My Sister’s Chicken Biryani

I have grown up eating my sister’s food and her chicken biryani is to die for! Growing up, my sister was a vegetarian but would always cook non-vegetarian food for us on Sundays. She would eat the rice in the biryani but not the chicken. While she has crossed over today (!), her biryani has become legendary! It’s one of my top requests when I visit her. I’ve tried hard to follow her recipe to a T and after several attempts realized that it will never live up to hers. Nevertheless, my attempts are always an ode to hers. Hope you enjoy it!

My Sister's Chicken Biryani


For marinating the chicken:

Chicken – 900 gms 
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1.5 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Yoghurt – 4 tbsp

For the Masala:

Cloves – 3
Cinnamon – 1 inch piece
Garlic – 12 large cloves
Ginger – 3 tbsp
Green chillies – 7
Dry red chillies – 8
Onion – 1, medium-sized
Fresh Coriander – 1 cup

For the Biryani:

Oil/Ghee – 5 tbsp
Cloves – 5
Cinnamon – 1-inch piece
Cardamom – 3
Bayleaf – 1
Onions – 2, medium-sized
Basmati Rice – 3 cups
Water – 5.5 cups


Marinating the Chicken

  • Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces and place them in a bowl
  • Add turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder, ginger-garlic paste and yoghurt. Mix well and cover with cling film
  • If you can, allow this to marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 30 minutes

Making the Masala:

Chicken Biryani - Masala

  • Heat oil in a pressure cooker
  • Add cinnamon and cloves and fry for a minute
  • Add chopped ginger and garlic and fry for a couple minutes
  • Add chopped green chillies and dry red chillies
  • Fry for a couple more minutes before adding roughly chopped onions
  • Fry until the onions begin to turn brown
  • Take off heat, and add chopped fresh coriander
  • Mix well and allow this masala to cool
  • Once it’s cooled, grind in a mixer
  • Add about a tablespoon or two of water, though this isn’t necessary
  • The paste need not be smooth

Making the Biryani:

  • Heat ghee or oil in the same cooker you used to make the masala
  • Add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and bay leaf
  • Fry this for a minute and then add onions
  • Fry the onions till they turn golden brown
  • Add the ground masala and fry for about 2 minutes
  • Add the marinated chicken pieces and salt to taste
  • Fry for about 4 minutes before adding the rice
  • Add water and pressure cook for 2 whistles
  • Serve hot with raita!

– Cook the biryani in a pressure pan. The cooking is more even and the dish turns out much better
– You can use chicken breast only or pieces with bones too. The latter adds more flavor to the dish
– The ratio of spice is 5 chillies for every cup of rice and then divide the final count between fresh green ones and dry red chillies
– The ratio of water is generally double the quantity of rice. But I usually reduce this by half a cup. I feel it’s perfect that way
– You can use brown basmati rice instead of white. The quantity of water and number of whistles will have to change though

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