New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The only chicken biryani recipe you’ll ever need

There are many ways to make a tasty chicken biryani at home, but my mom’s South Indian-style dum biryani is always a hit. Bring it to your next potluck, dinner party or date night.
Mikaylah Du
(Mikaylah Du for WSN)

As with many immigrant families, food is often a labor of love — and my household is no exception.

Growing up, it was pretty rare to hear my mom say the words “I love you.” Instead, she showed her love through her cooking. On lazy Sunday mornings, while my sister and I slept in, my mom would get up extra early to knead poori dough. The scent of the batter hitting a vat of bubbling oil would eventually lure us downstairs for breakfast. Other times I would be frantically cramming for a final, while my mom delicately cut up mangoes or meticulously seed pomegranates, setting aside a plate for me as I studied. But on special occasions — my birthday, graduation or Thanksgiving — my mom pulled out her famous chicken biryani. 

Originating in the Indian subcontinent, biryani has evolved into various regional styles, each creating a unique blend of spices and cooking techniques. The distinguishing feature of a South Indian preparation is the “dum” cooking method, where the rice and meat are layered and slow cooked, allowing the flavors to meld beautifully. 

My mom’s biryani recipe is borrowed from her mother’s. She’s pulled bits of what she remembers from my grandma’s kitchen and combined them with ideas she’s come across scouring Telugu food content on YouTube. After immigrating to the United States when she was only 22 years old, finding ways to bring bits of her home was a priority in our household. Although I sometimes struggle to connect with her and our shared identity, food has always been a way to bridge that cultural divide.

While I’ve mastered the art of eating biryani, I’ve practiced making it too. Cheers to chicken biryani lovers everywhere.  



For the chicken marinade:

  • 4-pound whole chicken (bone-in and skin-off)
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil 
  • 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 teaspoons red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Juice of half a lemon 
  • Salt to taste 

For the biryani:

  • 4 cups Basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons of a neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons ghee 
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (cubed into 6 pieces)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken into bits)
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 3 black cardamom pods
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 6 green chilies, cut lengthwise
  • 2 teaspoons red chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1 small tomato
  • 12 chopped mint leaves
  • 10-15 cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fried onions
  • 2 tablespoons of ground nuts (cashew or almond)
  • Orange or red food coloring (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of warm milk (optional)
  • 1 small pinch of saffron (optional)
  • Salt to taste 


  1. Wash the chicken with water and trim excess fat. 
  2. Marinate the chicken with yogurt, oil, ginger-garlic paste, red chili powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, lemon juice and salt. Mix well and refrigerate for a minimum of 2-3 hours. For best results, marinate overnight. 
  3. Rinse Basmati rice until the water runs clear. 
  4. Boil 8 cups of water in a large pot. Add 2 green cardamom pods, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of oil and a pinch of salt. Once the water is boiling, add the rice. 
  5. Heat oil and ghee in a separate large heavy-bottomed pan. 
  6. Add the remaining 2 bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves and black cardamom. Mix well.  
  7. Add ginger-garlic paste. Fry for a minute.
  8. Add sliced onions and tomato and fry until they soften.
  9. Add marinated chicken.
  10. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, black pepper and mint leaves. Mix well and fry for 10 minutes on medium heat.
  11. Add salt to taste. 
  12. Add ground nuts and garam masala. Mix well.
  13. Turn the flame down to low heat. 
  14. When the rice is about 60% cooked, drain the leftover water.
  15. Gently add the rice to the pan with the chicken. Don’t mix. 
  16. Add the cubes of butter to cover the top of the rice. 
  17. Add the slices of green chili to the top of the rice. 
  18. To color the rice, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of food dye on top of the rice. Or use a mixture of warm milk and saffron.   
  19. Add the fried onions and cilantro. 
  20. Using a damp cloth, cover the pan and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Let it cook for 20-25 minutes on low heat. 
  21. Once the biryani is cooked, let it rest for another 20 minutes without opening the lid.
  22. Open the lid and gently fold together the rice and chicken to combine. Add salt to taste. 
  23. Serve hot and enjoy!

Contact Teresa Mettela at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Mikaylah Du
Mikaylah Du, Illustration Editor
Mikaylah Du is a first-year studying Media, Culture, and Communication. She's a fine art nerd and one of the few people that actually likes writing essays. Follow her art account on Instagram @mikaylahdoodles to see her post once in a blue moon.

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  • N

    Nisha KApr 10, 2024 at 10:45 am

    Sounds delicious! Excited to try, thank you for sharing!