Chicken Biryani
120 Min

Chicken Biryani

Biryani is the decadent aromatic rice dish that was created during the Mughal era of India – it is a mashing of the Persian pilaf and khichri, a traditional Indian lentil and rice stew. In a biryani, all elements are cooked separately and then brought together, allowed to rest for about 30 minutes to an hour before serving. In this biryani, since we are using white meat which tends to dry out very quickly, the chicken is roasted in the oven separately and then added to the rice just at the end. The onion masala adds depth to the flavor of the biryani so caramelize the onions long and slow.

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Cook Time

120 Minutes



To Marinate Chicken
Step 1
In a medium sized bowl, combine the chicken pieces with yogurt, garlic, olive oil, turmeric, amchur, garam masala and salt. Set aside in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours or up to 2 days.
Step 2
To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 450F. Place the chicken pieces in the oven separately in a single layer on a greased baking pan and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are almost cooked through. They will finish cooking with the biryani. Take the chicken out and let it rest.
To make Onion Masala
Step 1
In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot, warm the ghee and fry the crushed spices for 2 to 3 seconds. Immediately add the onions and cook on high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until they are sweaty and translucent. Lower the heat and continue browning the onions until they are golden in color.
Step 2
Then add the ginger, chile powder, tomatoes, and salt. Lower the heat and continue cooking until the tomatoes soften and the masala is fairly dry. Let this masala rest until all the other elements of the biryani are ready.
To make Saffron Rice
Step 1
Rinse the rice 2 to 3 times in tap water then soak for 2 to 3 hours (or soak overnight in the refrigerator). Drain. Separately soak the saffron in 2 tablespoons water for a few hours or overnight.
Step 2
In a stockpot, combine the drained rice with 2 cups water, saffron (with water), cinnamon stick and salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately cover the stockpot and simmer the rice for 8 to 10 minutes.
To assemble the biryani
Step 1
Heat the onion masala in the Dutch oven until simmering. Slide the warm rice over the masala. Place the chicken (along with any juices that may have come off the chicken while cooking) over the rice. Dot the top with currants and cashews.
Step 2
On low heat, cook this entire mixture together for 5 to 7 minutes or finish it in the oven at 450F for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with cilantro sprigs and fried onions if desired.

Chicken Marinade

1-pound boneless chicken breast, cut into 1.5-inch cubes

1/4 cup plain yogurt

2 teaspoons minced garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon amchur

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon salt

Onion Masala

1/2 cup ghee

1 teaspoon black cumin seeds

1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

1 teaspoon crushed green cardamom seeds

2 cups minced onions

2 tablespoons minced or grated fresh unpeeled ginger 

1 1/2 teaspoons red chile powder

3/4 cup of canned crushed tomatoes (or 1 1/2 cups of fresh minced tomatoes)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Saffron Rice

1 cup basmati rice

Generous pinch saffron

1 teaspoon salt

2 to 3 small whole cinnamon sticks

2 tablespoons olive oil


1/4 cup dried currants, sliced

1/4 cup chopped cashews

Small handful of fresh herbs (such as cilantro or mint) 

Fried onions

Notes & Variations

  • Instead of tomatoes, add a cup of plain yogurt or coconut milk and cook it slowly until the masala is mostly dry.
  • Any nuts or dry fruit will work from dried raisins, dates, pistachios, pecans, and cashews.
  • Fried onions are optional and can be purchased at any Indian grocer.
120 Min

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