How to make Biryani / Biriyani

2-3 years back I did not know the difference between biryani and pulav. I thought biryani has a different masala called “biryani masala”, but the method for both are same. We were in San Diego for a small business trip and one of my colleagues always prepared biryani on the similar lines as pulav. It definitely tasted great. But then, our manager (who is a Gujrathi but settled here in US), always said ‘what you people make cannot be called biryani’. I never got any chance to see how he makes biryani. But when I returned to India, I went to Belgaum and made sure to learn the biryani from my Pachi’s cook. Her biryani is just amazing.

Here I’ve noted down tips and tricks on “How to make Biryani / Biriyani”, detailed description and step by step pictures/photos with instructions.

While cooking biryani, the rice is cooked separately and alternative layers of vegetables/meat and rice is arranged and cooked on a very low flame for a long time. The best biryanis have each grain separate. They tend to be more dry compared to pulavs. Read here for more information about biryani.
Biryanis can be broadly classified in two
– Kutchi(raw) biryani – where the meat/vegetables are layered between semi cooked rice. For ex: Belgaum style biryani.
– Pakki(cooked) biryani – where cooked meat/vegetables are layered between semi cooked rice. For ex: Biryani with ‘biryani mix’

As I said earlier, biryanis have 2 or more than two layers of meat/vegetables and rice. But I have noticed that, the biryani cooked in Belgaum has only one layer of raw meat/vegetable at the bottom. Then there are layers of rice topped with biryani masala, fried onion. This may be what they followed from generations, but I absolutely love this. It is possible that to cook the meat fast and evenly they put only one layer so that the rice gives the desired weight to cook it faster(thats just a guess).

Here I give some general steps of making biryanis. I will not give any recipe, because these steps are useful with any biryani recipe.

– Cook basmathi rice with water, salt and 2 drops of oil till rice is 3/4th done. A few whole spices are usually added while cooking the rice. Note that rice should NOT be completely cooked. Drain water from the rice and if required, run it through cold water to separate the grains.

– Prepare the masala, for the ‘kutchi biryani’, fry all spices and meat/vegatetable in oil till a nice aroma comes out. Do not cook the meat/vegetables completely. For ‘pakki biryani’, fry the spices and meat/vegetable in oil and then cook it till the meat is completely done.

– Heat oil and fry onion slices till they turn brownish. Take out the onion from the oil on a paper towel.

– Soak saffron or the biryani color in warm water.

– Divide the meat/vegetable mixture in 2 or more portions. Divide the rice in same number of portions.

– Take a thick bottomed pan and heat ghee/oil. Add one portion of the meat/vegetable mixture. Cover with a layer of rice. On top of rice spread a layer of fried onion and soaked color/saffron (Some people add the onion and color layer only on the top). Arrange all the meat/vegetable and rice layers. Spread fried onion and color on top. If desired, spread a table spoon of well beaten yougurt/curd on top.

– Add some(around 1tbl spn) ghee/oil on top, add 1 cup of water(for 1 cup rice). Cover well and cook on a very low flame. After some time, when the grains have almost cooked (the grains would have become bigger). Heat a tava and keep the biryani vessel on the tava. Cook on a low flame again till the meat/vegetable and rice is completely done (if required, add only a little water, too much water makes the biryani mushy).

– Serve hot with raita or mint chutney.

PS : Do not try making biryani in a hurry. It comes out great when it is cooked on a low flame for a long time.
Do not use cooker for making biryanis.
In the above pictures, I have spread some biryani masala along with fried onions and have not used the color. I used the extra masala for the extra flavor.
The two recipes where you can follow this method are this and this.

33 thoughts on “How to make Biryani / Biriyani”

  1. Great classic recipe and wonderful step-wise pictures. One could just take a look at your pics and tell how it is made without seeing your write-up:) Thanks!

  2. Instead of on the the tava, keeping it in an oven safe bowl [sealed tight with aluminium foil] in the oven for 30 mins is yummy too!!

  3. Thanks Shilpa for the detailed step by step method for Biryani,Biryani was one thing I never tried,but with your detailed description Im surely going to try it soon,
    will surely let you know how it turned out once I make it.

  4. shilpa-

    very nice photos and guide to making a good biryani! i found myself wanting to take a scoop from the last photo!!!
    i, like anitha, like to use the oven for biryani-steaming. i feel it more closely replicates the “dum pok” cooking of hyderabad, where the cooking vessel is sealed with raw dough and placed over coals, and near the end of the cooking, more coals are heaped on top of the vessel to cook the biryani from above as well as below.
    it’s amazing how technology cannot compete with ancient cooking methods, but we do our best.

