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May 7, 2013

How to Make Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani Recipe

Amma makes amazing chicken biryani. Her recipe has evolved and changed over years and now she has two versions, one is the more homely one-pot chicken biryani and the other is a layered chicken biryani, the recipe of which she got from a caterer in our local club and adapted over the years to suit our tastebuds. She often claims that biryani is the easiest thing to make because she doesn't have to make rice and then a kuzhambu or pulusu and then two side dishes, etc etc. Even a simple vegetable pulao needs some sort of a side dish but a biryani doesn't need much else except a simple onion raita and papad on the side. Also, everyone loves a GOOD chicken biryani!

Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Well, maybe not everyone, because we do have some vegetarians in the family. Which is another reason why she developed this layered chicken biryani recipe. You can cook the biryani rice separately and the chicken gravy separately, to be mixed at the time of serving, or like in my case, I do it on my plate directly! She also adds some vegetables to the rice so that it's more wholesome for the vegetarians. So take this recipe as just a base or an idea and adapt it to suit your needs.

These pictures are almost 2 years old and I had been meaning to take step by step pictures but amma makes this over 2 days sometimes and it's nearly impossible to be around all the time when she's doing a small step here or there. I've tried to make up for the lack of step by step pictures through the detailed instructions.

Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

As Amma does, some work for the biryani can be done in advance. She usually makes the chicken gravy the day before, makes the rice on the day, and then layers them up before serving. This way, you get to control how much spice you have in your biryani, set aside some for the kids/vegetarians and be in control.

Amma's recipe notes have all quantities in bulk to serve the large family gatherings this is usually made for. I have scaled the recipe down to serve 4 people so any obvious mistakes in quantities are mine. As always, the list of ingredients for a biryani will always be long but the entire cooking process is not hard, just more time-consuming than normal dishes.


Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 2 hours
Serves 4
Recipe source: Amma

  • For the Rice:
  • 2 cups of basmati rice
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp of crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp of crushed garlic
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A small piace of cinnamon
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 tsp of cumin / jeera
  • 1/2 cup of carrots, cut into small cubes (optional)
  • 10 cashew nuts
  • 10 raisins
For the Chicken Gravy:
  • 1 kg of chicken pieces, with bones
  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp of minced ginger
  • 1 tsp of minced garlic
  • 2 tsp of coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp of powdered fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp of chicken masala
  • 1/2 tsp of garam masala (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 2 tomatoes
  • A small bunch of coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • A fistful of mint leaves
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 5-6 green chillies
  • 3 tbsp of ghee or oil
  • 1 tsp of pepper powder

How to Make Chicken Biryani:

For the Rice:

Soak the rice for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a wide pan and add the sliced onions along with the whole spices (cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, cardamom, star anise). Fry the onions stirring frequently.
Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Grind or crush the garlic and ginger together. Add this to the frying onions and fry until the onions turn a dark golden brown. Drain and set aside. (If using carrots, add along with the ginger, etc and cook together).

In the same pan, fry the cashew nuts and raisins until golden. Drain and set aside with the fried onions.
Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Once the rice is done, mix it with our onion mixture, add the fried raisins and cashew nuts on top and set aside.
Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Cook the rice following whichever method you prefer. We usually cook the rice for biryani in an open pan but you can use the rice cooker or pressure cooker too. Just make sure the rice doesn't get overcooked. The grains need to remain separate.

For the Chicken Gravy

Grind or crush ginger + garlic + green chillies
Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Heat the ghee or oil and add onions. Fry until golden brown and add the ginger-garlic-chillies paste. Fry for another minute and then add the spice powders chicken masala + coriander powder + fennel powder + pepper + turmeric. Saute for a minute.
Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they turn soft. At this stage, the mixture will turn mushy and gravy-ish.

Add the washed and cleaned chicken pieces + salt + sugar + 1 cup water and mix well. Bring to boil and cook closed until the chicken is completely cooked. The meat will let out water so don't add too much. Cook on a low flame until done. Then, garnish with garam masala, coriander leaves, mint leaves and more pepper powder. Mix well and set aside.

The chicken gravy should be a bit watery as you see below. If not, add more water and cook further for a bit longer.
Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Layering the Chicken Biryani

About an hour before serving, take a large serving dish and add a layer of rice. Top off with some chicken and gravy. Add more rice. Repeat this 2 more times. Keep the dish closed and at the time of serving, gently mix and transfer to plates.
Chicken Biryani - Layered Chicken Biryani

Serve chicken biryani with tomato cucumber raita or onion raita and papad.

For Chicken Biryani recipe in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, please use the Google Translate button on the top right of this website.