10 Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani Secrets Revealed

Hyderabad, the city of Nizams, is well-known for its food culture in India. Its non-vegetarian curries and biryanis have won many hearts over the centuries.

However, when certain types of cuisine get popular, it tends to lose its original flavor and authentic taste over the period of time. This is what I have observed in last few years, and I’m sure you would agree with me.

Hyderabadi chicken biryani is no exception here! Most of the modern day restaurants have transformed this traditional delicacy as per their convenience and customers’ demand. And unfortunately, the biryani that gets served today is just an Indian version of Fried Rice.

So, how can you taste the authentic biryani?

Well, there are two things you can do –

  1. Try it yourself at home.
  2. Befriend the chefs of Nawab.

I know the first option is going to be an obvious choice for you!

Hence, I wanted to share some information regarding the preparation and cooking style of Hyderabadi biryani.

Interesting facts about biryani

There was no such thing called ‘Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani’ in the past. The royal chefs, who invented this delicacy, used to prefer goat/sheep meat in their recipes, as it was relatively easy for them to travel across different regions with these animals.

It is also said that this dish was not just limited to the royal families. It was a staple food for troops during the Mughal era.

During those days, there was no better way to feed thousands of hungry soldiers than making simple and delicious biryanis on regular basis. It contains a good amount of proteins and fats, which are beneficial for those who deal with intense work. So, it was indeed a great solution for those warriors.

Since our lifestyle has changed a lot in recent decades, the chicken meat is now being consumed more as compared to other meats. It gets digested easily in the stomach. Thus, many of our traditional mutton pulaos, biryanis and curries have been replaced with chicken and/or egg.

The Hyderabadi chicken biryani is just another innovative-twist-recipe in the ongoing transition phase of Indian cooking.

Even though the demand for healthier meat has risen in recent years, its core recipe hasn’t changed at all. You will have to follow the same secrets to make this dish at home.

Secrets of Hyderabadi chicken biryani

Let’s learn about the secrets of our traditional non-vegetarian rice delicacy –

1. Papaya – The Meat Tenderizer

Raw Papaya should be used to tenderize the chicken. You can add a couple of tablespoons of raw papaya paste (for 2 kgs of meat) during the marination process, and it will make your chicken very smooth and succulent.

The papaya paste doesn’t have a very strong taste of its own, so it won’t have any effect on the overall taste of your biryani. It’s perfectly fine to add it in the marinade.

2. Dry Spices & Masalas

For the amazing aroma and flavor, you will need to add certain spices and masalas in this biryani.

Prepare the powdered masala using the green and black cardamoms, cinnamon sticks, black pepper seeds and cloves. You may also use the whole spices, though freshly blended masala brings more flavor to the biryani.

Apart from these dry spices, the turmeric powder and red chilli powder are must for this recipe. All these masalas do help in killing the harmful bacteria that may be present in the meat.

Trivia – Many of our commonly available spices were very expensive commodities during the Mughal & Portuguese era. Hence, they were not accessible to everyone.

This biryani is an excellent example of the limited usage of spices.

3. Desi Ghee

When it comes to Hyderabadi biryani, there can’t be any alternative to ghee/clarified butter.

Just like the spices, people had no access to refined oils or extra virgin olive oils. They simply used what they had in abundance at that time i.e. pure desi ghee.

There is a scientific advantage of using ghee over oil. It tones down the excess spiciness of masala to considerable levels and keeps your stomach safe and sound.

Apart from this, it makes the delicacy more rich in taste. Thus, it is recommended to use ghee in the biryani.

4. Chicken Quality

The chicken meat that you’re going to cook for this recipe should be clean and fresh. Do not use stale or leftover chicken pieces from the refrigerator.

Also, the biryani gets more flavorful, when you add chicken with bones. The bone pieces will secrete really nice juices in the base gravy while cooking on dum.

If you prefer larger pieces, make sure to slit them till you reach the hard surface of the bone. It will help meat absorb all the masala flavors from marination.

