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Chicken Tikka Biryani

Make delicious chicken tikka biryani, full of aromatic flavor, for your next gathering or a special family dinner. It combines two famous Indian dishes, chicken tikka and biryani, into one flavor-packed meal.

Chicken Tikka Biryani in a small bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Rather than preparing the chicken, this chicken tikka biryani recipe is an excellent way to use leftover grilled tandoori chicken, delicious homemade tikka, or baked tandoori chicken since they are marinated beforehand and cooked to perfection.
  • This recipe is a perfect biryani for both beginners and skilled home chefs. There is no doubt that making biryani is a labor of love, and it can be intimidating, but I worked hard to make this recipe as easy to follow as possible.

What is Chicken Tikka Biryani?

Like other delicious South Asian meals, biryani with chicken tikka is a popular Indian and Pakistani rice dish that combines tender pieces of marinated chicken tikka with fragrantly spiced biryani rice – a recipe introduced by the Mughals. The chicken marinates in spiced yogurt, producing tender, boneless chicken pieces that pan-sear, grill, or bake until they have intense flavor and color.

Meanwhile, long-grained basmati rice cooks with aromatics before you add it to the pot with the rest of the ingredients to seal all the flavor. Serve cooling cucumber raita on the side. The contrast of flavors and textures makes this dish popular for gatherings and special occasions like Eid and Ramadan.

What You Need to Make this Recipe

  • Saffron Stems: Bloom the saffron stems before using them in the recipe. This process draws out the fragrance of the saffron. Bloom by gently mixing the stems with a warm liquid, like water or milk (produces a brighter color). If you don’t have saffron, use powdered yellow or red food color to give the biryani its signature look.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt tenderizes the chicken and thickens the gravy.
  • Olive Oil: The oil helps distribute and carry the flavors of the other ingredients. It also keeps the chicken moist.
  • Lemon Juice: Use lemon juice to marinate the chicken.
  • Marinade Spices: Flavor the marinade with aromatic spices like Kashmiri chili powdergaram masala, salt, and turmeric powder.
  • Garlic and Ginger Paste: Grind fresh garlic and ginger into a paste using a mortar and pestle or food processor to flavor the biryani marinade and gravy. You can also buy store-bought garlic and ginger paste if you don’t feel like preparing your own.
  • Ghee: Ghee is a staple in Indian and Pakistani cuisine and develops a deep, nutty base as you fry the gravy and chicken in the ghee.
  • Chicken: I use boneless chicken thighs, but you can also use bone-in chicken. If you are using large chicken thighs like the ones I use from Costco, cut them in half so they are a more manageable size.
  • Basmati Rice: The key to delicious biryani involves soaking the rice in water beforehand – the longer, the better!
  • Aromatics: Add salt, whole green cardamomblack cloves, and bay leaves to the cooking rice..
  • Onions: Caramelized onions become a rich foundation for homemade chicken biryani.
  • Tomatoes: Puree the fresh tomatoes in a blender or food processor before adding them to the dish to reduce the cooking time. In a pinch, include a ½ can of diced tomatoes or chop the fresh tomatoes and sweat them down over low heat. However, the process may increase the cooking time.
  • Green Chilies: Depending on who I am preparing the biryani for, I will chop the green chiles like serrano peppers and jalapeños for more spice or leave them whole for spice that doesn’t overwhelm the dish.
  • Cilantro: Brighten and flavor the dish with freshly chopped cilantro. For even more flavor, consider adding a handful of fresh mint.
  • Biryani Masala: Season the gravy with salt, red chili powder (different from chili powder in the U.S.), ground coriandergaram masala, ground green cardamon, and turmeric.

Additions and Substitutions

  • Vegetarian: If you have vegetarian family and friends, they don’t need to miss out. All you have to do is replace the chicken with my tandoori-spiced air fryer paneer.
  • Dairy-Free: Make the recipe dairy-free using coconut or cashew yogurt instead of plain yogurt. Ghee shouldn’t be a problem even if you’re dairy-free, but just to be sure, use a neutral oil instead.
  • Herbs: Replace the cilantro with mint leaves or use a little of both. 
  • Coloring: Apart from flavor, the color of the different rice grains sets biryani apart. I add natural color by blooming saffron stems in water or milk. If you don’t have access to saffron, use powdered food coloring. Another natural alternative is beet food coloring for a gorgeous red color.

