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. This is easier than most recipes, while truly retaining the authentic taste and presented step by step. Cook like a native but with more ease! (See blog post for secret tips)
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, 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.
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. 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 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 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.