5. Marination Technique

The meat marination is an integral part of all biryani dishes in the world. Here’s how it should be done –

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the chicken pieces, ghee, papaya paste, yogurt, crisp fried onions, dry spices, chopped green chillies, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves, lemon juice, and salt.
  2. Mix these ingredients together and make sure that masala is coated well to the pieces.
  3. Let the chicken rest for at least 3-4 hours.

Trivia – The ancient chefs used to follow the similar process for marination. They’d marinate the meat just before heading to the battlefield and would return to their tents at the time of sunset in order to cook their favorite non-veg delicacies.

6. No Vegetables Except Fried Onions

Yes, some restaurant chefs do make ‘Hyderabadi’ chicken biryani with red-yellow-green capsicums in it. I have tried this type of dish in a local restaurant, and I have to say it didn’t even taste like regular biryani.

For Hyderabadi biryani, you should refrain from using vegetables like tomatoes, capsicums, and green onions. These veggies will completely change the taste of your authentic delicacy.

Having said that, do not shy away from adding fried onions in it. The crispy onions bring silky texture and mildly sweet taste to the dish.

7. Rice

You just can’t compromise on the quality of rice! It is one of the important ingredients of this recipe, and that’s why you should always use good quality of Basmati rice.

When the rice is cooked properly, it should rise as much as double in size. It should also smell very pleasant. If it doesn’t show any of these characters, you don’t have the best rice for Biryani!

Cooking Tip:

Do not cook the rice completely. When it’s 3/4th done, spread it over the marinated chicken pieces and keep it on very low flame. It helps rice absorb all the flavors.

8. Saffron

Saffron/Kesar is considered one of the most expensive spices in the world, as it is prepared with the stigmas of flowers.

You should never use artificial food colors for biryani or any other recipes. Some of these colors are so harmful that they can cause diseases like food allergies, ADHD, and cancer.

On the other hand, Saffron strands are good natural coloring agents for the cooked rice. So, let’s see how you can use this spice –

  1. Mix the saffron strands with warm milk.
  2. When the rice is spread on top of the chicken gravy, sprinkle this saffron milk on it.
  3. Then, garnish the rice with fried onions, coriander, and mint leaves. Put it on dum for half an hour or so.

That’s it! When cooked, you will get the wonderful yellowish-orange color to your rice.

9. Cooking Vessel

In early days, the chefs used to have large Copper vessels to make their biryani dishes. Some 5-star restaurant chefs still use these vessels to cook for large no. of guests.

But nowadays, we can’t have such super-large vessels in our small kitchens. However, there is a solution to this problem. Some vendors do sell mini-versions of the biryani vessels in local markets of Delhi & Lucknow.

If you can’t find the Copper vessel, don’t worry. It’s not possible for everyone to find these age-old utensils. You can cook it in regular metal cookware as well.

10. Dum Cooking

Dum cooking was supposedly invented to cook the food on low flame for long hours. And, this method needs two important things – wheat flour dough and charcoal.

Here’s how to prepare the dum –

  1. Seal the biryani vessel using dough and place a heavy utensil or brick on the lid.
  2. Let it cook on the burning charcoal fire for 5-6 minutes. Then, lower the flame to cook it until the chicken is cooked.

Trivia: In Rajasthan, you will find a traditional chicken cuisine named Khad Murg, which is also prepared with pretty similar technique. The local folks dig a medium-sized hole in the soil (known as khad in regional language) and place the marinated chicken by wrapping it in the chapatis/rotis and empty gunny bags.

Then, they sprinkle water to damp the sealed pack and add the burning charcoal pieces & sand on top of it to cover the hole completely. This way, the chicken cooks on really low heat and gets very rustic smokey flavor in the end.

This, of course, is a forgotten technique of cooking the meat. Most of the restaurants, now, serve baked chicken or tandoori chicken in the name of Khad Murg.

Coming back to dum cooking, it is a bit long process for regular cooking. But, when you will taste this kind of dum biryani, you’d definitely want to thank the person who’s invented this genius method of cooking. It’s worth trying for once at least!

Conclusion

Biryani making is an art! It has its unique method that you need to follow each time. Otherwise, you would end up making something like masala rice or mixed rice.

