Chicken Biryani

There are lots of biryani recipes online, including this detailed & (seemingly) traditional guide from Swasthi’s Recipes. (If you’re unfamiliar, Swasthi is a serious powerhouse; her website is a tour-de-force.) However, like almost everything I’ve made more than a few times, I just can’t seem to stick to recipes as they’re written. In the case of this dish, here are some changes I’ve made to my initial approach:

Beyond these small changes, my recipe is pretty standard, but I’d like to write it up anyway, if only for my own reference to make sure I don’t forget things.

Recipe: Chicken Biryani (Feeds 4-6)

First, marinate the chicken overnight. It’s best if this step is done ahead of time, so that the acidic yogurt can tenderize the chicken. Marinade ingredients (amounts are very rough here, everything should be to taste):

Mix all this together. Then, using your hands, thoroughly apply the marinade to 2-3 lbs of chicken drumsticks and/or thighs until evenly coated. If marinating for only a few hours, you can add lemon juice to the marinade, otherwise no need.

Another step you can do the day before is caramelizing/frying onions in butter or ghee.

To assemble the biryani, you’ll need:


  1. Broil the chicken on high until it develops some dark charring; one side is sufficient.
  2. Transfer the chicken to the base of a dutch oven, spread into one layer as much as possible, and pour any excess marinade over top.
  3. Bring a large amount of water to a boil with the whole spices and 2 sprigs each cilantro and mint. As if you’re making pasta, add 1 tbsp salt (or enough for the water to taste salty), and boil the rice for about 5 minutes. The rice should be parboiled about 75% of the way to cooked, so it should still be starchy on the inside.
  4. Layer half the rice over the chicken, transferring some of the whole spices with it as well. Top the rice with caramelized onions, fresh cilantro/mint sprigs, a splash of saffron milk, 1-2 tsp total of floral waters, and 1 tsp of garam/biryani masala. Layer the rest of the rice on top of all this, and again repeat with the rest of the same garnishes.
  5. Cover the dutch oven with its lid and cook in the oven at 325F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes, mix, and serve with additional cilantro and lemon wedges.

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