Chicken Tikka Biryani

Pakistani chicken tikka biryani

If you are here, I am assuming you already know what Biryani is. Chicken Tikka Biryani is one of my Favorite Biryani fusions! An amalgamation of 2 of the most favorite Desi food, Chicken tikka and biryani…together makes this delectable spicy (chatpati) biryani.

If you are kinky for biryani like me, I also have a quick biryani recipe on the blog. If you are making this recipe for the first time, I will request you to make it as closely as you can, with minimum substitutions.

Let’s see how all of it comes together.

Layers of this Biryani

This biryani, like any other biryani has the following components that makes up each layer:

  • Marinated baked/grilled chicken tikka
  • A Tikka curry/Qorma base
  • The parboiled basmati rice
  • The garnish and color layer

Making Chicken Tikka

This recipe calls for marinating chicken pieces in Tikka spice mix. I used my homemade tikka spice mix to marinate the chicken. But if you have a packet Tikka mix lying around, you can use that as well. Use the whole packet along with any extra ingredients the packet calls for. You can leave the chicken to marinate for anywhere between 2 to 8 hours.

Chicken pieces marinated in tikka masala in a white bowl
Marinated Chicken in Tikka Masala

You can also smoke the chicken with a piece of coal at this point or do it later while baking.

There are two ways in which you can cook this marinated chicken. You can chose whichever one you prefer:

Method #1 – Baking the chicken

If you opt for this, all you have to do, is simply:

  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper, grease it,
  • Place your chicken pieces, spray on top of the chicken
  • And bake, ending with the gas griller for the char.

This method is great if you are trying to watch your calories, plus also it’ll save you time. Your chicken can be baking in the oven and you can be working on the qorma on stove simultaneously. And be done with both at once.

Method #2 – Pan frying or grilling the chicken

If you don’t have a gas oven or don’t feel like heating it up, you can always opt for the old school way of pan frying the chicken or grilling it. But the chicken sometimes doesn’t cook all the way through this way, so you’ll have to toss it in the qorma to cook for 10 mins as well.

Make the Tikka Qorma

The masala in this biryani is slightly different to regular biryanis. It is mostly based on onions and yogurt, with only 1 tomato and all ingredients are chosen very deliberately to reach a certain flavor profile.

Tip: ALWAYS turn off flame right BEFORE you reach the perfect golden color. The oil is pretty hot at this point so if you wait till your onions get to the right color and THEN turn off the flame, it’ll most probably take your onions to a much more dark shade, and possibly burn them.

Once you turn off the flame, remove roughly about a cup of the fried onions to use for garnish later.

Now the pot has roughly about 1 1/2 cup of oil along with the fried onions in it. I strain most of the oil out, leaving roughly 4 to 6 tbsp behind. Any qorma only needs enough oil to brown the onions. If that’s done, you don’t need anymore. If you’ve fried your onions at the right temperature, you will notice that MOST of the oil is out, almost as much as you had put in.

Adding Spices

Once you’ve removed all the oil, add 1/2 cup of water and turn the flame back on again. Now we are going to add allllll the spices, garlic ginger paste, salt and chopped tomatoes.

ingredients to make tikka qorma in a pot

At this point, show some saute action (aka Bhunna). Saute at medium flame long enough to see oil separate on the side. This step helps in tempering the spices.

Go ahead and add another 1/2 cup of water, beaten yogurt and food color. Mix well and cover the lid for 10 mins at medium flame. When you see slight oil seperation on the sides, use a hand blender/immersion blender to blend the Qorma. This step will give you a more smooth mix and is a very common technique used by lots of Biryani places in Pakistan.

After the immersion blender, give it another 3 mins for the oil to come up again. Once it does, turn off the flame. Your qorma base is ready.

NOTE: If you opted for pan frying the chicken instead of baking it, add it in the qorma masala when you add in the yogurt to let the chicken cook for 10 mins as well

Soaking and Boiling the Rice

  • For any biryani use long grain aged Basmati rice. They hold their shape well and don’t mush together.
  • I soak rice for about 20 to 30 mins (which is the standard time for most rice brands)
  • While boiling rice, chuck in some whole spices, salt, vinegar and kewra water as well. The vinegar helps the rice to have a really nice vibrant white color and stabilizes its shape too.
  • Par-boil the rice for roughly 5 mins. Check a grain to see if it breaks in the center with your hands easily. That’s your cue to drain the water from the rice and set aside.