The aroma, flavors, and taste are three major aspects of Hyderabadi biryani. If you miss any of them, your biryani will fail. Now, when you think of making this recipe, do try to apply the secrets mentioned above. I’m sure it will turn out great.

If you still have any doubts or questions regarding it, please comment below. I’d love to resolve them for you.

43 comments… add one
  • Janak Raj

    Superb

  • Tanmoy Das

    It is really nice and lots of unknown information about the cooking and beyond cooking. but I have a question! How the beautiful aroma of biryani is achieved? Is it the aroma of sweet attar?

    • Usually, we use Kewda Water and/or Rose Water to enhance the aroma of Biryani. If you can’t find these two ingredients, you may also use other artificial ingredients to get the same aroma.

  • Hari

    Dear Jenny, Could you please advise whether we should fry onions in Ghee ?

    • Hi Hari,

      Yes, you can deep-fry the onion juliennes in Ghee and use same molten Ghee for Biryani preparation. And if you’re worried about too many calories, fry them in any refined oil or suitable Olive oil.

      Ghee only helps in increasing the richness of your Hyderabadi Biryani.

  • Chandrasekhar

    I have been cooking Hyderabadi biryani for special functions for the past 58 years, and I failed sometimes too. After reading this, I learned some more techniques. Thanks!

    • You’re welcome, sir!

      Thank you for such kind words. I feel so happy today that this post has helped an experienced chef like you.

  • Deepti

    Thank you so much for this mouth-watering recipe. Could I use it for mutton too?
    If so should I 3/4the cook the mutton like the rice and then do the dum.

    Please guide me.

    • Hey Deepti,

      Yes, you can use this recipe for Mutton Biryani. Since Mutton takes longer time to cook, you should marinate it with raw Papaya paste. It will give you really moist, juicy and succulent pieces for Biryani.

      For the cooking process, you may precook the pieces in pressure cooker with whole spices and water, though it tastes quite amazing when you stir-fry the pieces with proper masalas in a Biryani utensil.

      So, I’ll leave this option to your style of cooking and convenience.

  • Selva Kannan

    Very very useful instructions, especially the ingredient raw Papaya paste and dum method.

  • Suraj Das

    Dear,

    Thanks for your post that describes the process in detail. But one thing , I miss the aroma of the restaurant. I must have done some mistake in ratio. Would you kindly explain the ratio of whole garam masala to be used for 1 kg chicken? For how long do we put it on flame? If I put for less time, the chickens remain little uncooked in core.

    • Hi Suraj,

      You may not get restaurant-like aroma and taste at home, as they cook food on different flame and use artificial flavoring ingredients.

      For 1 kg of chicken, you can use 1-1/2 tablespoon of Biryani Masala powder (or more if you like spicy Biryani). As for the cooking time, the marinated chicken cooks in anywhere between 20-25 minutes. You should fry the chicken for 12-15 minutes on medium-high flame before putting it on the dum.

  • Sumit Parkar

    Hi Jenny,

    I like to cook dum biryani in Terracotta pot. If i took in the equal amount of Chicken and rice (Eg. 1 Kg Chicken & 1 Kg Rice). and other ingredients accordingly.
    1. What will happen if Marinate time is 3-4 Hrs?
    2. Cooking on Charcoal with terracotta pot. How much time it take for perfectly cooked chicken?
    3. How should i check that chicken is cooked without opening pot?
    4. Cooking time changes with quantity ? if yes How much cooking time i need to increase or decrease with quantity in grams

    • Hi Sumit,

      It’s great to see that you like cooking in Terracotta pot. It does bring rustic and earthy flavors to the dishes.

      Coming back to your questions, here’s what you need to do –

      1. Marination is important in dum cooking, so you’ll have to marinate it for longer time. You may also keep it overnight to get the juicy and flavorful chicken.

      2. If you’re cooking on Charcoal, you will need to cook the chicken masala base for 12-15 minutes on medium-high flame. This will ensure that it’s nearly done. Then, you can put it on Dum for around 25-30 minutes more along with semi-cooked rice and other flavoring ingredients.

      Since you’re preparing Chicken Biryani, it should take less time to cook as compared to other meats.

      3. If you’re going to cook it with sealed pot, you can’t really check anything inside. This is where the master chefs score their extra points!

