Chicken biryani is made by layering fragrant basmati rice over chicken marinated in a rich, delicious mix of spices and yogurt. Learn how to make perfect Chicken Dum biryani every time, with this recipe.
(This recipe was first published in Jan 2020, and has been updated with modified instructions and images)
Chicken biryani has made it to the global map, and for good reason. This dish is a feast, a labor of love that is certainly worth the extra effort it takes to make it. Biryani can seem complicated, but honestly, it is not tricky to make if you follow the steps that I’ve detailed in this recipe.
What is Hyderabadi-style Dum Biryani?
'Biryani' is a meal made by layering rice and meat together, and cooking these ingredients in whole spices such as bay leaves, cinnamon, and cardamom, aromatics such as mint, coriander, spices powders, and topping the layers with roasted nuts and caramelized onions. One of the most popular versions of the dish is the chicken dum biryani – which is made by partially cooking rice and layering it with partially cooked chicken. The dish is sealed and cooked together so that they are cooked together in the steam created by the chicken. This method is known as 'dum'.
The cuisine of India is vast and varied, and the varieties of biryani are numerous, indigenous to the region that they belong to. Hyderabadi chicken dum biryani is one of the more popular versions. The Hyderabadi chicken biryani recipe is special because it uses saffron to give the rice a delicious, rich aroma and the chicken is marinated in browned onions, for an extra depth of flavor.
Why this recipe works
- This recipe has been tried and perfected more than 100 times (its a weekend staple!)
- Gives you the authentic taste of Hyderabadi-style chicken biryani
- A delicious feast that is so much better than the restaurant version
List of Ingredients
To make dum chicken biryani, we will need the following ingredients:
Ingredients for chicken marinade
Chicken thighs and legs (bone-in) - I personally prefer bone-in chicken thighs and legs, however, you can use boneless chicken as well. For the best flavor, use thighs and legs and not breast pieces.
Biryani masala - I make my own biryani masala (ground spice mix), by dry-roasting cloves, fennel, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, black cardamom, star anise, and mace, and grinding them together. Optionally, you can also use a store-bought good-quality biryani masala such as 'Shan' (available at local Indian stores).
Other Spices - Turmeric and Kashmiri Red chili powder are used for adding color and a slight heat. If you want a spicier biryani, you can also add green chilies or jalapenos.
Herbs - Fresh mint and coriander/cilantro are key ingredients for adding flavor. Chop them finely and use it in the marinade.
Ghee - Ghee is super important for making perfect chicken biryani! Try not to replace ghee with anything else.
Red onions - I recommend using red onions instead of yellow. They have a stronger taste and are used to add flavor to the marinade and as a garnish as well. The onions are caramelized before adding to the marinade.
Ingredients for rice
Rice - Always go for high-quality long-grained basmati rice. Pre-soak the rice for up to 30 minutes before you start to cook. This will ensure the grains stay long and intact.
Want to cook Basmati rice in your Instant Pot? My recipe for Instant Pot Basmati rice has lots of tips and tricks for beginners
Whole spices - The pre-soaked rice is cooked in water with added cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom (green and black), and bay leaves. Tip - if you don't like biting into a whole spice, you can tip up the spices in a small cheesecloth and add them into the water with rice. Remove after cooking.
Step-by-Step Recipe Instructions
Step 1- Marinating the chicken for biryani
Start by browning the onions - slice them thin and saute with ghee in a pan, with a sprinkle of salt, until golden brown and caramelized.
Prepare the chicken for the marinade. In a large mixing bowl, add the yogurt, red chili powder, enough salt to season, biryani masala, minced ginger and garlic (or ginger-garlic paste), mint and cilantro, lemon juice, chicken pieces, and mix well. Add 3/4 of the browned onions. Reserve some of the onions later for the garnish.
Keep the marinated chicken refrigerated for at least 1 hour. The longer the chicken is marinated, the more flavorful and tender. If possible marinate overnight.
Step 2 - Making the biryani rice
- Soak the rice in cold water for 20 -30 minutes. Then rain the rice and rinse it 2-3 times to red it of excess strach.
- In a large vessel, add the rice, water, whole spices, and a teaspoon of salt to taste.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, until the rice is partially cooked. The rice should break when you pinch a grain between two fingers.
- Immediately, drain the rice into a colander. You could also run cold water over the rice to stop it from cooking further. Keep aside.
Step 3 - Assembling and cooking dum biryani
5. In a small saucepan, add saffron strands and cover with a couple of tablespoons of warm milk. Let it sit until the milk turns golden yellow. Keep aside.
6. In a heavy bottom large vessel (I use a Le Creuset Dutch Oven), add ghee, spread the ghee evenly over the bottom and sides.
7. Add the marinated chicken, and cook for 7-8 minutes with the lid covered. Do not overcook. The chicken will release its juices as you can see in the image. The chicken will be partially cooked at this stage.
8. Add the partially cooked rice over the chicken in a single layer. Add the saffron and milk over the rice.
9. Cover the rice with the reserved browned onions, roasted cashews, and raisins.
10. Cover the pot with a lid - if you are using a Dutch oven or any pot with a heavy lid, you don't need anything else to seal the pot. If using a lightweight lid, place a heavy object on the lid to keep it firmly in place and seal it tight. Cook for 8-10 minutes on medium heat. Do not cook on high heat otherwise, the residue at the bottom will brown.
