Chicken Biryani (Kenyan Style)

Biryanis are really a meal in one and usually eaten with a full fat plain yoghurt and a good mixed salad. There are many recipes for this very popular dish, my favourite one is from my friend in Nakuru, her hands move so quickly when she is in the kitchen, I have to be quick with my write-ups!

Ready fried onions and frozen roast potatoes are readily available in countries like Kenya, Pakistan, UK, USA . If you do not have the time or are not keen on frying, then you can use shop fried onions and ready roast potatoes.


Stage 1

  • 6 cups Sunflower (or any other oil except Olive oil)
  • 1lb onions (finely sliced)
  • 1lb potatoes (cut into thick slices)

Stage 2

  • 2lb chicken (cut into 12 pieces)
  • 8oz low fat yoghurt
  • 3 tsps crushed garlic
  • 3 tsps crushed ginger
  • 6 crushed green chillies
  • 1 tsp chillie flakes/chillie powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • qtr tsp yellow food colour (optional)
  • qtr tsp saffron
  • 5 black peppercorns, 2 tbs whole cumin, 1 tbs crushed dry coriander, 5 small whole cardamoms, 2 sticks cinnamon, 4 cloves

Stage 3

  • Tip: Begin Stage 3 whilst the chicken is in the marinade. Soak the rice before you begin Stage 3.
  • 2 cups oil (use the oil from Stage 1)
  • 2 tbs whole cumin. 3 sticks cinnamon, 5 whole cardamoms, 2 tbs crushed dry coriander, 4 cloves, 5 whole black peppers (whole masalas)
  • 2 green chillies cut in half
  • 1 tin tomatoes or 5 fresh tomatoes (crushed)
  • 1 tbs crushed garlic
  • 1 tbs crushed ginger
  • 1 tbs tomato puree
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs chillie powder or chillie flakes
  • 2 tbs lemon/lime juice
  • 2 tbs garam masala
  • 1 cup sliced green coriander

Stage 4

  • Make plain rice or plain pilao rice
  • Yellow food colour diluted in 2 tbs water (optional)
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs quartered/sliced (optional)


Stage 1

  1. The oil in this part of the recipe is for deep frying the onions, some of it will be used up later, and some will have to be discarded.
  2. Place oil in a wok or deep saucepan, heat to medium.
  3. Add a fistful of onions to the oil, fry until dark brown in colour, and remove into a plate. Repeat until all onions have been fried.
  4. Add the potatoes in two batches to the same oil, fry on medium heat, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove onto a plate.
  5. Save t2 cups of he oil for Stage 3.
  6. Or use 1.5 cups of ready-fried onions if available.

Stage 2

  1. Wash the chicken, remove excess water and place in a deep glass bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, add the yoghurt and then all other ingredients, mix well.
  3. Add to the chicken and marinade for 20-30 mins.
  4. Transfer chicken mixture to a pan, cook on medium heat for 10 mins or until almost dry and switch off.
  5. Keep aside.

Stage 3

  1. Add the 2 cups of saved oil (discard remainder of oil) to a large non-stick pan, heat to medium and add the whole masalas then the green chillies.
  2. As they sizzle, add the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, tomato puree, salt and red chillies.
  3. Cook mixture on medium heat and keep stirring from time to time to avoid sticking and until the liquids dry out and the oil separates (bhun).
  4. Add part cooked chicken mixture from Stage 2 to this tomato mixture, stir once and cook covered on low heat for 10mins.
  5. Remove cover, there should be a thick liquid remaining with the chicken, if it is too runny, dry off excess liquids, if it is too dry add 1 cup of boiling water.
  6. Add fried onions from Stage 1 to this mixture, to thicken.
  7. Finally add the green coriander, garam masala and lemon juice, mix once and keep aside.
  8. If serving by layering, switch on oven to medium heat.

Stage 4

  1. When rice is cooked, sprinkle the food colouring (if using) and mix gently with a fork.
  2. If serving by layering, take a large oven proof dish, place half the rice on the bottom of the dish, spread out evenly.
  3. Place all of the chicken mixture over the rice and lay the fried potatoes on top of the chicken, top with a second layer of rice.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and place into the heated oven to cook for 15-20mins. Switch off oven and serve immediately.
  5. Tip: If using two chickens, make two layers, for three chickens make 3 layers etc.
  6. If not layering, gently separate the grains of rice with a wooden spoon.
  7. Make a layer of rice on a large platter, place the chicken biryani mixture on top of this.
  8. Top up with the fried potatoes (and sliced hard-boiled eggs if using) and serve immediately.
  9. Traditionally biryanis are served by layering but for an easier option the chicken mixture can be served over a layer of rice on a large platter. Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs (optional).


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About Me

I am Sabiha Khokhar, born in Kenya now living in London – a busy working mother, wife, published author and passionate cook. Despite having many interests in life, my greatest joy is FOOD!

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