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chicken biryani in a copper serving dish, garnished with lemon slices and mint leaves. A small bowl with yogurt raita on the side. partial picture from the top


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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Zoha
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 10 servings


The perfect Karachi style chicken biryani: perfectly cooked rice, tender chicken, lots of potatoes and masala, and an unbelievable harmony of spicy and tangy flavors in every bite.


Biryani Masala:

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 small or 1 large onion, thinly sliced (~250g)
  • 4 tbsp ginger & garlic paste
  • 2 lb chicken with bone, cut into medium pieces
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2-3 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1 pack Shan Bombay Biryani Masala
  • 1/2 pack Shan Sindhi Biryani Masala
  • 3 russet potatoes, cut into 1/2" slices (~550g)
  • 1-2 large lemons, thinly sliced (100-150g)
  • 3/4 cup dried aloo bukhara (plum)
  • 6 tomatoes, cut into thin slices (600g)
  • 6-8 green chilies, cut into long slices (serrano preferred)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mint


  • 4 cups Sella rice (800g)
  • 12 cups water
  • 1-2 tsp salt (or to taste)


  • 1/4 tsp yellow or orange food color mixed in 2 tbsp cold water (I use this one)

Raita for serving (optional):

  • 2-3 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Pinch of salt



  • First, prepare all the ingredients
  • Wash and rinse the rice 5-6 times until the water becomes clearer, and soak it in cold water
  • Slice and chop all the vegetables, and gather everything else in front of you

Biryani Masala:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot
  • Add the onion and cook it on medium high heat for 8-10 minutes until it becomes golden
  • Add the ginger & garlic paste and saute for 1-2 minutes until it no longer smells raw
  • Add the chicken, and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. This will give the chicken a light brown color and get rid of the raw smell
  • Add the yogurt, salt, Bombay Biryani Masala, Sindhi Biryani Masala, and potatoes. Stir and fry on high heat for 2-3 minutes to toast the spices and make them fragrant
  • Add the sliced lemon
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are just cooked through (but not fully soft). This can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on how big your potatoes are cut. Check after every 5 minutes
  • Halfway through cooking the potatoes, add the dried aloo bukhara and green chilies, and stir them in
  • Once the potatoes are just cooked through, remove the lid. Keep the heat on low, and layer the sliced tomatoes on top of the masala. Sprinkle 2 tbsp each of the cilantro and mint on top (you won't use all of the cilantro and mint in this step)
  • Cover the pot with the lid and cook for about 10 min on low heat to soften tomatoes
  • Remove the lid and cook for 2-3 more minutes on medium heat. Then turn off the heat
  • At this point, the biryani masala should be very fragrant, the potatoes should be fully cooked through, and there should be a good amount of masala without being watery. If there's too much liquid, cook down a bit more without a lid
  • Cover the masala and keep it hot

Parboiling rice:

  • Follow the instructions given on the package of the rice to boil it in water with salt, but reduce the cooking time to ~75% and check frequently after the 50% mark
  • To cook Sella rice, I add the soaked rice to boiling water, and cook it for ~8-10 minutes before draining
  • The rice should be just cooked through (i.e., no raw middle) but should still have a firmness / bite to it. Drain the water by transferring the rice to a rice colander


  • To a clean, large heavy bottomed Dutch oven pot, add a third of the rice on the bottom. Drizzle over some food color (mixed in water) and sprinkle over a third of the remaining cilantro and mint
  • Then add a layer of half of the biryani masala
  • Repeat with another third of the rice, food color, cilantro, mint. Add the remaining biryani masala, and add a third and final layer of rice, food color, cilantro and mint on top

Steaming / Dum:

  • Use the back of a large spoon / dowel to poke 3-4 holes through the layers of the biryani
  • Wrap the lid of the pot in a large tea towel and cover the pot. Place it on a small burner on medium heat, and put some weight on top of the lid (e.g., a mortar and pestle). After 5 minutes, reduce the heat to the lowest setting
  • Allow the biryani to steam for ~20 minutes. You will know it is done if you slightly lift the lid and see steam escaping
  • Turn off the heat and let the biryani rest for 5 minutes
  • Carefully and very gently mix the biryani. Use a large metal spoon or rice fluffer, and mix in a scooping motion just 5-6 times. The biryani does not have to be fully mixed; overmixing will risk breaking the rice
    • If you are serving the biryani in a different dish, you can skip the "mixing" and simply scoop the biryani into the dish, making sure to dig deep with each scoop. This will naturally mix the layers


  • Make the raita by mixing together the ingredients
  • Serve the biryani while hot with the cold raita, and enjoy!!

Video Tutorial:


  • Please read the blog post above in order to get this recipe right. You will find pictures of each step, important tips, and answers to frequently asked questions about the rice and steaming
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Pakistani