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Published September 8, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This Chicken Biryani Recipe has yogurt and spice marinated chicken that is cooked with layers of rice, crispy onions, and herbs for an extremely flavorful Indian dish. The flavors of this recipe will blow you away.
We eat chicken several times a week in our house. It’s quick to prepare, it’s a great lean protein, and it doesn’t break the bank. If you are similar, check out my Chicken Cordon Bleu or Chicken Marsala.
Chicken Biryani is a dish consisting of marinated and cooked chicken with spices, tomatoes, potatoes, crispy onions, herbs, and yogurt that is then braised with layers of pre-cooked rice, fried onions, herbs, and spices. Biryani, in general, is a popular rice-based dish in India, Pakistan, and nearby countries and will have many variations depending on who is cooking and where it is being prepared.
While the classical origin of the recipe is a rice-based dish cooked with herbs and spices, it is also common for it to be cooked with vegetables, fish, chicken, goat, lamb, or beef. The common flavors in this dish include spices such as bay leaves, cloves, cumin, saffron, turmeric, chili powder, and ginger, amongst others. The common spice blend to use in Biryani is known as biryani masala, but it is the same as garam masala with the addition of caraway seeds and Indian black stone flower.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken – I cut a whole chicken into breasts, thighs, drums, and wings.
- Garam Masala – I used my garam masala recipe, but you can buy pre-made. In addition to the powder version, you will need whole bay leaf, star anise, green and black cardamom, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, all in-ground garam masala.
- Chili Powder – There is an Indian red chili powder called Kashmiri. However, regular chili powder will work.
- Turmeric – Ground turmeric is what you will use.
- Salt – I always use coarse salt in my cooking and baking.
- Cilantro – Use fresh cilantro with the chicken, rice, and for garnish.
- Mint – You will use fresh mint for the chicken, rice, and for garnish.
- Yogurt – I use full-fat yogurt in the marinade that is strained. If you can find Indian Dahi, even better.
- Garlic – Finely minced garlic cloves are used in the marinade.
- Ginger – Peeled and finely minced ginger is what I used.
- Onions – Red onions would be the most classic. However, you can use yellow onions.
- Lemon – The juice of 1 lemon is used for the chicken marinade.
- Tomatoes – Any fresh tomato will work.
- Potatoes – You can use peeled russets or Yukon potatoes.
- Chiles – I used a hot finger pepper, but you can also use a jalapeño or serrano pepper.
- Milk – Whole, 1%, 2%, or skim milk will work.
- Saffron – This is used to color and flavor the rice before the final cook.
- Rice – You will need to use long grain Basmati rice for this.
- Ghee – This is clarified butter, where the milk fats have been cooked a bit further to give it a nutty flavor. You can purchase this at the store. Unsalted butter or regular clarified butter will work for this.
- Oil – Any cooking oil will do.
How to Make Chicken Biryani
Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.
Remove the chicken skin from the chicken breast, thighs, and drums, and slice incisions on each side.
Mix the chicken with the marinade and cover it with plastic wrap—Marinate in the refrigerator.
Add the oil to a large pot and fry the onions over medium heat, until they are brown and crispy Set them to the side on a paper towel to drain.
Rinse the rice in a strainer for several minutes until the water is clear coming out of the bottom.
Add the ghee to a large pot over medium-high heat and sauté the whole garam masala ingredients for 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour water into the spice pot and bring it to a boil. Season it with salt.
Add the rice and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until al dente.
Strain the rice and set it to the side to cool.
Return to the pot with the remaining oil where the onions were fried and turn the heat to medium-high.
Add in the marinated chicken along with the potatoes and cook for 5 to 6 minutes.
Flip the chicken over and cook for a further 5 to 6 minutes. Add the fried onions, mint, cilantro, and tomatoes, and mix to combine.
Layer on with half the cooked rice, mint, cilantro, half the remaining fried onions, and salt.
Repeat the process one more time. Top off with the remaining ghee.
Mix some warm heated milk with the saffron until it becomes very yellow.
Strain the saffron milk in circle motions over the rice.
Cover and cook over low heat for 30 to 35 minutes.