      You will have to learn the process by trial and error method. And in case you want to be on the safer side, cook the chicken till it’s 3/4th done.

      You can also confirm it by recognising the distinct Biryani aroma from sealed pot, though it’s better to follow the time-bound cooking procedure.

      4. Yes, cooking time depends on various factors i.e. size of pot, low-high flame, cooking place and quantity. Generally, the marinated chicken (~ 1 kg) gets cooked in around 25 minutes (12-15 minutes on medium-high flame + 15 minutes on medium flame). If you want to put it on Dum, there is no need to keep it on flame for long as mentioned above.

  • Alisha

    Hi,

    Hyderabad paradise biryani have some special flavor. I tried different ways to get that flavor, but failed. Could you tell us that secret? How to get that flavor?

    • Hi Alisha,

      I don’t really know the recipe of Paradise Biryani, and it won’t be appropriate to share the secret recipes of any particular restaurant without their consent.

  • Asit kumar

    Hi Jenny, recently ( for last 2-3 yrs) I have been cooking biryanis & some time for up to 40 persons & enjoying it. Thanks for lot of informations in your post. I will like to have your suggestion regarding type & shape of utensils best for biryani. My children didn’t liked the strong smoky flavour when I cooked in a earthened pot & the bottom portion of biryani is burnt. Then I tried cooking with banana leaf at the bottom. Although I got rid of the burning fenomena but it tweaked the original taste. Pl suggest something on type and shape on pots.

    • Hi Asit,

      When your biryani is almost done, place a Tawa under the pot and lower the flame. It will help in avoiding the overcooking process. Also, there is a technique to serve biryani from such pots. Don’t scrape it out from the bottom or mix everything together with spoon.

      Regarding pots, you can try Copper vessels or Aluminium pots to make biryanis at home.

  • Pallavi Bagal

    Which is the best rice for biryani?? Can you please suggest?

    • Hi Pallavi,

      For Biryani preparations, you should always use 1-2 years old long grain Basmati rice that smells aromatic and looks firm in nature.

      As far as Indian brands are concerned, you can go for India Gate or Daawat rice. Both these companies provide great range of Basmati rice for regular use.

  • Maithili

    Hello Jenny,

    Thanks for your post. It will really help us in preparing the authentic biryani.
    Can you please suggest, for 1 kg/2 kg biryani how much quantity of Rice and Chicken to be used .How is the rice/chicken proportion is defined.
    And also how to use other spices in proportion for the biryani whether it is 1kg/ 2kg or more.
    * As far as I’m preparing biryani, I had used mint leaves and tomato, but as in your post I could not see both the items, so should it not to be used for getting the authentic flavour? Please suggest.

    • Hi Maithili,

      For rice and chicken proportion, you may go for 2:1 or 1:1 combination. It also depends on people’s choice, as many people like to have more Chicken/Meat in their biryani.

      Regarding spices, it’d be very difficult to mention any proportion here. If you’re going to use powdered readymade masalas, do use 50 gms of packet for 1kg of biryani or as described on the packet.

      And yes, you shouldn’t use Mint Leaves and Tomato in traditional Hyderbadi biryani. However, both these ingredients are now part of modern day biryanis.

  • Raquib

    Your method is too good and I feel like cooking. But I’d like to know what exactly does the papaya paste do ?

    • Thank you, Raquib!

      Well, the Papaya paste helps in making Biryani meat more soft and succulent. It might also reduce your overall cooking time.

      Do try it out!

  • Rishi

    Hi,
    It’s adorable the way you’ve explained everything. However, I was wondering if you could tell me the secret of aroma we experience when we eat biryani in a famous Birayni Restaurant. I’ve tried multiple times but I end up preparing a kind of Pulao.

    • Hi Rishi,

      There are many ways through which you can infuse aroma into the Biryani. Here’re some of those ingredients – Kewda Water, Rose Water, Mint Leaves, Fried Onions and Dry Spices.

      Talking about restaurant style Biryani, they use different tools as well as flames to cook their delicacies. It’d be very difficult to replicate both these things at home kitchens. And this is also one of the secrets of restaurant style cooking.