  5. Thanks Hema, Linda, Deepa, Rooma, Krithika.

    Anitha, Pelicano, I have seen the usage of oven for steaming biryanis in few of the recipes. I never used it because I am very comfortable with stove top cooking. Also, in India, people rarely have ovens at home. Though I had it back in India, I used it only for baking cakes. Even in Belgaum where I learnt biryani, they use stove instead of oven. Next time I will try with oven here and will see how it turns out. Thanks for that tip :).

  6. Hi Shilpa,
    Thanks for giving a detailed procedure of making biriyani. I wanted to share this with you. My mom cooks in a different style. She arranges the layer in a pressure cooker, and covers the pressure nozzle not with the cooker weight but with a tumbler, and cooks it on low flame . It gives similar result. Hope you try it.

  7. Hi shilpa,
    This is a wonderful step by step procedure u have given,thanx a bunch. U have a really good collection of recipes, I’m one of the frequent visitors of ur blog.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. Hi Shilpa
    Excellent Biryani!! I tried it for the first time and it came out very well.. My husband loved it.. Thanks so much..
    I was wondering if u know how to make Hyderabadi biryani.. veggie one.. we r vegetarians and i am very eager to get that veggie hyberabadi biryani receipe.. Please let me know if u have the receipe..

  9. Hi Shilpa
    Excellent Biryani!! I tried it for the first time and it came out very well.. My husband loved it.. Thanks so much..
    I was wondering if u know how to make Hyderabadi biryani.. veggie one.. we r vegetarians and i am very eager to get that veggie hyberabadi biryani receipe.. Please let me know if u have the receipe..

  10. Hi Shilpa,

    Thank you for the lovely step by step description of the recipe. I haven’t tried it yet but planning to make it this weekend, hopefully.
    I think this is definitely better than using lots of readymade Biryani Mix masala’s (Everest, Baadshah etc) that make it too fragrant. Few people may like it too fragrant but not for too long:) just like how I got bored with the Biryani Mix masala’s. And I’ve always tried layers with cooked meat.

    Will let you know how it comes out.


  11. My family has enjoyed “perfect” Biryani for the last 60 years or so. My dad’s uncle was a Biryani addict who lived in Calcutta during the 40’s prior to the partition of India. He befriended the master chef of the once famed Amjadia restaurant, and perfected the skills with his help. However, it was a shame for an Indian man to cook at home in those days. Cooking was either left to the servants or the women! What a shame! So he trained a few ladies in the family, including my mom, to cook high quality Biryani for him and other family members and friends.

    Kutchi is the type that is always favored in my family as the Pakki type has somewhat lower respect. A perfect Biryani has the meat done just right-fully cooked but juicy, neither too hard nor too soft; rice grains remaining separate and fluffy after cooking, and the entire house fills with the unmistakable aroma of Biryani as the sealed pot is opened just before serving, declaring an ambience of festivity. I will give away a few of our family’s Biryani secrets today for the benefit of fellow Biryani buffs.

    1. Basmati is the rice of choice. Seeks out rice that was harvested a year or two earlier. It is easy in India but may not be feasible in the US. Older rice has lower moisture content, and therefore, more suitable for Biryani as it absorbs more gravy with oil/butter oil/ghee, and tends to be less sticky. In any case, the rice must be rinsed thoroughly before boiling to remove any loose starch clinging to the surface. Do at least 5 changes of water, and soaks the rice in water or milk for 2 hours or so before boiling. Soaking will give surprisingly longer grains. A small piece of Alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) thrown into the boiling water helps to keep the rice grains separate but it is not recommended for health concerns.

    While boiling the rice, the water must be sufficiently seasoned with salt and spices! Use cardamom, cloves, mace, and bay leaves among other things, all tied in small bag of cheesecloth. Salting in the boiling water will season the rice fully, and the Biryani will not taste bland. The spice bag is removed after draining the rice.

    2. Goat meat is preferred but lamb or chicken is also very much doable. It is doable with fish too but that is another story. Choose younger goat if possible. Avoid small pieces of meat by all means as they become hard and dry at the end. Ideally, the meat pieces should be 4 to 6 oz in size to keep them succulent. Marinade the meat in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours. If you start the marinade the night before, that should take care of this long marinating time. Yogurt and raw papaya paste are musts in the marinade when you cook with goat meat or lamb. They both tenderize the raw meat sufficiently. Papaya paste is generally not needed when cooking with chicken but use yogurt anyway.

    How much meat to use? The original recipes suggest twice the wait of rice. For example, use 2 lbs of goat meat will go with 1 lb of rice. You may reduce the amount of meat to economize but you will earn a bad name if you try less than 1 lb meat for 1 lb of rice. Plan for 8 ounces of meat per adult person. Don’t do Biryani but do something else to please your guests when cost is an issue. Biryani is never inexpensive. It costs a heck of time and money.

