one hour, until steam builds up well.
- On Stove top: Alternatively, heat biryani at medium high for 10 to 15 minutes and then simmer at low for one hour until steam builds up well.
- Cool biryani for five minutes. Gently mix rice and chicken and serve.
BIRYANI SPICE BLEND
Grind all the spices below into a fine powder and store in airtight container. One fourth of this blend will be enough for the biryani recipe below.
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 black cardamom
- 20 green cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 4 large bay leaves
- 4 teaspoons black cumin seeds (shahjeera)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon mace (optional)
The most important spices are cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. There are regional variations to the above mix which also include some coriander seeds, cumin seeds etc., but the list of spices above are the dominant ones in traditional biryani spice blends.
PRO TIPS AND TRICKS
- Rinse basmati rice several times until the water is clear and not starchy.
- Perfectly fluffy rice grain is essential for the taste of biryani.
- Rice cooker: use minimal water to cook the rice. With a new batch of basmati rice, test 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups water per cup of rice and confirm what works.
- Aged basmati rice will give the best results and is more fragrant.
- Additional moisture: Keep in mind moisture from other ingredients such as the chicken, herbs and yogurt. So the cooked rice should be fluffy, separate, retain shape well, not too wet and delicate. The soaked rice should be drained very well. Chicken should be just lightly coated with the marinade. If the marinade is excessive it can result in the rice becoming soggy.
- Slice onions finely: I used the 7.5 mm setting on my mandolin slicer.
- Adjust oil as needed: If frying directions are followed properly, then oil absorbed by onions should be about 1 ½ tablespoons. But if not followed, then more oil will be absorbed and amount needed should be adjusted.
- Alternative to frying onions: If you are unable to fry onions then saute them until crisp golden brown like in this Persian noodle soup recipe and adjust oil used for rice and chicken.
- Branded biryani spice mixes may include salt and chili powder. If using that, then salt and chili powder should be adjusted. I do not use commercial biryani spice mix, but have been told that the Shaan Sindhi biryani mix can be a close substitute. It is spicy so use carefully.
- Optimal amount of salt and oil is very important. If everything else is right and you don't use right amount of salt, that alone can ruin the taste of biryani. For oil I use a minimum of 2 tablespoons of oil per cup of raw rice, as there are additional ingredients - chicken, onions etc.
- Whole spices can also be cooked wrapped in a muslin cloth, like the one used for boquet garni or a metal mesh cooking infuser. If using whole spices for the marinade, just double the amount of spices in the recipe. When whole spices are ground, the flavors are more intense.
- Make Ahead: Chicken can be mixed with the marinade a day before.
Frequently Asked Questions
Choose the highest quality aged basmati rice from a popular brand. Most popular brands offer a variety of basmati rice, from standard to ultra special. For wide selection, check out larger Indian grocery stores or online.
If using the traditional method, cook the rice in plenty of salted water just for 4 to 6 minutes until rice is parboiled, making sure the grains don't get overcooked. Soak rice prior to cooking, to make the grains stronger. Use optimal amount of water. And cook the biryani in a wide mouthed cooking pot.
For the traditional method, boil the rice in lots of salted water, using a ratio of 3 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 cup of rice. For the rice cooker method test a ratio of 1¼ to 1½ cups water for 1 cup rice (differs with age of rice).
The usual rule of thumb is to use equal amounts of rice and chicken by weight, which is 1:1 (Example: one pound rice to one pound chicken). But if you want more meat or chicken you can use a ratio of 1:1.5 or 1:2.
Classic biryani is prepared using basmati rice, meat or chicken marinated in yogurt and spices, cilantro, mint, saffron, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chili peppers and fried onions.
To cook biryani, it is best to use a wide and thick bottomed cooking pot over the stove.
Use thinly sliced onions and fry them in fresh oil, in batches and take them out when they are crisp, light and golden brown. They should not turn soggy or dark brown. Drain on paper towels.
Steaming the biryani is achieved by a tight seal. So a tight fitting lid or placing a few aluminum foil sheets on the top before shutting the lid tight. Traditionally the lids used to be sealed with a rope of wheat flour dough wrapped around. Sometimes a weight may be placed on top of the lid.
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.
Use chicken on bone. Make sure there is enough yogurt and juices around while cooking and also dont overcook it. Use optimal amount of water for the rice. And if the rice is undercooked before steaming, then sprinkle some water all over the rice before placing the lid.
Any water that is collected over the marinated chicken should be scooped out and discarded. Make sure to not use too much yogurt. The excess juices can be cooked off by evaporating while stirring on high heat and without the lid on the pot. Do not overcook the rice.
Biryani is prepared by layering parboiled basmati rice with marinated or cooked meat or chicken and then steaming it together. In between the layers, fried onions, fresh herbs, lemon juice, saffron water etc are used. The final dish will have fluffy and separate rice grains in a variety of colors - white, yellow and brown from the absorption of spices, juice and saffron.
The Indian pulao (pilaf) is prepared as a one pot dish. Sauteed onions, spices, meat or chicken, herbs and measured amount water or stock are all cooked together until well done. The pulao rice grains will have a more uniform color from the mixture of spices and juices.
The mouthfeel and taste of biryani and pulao are expected to be quite different.
Biryani is typically served at festive occasions and considered a complete meal, along with a gravy side dish such as baghare baingan (eggplants in rich gravy), mirch ka salan (chili peppers in creamy gravy) or Hyderabadi Tomato Egg Curry and a small yogurt salad called raita – prepared with yogurt, sliced red onions, cilantro and such.
Instead of raita you may also like a slightly different Persian version with shallots.
More Delicious Recipes:
- Persian style lentil cranberry rice
- Saffron rice with chicken, yogurt and spinach
- Persian shrimp rice
- Persian green bean rice
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani
- 3/4 lb onions yellow, finely sliced
- 1½ cups peanut oil
SPICES (see note 9)
- 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.
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
- 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, drizzle an extra 2 tablespoons ghee over the rice.TIP: If you prefer, you may pick out the whole spices from the cooked rice before steaming.
- 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. Using a spatula mound the biryani on a serving plate, making sure to present the rice in various colors - white, yellow and brown. Place some chicken pieces on the top. Scatter browned onions, chopped herbs, extra saffron rice on the top.
- 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.
- Rinse the basmati rice several times, until the water is clear and not starchy.
- The amount of water added while cooking the rice is very important to the final texture of this 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 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups water per cup of rice. The idea is to cook the rice just enough, to be fluffy, be separate, retain shape and be firm.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 recipeand adjust oil used for the rice and chicken.
- 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.
- Whole spices can also be cooked wrapped in a muslin cloth, like the one used for boquet garni or a metal mesh cooking infuser. 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.
- Using the optimal amount of salt and oil is very important. If everything else is right and you don't use appropriate amount of salt, that alone can ruin the taste of the biryani. For oil I use a minimum of 2 tablespoons of oil per cup of raw rice, because that will also be needed for the chicken, onions etc.
- It is best to use whole chicken, with bone, cut and clean. You may use chicken leg quarters or thighs too, but avoid chicken breast as it will be too dry.
- Make Ahead: The chicken mixed with marinade can be made ahead a day before. Make the fried onions ahead.
- Biryani freezes beautifully. Leftovers can be stored in refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or frozen for later.
- Ghee is available at many supermarkets and Indian grocery stores. You can easily make it at home from butter following the instructions in this chickpea cookie recipe notes section.
This post was first published on May 1st 2016 and has been updated with improvements in recipe formatting, tips, FAQs and additional enhancements.