      Having said that, the Biryani making is an art in itself. It takes years of practice to reach the perfection level. So, keep practicing and don’t give up!

  • Alan

    Hi, firstly thank you for providing us with these useful information. I have cooked Hyderabadi Dum Biryani few times. The problem I have encountered in last few attempts were once the biryani was cooked using the Dum method (I normally seal the cooking vessel with dough and, at first, I cook it for 5 – 8 minutes in high flame, and rest at a very low flame with by keeping a flat pan on the bottom of vessel), when I open it, I tend to find small amount of moisture/water at the bottom of biryani. I attempted to reduce milk, and yogurt to overcome this problem, but still have not been successful. I would really appreciate it, if you could please provide me with some suggestions. Many thanks!

    • Hi Alan,

      Since you prepare it with Dum technique for good amount of time, it’s perfectly fine to see a bit of moisture at the bottom of vessel. If there is more water content, you may increase the flame and let it cook for another couple of minutes. The water droplets will evaporate in few minutes, though make sure you don’t burn the Biryani.

      Also, do not use refrigerated chicken directly while cooking the mixture. Let it rest in room temperature for some time before you start cooking.

  • Shashank Chandra

    Superbly written and even replies to queries very apt. Truly showing the experience

  • Belinda

    Thank you for this informative post I have learnt a lot. It’s the best post on briyani tips I have come across so far. Please advise how to use the kewda or rose water. Do you maybe use it to half cook the rice?

    • Belinda, the Kewda and Rose water should be used to enhance the fragrance of Biryani. You can add these ingredients as garnish while layering the half-cooked Basmati rice.

  • Tareq Saleem

    Very well explained various processes helping achieve the great taste of hyderabadi biryani, the questions are very well answered which gives good knowledge to the readers. well done Jenny.

  • simion

    The rice making is always made problem for me.I wanted to know how one rice is left from another rice when good cooks are cooking .

    • Hi,

      You should soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Once you start cooking the rice, add a few drops of oil and lemon juice in it. It will help you get the desired results.

      And if you want to see separate grains, don’t cook the rice in pressure cooker. Cook them separately in boiling water pot and strain them later using a strainer or frying Zara.

  • Witty

    Hi,
    I am planning a restaurant. Please let me know how I can cook instantly and limited plates at a time.

    • Hello,

      You can’t make authentic Hyderabadi Biryani in quick time. If you want to save time, you can precook the chicken & rice separately and prepare the Biryani in small batches as per your order estimates.

      Many Indian restaurants follow this technique to serve such delicacies in less time.

  • Vinayak Kapse

    I am myself preparing biryani from last 7-8 yrs. I even take small party orders. You have perfectly and devotedly answered all the questions here Jenny. The matter of perfection comes by time. Every time you make the biryani you will learn something.

  • Joseph

    Hi Jenny,
    You have done a great job here by sharing your knowledge and that too in a detailed authentic way..Thank you !
    I’m a keralite fascinated by dum biryani and have made few attempts in making hyderabadi dum biryani (chicken, meat n fish; got plans to try mutton, pork, rabbit n mushroom too) and all turned out to be relatively good for a novice like me..I even tried the traditional hyderabadi ‘kacchi’ style of dum biryani..
    I lack clarity in the final part..mixing and serving the biryani after breaking the dum.. I suppose that all the best of the juicy meat extracts mixed with spices will be settled at the very bottom of the vessel and the rice on top gets these flavors; however top most layers of rice are not in direct contact. So a good mixing is essential right ? Any tips on that ? Should I dig and take out all the meat from bottom and then do a through mixing or how is it ?
    May be a silly query..pls dont mind 🙂

    • Hi Joseph,

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Regarding serving of the biryani, you shouldn’t mix it completely. You just have to remove the biryani from one of the corners using a spatula or any serving spoon. Once you reach the bottom of the pan, take out some masala and juicy pieces to serve on top of the rice. These steps are important in Dum style biryanis, as it helps in keeping your biryani flavorful, warm and moist for a long period of time.

      If you’re planning to make it in small quantity, it’s perfectly fine to mix the biryani at once.

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