Chicken or Veggie Biryani

Phase 1 | Serves 6 | Prep time: 45 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes


  • 2 cups uncooked brown basmati rice
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 green chilies, seeded and sliced, divided*
  • 4 whole cinnamon sticks, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes (about 4 medium)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 whole cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron or turmeric (optional)


  1. Soak the brown basmati rice in water and set it aside for 15 to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, ginger, cumin, half of the sliced chiles, and 2 cinnamon sticks into a paste. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a spice grinder or coffee grinder to grind the dry spices, and a mini chopper or food processor for the garlic, ginger, and chiles.)
  3. Heat a large, deep, thick-bottomed pan (use one with a tight-fitting lid – you’ll need it later) over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of broth, and sauté the chopped onions and carrots for five minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the spice paste and sauté 3 minutes more.
  4. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chopped chicken and cook for 10 more minutes (the liquid should dry up in this time).
  6. Stir in the remaining sliced green chilies, chopped mint and cilantro, and salt. Remove the mixture to a bowl, and set the pan aside – you’ll need it again.
  7. Bring a deep pot of water – with a little salt, the cardamom pods, and 2 cinnamon sticks – to a boil. Drain the soaked rice and add it to the pot. Let the rice cook for about 18 minutes, making sure the rice is not fully cooked, as it needs to be ‘al dente’ or firm to the bite.
  8. Drain the rice. (You can leave in the cardamom pods and cinnamon for extra flavor while the biryani cooks, or go ahead and remove them now.) Soak the optional saffron threads in a tablespoon of warm water and stir this into the rice (or stir in the optional turmeric).
  9. Layer the rice and chicken masala: Pour 1/2 cup of broth into the pan (the one from the chicken mixture) and let it simmer. Add a layer of half the rice, followed by the chicken masala, and finally the remaining rice. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes over low heat. Serve hot.

*One jalapeno plus three mild chiles (such as Anaheims) makes a mild biryani. Sub additional hot peppers if you like more heat.