When my family and I all gather at my mom's house for the weekend, it's always a debate as to what we'd like her to cook for us (because mom's food is amazing). Hands down, this Arabic Biryani is always in our top 3. And usually wins the debate. Guys - I'm telling you. It's a must try. It may look a bit intimidating but trust me - it's actually quite easy to execute. It has several components: aromatic yellow rice, spiced chicken, peas, potatoes, crunchy almonds and sweet raisins. Each element is there for a reason. Each element is easy to make. Just combine them all and you've got a dish worthy of making time and again.
This Biryani recipe is how I grew up eating it and it is quite unique to Iraq. Arabic Biryani is very different from the popular Indian and South Asian dish. It's a dish that we often serve when we have elaborate dinner parties and honored guests over at our house. What I love most about it is the different textures combined with the spices used - it's magical. Okay, enough about my love story with Biryani. Let me talk you through the process.
How to make Arabic Biryani
- We start with boiling a whole chicken with a variety of whole spices to really infuse the flavors into the chicken. Once cooked, we shred the chicken and set it aside
- Then the yellow rice is cooked in the chicken broth that's been infused with whole spices with lots of oil (don't skimp) - holy flavor!!
- The potatoes, which for me are a crucial element, can be cubed and either pan fried or baked in the oven. I love to bake them because it can be done hands off while I'm working on the other components and makes the process faster
- The peas are just boiled until soft - easy peasy. Get it?
- The slivered almonds are toasted until golden. When you're doing this, make sure you continuously stir because they tend to burn easily
- Raisins are combined with the shredded chicken and peas for a final saute to draw out the moisture and heat everything through
- Then it's all about the mixing. Rice, all the components, and lots of powdered spices come together. Mix mix mix and then taste. You nailed it!
For storing, you can place it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for 3-5 days. I wouldn't recommend freezing it because the rice will break and the potatoes and peas will be very mushy. However, if you're making it for a dinner party, here are a few tips on how to make it ahead of time to make things a bit easier the day of.
How to make Biryani ahead of time for a dinner party
- You can boil the chicken with the whole spices the night before, and store it in the fridge along with the broth. The next day, you can take it out and heat the broth and start the rice cooking process
- You can also bake the potatoes and pre-boil the peas so that they're ready to go the next day. The potatoes don't need to be crispy necessarily because they will soften anyways when mixed in with the rice. However if you do make them ahead, you need to heat them before you mix them in with the rest of the Biryani
- The rice, almonds, and raisins I recommend you prepare the day of, ideally no more than 2-3 hours before serving.
This Arabic Biryani will be your go-to when you want to impress (or if you're like me, when you're really craving it and end up making 10 servings for just you and your husband. Very normal). I hope you give it a try, and if you do, be sure to pop back and leave me a review and some feedback. I love hearing what you have to say!
For more Middle Eastern recipes, check out:
For the chicken:
- 1 Whole chicken
- Whole spices: 4 cardamom pods 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 cloves, 10 peppercorns
- 1.5 tsp salt
For the rice:
- 3.5 cups Basmati rice
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2.5 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp oil
- chicken broth
For the potatoes:
- 5 potatoes
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2.5 cups peas
- 2 cups raisins
- 2 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.5 cups slivered almonds
For the spices:
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 2 tsp allspice
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 4 tsp Biryani spice mixture
- Start by preheating the oven to 450F
- Wash the whole chicken well using water, and place in a large pot. Cover with water
- Add the whole spices and salt, and bring to a boil. When chicken starts to boil, scoop out any foam that forms at the surface
- Boil the chicken until fully cooked, about 45 minutes to 1 hour
- Meanwhile, peel, wash and chop the potatoes into cubes. Mix with salt and vegetable oil, and bake on a lined baking sheet for 30-40 mins until golden
- When chicken is fully cooked, remove and cool, then shred into bite size pieces
- Remove the whole spices from the broth by straining, then add the turmeric, salt, oil and rice to the pot
- Ensure the broth covers the rice by 1 inch. Bring to a rapid boil, then cover and turn heat to low and cook for 20 mins untouched. After 20 mins, turn heat off and leave covered
- Place peas in a pot and cover with water. Boil for 20 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside
- Toast the almonds in a pan with 1 tbsp oil until golden, stirring continuously
- In another large pan, add 2 tbsp oil, shredded chicken, peas, raisins, and the spices under "other ingredients" which are 2 tsp allspice and 1 tsp salt. Saute until everything is combined and hot (this step is to draw out the moisture from the mixture and heat everything)
- When all components are ready, in a large tray, add the rice, then top with the chicken, raisins and peas mixture, then the potatoes and the almonds (save a bit of almonds for the topping)
- Then add all the spices under the "spices section" on top and mix everything very well until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt/heat as required
- Serve immediately with a side of salad and yogurt
- You can pan fry the potatoes instead of baking as well, but I like to bake because I can work on the other components while they bake
- You can find a Biryani spice mix at any ethnic grocery store
- When toasting the almonds, make sure you stir continuously because they tend to burn quickly