I have had a fascination with India and Nepal for my entire life – mostly because my sister is from Kathmandu. My family ordered Indian take-out just as frequently as we ordered Chinese or pizza; it was a staple in our home.
So naturally, when I found out this week’s challenge was Indian food, I was pumped to make my all-time favorite Indian dishes: chicken biryani and naan.
If you’ve never experienced the amazingness that is Indian food, chicken biryani is a great place to start. It’s a flavorful rice dish that’s packed with aromatic spices and tender pieces of chicken.
Trust me, once you try it, you’ll be hooked!
As with most Indian recipes, a medley of fresh spices and vegetables is required to create the authentic flavors. To achieve an extra authentic taste of India, you might want to pick up some cardamom and saffron. However, if you don’t have access to these ingredients, don’t worry. There are always alternatives that can still make your biryani delicious.
Here’s What You’ll Need for Chicken Biryani
- Basmati rice: Long-grain rice used as the base for the saffron-infused rice in the biryani.
- Saffron threads: Adds a beautiful golden color and a distinct aroma to the rice.
- Salt: Enhances the flavor of the rice and balances the other ingredients in the dish.
- Chicken breasts: Protein source, cubed and cooked to add tender bites to the biryani.
- Olive oil: Used for cooking the chicken and sautéing the onions, peppers, and garlic.
- Red onion: Adds a sweet and slightly tangy flavor to the biryani.
- Serrano pepper: Provides heat and a vibrant flavor to the dish.
- Curry powder: Infuses the biryani with aromatic and savory notes.
- Turmeric: Adds a warm, earthy flavor and a vibrant yellow color to the dish.
- Cinnamon: Offers a warm and sweet aroma, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
- Cardamom pods: Fragrant spice that imparts a unique, slightly floral taste to the biryani.
- Ginger: Adds a fresh and zesty flavor to the dish.
- Greek yogurt: Provides a creamy and tangy base for the biryani sauce.
- Golden raisins: Adds a touch of sweetness and texture to the biryani.
- Crushed cashews: Provides a delightful crunch and nutty flavor to the dish.
- Cilantro: Fresh herb used as a topping, adding a bright and herbaceous note to the biryani.
Let’s Get Started
To start, you’ll need some rice. Traditionally, basmati rice is used in biryani, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can use other long-grain rice like aborio rice. Just make sure to wash the rice thoroughly to remove as much starch as possible.
Once washed, add the rice to a saucepan with twice as much water and bring it to a boil. For that beautiful golden color and fragrant aroma, add a pinch of saffron to the water along with a teaspoon of salt. Cover the saucepan with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer undisturbed for about 20 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, it’s time to prepare the chicken. Cut the chicken into bite-sized cubes (or use your preferred protein) and brown it in a skillet with a touch of olive oil. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the skillet and set it aside.
In the same skillet, add another dash of olive oil, followed by the onions, tomatoes, banana peppers, and garlic. Saute these ingredients until the onions are softened and caramelized, creating a flavorful base for your biryani.
Next comes the magical blend of spices that will truly bring your biryani to life. Coat the sautéed onions with curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom pods, and chili peppers. The aroma will start wafting through your kitchen, awakening your senses.
Finally, whisk in some yogurt to create a creamy and rich sauce.
Now, it’s time to reunite the chicken with its flavorful companions. Toss the cooked chicken back into the skillet along with some golden raisins. Give everything a good stir, allowing the chicken to soak up all those beautiful flavors.
By now, the rice should be perfectly cooked. Gently fold the rice into the biryani mixture, ensuring that each grain gets coated with the aromatic spices and tender chicken. This is the moment when everything comes together.
To add a delightful crunch and texture, continue cooking the biryani for an additional 5-10 minutes. During this time, the rice at the bottom of the pan will start to crisp up, adding an extra layer of flavor to the dish.
Helpful Tips to Making Homemade Biryani
- Rice preparation: To ensure fluffy and separate grains, thoroughly wash the basmati rice until the water runs clear before cooking.
- Saffron infusion: When adding saffron threads to the rice, steep them in a tablespoon of warm milk or water for a few minutes to intensify the flavor and color.
- Customize spice levels: Adjust the amount of serrano pepper or chile peppers according to your spice preference. Add more for extra heat or reduce the quantity for milder flavor.
- Moisture control: When cooking the biryani, make sure the yogurt-based sauce coats the chicken and rice evenly. If the mixture appears dry, you can add a splash of warm water or chicken broth to maintain moisture.
- Avoid overcooking: Be careful not to overcook the chicken as it can become dry and tough. Remove it from the skillet once it is browned and cooked through, and set it aside until later.
- Garnish generously: Before serving, garnish the biryani with fresh cilantro and crushed cashews to add a pop of color, texture, and extra flavor.
- Storing leftovers: If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Biryani tends to develop even more flavors as it sits, making it a delicious option for reheating the next day.
The combination of fragrant rice, tender chicken, and aromatic spices will transport you to the streets of India, filling your senses with the richness and diversity of its cuisine.
So, gather your ingredients, embark on this flavorful journey, and enjoy a taste of India right in your own kitchen. Remember, cooking is all about experimenting and making it your own, so feel free to adjust the spices and ingredients according to your preferences.
Happy cooking, Hungry People!
Easy Chicken Biryani
- 2 chicken breasts cut into cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup onion sliced
- ½ cup serrano pepper chopped
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cardamom pods seeds removed
- ½ teaspoon ginger minced
- 8 oz plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup cashews crushed
- ¼ cup cilantro for topping
- Begin by washing the basmati rice until the water runs clear. Combine 1 cup of rice with 2 cups of water. Add a pinch of saffron threads to the water along with ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a rolling boil and cover. Do not remove the lid for 20 minutes.
- Chop the chicken into cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat and add the cubed chicken. Cook until browned and no longer pink on the inside. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, followed by ½ cup sliced red onion, ½ cup sliced white onion, ½ cup chopped tomatoes, ½ cup chopped peppers, and minced garlic. Saute until the onions are caramelized.
- Add the curry powder, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of chopped green chile peppers, and fresh ginger. Pour in 8 oz plain Greek yogurt and reduce the heat to medium. Stir well until the yogurt has mixed with the spices and onions.
- Place the chicken back into the pan with the biryani sauce and stir in the golden raisins. When the rice is done cooking, fluff it with a fork and transfer it to the skillet with the chicken biryani.
- Cook until the rice is just beginning to brown on the bottom, taking care to stir every so often to avoid burning.
- When the rice has absorbed some of the yogurt, remove from heat, and serve right away alongside naan and momos. Sprinkle with crushed cashews and cilantro for garnish. Enjoy!