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Diaspora Co's Biryani Masala Master Guide

Recipe by: Asha Loupy

Serves 4

Diaspora Co's Biryani Masala Master Guide
Photo by:  

Melati Citrawireja

Say hello to our sixth house masala: Biryani Masala. This masala was chosen by you — our spicy lil community — during our 2022 March Masala Madness. Biryani is a celebration of aromatic, spice-laden rice cooked with hearty, marinated fillings. Every region of South Asia boasts their take on biryani as being the best there is. Without taking sides, we're proud to have created a blend that makes a damn good platter of biryani on its own, or acts as a deeply flavorful base for you to make a specific regional variation with! A perfect balance of spicy, salty, warming, earthy, and umami flavors, our masala is at once decadent and simple, distinct and customizable.

Our house biryani masala is a blend of 16 spices — sourced from 68 small regenerative family farms across South Asia — with a base of cumin, coriander, and fennel for tantalizing aroma and earthiness. Then cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and black pepper is layered in for warmth; black cardamom for fragrant smokiness; Kashmiri chillies for a whisper of heat; turmeric, green cardamom, and tejpatta for extra richness. Plus this blend also has ground ginger and garlic in it, eliminating having to chop the fresh stuff! Read more about Mughal cuisine and the origins of biryani and pulao here.

Use this recipe to create a simple, yet stunning chicken biryani or use the masala as a flavor base for:

These four regional-inspired recipes are just a sampling of the amazing biryani made across the Indian subcontinent and South Asian diaspora — if you use our house masala in one of your family's recipes, we want to hear about it! Send us an email, a DM, or share a photo and tag us on Instagram.

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  • ½ cup (125g) plain, full-fat yogurt, plus more for serving
  • 4 tablespoons (30g) Biryani Masala
  • 1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more
  • 2¼ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1½ cups basmati rice
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • ¼ cup ghee
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • Pinch of Kashmiri Saffron
  • ½ cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped


  1. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, biryani masala, and salt, and whisk until smooth. Add the chicken and stir to coat each piece in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.
  2. Place the basmati rice in a medium bowl, fill with cold water, swish the rice with your fingers, and drain. Repeat the process until the water almost runs clear, about 3 to 4 times. Fill the bowl with cold water and let the rice soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. While the rice is soaking, fry the onions. Heat ½” canola oil in karipot or 5-quart Dutch oven over medium high heat. Stir in half of sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, 9–12 minutes. (Keep an eye on the onions during the last few minutes, as they will darken quickly.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer onions to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat the process with remaining sliced onions; set onions aside.
  4. Discard the frying oil or save for another use and wipe out the pot. Return to the pot to medium high heat and add the ghee. Once the ghee is melted, add the marinated chicken and any leftover marinade, stirring to coat the chicken in the ghee. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken starts to turn opaque and loses its raw appearance, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add ½ cup water, stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is fully cooked through and tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. The chicken should release some liquid, but if the gravy starts looking dry, add a couple tablespoons of water during the cooking to loosen things up. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  6. While the chicken is cooking and the oven is preheating, parboil the rice. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Salt the boiling water so it tastes like the sea (this is your chance to season the rice from the inside out!). Drain the soaked rice, add to the boiling water, stir, and cook until the grains are al dente, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  7. Place the milk in a small bowl and heat in the microwave until hot, but not scalding, about 20 to 45 seconds (time will depend on the wattage of your microwave). Crumble the saffron into the hot milk and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
  8. To layer the biryani, sprinkle the parboiled rice in an even layer over the hot chicken masala. Spoon the steeped saffron over the rice, then sprinkle with the fried onions and cilantro. Cover and bake until the rice is fully cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, keep covered, and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve directly out of the pot or transfer to a serving platter. Enjoy with more plain yogurt on the side.

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