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Easy Sindhi Chicken Biryani

Sharing my mom's traditional Sindhi Biryani Recipe. The ingredients are simple, but the flavours are big. Sharing all the tips and tricks to making Sindhi Chicken Biryani at home.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Keyword: gluten free
Servings: 6


  • 3 cups basmati rice (sella basmati rice is best if you can find it)
  • 3 lbs chicken bone-in, skin off (one whole chicken cut into pieces works well)
  • 3 tsp salt (divided)
  • 2 cups oil
  • 3 lbs onions
  • 2 inch fresh ginger (sliced into thin coins)
  • 1 lbs potatoes
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 5-6 green chillies
  • 2-3 pieces dried apricot (soaked in boiling water to rehydrate, then drained)

Biryani Spice Mix

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2-3 pieces clove
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

Rice Spice Mix

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp whole black pepper
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 lime, sliced

Rice Toppings

  • 1 cup raisins (soaked in 1 cup milk or water) - optional
  • 1 tbsp saffron (soaked in 1/2 cup milk or water)
  • 1/2 tsp zarda (yellow) food colouring (optional - contains egg)
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp whole black cumin seeds


Prepare the Rice

  • Start by washing the rice a few times till the water runs clear, place the rice in a large pan or baking dish with a tight fitting lid (a roasting pan works well).*
  • Add the rice spice mix to the rice with 5 cups of water.

Prepare the Chicken Biryani Masala

  • Heat the oil in a large deep sauce pan.
  • Thinly slice the onions (using a food processor is the easiest way to avoid all those tears - but it will totally be worth it - I promise!).
  • Add all the onions to the hot oil. Add 1 tsp of salt, and the ginger slices. Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally till they start to turn a caramel brown colour (about 30-40 minutes).
  • While the onions cook, prepare the rest of the ingredients: Sprinkle the chicken with 1 tsp salt. Soak the dried apricot in hot water.
  • Chop the potatoes into quarters, and boil them in a separate saucepan with 1 tsp of salt, till fork tender (optional - add a pinch of the zarda food colour to the potatoes while they are boiling to give the potatoes some extra colour too). Once they are cooked. Drain and set aside.
  • Mix the biryani spice mix together, set aside. Soak the saffron in milk or water and add the zarda colour, if using and set aside. Dice the green chillies, set aside.
  • When the onions are a deep caramel brown, add the chicken and biryani spice mix, yogurt, rehydrated apricot (if using) and green chillies.
  • Cook stirring often till the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste for salt and spice level, and adjust to taste. Add the cooked potatoes into the curry at the very end and give it a stir to combine.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat and start to assemble the biryani. (Or you can make the chicken masala ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to assemble. The masala will keep for a few days in the fridge).

Assemble Biryani

  • Preheat oven to 400*F (204*C).(*For stove top directions see recipe notes below).
  • Place the pan with the rice in the oven, with the lid off. Heat rice till the water has been almost absorbed and rice is half cooked (about 5 mins). You will know the rice is half cooked by trying to pinch a grain of rice between your fingers. If it splits into two pieces, it is ready for the next step. If by this point there is still a lot of water left your pan, you can carefully scoop out some of the water so the rice doesn't get too mushy. You want there to be very little - about 1-2 cups - of water left in the bottom of the pan before you move to the next step.
  • Carefully, remove the rice pan from the oven and scoop out half the rice in a separate bowl and set aside.
  • Turn down the oven temperature to 375*F (190*C).
  • Back to the rice, layer the chicken masala mixture over the rice left in the pan, add the raisins in a thin layer, including the milk/water they were soaked in.
  • Add the reserved rice on top in another layer.
  • Sprinkle the saffron water/milk, and remaining rice topping ingredients over top (whole cumin seeds and ground black pepper).
  • Cover and bake in the oven for 20-25 mins.
  • You will know the biryani is done when you remove the cover and a big plume of steam escapes. The steamier, the better. The rice will be fully cooked and have absorbed all the biryani flavour. Toss the biryani gently to fluff the rice and mix the flavours some more. Serve immediately.


*We use the oven method to cook the rice, and find it works really well to keep the heat locked in and allow all the flavours to blend together. However, if you want to do this on the stove top (the traditional way), you will need to use a large, deep pan with a tight fitting lid. A dutch oven works well.
If your pan is thin on the bottom, make sure to place a large frying pan underneath to prevent the bottom from burning. You can also add a heavy pan on top of the lid, to ensure it stays sealed to help create that steam.