CHicken Biryani
Credit: Azhar Ghani

I love biryani. I can eat it every day, every meal. Making a biryani, a good biryani, is not as easy as it sounds. I have tried different recipes, different masala powders, and even different rice, before I found the easy to follow recipe which tastes great.  

You can use the below method with both biryani masala (powder) available off the shelf as well as homemade masala. I am going to present a very quick recipe for masala as well.  I tried the family recipe of my wife's grandmother in which the masala was not prepared beforehand but added during cooking. The said recipe also needed the chicken marinated for 2 hours before cooking.  

The method I am about to write will only take about 15 to 20 mins of preparation. The masala used is not difficult to prepare and you can even batch prepare and refrigerate it in air tight jars you can use in future (though I don't recommend leaving it for more than 2 weeks). 

Biryani Masala


  • Green Cardamom seeds (Elaichi in Urdu) -- 4 to 5 seeds
  • Black Cardamon (Barri Elaichi ) -- 2 seeds 
  • Nutmeg and Mace Spice (Jafal Javateri) -- 1 stick
  • Bay Leaf - half small leaf (Taiz paat) 
  • Coriander seeds (Dhaniya) -- 5 table spoons (Tbsp) 
  • Cumin seeds (Sabut Zeera) -- 2 Tbsp 
  • Cinnamon Sticks (Dar Chini) -- 3 medium size
  • Cloves (Long) -- 8 to 10
  • Whole Black pepper (Sabut Kali Mirch) -- 1 tea-spoon (tsp)
  • Fennel Seeds ( Saunf) -- 1 tsp

One optional item you can add is a star Anise, commonly known as biryani ka phool. However it is not easily found so you can left out if it is not available. 


Making the powder is very easy. Grind it. That is it. 

but before grinding, if you just roast all the spices in a dry fry pan till you start getting aroma out of all the seeds it brings out the flavor better. So heat a frying pan on high heat and just put all the ingredients in. Stir them around for 30 secs (if the frying pan was hot, otherwise till you start getting aroma). Take them out and put them in blender. 

Now just blend them. The biryani masala is ready. You can store this in an air tight jar and refrigerate it for future use. 

Preparing the chicken

Imagine my surprise when I tried to make biryani for the first time. I found out that you cook chicken and rice separately. I always imagined that you just boil rice put in chicken and other ingredients and stir it around till you get biryani.

Important: Before we start with the chicken, first take out rice and soak them. The rice needs soaking at least an hour before cooking. See the Rice section for quantity information. 

Now lets see what we need for make the chicken. 

Chicken Ingredients

  • Chicken -- 500 grams  boneless or 1 Kg with bones 
  • Salt -- 2 Tbsp (as per taste) 
  • Red chili powder  -- 1 Tbsp
  • Whole Black pepper -- 1/2 tsp
  • Onion -- chopped 2 medium 
  • Tomato -- 5 medium 
  • Ginger Garlic paste -- 2 tsp
  • Yogurt -- 1 cup
  • Lime -- 3 medium 
  • Oil
  • Turmeric -- 1/2  tsp
  • Biryani masala (either a packet or made through above method) 



If the chicken is boneless, cut it in small cubes. Just like you used in the chicken handi recipe. Medium size pieces are okay for the with bone chicken. Wash the chicken and put it on the side. 


Chop the onions. Minced, blended, big squares or small or any other method. Everything goes.


Cut the tomato in 4 pieces each. 


Take one lime and take its juice out. The other two, cut them in small circles from one end to another. 

That is it for preparation. On to cooking. 


 Take a medium size pot and put it on high heat. Add oil (around 2 Tbsp) and let it heat.  Add onions and start stirring. wait till onions become light brown. do not wait it to get dark brown as the heat is high you don't want to burn the dish before it starts. 

Once the onions are light brown. Add 2 tsp of ginger garlic paste and mix it well. Now wait till the brown color starts getting darker. As soon as you see all onions are now brown, add in the chicken. 

Stir the chicken on high flame till the color chicken starts to change. At this time add yogurt and tomato. Due to high heat the yogurt and tomato will discharge water. It might seem enough but you need to add 1/2 cup of water in as well at this time. 

Once you have put in the water you need to add in everything else. Add red chilli, black pepper, juice of one lime, salt, and turmeric. The biryani masala you can adjust for flavor. I feel that adding 1.5 Tbsp for 1 cup of rice is good enough, but 1 Tbsp is fine as well. I suggest you go with 1 Tbsp first and next time raise it if you feel like it. 

The stove is still turned high. You will need to stir it till the oil separates from the mixture. You want it a bit thick than a normal gravy.  heat it till it does not run if you take it out on your finger.  Adjust salt and chilli as required. 

The chicken part is complete. Take it off the stove and put a lid on the pot. 

(If you're wondering what happened to those 2 other limes we prepared, good catch. They will come later).

Preparing the Rice

There is a valid reason that amateur cooks, such as myself, are not very keen to make biryani. Even if you are using packet method, a lot of things can go wrong. The most difficult part is to get the rice right. The first few times the result resembled more a goo than something that you will willingly put in your mouth.  No matter how good the chicken is, if the rice is not done right, the biryani will lose its meaning.  Some say that a good biryani is one in which each rice strand is separate from the other. That is hard to do in best of circumstances. 

I usually take 4 cups of rice (I love biryani) but feel free to adjust the amount. 


As mentioned above, I hope the rice are already soaked for at least an hour. Wash them thoroughly.

Now heat twice cups of water and bring it to boil. An electric kettle does wonders at this time. So for the 4 cups rice, boil 8 cups of water.


Take a large pot (for 4 cups of rice). Put it on high heat add the rice and pour in the boiling water. Add 3 to 4 tsp of salt, add the other half of the Bay leaf. 

Heat another 2 cups of water meanwhile. 

Let the rice boil for a while. The rice will drink all the water and so you will have to add more water. Keep the rice soaked in water. Check regularly, take our the rice strand, press it between your fingers, if it easy to press and does not feel too sticky then it is ready for next step. Remember it would still not be completely ready . This is a bit tricky to find the first time. 

So as soon as you believe rice is almost ready, drain the rice in a strainer. The rice cooking is complete. Now its time to combine the two. 

The Biryani

Clean out the large pot (Wok is better). Add a small layer of oil in the bottom. This is to save the chicken or rice from getting burnt later. Add layer of chicken gravy. Take 2 pieces of lime (Yay! we finally used them) and put it on the chicken layer. On top of chicken add a layer of rice. On rice another layer of chicken gravy, lime circles, and again rice. Keep on doing it till you run out of chicken gravy and then add the remaining rice on top. Now add 1/10 cup of boiling water, some food color and close the lid. Put this pot (wok) on low flame and leave it for 5 - 10 mins.

Biryani with Lid
Credit: AzharGhani

My little daughter insists having pink color added to the rice (it is her favorite color after all).

Check if the rice are completely cooked and remove the lid.  Take it out in a dish and serve. 

Credit: Azhar Ghani