Butter Chicken Biryani-Butter Chicken and Biryani Lovers Unite!

Yes, that’s right. Butter chicken-but as biryani. It’s rich and luscious, savory and robust and so delicious.

Butter Chicken Biryani

Biryani is a South Asian dish that consists of meat, rice, and spices-all cooked together. Chicken and red meats are traditional-while this butter chicken biryani is a whole new twist.

Butter chicken is also a south Asian dish that’s creamy and rich with a spiced tomato base and butter and cream to finish.

When you combine the two, you get a whole new style of biryani that’s richer and (in my opinion) even tastier than the original!

The idea of it may seem complicated , but the steps are actually quite simple. Start by making a regular butter chicken. Then combine it with partially boiled basmati rice and steam until the flavors blend beautifully.

Butter chicken itself can be time laborious but I have a few tricks to make it easier! To start-use skinless boneless chicken thighs. This is the best meat to use to prevent dry chicken. Cut the thighs to bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Add spices to marinate: salt, red chili powder, turmeric, and fresh minced garlic. Mix well and set aside.

Mix Marinade with Chicken Pieces

When you’re ready to cook, place a pan on high heat and add oil. I use olive oil but vegetable oil is also fine. Once the oil is very hot, add chicken in one layer and leave for a few minutes to let it brown instead of steam. If you start mixing it won’t develop color right away!

Fry Chicken Until Golden Brown

Once you are satisfied with your chicken, lower the heat to medium or medium low and add a chopped onion and more minced garlic along with a teaspoon each of cumin, red chili powder, and salt. I like to use a mixture of half red chili powder and half paprika for color with less heat. Cover and sauté gently, uncovering and stirring every few minutes until onions are completely translucent and begin to caramelize.

Add Onions, Garlic, and Spices to Chicken

Now it’s time to add a 15 oz can of tomato sauce. One of the most tedious parts of making butter chicken is waiting for large chunks of tomato to cook down until completely mushy. So instead I like to use a can of blended tomato sauce. Add a splash of water to the empty can to get out every bit of sauce out and add the water to the pan. Mix and cover again-mixing every few minutes to prevent sticking

Cook with Tomato Sauce

After 10 minutes, add 1/3 cup of yogurt and 2/3 cups of heavy cream. Yogurt is not traditional in butter chicken but it is in biryani! Mix and add a stick of butter (I know! It’s a lot-but it’s called butter chicken for a reason). Now you can add a teaspoon each of brown sugar and and ketchup. Just trust me on this-it works! I left it out this time though because it tasted perfect to me as is.

Add Yogurt, Heavy Cream, and Butter

For the rice, start by placing a pot of water on high heat and bringing it to a boil. In the meantime place basmati rice in a bowl and wash very well with water-rinsing and repeating a few times until the water runs clear. Then fill the bowl with water and let it soak for 20-30 minutes.

Rinse and Soak Basmati Rice

When your pot of water comes to a boil, rinse the rice and add it in. Let it come up to a rolling boil for 2-3 minutes then begin checking the rice grains. You want the rice to be almost completely cooked. When you take a bite of one it should be tender but with a slight bite-this takes about 6-7 minutes.

Boil Until Almost Completely Cooked

Once that happens, drain your rice in a strainer and set aside. Now it’s time to assemble! Place half the butter chicken in the pan and add fresh chopped cilantro and fried onions (I use a prepared bag). Then add half the rice. Then the rest of the butter chicken. Top with mow cilantro and fried onion. Then the rest of the rice and top with the remainder of the cilantro and fried onion.

Layer Butter Chicken and Rice Intermittently

Cover tightly and place on a burner on the lowest setting. Let it all steam together in the plan gently for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it sit covered for another 20 minutes. Now it’s finally time to uncover your butter chicken biryani! As soon as you remove the lid that first steam of delicious biryani smell is always a win.

Fresh Pot of Butter Chicken Biryani

Mix very very gently and serve fresh with a side of yogurt or raita (a yogurt cucumber sauce) and/or salad. Or if you’re in a rush to eat like I usually am-just have it as is!


Feeds 6-8

For Chicken

  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp red chicks powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying

For Biryani

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce (purée)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 2/3 heavy cream
  • 1 stick butter
  • Optional: 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup fried onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro


1. Marinate chicken in spices and set aside

2. Heat a pan on high heat. Add oil and fry chicken until golden brown

3. Add onion, garlic, and all spices. Mix and lower heat to medium, then cover and cook stirring every few minutes until onions are translucent and start to turn golden

4. Add tomato sauce and a splash of water. Mix and cover again, simmering gently for 10-15 minutes

5. In the meantime rinse rice thoroughly and soak for 20 minutes

6. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add rinsed, soaked, and drained rice. Boil for 6-7 minutes or until rice is almost completely cooked through

7. Drain rice and set aside. In a pan with tall sides (or a pot) layer 1/2 the butter chicken, cilantro and fried onions, 1/2 the rice, cilantro and onions, rest of the butter chicken, cilantro and onions, rest of the rice, and the rest of the cilantro and fried onions.

8. Cover tightly and cook on low for 20 minutes. Then turn off heat and leave for another 10 minutes before uncovering. Mix gently and serve with yogurt or salad


*Garam masala, sugar, and ketchup are extra spices I usually add to butter chicken-feel free to add them if you like!

**If you uncover the biryani and the rice is still not cooked all the way through-don’t panic! Simply cover again and place in the bake at 350° for 30 minutes. This will continue to steam the rice and cook it all the way through (I’ve made this mistake before 🥲)

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