Chicken Biryani

Biryani is a spiced rice dish with roots in countries across the Middle East and South Asia. It is essentially a layered baked dish that alternates spiced rice and marinated meat. My sister came up with this recipe and after she shared it with me, I wanted to share it with you.

Though biryani can be spicy, I’ve kept it minimal here, but feel free to add more to your taste. Shan brand spice packets can be found at Global Foods Market and Indian specialty markets. Serve this dish with a side of raita, a cooling Indian yogurt side that will calm the spice. Enjoy and happy baking!


½ cup milk
1 tsp. saffron
2 cups basmati rice
4 peppercorns
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. vegetable or canola oil, plus more for frying
½ large onion, thinly sliced
4 roma tomatoes, quartered
¼ cup European-style plain yogurt
6 cloves garlic
2 to 3 Tbsp. Shan Spice Mix for Special Bombay Biryani*, cardamom seeds removed, plus more to taste
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) butter, thinly sliced and divided
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
Raita for serving (recipe follows)

For the Raita
1½ cup
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup European-style plain yogurt
3 Tbsp. water, plus more to taste
2 Tbsp. sugar, plus more to taste
2 tsp. chaat masala*


• Warm the milk in a small pot over medium heat. Remove from heat, pour into a small bowl and soak the saffron in the milk. Set aside.

• Cook the rice according to package directions, adding the peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon stick before cooking. Let cool completely. Remove the aromatics, if desired.

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

• In a large pan with high sides, warm 1 inch oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and fry until medium to dark brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the onions and place on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool. Set aside.

• In a blender, puree the tomatoes, yogurt, garlic and spice mix together in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

• In a clean nonstick skillet, warm 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, then stir in the yogurt mixture. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

• In an 8-by-10-inch baking dish, spread half the rice in an even layer, followed by ¼ cup of the milk and 2 tablespoons butter. Add the chicken and cover with the remaining rice, ¼ cup milk and butter. Sprinkle with mint.

• Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Garnish with the fried onions and serve with raita on the side.

• In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Season to taste with sugar or water