Biryani is the ultimate rice dish that’s enjoyed all over India and Pakistan. It’s a layered rice dish that’s made by dolloping thick rich tomato-based curry between layers of Basmati rice.
Biryani is one of those sub-continental dishes whose complex flavors and aroma almost convince you that you may just never learn how to make it from scratch. I’d like to get it out of the way that Biryani, in general, has a relatively steep learning curve because the rice demands some TLC.
You can’t just rake your fork through the rice like that. It has to be handled ever so gently and should retain a bite before you begin layering it with the Biryani chicken masala.
This Homemade Biryani recipe inspired by the Biryani popular in Karachi (hint: potatoes!) is for you, who knows HOW to layer and properly give the Biryani “dum,” (a process that relies on slow and even cooking by trapping steam into the pot), but rely on prepackaged spices to get by.
My homemade Biryani spice blend that has hints of Star Anise (Badiyan ka phool), prunes, cardamom, nutmeg and fennel, is as authentic as it gets!
This Homemade Biryani recipe is also for you, who has never attempted to make Biryani at home simply because you were intimated by the involved and somewhat overwhelming cooking process. This recipe has gone through intense testing and I’m so excited for you to try this. Be patient, and I highly encourage you to watch my video even if you aren’t into visuals. The video shows the step-by-step process and goes over some tips I learned during testing.
Make Karachi Biryani with HOMEMADE Biryani Spice Mix
Homemade Biryani Masala (Spices to grind)
- 3 star anise whole
- 10-12 cloves whole
- 1 black cardamom whole
- 5 green cardamom whole
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp black pepper whole
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick 3"
- 1/2 of a whole nutmeg
Homemade Biryani Masala (Spices to add to the above ground masala)
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/4 tsp red chili powder you can add 1/4 tsp more if you like really spicy
- 1 black cardamom whole
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp salt
Chicken Curry Layer
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 red onions thinly sliced
- All of the Homemade Biryani Spice Blend this is the blend we made earlier
- 1 lb chicken with bones if using boneless thighs, go with 1.5-2 lbs
- 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
- 1/8 cup each mint/cilantro
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 3 tomatoes chopped
- 3 potatoes halved (small potatoes are better)
- 1 cup water
- 2 green chilies
- 2 tsp rose water or kewra when layering the Biryani
- yellow food color I use the powder "Egg Yellow" color
- 15-16 cups water
- 3 cups Basmati rice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp Homemade Biryani Spice Blend
- 1 tbsp salt
- Grind all the ingredients under Homemade Biryani Masala (Spices to grind).
- Tip the ground masala in a bowl, then add the remaining spices under Homemade Biryani Masala (Spices to add to the above ground masala). Thoroughly mix all the spices really well. You can add it to a tupperware and shake shake shake.
- Add 15-16 cups of water to a large pot and let it come to a boil
- Pre-soak long grain Basmati rice for 15-20 mins only. I usually do this while water is coming to a boil.
- Once water begins to boil, add a bay leaf and 1/2 tsp of the Biryani Masala we just made. Drain the water from the rice and add the rice to the pot. Let it cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes. It's important to not cook your rice completely. It should be 80-85% done and should have just a little bite. I get the desired "bite" at the 13-minute mark. Once you reach that stage, strain the rice and spread it in an even layer on a baking tray. DO NOT PILE HIGH. Piling the rice will trap moisture which will result in soggy and mushy Biryani.
- Allow rice to cool while you make curry.
- Add oil in your pan and add sliced onion once the oil glistens. Let it brown, (takes about 20 mins).
- Once onion is golden brown, add the Homemade Biryani Spice Blend and give it a mix.
- Next add chicken pieces and coat well in the spices.
- Add ginger garlic paste, mint, cilantro and yogurt and mix really well until the chicken is no longer pink.
- Add tomatoes and potatoes and mix.*
- Add one cup of water and increase the heat to medium. Once it comes to a boil, cover the pot with lid, lower the flame to low to medium and allow to cook for 30 mins.
- After 30 mins, add in two green chilis (I slit one in half and leave the other one whole). Check to make sure the potatoes don't overcook. Remove them to a bowl once they are for fork tender.
- Pop the lid back on the pan and let the curry simmer on low heat for another 10 mins.
- After the 10 mins, the oil should have separated and the curry should be nice and thick. Give the curry a good stir for a couple minutes.
- At this point taste for salt again. The spice blend has plenty of salt but you will need to add more because it will make sure the final Biryani is ready and well salted.
How to layer Biryani and give DUM
- To layer the Biryani, preheat your oven to 300F.
- In a large pan, add some of the curry sauce to the bottom.
- Next use a large spatula and spread a thin layer of rice on top. Divide the remaining rice in three sections for the layers.*
- Next, scatter your chicken Biryani curry over the rice making sure to add a couple chicken pieces and potatoes followed by the second rice layer.
- Drizzle yellow food coloring, some mint and cilantro.
- Next add the second layer of chicken curry followed by the third layer of rice. Repeat with a drizzle of yellow food coloring and some mint cilantro, add the third layer of chicken curry followed by the final layer of rice. Repeat with food color and mint/cilantro.
- Drizzle rose water for fragrance and add lemon slices on the rice. You can also add crushed fried onion if you have it.
- To give "dum" in oven, take two large pieces of foil and cover the pan by overlapping the foil. Make sure to crimp the pieces of foil around the edges of the pan. Take your time with crimping. The pan should be COMPLETELY sealed!
- Place the pan in the center of your oven and allow it to stay in "dum" for 50 mins to 1 hour. The oven will evenly distribute heat throughout the Biryani.
- Once the Biryani is done, carefully remove the foil. Using a large spatula, lift the rice from the bottom and very gently shake it. Shaking will mix the curry with the rice without breaking the grains. DO NOT use a fork.
- Once the biryani is gently mixed/shaken through, cover it with the foil again and let it sit on your countertop for at least 15-30 mins before serving. The flavors need a chance to settle so make sure you give it the resting time it needs and deserves.
- I used the regular brown-skinned potatoes, but the type does not matter. However, cooking time may vary so make sure you check on the potatoes and remove them earlier once they are fork-tender to avoid overcooking them.
- The curry consistency should be nice and thick. If you think it is too thin (although it shouldn't be), continue stirring on medium high heat.
- Make sure you divide the rice in a way where the top layer covers the curry. Check out my video to see how I layer.