Weeknight Chicken Biryani

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!

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


  • 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.

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  • James

    Fast, easy, yummi!!


  • 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.


  • Tina

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


  • Donna

    This was absolutely fantastic as written. I added a bit of butter just because. My new favorite rice and chicken dish.


  • Christine

    Is the water to rice ratio correct? Mine turned out very soggy? Also, what gives it the bright yellow color in the picture. I used all the spices listed in the recipe and the rice ended up looking brown instead of yellow?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Christine! Yes, the water-to-rice ratio is correct! This recipe has been tested several times. It’s hard to say what might have happened when you cooked it. Did you maybe use a quick-cooking variety of rice, which maybe didn’t need quite as much liquid? The bright yellow color comes from the turmeric. Again, if you used it, I’m not sure why your dish would be brown instead of yellow! Maybe it had something to do with the variety or age of your turmeric? Sorry that I couldn’t be of more help!

      • Christine

        I think my turmeric was not very yellow and I used stop and shop store brand basmati rice so that may be the problem. Would jasmine rice work as well?


        • Emma Christensen

          Yes, I think jasmine would work just fine! Good luck!

          • Christine

            Thanks, I’ll definitely give this another try!

  • Lisa Sharples

    I made this for my family (5 kids ages 10-20) and they all liked it! Reminded us of a dish we ate in Morocco. I used regular raisins since that is what I had and it turned out perfectly.
    Thank you Sheryl!

  • Sarah

    Has anyone tried making this with brown rice?

  • Tanya Owne

    Hi Elise! I absolutely love this dish! I just made it and I will be having it regularly now, I thought it was just right. (I used chicken stock and 1/2 tsp cardamon) I really appreciate your recipes, always real food and so inventive. I have learned a lot about food and cooking and I also enjoy your stories. Thank you so much, my kitchen is more delicious because of your thoughtful sharing.

  • Dana

    After I read reviews I decided to modify this recipe. I added 1 tsp. garam masala and used chicken stock instead of water. For spice I use 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper. It was still somewhat bland. I would also say a yogurt sauce would also make a nice addition to this dish.

  • Sandy S

    Recently made this dish and will be making it again! I find it a wonderful new way to prepare chicken and rice. More delicate than many chicken recipes, yet still quite flavorful and less greasy than most chicken preparations. I really like the idea of cutting the thighs in half lengthwise. Not only shortens the cooking time while still adding more chicken flavor but also makes for nice serving portions. Will be using that trick in other chicken recipes. And as I discovered the next day, the uniquely flavored chicken and toasted almonds also makes very nice chicken salad from any left overs!


  • Ellie Jones

    I made the recipe and loved it though next time will add the red chili peppers as prefer more heat.

  • Kelly hameed

    This is NOT biriyani….nor a version of biriyani, I would call it a chicken pilau/pilaf, but a biriyani is much more complex than the above

  • shernaz

    Instead of using turneric, you are supposed to use saffron for the colour and ginger garlic paste is a must for flavour as well as cinnamon, elachi and red chilli garlic paste, also while preparing layers for biryani use Ghee instead of oil. It will taste better. Hope this suggestion helps you make the Biryani taste good.

  • Dave R.

    I was disappointed with this recipe. Perhaps it was my own fault. Mine turned out so bland, I couldn’t finish eating my first serving. I left out the ginger and raisins b/c I don’t really like either. Would that affect the flavor (or lack thereof) that significantly? I really wanted to like this dish because it LOOKS delicious. In contrast to some of the other comments by other cooks here, I really like the cardamom and didn’t feel that it overpowered the dish at all.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Dave, the recipe calls for 2 inches of ginger root, which is not insignificant! Yes, leaving out the ginger would make a big difference. Also anytime a dish seems bland I find the best solution is to just add more salt (and pepper) to taste. The raisins would add a sweet note which is important to the balance of the dish. Note that ginger not only brings flavor, but heat to a dish. So if you are leaving out ginger, I suggest adding some crushed red pepper in its place.

  • Libby

    Has anyone tried this with quinoa instead of rice? Any modifications?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Libby! I love the idea of doing this with quinoa! It would cook quite differently than the rice, however. I think I’d probably cook the quinoa and the chicken separately and then combine them just before serving. Maybe use a portion of the spices and substitute chicken broth for all or some of the water when cooking the quinoa to help boost its flavor? Let us know if you try it!

  • Connie Veneracion

    I’m surprised that there is no yogurt.

  • Claire Snyder

    I really wanted to love this dish, but the amount of cardamom almost made it inedible. I made the recipe pretty much as written, except I used boneless thighs that I cut into cubes, and I added some vegetables to steam on top of the rice at the end (green beans, zucchini, and green pepper), but the spice flavor was really off to me. My fiance even asked me to douse his with sriracha when I packed the leftovers for lunch. Disappointing.

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Claire! Thanks for the feedback. We’ll retest it over here at Simply Recipes HQ, and in the meantime, I think I’ll drop the cardamom back to 1/2 teaspoon. You’re right that cardamom can end up really being strong in some recipes!

      • Kelly Curtis

        I had the same experience as Claire; 1 tsp of cardamom was way too much. I’m going to saute some diced apple in ghee and add that to the leftovers along with more almonds and cilantro, try to beat back the menthol flavor. I’ve only ever baked with cardamom (cookies and pastries) and I just didn’t guess to go lighter here. I couldn’t understand where I goofed, so I came back here to double – check and found the edit. I’d make this again but with much more cardamom restraint!

  • Arcey

    I see you use long grain rice here. I was surprised it’s not basmati. Is one better than the other, or are they interchangeable in this recipe? Thanks. It looks wonderful… and easy!

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Arcey — Basmati is a variety of long-grain rice. You can definitely use basmati, or use any long-grain white rice that you can easily find in your grocery store!

  • Malika A. Black

    I love the flavors in this dish, especially the turmeric, which is what gives it the yellow color.

    Very easy to make. It would also be great with seafood!

  • Patrick O'Hearn

    I love Biryani too but I always add black cardamon for that extra smokiness flavor.

  • Clea

    I bet this could be made in the instant pot (pressure cooker that has a saute function). If anyone has a suggestion for the timing, please chime in, otherwise I’ll give it a try based on a one-pot chicken and rice dish that’s worked for me before…which I think called for 35 minutes, but 30 worked better. That was with brown rice, though.

    • Tita

      For a pressure cooker recipe go to hip pressure cooking and try Lauras chicken and rice recipe.

  • Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch

    This dish looks absolutely phenomenal! I’d love to make and enjoy this really soon!

  • Sara @ Last Night's Feast

    I love biryani! It’s my favorite thing to order at Indian restaurants– can’t wait to try it at home!