How to Make Chicken Tikka Biryani

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

For the Prep:

Step 1: Combine ingredients for marinade a mixing bowl. Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, and transfer them to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.

Chicken in the marinade.

Step 2: Meanwhile, wash the rice until the water runs clear. Then, transfer the rice to a bowl and cover it with water to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Rice soaking in water.

Step 3: Add the saffron strands to a small bowl. Using the back of a spoon, gently crush some of the strands and stir in the milk. Set them aside to combine. 

Saffron stems in a water.

Cooking the Rice:

Step 4: Drain the soaking water and add the rice to a medium sauce pan with three cups of water. Add the salt, cardamom, black cloves, and bay leaf.

Rice cooking in a saute pan.

Step 5: Bring the saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the rice is tender but not fully cooked, for about 8-10 minutes. Discard the excess water and set the rice aside.

Tip: The rice will not have absorbed all of the water.

Partially cooked rice.

Prepare the Gravy:

Step 6: Warm ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until the onions are brown and caramelized, for about 10-15 minutes. Then, stir in the garlic and ginger paste and saute for 2 minutes.

Onions sautéing in a pan.

Step 7: Deglaze the pan with the pureed tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, scraping up any stuck on bits.

Tomatoes added to cooking onions.

Step 8: Stir in the whisked yogurt and continue cooking for 3 minutes until the ghee escapes to the sides.

Gravy cooking in a pan.

Step 9: Add the green chiles, cilantro, salt, red chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala, and turmeric. Fry the mixture for 1 minute.

Spices added to the pan.

Step 10: Add the water and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the ghee separates, and set it aside.

Tip: Use the water to scrape up any stuck on bits for added flavor.

Bhooning the gravy in pan.

Cooking the Chicken:

Step 11: Warm ghee in large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the chicken thighs into the pan in a single layer, careful not to overcrowd. Cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Set it aside.

Tip: You may need to cook the chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.

Chicken cooking in a saute pan.

For the Assembly:

Step 12: Coat the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven with ghee. Add half of the rice to the bottom of the pan, then spread the gravy mixture over the top.

Rice and gravy layered into a pot.

Step 13: Layer the cooked tikka over the gravy and cover it with the remaining rice.

Chicken over the rice and gravy.

Step 14: Pour the reserved saffron milk evenly over the rice. Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let it rest for 20 minutes. Combine the chicken and rice, to serve.

Pot finished with rice and saffron milk.

Expert Tips

  • I recommend scoring the chicken and marinating it for at least one hour to ensure the flavor penetrates. Use the marinade suggested in this recipe – it’s delicious!
  •  You should cook the rice 90 percent of the way (8-10 minutes) so it is slightly undercooked. Once you layer it with the other ingredients, it will continue to cook and steam until it is tender and soft.
  • I rely on a cooking technique called ‘bhunning’ when preparing the gravy; this means reducing (cooking for a while) until the ghee escapes to the sides. Too much liquid in the gravy will make your rice watery and mushy when you layer it, and no one wants that.

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Chicken Tikka Biryani in a small bowl.

Serving Suggestions

Biryani is one of my favorite one-pot meals because you have everything you need in one go. However, you can serve it with raita, a cooling yogurt sauce that balances the spices. Add a crispy salad, such as kachumber salad or avocado cucumber tomato salad, for freshness and crunch. Biryani also goes well with kabobs, korma, and aloo gosht, and you can complete the meal with a glass of sweet mango lassi.

What to do With the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate  Store leftovers in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
  • Freeze  Let the dish cool. Then, transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Chicken tikka biryani freezes for up to two months.
  • Thaw – Defrost the biryani in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Repurpose  Warm a single serving in the microwave, or add it to a saute pan for a quick and easy meal the whole family will enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between chicken tikka biryani and chicken biryani?

