chicken biryani

For an easier version, try my weeknight biryani
For a vegan version, try my vegan biryani


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • About 3/4 cup cooking olive oil (divided; most of the oil is just for pan frying and will not end up in the dish)
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced (2 cups sliced)
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 2 russet potatoes (1 pound 2 ounces), sliced into thin half-moon slices
  • 4 1/2 cup water (plus more for soaking and rinsing the rice)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 2 1/4 cup frozen peas (12 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup black raisins
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken (3 small breasts and 3 thighs, or another combination), cut into small chunks **


  1. Combine the allspice, paprika, cayenne pepper, and curry powder. You will use this spice mixture, along with salt, to season each element of the dish as you cook, to your own particular preference. ***
  2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat for a minute or two. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and add the onions. Season with salt and spices to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are a soft and a little golden-brown. Set aside on a plate (keep all components separate until the last minute).
  3. Add 1/2 cup of oil to the pan, turn the heat up to medium-high, and let it heat for about a minute.
  4. While the oil is heating, submerge the rice in a few inches of water, and then let it soak for about 30 minutes while you cook the potatoes.
  5. Working in about 3 to 4 batches, add some of the potato slices to the pan of oil, so that they cover the bottom of the pan without overlapping. Fry them for about 4 minutes per side and season them with salt and spices as they fry. Once they’re crispy and golden-brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and cool on paper towels. Remove the sauté pan from heat while you work on the rice.
  6. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear.
  7. Add the 4 1/2 cups water and 1/2 stick of butter to a stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add the rice and season with 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and spices to taste. Stir to combine and then do not stir again. Boil, uncovered, for about 6 minutes. Once you can tilt the pot to the side without the water pooling around the side of the pan, cover, reduce the heat to low, and continue to steam the rice for 9 more minutes. After 9 minutes, turn the heat off, do not uncover or stir, and let it sit until you’re ready to assemble the dish.
  8. Remove most of the oil from the sauté pan (optionally, set aside a few tablespoons to drizzle over the rice), leaving about 2 teaspoons in the pan, and turn the heat to medium. Add the peas and simply season them with salt while you cook them for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until heated through and slightly dimpled. Set aside in a bowl.
  9. Add the 1 tablespoon of butter to the sauté pan. Add the almonds and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly they are golden brown. Add the raisins in the last minute of cooking. Set aside.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the chicken and sauté for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through and golden brown. Season with the spices and salt as it cooks and add any chicken drippings (and, optionally, the couple tablespoons of oil you previously set aside) to the cooked rice.
  11. Fluff the rice with a fork, and taste each component, adjusting the seasoning as necessary.
  12. Spoon the rice over a very large serving dish. Top with onions, chicken, potatoes, peas, almonds, and raisins (in that order).
  13. Serve at this temperature, or move to a 250° oven for about 25 minutes to heat all the way through.


Serving suggestion: Biryani makes a complete dinner, and it’s certainly special enough to serve on its own without much else at the table. But if you want a little extra something, any yogurt-based sauce would go great on the side, such as tzatziki or raita, which adds a little more moisture to biryani’s crunchiness.

* This recipe is easily halved. If you reduce the recipe, you should add a few extra tablespoons of water to the rice. I like to make the full amount because the left overs hold up very well in the refrigerator or freezer.

** You can easily substitute your favorite meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.) or meat-substitute. If you’re using a delicate vegetarian substitute like chickpeas or tofu, you should coat them in a thin layer of oil, season them with salt and some of the spice mix, and roast at 425° F until lightly browned and crispy, instead of sautéing. Other good vegetarian substitutes are quorn or seitan, which can be sautéed just like meat.

*** You might end up using the whole amount of spice mix, or you might only use half. If you have any left over, you can serve it next to the dish at the table. I use all but one or two teaspoons.