Garnish for the Biryani

After your tikka, qorma, and rice are ready, lets look into the garnish. The garnish I’ve selected for this biryani are things that compliment the Tikka flavor profile. This particular biryani uses:

  • Fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup Fried onions (kept aside while making qorma)
  • Lemon slices and lemon juice- To add a little sourness
  • A zesty yellow food color mixed with milk. The yellow color compliments the reddish orange hue of the Tikka and Qorma, which is why we opted for this instead of the standard orange color for biryani.
  • You can also add a few drop of biryani essence in the color (optional)

Layering the Biryani

My biryani layering sequence looks something like this:

  • First a layer of 1/3 of the rice.
  • Then goes in the garnish
  • Next is a layer of 1/2 of the chicken pieces
  • I also sprinkle some freshly squeezed lemon juice on the chicken pieces.
  • Then 1/2 of the qorma masala on top of it.
  • Repeat once more.
  • Top layer with rice, garnish and food color in it.

Cover the pot with a layer of aluminum foil and then place your lid on top of it. This helps in sealing in the steam that builds up in the pot.

Place a griddle or tava below the pot on the flame. Standard biryani cooking time is 8 mins on medium high flame and another 10 mins on medium low flame.

Tip: Always use a pot size (pateeli) that can hold all your rice and chicken and still has about 1/4 empty space. This helps in mixing the biryani and also creates better steam cooking environment.

You can lift the lid slightly to check if you see any steam build up in the pot, this will ensure that your biryani is cooked. Ideally, let your biryani rest for another 10 mins before dishing it out.

Alternates, Fixes and Remixes

How to make biryani less spicy?

  • This biryani is definitely spicy! “chatpati” in Pakistani terms. If you can’t handle spicy food, you can reduce the level of green chilies in the qorma by half and reduce the red chili powder by half as well.
  • Note: The green chilies I use were medium hot, so if the green chilies you are using are very high in heat, (usually the really small green ones are hottest) then you need to reduce them by half anyways.

What to do with the left over oil?

The oil that’s left over from frying the onions, chilies and mint leaves is going to be super aromatic and infused with great flavor. You can use this oil practically in all kinds of savory cooking, greasing, frying etc.

What if I want to add potatoes?

Potatoes have a tendency to absorb spices and salt from gravies. If you plan to add potatoes in this recipe, you will have to increase both salt and spice, plus add a tomato as well. You will also have to add another 250 gm of rice to incorporate the added potato.

side of chicken tikka biryani in a black plate
Close up of Pakistani Chicken Tikka biryani with lemons on the side

Chicken tikka biryani

Yield: Serves 6 adults
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

A Pakistani modern fusion between Chicken tikka and traditional Chicken biryani to create a delicious layered rice and chicken tikka masala dish.


Chicken Tikka Marination & Qorma

  • 1 packet of Tikka masala or Homemade tikka spice mix
  • 1 medium sized chicken cut into pieces
  • 6 medium onions sliced (4 cups)
  • 14 green chilies
  • 1 cup of mint leaves
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2 cups of oil
  • 2 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp of salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste


  • 1 tsp of black pepper powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp of red chili powder
  • 2 tsp of cumin powder
  • 1 tsp of garam masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 2 tsp of coriander powder
  • 1 pinch of crushed Nutmeg (Jaifil)
  • A pinch of crushed Maze (Javetri)


  • 3/4 kg Long grain Bastmati rice
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp kewra water
  • 1 tbsp oil or ghee
  • 4 to 5 bay leaves
  • 10 whole black peppers
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 green cardamom
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 1 piece of cinnamon stick
  • 4 tbsp of salt (or to taste)


  • 2 lemons cut up in slices
  • 3 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp of milk mixed with Strong yellow food color (zarda color)
  • 1 cup of fried onions
  • few drops of biryani essence (optional)


Chicken Tikka

  1. Marinate chicken pieces in chicken tikka masala and leave it for 2 hours or overnight.
  2. You can also smoke the marinated chicken with a piece of coal. (optional)
  3. Preheat oven at 180° C (350 F)
  4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spray it generously with roasting spray or cooking oil. Place the chicken pieces on the tray and spray another coat of cooking spray on top of the chicken.
  5. Pop the tray in the oven for 20 mins and turn on the top grill for the nice char in the last 5 mins.
  6. Alternatively you can also grill the chicken on a grill pan or pan fry them as well. (See note)

