Chicken Masala Biryani

Chicken Masala Biryani

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I have made this Chicken Masala Biryani hundreds of times but I still find new ways of making it, each time it’s on the menu. With Indian cooking I think it’s how it is. 

You make the same dish over and over again but you never always use the exact same recipe. Have you found yourself doing that? I think with me, I get bored with my recipes.

Chicken Masala Biryani

Chicken Masala Biryani in a white bowl

I cook with spices almost everyday and when it comes to Indian food I never look at a recipe. This Chicken Masala Biryani is one of those that I have probably adjusted the spices a few times already.

Biryani is my favorite Indian dish.  I therefore make it my mission to make a delicious one or there’s no point eating it. 

Diet or not, I think you have to add some butter or ghee to round off your Biryani.  It is just not the same without the addition of this key ingredient. Trust me on this.

It’s not just because I love butter so much….haha!  

Cooking the Biryani

Yes, I will admit cooking this Chicken Masala Biryani is a bit of a process. Like any Biryani I suppose. Some people do feel intimidated by the thought of cooking a Biryani.

But it can be easy if you prep in advance.  I usually marinate my chicken with spices overnight. Doing this also speeds up the process a little when you ready to cook.

Also with practice cooking a biryani becomes much easier. Although I prefer popping my Biryani in the oven, you can totally cook it on the stovetop. 

You have to remember to cook it on a very low heat and constantly check on it. The moisture on the stovetop does dry up quicker than in the oven so it can burn if you don’t keep a close eye on it.


Most biryanis call for the addition of Saffron but I don’t always use it in my Biryani. If I am out of Saffron I just add a little food colouring to colour the rice.

Hope I won’t be frowned upon. Have to admit that I sometimes do use canned Lentils. Well I had to make a plan if I don’t have any dry lentils. 

Cooking with love

I was chatting to my mum-in-law a few days ago and she said no matter what you cook, if it’s made with love and care your food will automatically taste great.

Well I may not always agree with everything but I have to agree with this. So remember the secret is love, always love!

This is true, I know when I am in a bad mood or I am stressed about something those are the days I cook the worst food. For me it’s all about putting your heart and soul into your cooking.

If you want to try a Biryani that’s a little different take a look at this Recipe.

If you do try this Chicken Masala Biryani Recipe please drop me a comment and leave a star rating, it is always appreciated.

More Chicken Recipes to enjoy:

Chicken Karahi with Spinach

Butter Chicken

Oven Baked Tandoori Chicken

Chicken Masala Biryani

A fragrant, aromatic Indian dish made with rice, chicken and loads of spice
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken biryani, Chicken Masala Biryani, south african biryani
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 8



  • 2 cups Basmati Rice see note 1
  • 3 small pieces cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 elachie pods
  • salt

Chicken Marinade

  • 1.5 kg chicken I used breasts, thighs and drumsticks
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 3 roma tomatoes blanched and blended
  • 100 gram tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp masala see note 2
  • 2 tbsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 3 tspn ground cumin
  • 4 tspn ground coriander
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • 1 tspn ground soomph/fennel
  • 1/2 tspn ground elachie/cardamom
  • 1 tbsp garam masala


  • few drops oil
  • 100 gram butter
  • 3 pieces cinnamon sticks, abut 4cm each
  • 2 star aniseed
  • 3 bay leaf
  • 2 black elachie/cardamom
  • 2 large onion finely sliced
  • handful of mint leaves
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 2 green chillies slit in halves
  • 2 large potatoes each cut into 8 cubes
  • 1 cup dry brown lentils cooked
  • 1/2 cup oil required only if frying onion. See note 3
  • 1/4 tspn saffron mixed with 3 tbsp warm water (optional)



  • If you are using Chicken breasts, cut them into medium sized cubes. Marinate the chicken with all the spices, cardamom, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, soomph, chilli powder, yogurt, ginger/garlic paste, tomato paste and the pureed tomatoes. Refrigerate overnight or for an hour

Rice, Potatoes, Lentils

  • Wash rice, add cinnamon and cardamom. Add salt and cook as per package instructions until fully cooked
  • Sprinkle a little food colouring over (if you are not using saffron) and cover the pot. Set aside. When ready to add to the chicken use a fork to fluff up the rice. You will then have different shades of yellow in the rice.
  • Steam the potatoes until slightly tender. Season with salt and shallow fry in a little oil until golden brown. Set aside
  • You can soak the dry lentils overnight. Place it in a pot with enough water to cover it and cook until tender but not mushy. Set aside


  • Heat 2 tablespoon butter from the 100 gram butter and a few drops oil. Add the cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, star aniseed and black cardamom. Fry until fragrant
  • Add one onion, curry leaf, thyme and green chillies. Sauté until the onion is golden brown
  • Add the marinated chicken and mint chopped mint leaves. Add salt and cook on high heat for 5 minutes
  • Reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes are cooked, about 10 minutes. Add the cooked lentils to the chicken
  • Add the rice on top of the chicken. Sprinkle the saffron water over, if using. Cut the remaining butter and spread on top together with the fried onions. Pour a cup of water over the biryani and pop into the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 1 hour. Please check in between cooking time to see if it needs more water. Add more, only if necessary. You can increase the cooking time a little if the potatoes are not fully cooked after an hour.


  • For the Crispy Fried Onion heat half a cup of oil in a pot and fry the onion on low heat until golden brown and crisp. Please keep an eye on the onion or it can burn. Drain on a paper towel and set aside


  1. I used Basmati Rice but you can easily use long grain rice. It won't be as fragrant but it works perfectly fine
  2. I use a medium masala, called Rumbo Russo, purchased from the spice shops in Durban. However, you an increase the amount of Kashmiri chilli powder and use just that
  3. You an totally omit the fried onion. It does add a lovely flavor to the biryani but not totally necessary
  4. If you want a little more richness you can increase the amount of butter 



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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Abigail Appiah

    Wow this looks really delicious 🧡

    1. Lorraine

      Thank you so much Abigail 🙂

  2. Richlee Soobramoney

    Hi Lorraine… I followed quite a few recipes here and they came out exactly as u said.. Delicious and mouthwatering. Today Im making the chicken Masala Breyani. I must say it was super easy and it’s looking mouthwatering as it is on the stove at the moment. Men are the best chefs as they say. Lol and being a young man living in Cpt ur recipes really help and make me a masterchef.

    1. Lorraine

      Thank you so much Richlee. I love hearing that the recipes are working for you and yes men are the best chefs because they have the patience us women don’t have…Lol! Pity I couldn’t get my hubby to be a masterchef but good on you. Hope to see you on Masterchef some day soon. Wishing you many more happy days in the kitchen:-)

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