Chicken Biryani (in a coconut and cashew masala)


Chicken Biryani is a labor of love …you have to take your time to assemble this beautiful, aromatic combination of fragrant basmati rice with delicately spiced and perfectly cooked chicken pieces.  Today I am posting this recipe for my very dear friend, Amanda who simply loves this chicken biryani that I make.

In this recipe, I am using coconut in the masala so this is a south Indian version of biryani. Now if you look at the ingredient list below and at the time required to make this dish from start to finish, you might get discouraged. But let me tell you that please do not feel intimidated. It is possible to break the whole affair into parts and you could also do some of the ‘prep work’ in advance so that you don’t need to stand in the kitchen straight for over two hours. For one, the chicken can be marinated and then cooked in advance and stored in the refrigerator the previous day.  That’s what I do when I make this dish for parties I have at our home. The rice can also be cooked in advance like a few hours in advance.  And then its just a matter of assembling the chicken and the rice layers adding the saffron and baking in the oven.  Then of course the final garnish of toasted nuts and cilantro just before serving. See when you break the steps it’s not that challenging anymore right? And as I always like to say, ‘love’ is an important ingredient. When you do it with love, it will be beautiful and your love will come running to you…just like Amanda comes to me 🙂

I also recorded a video for this recipe and here’s the link:

This recipe will make about 8 full servings.
2 lbs chicken pieces, cut into medium size pieces(preferably thigh pieces)

Marinade for the chicken
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (use 1 tsp if you like it hot and spicy)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp biryani masala
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp yoghurt
1 tsp lime juice
Cooking the rice
3 cups basmati rice, washed and set aside for 15 minutes
1 tsp salt
2-3 whole black cardamom pods
4-6 whole cloves
6-8 black pepper
3-4 green cardamom pods
2-3 bay leaves
2-3 cinnamon stick about 1/2 inch length
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 1/2 cups water
ground masala for chicken
6-8 garlic cloves
1  inch by 1/2 inch ginger
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut (or fresh frozen grated coconut that
has been thawed to room temperature)
6-8 Cashew nuts
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 med onions
2 med tomatoes 1 cup
1 cup potatoes, cubed
1/2 tsp salt
Final layering:
1/4 cup warm milk
Saffron 1/4 tsp
1/4 cup milk
2-3 drops of biryani essence(or rose essence)
Pinch of orange food color
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup almonds chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee

1 tbsp unsalted butter, pieces
fresh Cilantro, chopped


1.  Mix all the ingredients listed under marinade and mix with the chicken pieces. Set aside the chicken pieces for between 30 minutes to 2 hours (in the refrigerator)


2. Take the rice in either a rice cooker or a cooking pot and add all the whole spices and the salt to it and cook until done. (If using a regular cooking pot, first heat uncovered until the water starts boiling and then immediately lower heat to low setting and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 10-12 minutes).  Immediately transfer the cooked rice onto a tray and let cool uncovered. (You can take the whole spices out at this stage if you don’t want them in the final dish)


3.Next, add all the ingredients listed under ‘ground masala’ into a food processor and make a fine paste. Set aside.

4. Heat a medium size cooking pot and heat the oil in it. Then add the onions and saute on medium heat for about 4-5 minutes or until golden brown .


5. Then add the ground paste and fry for another minute or so stirring continuously.  Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 4-5 minutes until they turn soft.

6. Now add the marinated chicken pieces to the onion tomato mixture and stir to coat all the chicken pieces well with the masala.  Cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes.

7. Next add the potatoes and check seasoning and add 1/2 tsp additional salt if needed (or per your taste).  Cover and cook for another 10 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

8. Open the lid and let cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes on low until you get a gravy that has a thick consistency. Turn the heat off and let the chicken curry cool.


Final layering:

1. Mix the saffron in the 1/4 cup warm milk in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In another small bowl, mix the food color and the biryani essence (or rose flavoring) with the other 1/4 cup milk and set aside.

3. Heat the 1 tbsp butter in a small frying pan and saute the almonds and cashewnuts in it until golden brown.Set aside.

3. Get a large tray or a deep platter and add one layer of the cooked rice.  Then add a layer of the chicken and potato mixture.  Add another layer of rice and then drizzle about 1 tbsp of the saffron mixture and about 1 tbsp of the food color and biryani flavor mixture across the rice and chicken mixture.  Add a few pieces of butter too in between.

4. Repeat the above steps until all the rice and chicken mixture is done.


5. Cover the tray with Al foil and bake in the oven at 350 deg F for about 20 minutes.

6.Add the toasted nuts and the cilantro on top of the rice as garnish. Serve with plain yoghurt or raita.

DSC_0042  DSC_0053

Truly a labor of love, isn’t it? But believe me, it will be worth all the effort  especially when you get rave reviews from your friends and family!

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  1. I have many happy memories of sharing this biryani with dear friends at Indu’s table. It is an incomparable, delicious, and unforgettable dish (made all the better by the skill of the wonderful chef herself!).

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