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Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani

Recipe by: Asha Loupy

Serves: 4 to 6

Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani
Photo by:  

Melati Citrawireja

One of the most well-known and beloved biryani in the wonderful world of biryani, Hyderabadi biryani is highly aromatic, fragrant with rich, warming spices — a mark of the Mughal influence — and flavored with garam masala, powdered red chillies, lots of saffron, and fried onions.

This version is made using the pukka method where the meat and rice are cooked separately and then layered and cooked together. While the classic versions of this regional biryani are usually made with mutton, our version is made with chicken thighs that get marinated with our house Biryani Masala, Byadgi chillies, cilantro, a touch of mint, and yogurt. The chicken is slowly cooked until tender and then par cooked basmati rice is layered on top along with saffron-infused milk and fried onions.

Hot tip: If you don't want to stand over a hot stove frying onions, you can fry your onions in the microwave (yes, the microwave!) using this hack from America's Test Kitchen. Or, you can buy store-bought fried onions (we won't judge).

Cooking for a larger crowd? This recipe can easily be doubled! When preparing this larger size, you are going to want to 1) Use a larger pot 2) Do two layers when you get to the assembly point: Remove half the cooked chicken and gravy, then top with half the rice, layer the remaining half of the chicken, and top with the last half of the rice, finishing with the saffron water, fried onions, and chopped cilantro. 3) Increase the bake time to 30 to 35 minutes.

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  • ½ cup (125g) plain, full-fat yogurt, plus more for serving
  • 4 tablespoons (30g) Biryani Masala
  • ½ teaspoon powdered Byadgi Chillies
  • ¾ cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, finely grated (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more
  • 2¼ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1½ cups basmati rice
  • cup ghee
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 pods Iniya or Baraka Green Cardamom, lightly crushed
  • 4 to 6 whole Kandyan Cloves
  • 1 stick Wild Cinnamon
  • 1 leaf Himalayan Tejpatta
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • Pinch of Kashmiri Saffron


  1. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, biryani masala, byadgi chillies, ¼ cup cilantro, mint, serrano chile, if using, 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 the ghee in a 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 to 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. Return the pot to medium heat, leaving the remaining ghee in the pan. 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. Add the green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, and tejpatta to a large pot, fill with water, and bring 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!), remove the whole spices and discard them. 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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