Chicken Qorma

  1. In a pot, add oil, sliced onions, green chilies and mint leaves. Fry them at medium heat until they turn crispy golden brown. Remove about a cup of the fried onions and set aside.
  2. Strain out most of the oil as well. (Leaving 4 to 5 tbsp in the pot)
  3. Add 1/2 cup of water in the fried onion mix and turn the flame back on at medium. Add in all the spices, salt, chopped tomatoes and garlic ginger paste. Saute the curry base until the oil separates and comes on top.
  4. Reduce flame to low and Add another 1/2 cup of water.
  5. Now add beaten yogurt and a little food color. Cover the pot and let the Qorma base simmer for 15 mins.
  6. Open the lid and use a hand blender/immersion blender to reach a smooth Qorma consistency. Qorma is ready.


  1. Soak rice for 20 mins in water.
  2. Boil water in a pot with salt, vinegar, oil, kewra water and whole spices.
  3. Add soaked rice in boiling water. Boil for about 5 mins or until a grain of rice can break in your hand but retains its shape. Strain the rice and set aside

Layering and Final cooking

  1. Chose a pot that would be able to hold all the rice and chicken together and still be 1/4th empty.
  2. Add 1/3rd of the rice on the bottom of the pot
  3. Add fried onions, some mint leaves and 2 3 lemon slices
  4. Add 1/2 of the baked chicken and sprinkle a little lemon juice on it.
  5. Spread 1/2 of the qorma mix on top of the chicken covering the rice.
  6. Repeat the process one more time and finish with rice on the top layer.
  7. Drizzle yellow food color in the form of a cross and add garnish. Optional - add biryani essence to food color
  8. Cover the pot and add a layer of aluminum foil in between pot and lid to create better seal.
  9. Place the Pot on top of an insulator, griddle or tava on the stove
  10. Turn on the flame at medium high heat for 8 to 10 mins.
  11. Reduce the flame to low and leave it for another 10 mins.
  12. Open the pot to check if steam has formed inside.
  13. Let the biryani rest for another 10 mins.
  14. Mix and serve with salad and yogurt.


If you decide to pan fry chicken at high flame, there is a chance they are still raw. Add pan fried chicken in the qorma while adding yogurt to finish cooking.

To make this biryani with potatoes:

  • Take 1 kg rice instead of 3/4th kg
  • Increase the salt quantity by 1 tsp in the qorma.
  • Add 1 more tomato to the qorma

The green chili measurement in this recipe is based on the green chilies I had, which were medium hot. If the green chilies you have are extremely high in heat (like the small thin ones), put half of the given quantity.

This recipe gives a spicy biryani, reduce red chili to 1 tsp if you can't eat very spicy food.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1066Total Fat: 60gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 46gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 1459mgCarbohydrates: 102gFiber: 10gSugar: 24gProtein: 36g

Did you make this recipe?

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2 years ago

Looks great

2 years ago

I have tried this recipe, it turned out AMAZING!!!
don’t skip the coal part, it will bring nice bbq flavour.
Follow it exactly and you will love it ❤

2 years ago

This biryani recipe totally hits the spot and has totally become our new favorite ????

Saba Azaz
Saba Azaz
2 years ago

Made yesterday for dinner and it turned out very yummy .. I have made so many versions of biryani but seriously this is super easy and very fragrant. I did one addition … I put aloo bukharey (plums) . But seriously gonna try again In sha hAllah … 10/10

Huma Shaikh
Huma Shaikh
2 years ago

Tried this recipe and it turned out amazingly delish .. wasn’t expecting the blast of flavours with the regular masalas but I was in surely in for a treat ❤

Rabeea Haq
Rabeea Haq
2 years ago

Made this yesterday. First time EVER attempting biryani. The recipe was clear and extremely detailed. It turned out perfect, nothing needed any changes. Thank you so very much Wajiha ????❤️!

1 year ago

Over the years I have tried various biryani recipes from cookbooks and Google. But never have I come across such an amazing, most tantalizing and droolious biryani recipe. Only ingredient I didn’t have was kewra water which I’m going to stock up next time I’m going to make this biryani again. Today was the most amazing Sunday lunch with your biryani recipe. Better than even I have had in any restaurants I have tried around the globe. Not exaggerating but seriously the best biryani recipe. Hoping to try your other recipes. God bless.

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