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Large platter filled with cooked lamb and chicken biryani recipe.
5 from 5 votes

Biryani Recipe

Traditionally this recipe would have been made with mutton. Unfortunately, mutton was nowhere to be found here in central California, so I substituted with chicken and lamb. Feel free to include your own personal favorite meat of choice.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
marinate time2 hrs
Total Time4 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 522kcal


Fried Onions

  • 3 medium yellow onions peeled and thinly sliced
  • cups oil (sunflower oil or peanut oil)

Biryani Spices (used in the marinade)

  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole green cardamom
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp black cumin seeds (shah jeera)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Chicken and Lamb + Marinade

  • 5 chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs
  • lbs lamb shoulder boneless or bone-in, chopped into large chunks (you may also use lamb chops or leg of lamb)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp mild chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 Serrano peppers seeded and diced
  • 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt

Par-Cooked Rice + Rice Preparation

  • cups long-grain white basmati rice divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 whole green cardamom
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick


  • 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves chopped
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp good-quality saffron soaked in 3 tbsp of hot water or warm milk
  • 4 tbsp melted butter or ghee (optional)


Fried Onions

  • Let's start by frying some onions. For best results, try to slice your onions super thin. This will help them get nice and crispy and will also help them cook faster - two things we want when we're frying onions.
  • To fry, heat the oil (sunflower oil or peanut oil) in a large, wide frying pan with high sides over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (you should feel the heat on your hand when you hover your palm 2-3 inches above the oil), add the sliced onions in a single layer (avoid overcrowding). Fry until golden, light brown, and crispy. Remove using a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels and repeat until all onions have been fried. Set onions aside and strain leftover oil for use in later recipes.

Biryani Spices (needed for the marinade)

  • Transfer the cinnamon stick, whole green cardamom, whole cloves, bay leaves, black cumin, and black pepper to a nut or spice grinder. Grind completely. Set aside.

Chicken and Lamb + Marinade

  • Combine the minced ginger, garlic, salt, mild chili powder, ground turmeric, diced Serrano peppers, and full-fat yogurt in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground biryani spices (from the previous step above) and mix well to combine.
  • Add the chicken drumsticks and lamb pieces to the marinade. Use your hands to thoroughly mix and coat the entire surface of the chicken and lamb.
  • Add approximately 1/3 of the fried onions and mix again. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. Marinate for at least 2-3 hours.

Par-Cooked Rice + Rice Preparation

  • Approximately 90 minutes before you plan to serve your biryani, start the rice.
  • Divide the rice before washing/soaking. Place 1/2 cup of rice in a medium bowl and cover with approximately 3 cups of cold water. Set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes. Thoroughly wash the remaining 2 cups basmati rice in several changes of cold water, or until the water runs nearly clear. Drain well.
  • Bring 2½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of oil, and whole spices (green cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon stick). Once boiling, immediately add the rinsed rice. Stir and reduce heat to low.
  • Cook until all the water is absorbed - this will only take approximately 5-10 minutes. Do not cover and steam the rice. We are only cooking the rice about halfway.
  • Immediately remove from heat and gently fluff with a fork. Transfer to a new, larger pan or (as I like to do) transfer to a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set aside.

Assemble the Biryani

  • Layer 1: Remove the marinating chicken pieces and lamb from the refrigerator. Transfer the chicken and lamb (plus the marinade and spices its been bathing in) to a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe, Dutch Oven or large pot (at least 5-7 quarts).
  • Layer 2: Sprinkle the chopped cilantro and fresh mint over the chicken and lamb. Top with half (or all) of the remaining fried onions and drizzle with fresh lemon juice.
  • Layer 3: Drain and rinse the remaining 1/2 cup of soaking basmati rice. Spread over the onion layer. This uncooked rice will help absorb much of the steam/moisture from the cooking lamb and chicken, preventing it from making the par-cooked rice too soggy.
  • Layer 4: Spread the par-cooked basmati rice over the top of the uncooked white rice (I highly recommend removing the whole cloves and whole green cardamom before adding to the pot). Drizzle with the prepared saffron water and 1-2 tablespoons of melted ghee or butter, if desired.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • To prevent any steam from escaping, place 1-2 sheets of aluminum foil over your cooking pot or Dutch oven. Place the lid directly on top (I love using a heavy Dutch oven for this because the lid is so heavy and sits snug directly right on top of the foil).
  • Transfer pot to the oven and cook for approximately 45-60 minutes (total cooking time will vary depending on the size and cut of meat used).
  • Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before gently mixing the rice and chicken. Serve directly from the pot or transfer to a large serving plate with additional cilantro or mint. Serve with creamy yogurt, crisp cucumbers, and fresh naan.


Not added to this recipe but highly recommended:  add a cup of dried cranberries or raisins at the same time as the uncooked rice (before you add the cooked rice). The sweet addition really helps balance the flavors.
For best flavor, avoid using chicken breast meat as it is most likely to dry out. Instead, use chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs (skinless or skin-on). 
If you really LOVE fresh herbs, you may add more to the dish before cooking, or serve additional fresh herbs on the side


Calories: 522kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 105mg | Sodium: 716mg | Potassium: 594mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 159IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 97mg | Iron: 3mg
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