Mughlai Biryani MirchiMasalay

This regal dish, Mughlai biryani is fit for a king and was probably eaten by many too. This recipe combines ingredients typical in the Mughlai style of cooking—it's a perfect one-dish meal for when you have company.



  • 2 pounds lamb (or chicken cut into 2-inch pieces; if using chicken, use breast or thigh fillet)
  • 4 large onions (sliced thin)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 6 tablespoons ghee (or vegetable, canola or sunflower cooking oil)
  • 1-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 pods cardamom
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or beef stock)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves
  • 2 tablespoons mint leaves (finely chopped)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Optional: 3 drops of orange food coloring
  • Optional: 3 drops of green food coloring


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Mighlai biryani ingredients.
  2. Put the almonds in a bowl of hot water (enough to cover them) and set aside for 10 minutes.

    Add almonds to bowl with water
  3. After 10 minutes, remove the skins from all the almonds by pressing each one between your thumb and forefinger. The almonds will slip out of their skins.

    Remove skin from almonds
  4. Mix the garlic and ginger pastes and the peeled almonds and grind the mixture into a smooth paste in a food processor.

    Grind almonds, garlic, and ginger
  5. Wash the rice in a sieve and add enough water to fully cover the rice—at least 4 inches over the surface of the rice. Add salt to taste.

    Wash rice with water
  6. Boil the rice until it is almost done. To determine when the rice has reached that stage, remove a few grains from the pot and press them between your thumb and forefinger. The rice should mostly mash but will have a firm, white core. Turn off the burner.

    Boil rice until done
  7. Strain the rice through a colander and set it aside.

    Strain rice and set aside
  8. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry two of the onions until they are caramelized and golden brown. Drain and set the onions aside on paper towels.

    Caramelize onions in skillet
  9. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in another pan and add the whole spices—cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns. Fry the mixture until the spices turn a little darker.

    Add spices to skillet
  10. Add the two remaining onions and fry them until they are translucent.

    Add onions and fry
  11. Add the ginger-garlic-almond paste and fry for two to three minutes.

    Add almond paste to onions and spices
  12. Add all the spice powders—coriander, cumin, and garam masala and mix well.

    Add spice powders to mixture
  13. Fry the mixture until the oil begins to separate from the masala and then add the lamb or chicken. Continue frying until the meat is fully sealed; it will become opaque and lose its pink color.

    Add chicken or lamb to mixture
  14. Add the yogurt, lime juice, stock, coriander and mint leaves and salt to taste (if needed). Mix well.

    Add the yogurt, lime juice, stock, coriander and mint leaves and salt
  15. Cover the pot and allow the dish to cook until the meat is tender.

    Cover and cook until meat is tender
  16. If you are using food coloring, divide the rice into three equal portions and put each portion into a separate dish. Add the orange food coloring to one portion of the rice and the green food coloring to another portion. Leave the third portion white.

    Add food coloring to different portions of rice
  17. With each portion, mix the rice until all the grains are well colored.

    Mix rice with food coloring
  18. Set the rice aside for 10 minutes, and then mix the three portions in a bowl.

    Mix portions of rice in bowl
  19. Grease a deep baking dish and evenly layer the cooked rice and meat (and its gravy) to form at least two sets of layers—rice-meat-rice-meat-rice. Garnish with the previously caramelized onions.

    Layer rice and meat in cooking dish
  20. Cover the dish tightly. If the dish does not have a cover, use two layers of aluminum foil with the shiny side of both layers pointing down toward the rice, and secure the foil to the dish with baking string.

    Cover dish with aluminum foil
  21. Put the dish in a preheated oven set at 350 F. Bake for 20 minutes.

  22. Turn off the oven and let the dish sit in the oven until you are ready to eat. Remove the foil only when you are ready to eat.

    Cooked mughlai biryani
  23. Serve and enjoy!