    3. The fragrance of Indian ghee can not be mimicked by butter oil or vegetable oil. Years back, ghee was the only way to go in my family when cooking Biryani. With new focus on heart health, everything has changed. We now do ½ ghee and ½ vegetable oil. We also do all vegetable oil at times with great sadness. But hey, there is a trade-off in everything in life!

    4. Use a lot of fried onions while layering your Biryani. More is better so far as fried onion in Biryani is concerned. I prefer shallots whenever available, instead of the common large onions. This is simply because shallots are easier to fry to a crisp texture. Here is a very useful trick for preparing the perfectly caramelized onions that are crisp, and can be crushed by hand for using between the layers of your Biryani. Use a slicer so that all onion slices are of equal thickness. This will ensure that they all brown equally and at the same time. Sprinkles the onion slices with a good dose of common cane sugar immediately before frying in deep oil. Uses medium heat and never leaves them unattended, especially towards the later stage of frying when they brown all too quickly, and burn before you can act. As you drain and cool them over paper towel, they will start to become crisp and brittle. Make some extra that you can use in other cooking. The oil gets a fragrance from the fried onions that you can use in the Biryani.

    5. The moisture for cooking Biryani comes from the meat and marinade. As no extra water is added, these are the only two sources of steam for further cooking the ¾ th cooked rice and the raw meat. The measurement is simple, and it works every time: yogurt and other marinades combined must drown the layered raw meat at the bottom of the pot by one digit of your finger. That’s all you need. If it is more, you will have a gooey stuff. If it is less, you will have an undercooked stuff. Tricky, isn’t it?

    6. Heat and moisture are two important variables that need to be properly controlled to get acceptable results. Always seal the pot’s cover by some mechanism after the casserole is set prior to cooking. I use dough made with all-purpose flour/atta to seal the lead, and then place a heavy object on top such as a cast iron pot or skillet to secure and maintain the seal in a tight fix. It always works. I have read about sealing with aluminum foils etc. but have no experience to comment. Start with high heat, and continue high heat until steam starts to escape through the dough seal. Lower the temperature immediately to low/medium low depending on your stoves BTU capacity. How long to cook? It will always depend on how much food you are cooking. But here is the clue: you need to stop cooking as soon as all moisture is absorbed inside the sealed pot. You can sense that by “listening” to your pot as it cooks. As long as you have moisture inside, you will hear a rustling sound. The sound will stop when all moisture is gone.

    7. Never cook Biryani in an ordinary pot. The infamous Biryani experience is when you open your sealed pot in front of a couple of hungry friends and family members and all you are able to serve is some scorched meat with rice! You need a heavy pot that retains and distributes heat well, and has no hot spot. If possible, use an old fashioned heavy copper pot with tight fitting lid for Biryani cooking. If not, use any other heavy duty pot. I use an All-Clad 8 quart pot that works quite well.

    8. Biryani owes its aroma to the spices and ghee used and the unique cooking method in a sealed pot. I never cook without using plenty of nutmeg/mace, clove, cardamom, black cumin (kala zira/Bunium persicum) and saffron. Some cooks use yellow food color in exchange of saffron. You may try but obviously get only what you pay for.

    Bonn Appetite!

  12. Hi shilpa, thanks a lot….you have a really good collection of recipes.
    i have seen many sites which is not like yours ( detailed and very helpful).. i want to know the briyani side dish which is made in brinjal .( The muslim people will prepare this side dish for briyani).

  13. Abdul Sir

    Some of the tips you have mentioned are really good and adds to the tricks of making a great biryani!! I never knew the trick of making Crisp onions to be added as a top layer in a biryani.

    Also please note : We were completely unsuccessful when we tried making Biryani in the oven. We used a cooking tray with the entire biryani prep and covered it with Aluminum foil.(200 deg F). It simply doesn’t work – the rice never boils or get cooked even after 40 mins. Avoid oven cooking completely!!

    Thanks Shilpa for a great recipe for making Biryani.


    1. Badri, usually when oven is used, it is only used for baking after the biryani is layered. Here the rice is completely cooked or 3/4 cooked, so when baked, it gets perfectly cooked. I have used it many times and it works very well.

  14. Hi! Abdul Sir,

    As you have mentioned in your reply, merinating the meat for 10-12 hrs. is better. What are the spices added and in what quantity to merinate the meat? Can we add oil also?

    Thanks in advance,

  15. A quickie…Is it okey to use a pressure cooker without weight for layering the biriyani? Tomorrow’s my mom-in-law’s b’day and I am planning to impress her with veg biriyani..:)

  16. I disagree with the line .. “Do not use cooker for making biryanis” by the auther. a good biriyani can be made using a presser cooker also

  17. Hey is it possible that u could actually make videos n add them… all your recipes look great n they remind me of Karwar.. but adding videos will give an extra touch to your website..

  18. Thanks for sharing this recipe.. Step by step method makes it even more easy for people like us to cook this at home. 🙂

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