Plate the chicken biryani with the rice, potatoes, and chicken, and garnish with any leftover fried onions, diced cilantro, and mint.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten once it is finished cooking. However, keep it warm over very low simmering heat for 1 hour before serving.
How to store: Cover and store the chicken biryani in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can cover it and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of rice, potatoes, and chicken to a saucepan, and cover and heat in the oven at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until hot.
Chef Notes + Tips
- The longer the marinade process, the more flavorful and tender the chicken.
- You can use just breasts, thighs, drums, or any combination.
- You can substitute the fresh tomatoes for a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
- The classic way to make the pot airtight for cooking is known as Dum cooking, which uses a sticky water-flour dough that is applied to the rim of the pot before adding the lid.
- Use the leftover chicken carcass to make Chicken Stock and the leftover chicken wings to make my Smoked Chicken Wing Recipe.
- Do not use Greek yogurt for the marinade.
More Chicken Recipes
Chicken Biryani Recipe
For the Chicken
- 1 seeded finely minced hot finger pepper
- 8 cloves finely mined garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 cup full-fat yogurt
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 ½ tablespoons garam masala
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- juice of 1 lemon, about 2-3 tablespoons
- 4 1/2 pound chicken broken down into individual breasts, thighs, and drums. Leave the bones in the thighs and drums
- ½ cup avocado oil
- 2 peeled and thinly julienne sliced red onions
- 1 ½ cups medium-diced fresh tomatoes
- 2 peeled russet potatoes cut in half and thickly sliced
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
For the Rice
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 6 tablespoons ghee
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise
- 5 cloves
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ cup minced fresh mint
- ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
- 3 tablespoons heated whole milk
- 12-15 saffron threads
- coarse salt to taste
- Start by whisking together the hot finger pepper, finely minced garlic, finely minced ginger, yogurt, chili powder, turmeric, salt, garam masala, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Taste it to see if it needs any more seasoning. Set it to the side.
- Remove the chicken skin from the chicken breast, thighs, and drums, and slice 2 to 3 ¼” to ½” deep incisions on each side.
- Place the chicken into the bowl with the spice and yogurt mixture and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for as little as 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Add the ½ cup of oil to a large 10-quart Dutch oven pot and fry the onions over medium heat, occasionally stirring until they are brown and crispy, which takes about 15-18 minutes. Set them to the side on a paper towel to drain any excess. Turn the heat off under the pot.
- Thoroughly rinse the basmati rice in a fine strainer for several minutes until the water is clear coming out of the bottom. Keep the rice in the strainer and place it in a large bowl of fresh cold water. Set it to the side for a few minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons ghee to a large 6-quart pot over medium-high heat and sauté the whole bay leaf, star anise, cloves, green and black cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Pour 1 gallon of water into the spice pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Season it with salt.
- Add in the rinsed rice and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the rice is about 75% done and still has some bite. This is known as al dente.
- Strain the rice and set it to the side by spreading it on a sheet tray to cool quickly.
- Return to the pot with the remaining oil where the onions were fried and turn the heat to medium-high.
- Add in the marinated chicken along with the potatoes and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Be sure the potatoes are mixed in with the chicken and not just sitting on top.
- Flip the chicken over making sure to keep the potatoes in with the chicken, and cook for a further 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add 2/3 of the fried onions, 3 tablespoons of diced fresh mint, 3 tablespoons of diced fresh cilantro, and tomatoes, and mix to combine all the flavors and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Flatten out everything in the pot using a spoon and then layer on with half the cooked rice, 2 tablespoons of diced fresh mint, 2 tablespoons of diced fresh cilantro, half the remaining fried onions, and salt. Do not pack the rice when putting it on top, spread it out.
- Repeat the process one more time completely. Top off with the remaining 4 tablespoons of ghee.
- In a small bowl, add some warm heated milk and mix it with the saffron until it becomes very yellow. This only takes 2 to 3 minutes.
- Strain the saffron milk and pour it in circle motions over the rice.
- Place foil over the Dutch oven pot and then the lid. Cook over low heat for 30 to 35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes tender.
- Plate the chicken biryani with the rice, potatoes, and chicken, and garnish with any leftover fried onions, diced cilantro, and mint.