Biryanis are often served at Indian feasts and banquets. There's no denying there is quite a lot of preparation involved but once it is all layered in the pot you cook it for the final stage and then simply present the pot for serving. This is a great festive rice recipe for feeding a crowd!






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (55 votes)


  • 700 g basmati rice
  • 1 kg diced lamb 
  • 200 g yoghurt
  • 200 g ginger, finely chopped
  • 250 g garlic, finely chopped
  • salt
  • 500 ml oil
  • 1 kg onions, sliced
  • 5 green chillies, sliced
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 lemons, juiced 
  • 200 g tomatoes, diced
  • 2 bunches mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander leaves, chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5 g cloves
  • 5 g cardamom
  • 5 litres water
  • 100 g cashew nuts, fried
  • 100 g sultanas
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • 1 g saffron
  • 100 g butter
  • 1 litre milk
  • 100 g ghee
  • Lime pickles, to serve


  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 20 g ginger, chopped 
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 200 g yoghurt 
  • salt

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time: 30 minutes

Marinating time: 1 hour

  1. Wash the rice thoroughly and soak in water for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, marinate the lamb with the yoghurt, ginger, garlic and salt to taste. Set aside for at least 1 hour.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the onions until brown. Take out about 100 g of fried onions and reserve for garnish.
  4. Add the marinated lamb to the onions, plus green chillies, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric powder, half the lemon juice and tomatoes. Simmer, covered, over a low heat for 1-1½ hours or until the meat is tender. Add mint and coriander, bay leaves, cloves and cardomom. This becomes the biryani masala.
  5. Meanwhile, bring water to the boil, add some salt and remaining lemon juice, drain the soaked rice and add to the boiling water. When rice is half-cooked, drain.
  6. Taking another heavy-bottomed cooking pot, layer the lamb biryani masala and the rice alternately, finishing with a layer of rice. Top with fried cashew nuts, sultanas, rose water, saffron, butter and the milk.
  7. Cover with a cloth and seal tightly. Cook for at least 25 minutes over a slow fire. When steam emerges from the pot, remove from the heat and mix together.
  8. To make the sarlas, mix the onion, curry leaves, ginger and chillies together, then add the yoghurt and salt to taste. 
  9. Top the biryani with the reserved onion and serve with the sarlas and some lime pickle.