How to make Chicken Biryani in the oven
Chicken dum biryani can be assembled on the stovetop as explained above, and then can be finished in the oven. Continue with the same steps as above, and layer the partially cooked chicken and rice.
To make this recipe in the oven, place the pot with the layered chicken and rice in a preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes at 190 C. then take it out and serve.
Biryani can be served with various accompaniments, the most popular of which are raita for biryani (vegetable raita), pickle (achaar), and salan (curry), a South Indian style gravy.
Raita: A dip made of yogurt, and very often tempered with cumin seeds, garam masala, and coriander, this cooling side is the perfect foil to a full-bodied biryani dish. I like added pomegranate seeds to tempered yogurt, and serving this as a side for chicken biryani. This recipe for raita is easy and delicious as well!
Pickle (achaar): Indian pickles are typically made with vegetables and/or dried fruits and marinated in brine or oils. Indian spices are added as well, to preserve the pickles. Lemon pickle, mango pickle, vegetable pickle – these are common sides for chicken biryani.
Salan: A curry, sometimes with added whole chilies, salan is a popular side, usually served in Indian restaurants. This recipe for ‘mirch ka salan’ or chilli curry is easy to follow and makes this dish even more flavourful and enjoyable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Biryani can be made with a few different varieties of rice, but the most common one is the long-grained basmati rice. This rice holds its shape, is aromatic, and isn’t glutinous, making it ideal for this recipe. A tip for perfectly cooked Basmati rice is to soak it in water for 15-20 minutes before cooking. Jasmine rice can be used as a substitute for basmati rice in biryani.
There is a thin line of difference between what defines a pulao and a biryani. In general, biryani is made by layering rice with meat or vegetables – with the rice being the bottom and the top layer. A pulao is usually cooked with the vegetables themselves, making this a one-pot dish.
Biryani can be made as much or as little spicy as you need it to be. A tip to reduce heat in the biryani is to use Kashmiri red chili powder in the chicken marinade. This spice powder is low on heat, yet gives a vibrant red color to the meat. Spice powders are added to the marinade and whole spices are added while cooking the rice. These add flavor to the biryani but do not increase the heat or potency of the biryani.
More Indian Recipes
Chicken Dum Biryani Recipe
- Dutch Oven
- 600 grams Chicken thighs and legs preferably bone-in
- 2 red onions thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp ghee to brown the onions
For the chicken marinade
For the rice
For assembling the biryani:
- 2 tbsp ghee to coat the biryani vessel
- a few saffron strands
- ¼ cup milk
- ⅓ cup mint and coriander chopped
- 8-10 Raisins, sauteed in ghee
- 8-10 Cashewnuts, sauteed in ghee
- In a pan, heat the ghee and add the sliced red onions. Saute on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until onions are golden brown. Keep the caramelized onions aside - 3/4 of this will be used in the marinade and 1/4 for the final garnish.
- In the same pan, add a teaspoon more ghee and saute the cashews and raisins on medium heat, until the cashews start to turn golden brown. Keep aside for the final garnish.
For the chicken:
- Clean the chicken thighs and legs, pat dry
- In a large bowl, mix the chicken pieces along with all the ingredients listed under the chicken marinade + 3/4 of the browned / caramelized onio. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or upto overnight.
Prepare the rice:
- Soak the rice in cold water for 20-30 minutes.
- After soaking, drain the water, rinse it 2-3 times and keep aside.
- In a large pot on the stovetop, add cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, and green and black cardamom.
- Add the soaked and drained rice, a teaspoon of ghee, salt to season, and 3 cups of water.
- Cover the pot and cook the rice for 10-12 minutes, until the rice is partially cooked. Take a grain of rice between two finger and press it, it should break into firm pieces.
Assemble the biryani:
- Warm some milk and add a few strands of saffron. Let the saffron steep for at least 10 minutes in the milk.
- In a heavy bottom vessel such as a Dutch oven, add 2 tbsp of ghee, spread it over the bottom and sides of the vessel.
- Add the marinated chicken, and cook for 7-8 minutes with the lid covered. Do not overcook. The chicken will release its juices and will be partially cooked at this stage.
- Add the partially cooked rice over the chicken in a single layer. Add the saffron and milk over the rice.
- Cover the rice with the reserved browned onions, roasted cashews, and raisins.
- Cover the pot with a lid - if you are using a Dutch oven or any pot with a heavy lid, you don't need anything else to seal the pot. If using a lightweight lid, place a heavy object on the lid to keep it firmly in place and seal it tight. Cook for 8-10 minutes on medium heat. Do not cook on high heat otherwise, the residue at the bottom will brown.
- The chicken dum biryani is now ready. To serve, take a large spoon and spoon out from the bottom, plate up the biryani with a side of raita or achaar.
- To make biryani masala, heat a saucepan on medium heat and add 1 large cinnamon stick, 5-6 green cardamom, 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds, 1 star anise, 1 tablespoon cloves, 1 teaspoon whole black pepper, 1-2 whole mace. Roast for 4-5 minutes, until aromatic. Then grind the spices in a spice mixer or blender jar. Store and use for biryani.
- Optionally, you can also buy store-bought biryani masala, however, the taste will vary by the type of masala you buy. I recommend making your own biryani masala.
- To do the final cook of the layered biryani, you can use either the stovetop or an oven. To finish the chicken dum biryani in the oven, assemble and cover the vessel. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C for 15 minutes.