South African biryani

South African biryani


12 people made this

About this recipe: This is a traditional South African biryani, which you might like to try as an alternative to what's common here. Don't be daunted by the list of ingredients, because the end result is a richly flavoured centrepiece.


Serves: 8 

  • 2kg chicken pieces with bone cut into chunks
  • 200g yoghurt
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 360g basmati rice
  • 125ml oil
  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • 6 new potatoes
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 (400g) tin lentils, drained
  • Chicken marinade
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 4 pods cardamom
  • 6-12 small whole green chilles (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Cooking spices
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 pods cardamom
  • 1 long green chilli, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon grated root ginger
  • 2-3 cloves cloves garlic, chopped
  • Rice spices
  • 2 pods cardamom
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Masala mix
  • 60g chopped fresh coriander
  • 30g chopped fresh mint
  • Garnish
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 15 drops rose water (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons crisp fried onions (optional)
  • 3-4 large ripe tomatoes

Prep:30min  ›  Cook:1hr  ›  Ready in:1hr30min 

  1. For the marinade: Rub chicken pieces with ground ginger, garlic and turmeric. Place in a large bowl with remaining marinade spices, yoghurt and small chopped tomato. Let marinade for at least 1 hour in fridge.
  2. Boil rice with rice spices in 1.25 litres water until only half done. Drain, remove spices and set aside.
  3. Heat half of the oil and all the ghee in a pan. Add potatoes cut in quarters and cook for 5-10 minutes till lightly browned and crisp but only half cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add sliced onions to pan and cook gently until golden. Add all cooking spices and stir for a few minutes to release flavours and smells.
  5. Add marinated chicken pieces to onions and any juices from bowl and lower heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. You are now ready to assemble this one pot dish: Place remaining oil in a very large heavy based pot with a tight fitting lid (or a couple of layers of foil tightly closed around the top).
  7. Sprinkle a cupful of the half cooked rice and all the lentils on bottom of pot. Gently place cooked chicken and any sauce over lentils.
  8. Layer the half cooked potatoes on top. Gently push, DON'T STIR, potatoes into sauce to level the top a bit. Sprinkle masala mix on top of potatoes. Slice tomatoes from the garnish and place a layer on top of masala mix.
  9. Cover with remaining rice, 125ml of water and sprinkle with remaining garnishes. Cover pot and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour.
  10. Place finished pot in centre of table and tell everyone to be sure to dig down through all the layers. (My favourite part is if the rice and lentil layer 'catches' a little on the bottom).
  11. Serve with extra yoghurt with a little mint mixed through and lots of chutney.


This dish can be made in advance until you are ready to assemble on the day and cook. Being a curry it is even nicer the next day! It can also be arranged in a baking dish and cooked in the oven for an hour.


You can also use lamb or pork for this dish. Keeping the bones in the curry adds more flavour but you can cook it without bones if you prefer.

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