The primary difference is that chicken tikka biryani uses marinated chicken that is pan-seared, baked, or grilled before including it in the biryani. On the other hand, ordinary chicken biryani features plain chicken that is added to the biryani masala and cooked with it.

More Rice Recipes:

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Chicken Tikka Biryani in a small bowl.

Chicken Tikka Biryani

Tressa Jamil
Make delicious chicken tikka biryani, full of aromatic flavor, for your next gathering or family dinner. It's a perfect combination of two famous dishes in one!
5 from 1 vote
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 12 Servings
Calories 349 kcal
Ingredients
  
  • 1 teaspoon saffron strands
  • ½ cup warm milk or water
For the Marinade:
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt, full-fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 6 cloves garlic, ground into paste
  • 1 – inch ginger, ground into paste
For the Chicken:
  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 pound chicken, bone-in and skinless (thighs, legs, quarters)
For the Rice:
  • 3 cups basmati rice, rinsed and soaked
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole green cardamom
  • 4 black cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
For the Gravy:
  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, ground into a paste
  • 1 – inch ginger, ground into a paste
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes, pureed
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt, whisked
  • 1-2 green chilies, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 4 whole green cardamom remove the green shells and grind into a powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • cup water
Instructions
 

For the Prep:

  • Combine ingredients for marinade a mixing bowl. Make 1-3 slits in the chicken pieces, and transfer them to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, wash the rice until the water runs clear. Then, transfer the rice to a bowl and cover it with water to soak for at least 30 minutes.
  • Add the saffron strands to a small bowl. Using the back of a spoon, gently crush some of the strands and stir in the milk. Set them aside to combine. 

Cooking the Rice:

  • Drain the soaking water and add the rice to a medium sauce pan with three cups of water. Add the salt, cardamom, black cloves, and bay leaf.
  • Bring the saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the rice is tender but not fully cooked, for about 8-10 minutes. Discard the excess water and set the rice aside.
    Tip: The rice will not have absorbed all of the water.

Preparing the Gravy:

  • Warm ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until the onions are brown and caramelized, for about 10-15 minutes. Then, stir in the garlic and ginger paste and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Deglaze the pan with the pureed tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, scraping up any stuck on bits.
  • Stir in the whisked yogurt and continue cooking for 3 minutes until the ghee escapes to the sides.
  • Add the green chiles, cilantro, salt, red chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala, and turmeric. Fry the mixture for 1 minute.
  • Add the water and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the ghee separates, and set it aside.
    Tip: Use the water to scrape up any stuck on bits for added flavor.

Cooking the Chicken:

  • Warm ghee in large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the chicken thighs into the pan in a single layer, careful not to overcrowd. Cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Set it aside.
    Tip: You may need to cook the chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.

For Assembly:

  • Coat the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven with ghee. Add half of the rice to the bottom of the pan, then spread the gravy mixture over the top.
  • Layer the cooked tikka over the gravy and cover it with the remaining rice.
  • Pour the reserved saffron milk evenly over the rice. Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let it rest for 20 minutes. Combine the chicken and rice, to serve.
Notes
Expert Tips: 
  • I recommend scoring the chicken and marinating it for at least one hour to ensure the flavor penetrates. Use the marinade suggested in this recipe – it’s delicious!
  •  You should cook the rice 90 percent of the way (8-10 minutes) so it is slightly undercooked. Once you layer it with the other ingredients, it will continue to cook and steam until it is tender and soft.
  • I rely on a cooking technique called ‘bhunning’ when preparing the gravy; this means reducing (cooking for a while) until the ghee escapes to the sides. Too much liquid in the gravy will make your rice watery and mushy when you layer it, and no one wants that.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 349 kcal | Carbohydrates: 44 g | Protein: 10 g | Fat: 15 g | Saturated Fat: 7 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6 g | Trans Fat: 0.02 g | Cholesterol: 41 mg | Sodium: 642 mg | Potassium: 259 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 3 g | Vitamin A: 622 IU | Vitamin C: 6 mg | Calcium: 66 mg | Iron: 1 mg
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