Weeknight Chicken Biryani


Weeknight Chicken Biryani! This stovetop version of the well-known Indian rice dish is made with chicken and seasoned with turmeric and ginger. Ready for the table in under an hour.

Photography Credit: Sheryl Julian

Featured in 13 Quick & Easy Weeknight Meals with Chicken Broth

Biryani is a beautiful South Asian rice pilaf often served at celebrations in India. It’s usually made by layering golden-hued rice, tender meat or seafood, and vegetables all in one pot, and baking or steaming until the whole dish is fragrant and infused with flavor. My Indian friends here in the United States talk about this dish with much nostalgia.

Our Favorite Videos

Biryani can also be a fantastic one-pot meal to make on busy weeknights. With a few shortcuts, you can have it ready in under an hour. Today, I’m sharing my easy stovetop version of biryani with chicken.

Chicken BiryaniThe ratio of rice to meat in biryani might surprise you. This isn’t a dish of meat served with rice on the side. It’s a dish of rice flavored with meat. Think of the chicken as a seasoning for the rice.

I use bone-in chicken thighs, which turn out juicy no matter how long they cook. To prepare them for cooking, cut each thigh in half along the bone — this will give you some pieces of meat with the bone still in and some that are boneless.

This way, the bones add richness to the pot and the meat still cooks through in the time it takes for the rice to absorb its water. And you get bones for the people who love them!

You can use boneless thighs instead (cut them in half and cook them the same way), but you won’t get the richness from the bones in the broth.

I like golden rice, so I make the dish with turmeric, cardamom, ginger, and a cinnamon stick. Golden raisins go in along with the rice and then chopped almonds and fresh cilantro are sprinkled on top at the end.

My weeknight version has spices, but not heat. If you want some heat, add a generous pinch of crushed red pepper to the onion while it softens.

This is the ideal dish to make if you’ve decided to eat less meat. You get lots of interesting tastes and texture in the pilaf, and just enough protein to feel satisfied.

Weeknight Chicken Biryani Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Boneless thighs can be substituted for the bone-in thighs if you prefer, though you'll lose the richness the bones give the dish. Prep and cook boneless thighs the same way.

This recipe is great served with raita yogurt sauce and naan!


  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) long-grain white rice, like basmati
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, plus more to taste
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 1/4 cup skinned or unskinned whole almonds, or sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


1 Rinse the rice: In a bowl of water, swirl the rice with your hands several times. Tip the rice into a fine-mesh strainer. Refill the bowl with water, then add the rice back in and swirl again -- the water should be clear now. If so, tip the rice back into the strainer and leave to drain until needed. If the water was not clear, repeat rinsing with fresh water until the water is clear.

Chicken Biryani

2 Prepare the chicken: Cut each thigh in half along the bone; the pieces will be uneven in size with the bone in one half. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.

Chicken Biryani

3 Sear the chicken: In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook for 5 minutes without disturbing. Turn the chicken and cook the other side for 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan.

4 Cook the onion and spices: Add the onion and ginger to the pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes, or until they soften. Add the turmeric and cardamom. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.

5 Add the rice and seared chicken: Add the rice to the pan and stir it into the onion and spices.

Return the seared chicken to the pan, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Turn the chicken in the spices so the pieces are coated all over.

Add the cinnamon, bay leaf, raisins, and water.

Chicken Biryani

6 Cook the biryani: Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for 18 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat; set aside for 5 minutes.

Chicken Biryani

7 Toast the almonds: In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds, shaking the pan often, for 5 minutes or until they are aromatic. Chop coarsely.

8 Serve the biryani: Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick from the rice. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, or cardamom to suit your taste. Sprinkle the dish with almonds and cilantro.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. Thank you!

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Simply Recipes. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.

Chicken Biryani

Sheryl Julian

Sheryl Julian is an award-winning writer, editor, and food stylist. She is the former food editor of The Boston Globe, co-author of The Way We Cook, and editor of The New Boston Globe Cookbook. Her food sections won Best Newspaper Food Coverage from the Association of Food Journalists in 2015.

More from Sheryl

36 Comments / Reviews

No ImageWeeknight Chicken Biryani

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Aurora

    Smells absolutely heavenly. Such a delicious and quick meal!!

  2. Fabiana

    I didn’t have the cardamom and cinnamon stick so I used garam masala, cumin and paprika for spices. Instead of chicken thighs I used chicken tenderloins for faster cooking which decreased my searing time considerably. Used chicken broth for cooking and just sprinkled a bit of finely chopped almonds on top with the cilantro…Came out so delish. I shall make it again!


  3. James

    Fast, easy, yummi!!


  4. Gale

    I’ll keep this recipe. Simple to make, and love one dish meals! I had beef both open in the fridge so used it in place of water or chicken broth. Didn’t have any cinnamon sticks so I added a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon instead. I rarely use the spices noted, and it was a nice change.


  5. Tina

    Just made it with brown basmati rice (needed 40 min cooking time) and a side of mint/cucumber raita. Smells like heaven.


View More
Chicken BiryaniWeeknight Chicken Biryani