Lamb biryani

Although considered an everyday dish in many South Asian countries, cooking biryani can be a challenge especially because the list of ingredients is long and can be intimidating. But it is really worth the effort. Since biryani is a complete meal, just think of all the work as the equivalent amount of work you’d be doing if you were cooking the rice, vegetable dish and meat dish separately.

The secret to good biryani is to cook everything in as little liquid as possible so that the meat, rice and vegetables practically cook in their own juices. Traditionally, a long strip of dough is wound around the edges of the pan before the lid is put in place so that no steam escapes during cooking. It’s a little bit laborious — I just use a pan with the most snug fitting lid.

It is also important to choose a tender cut of meat and to cut them into small pieces to farther facilitate cooking. Tough cuts that take more than an hour to cook might still be tough by the time the rice is done and all the liquid in the pot has been absorbed.

Recipe: Lamb biryani


  • 3/4 k. of meaty lamb with some bones for better flavor (chicken or other poultry, pork, beef, goat, mutton or veal may be substituted), cut into one-inch cubes
  • 2 c. of long-grain rice, soaked in water for several hours then drained
  • 3 to 4 pcs. of cloves
  • 3 to 4 pcs. of cardamom pods, peeled
  • 1 tsp. of coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. of fennel seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 4 to 6 tbsps. of ghee (clarified butter) or butter
  • a handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • a handful of cilantro (stems, roots and leaves), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c. of broth
  • juice of two limes or lemons
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 c. of sweet peas
  • salt, to taste
  • whole cilantro leaves and toasted chopped cashew nuts, to garnish

For the marinade:

  • 1 tbsp. of salt
  • 1 tbsp. of chili powder
  • 1 tsp. of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground cumin
  • 1 c. of yogurt


  1. Place the meat in a bowl. Season with all the marinating ingredients plus 1 c. of yogurt. Leave to marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Heat half of the ghee or butter in a pan. Cook the mint leaves and cilantro until softened, about two minutes. Set aside.
  3. Lamb biryani
  4. In an oil-free pan, toast the cloves, cardamon, fennel seeds, start anise and coriander seeds until nutty in aroma. Cool a bit then grind. You can use a mortar and pestle if you’re feeling rustic — I prefer the food processor.
  5. Lamb biryani
  6. Heat the remaining half of the ghee or butter. Saute the ground spices with the onion and garlic.
  7. Add the rice and stir to coat each grain with oil.
  8. Pour in the remaining cup of yogurt, half cup of broth and the lime or lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt; how much depends on how well-seasoned the broth is.
  9. Scoop out about half of the rice. Scatter the carrot and peas over the rice in the pan, followed by the mint leaves and cilantro. Cover with the rice that had been scooped out.
  10. Scatter the meat — with the marinade — on top of the second layer of rice.
  11. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. No peeking. The juice of the meat and the marinade will drip down slowly into the rice and vegetables as they all cook in the steam and pressure inside the covered pan. That’s the secret so no peeking and no stirring.
  12. Lamb biryani
  13. After 45 minutes, remove the lid and test the rice and meat for doneness. If longer cooking is needed and the liquids have dried out, pour in the remaining quarter cup of broth, replace the cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
  14. Stir lightly when done to separate the rice grains.
  15. Lamb biryani
  16. Top with cilantro and toasted cashew nuts before serving.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

The old recipe, published on Oct 23, 2007, is on page 2.


  1. eatit1s says

    The idea of substitutions is to replicate a taste or texture lost from a missing ingredient. The coriander leaf (herb) cannot replicate the taste of the coriander powder/seed (spice) as they taste vastly different from each other despite coming from the same plant.

    I assume when Connie creates her recipes that each ingredient she includes is vital to the dish to make it taste what it’s suppose to. Considering how important spices are in Indian cooking, I have no doubt that the 1/2 tsp. coriander would add another depth of flavor to the dish.

    It’s not about following rules, but I would like to taste the dish the way the author intended.

  2. says

    eatit1s, “The idea of substitutions is to replicate a taste or texture lost from a missing ingredient.”

    Not necessarily. Substitution is done so that a dish can conform to the personal tastes of the cook. Same reason for omission or addition of ingredients not found in the recipe source.

    “It’s not about following rules, but I would like to taste the dish the way the author intended.”

    And who may that author be? Do you know know many authentic biryani variations there are depending on which region of India they originate from? LOL

  3. eatit1s says

    “Not necessarily. Substitution is done so that a dish can conform to the personal tastes of the cook. Same reason for omission or addition of ingredients not found in the recipe source.”

    At that point, you’re not merely substituting but adapting a recipe.

    And who may that author be?

    You, I think. We are talking about the lamb biryani recipe posted on your blog.

    I think, perhaps, what you are meaning to say is that the 1/2 tsp. coriander doesn’t make much difference to the recipe that it can be omitted but adding coriander leaves tastes nice, too?

    • says

      eatit1s, LOL so you’re not only dictating what can and cannot be included, you also have to dictate what word should be used to describe what was done.

      Re “I think, perhaps, what you are meaning to say is that the 1/2 tsp. coriander doesn’t make much difference to the recipe…”

      No, dear, it’s because they’re not always available.

      “…adding coriander leaves tastes nice, too?”

      yes, just perfect for me and my family.

      should i point out the inconsistencies in your comments? you said, “but I would like to taste the dish the way the author intended.” then you go on to say that I AM the author. then, cook it the way I did if you want to taste it the way I intended. Of course, I always prefer that each cook add, subtract and substitute to suit their own taste.

      @Ria, oh exactly!

      @Gay, even Indian cookbooks and food blogs don’t have a uniform recipe for biryani. Just like no two Filipino cooks will cook adobo in exactly the same way.

      @Banjolina, meaning? Say it straight and I’ll give you a straight answer as well.

  4. says

    “And who may that author be? Do you know know many authentic biryani variations there are depending on which region of India they originate from? LOL”

    I agree with you. I work for an international organization, and foreigners often complain of the food. I once sat for lunch with a group of Indian scholars and the head of the scholars office. Naturally the topic was about the food, how the Indian cuisine were not really good, etc… So the scholars’ office head, ask them, how do you cook biryani? There were many suggestions and they couldn’t agree on one way to cook it!

  5. banjolina says

    one good thing about that one food blogsite that i regularly visit (and use her recipes as well – all the time), is that she’s always open to suggestions, and respects personal views. but then again, thats just me. peace!

  6. joan says

    i agree to ms.connie that there will be no two cooks will cook in exactly the same if ms.connie wants to add coriander leaves and eatit1s wants to add coriander,each of them has no right to say that what the other one has done is not right or it cant be done.i believe that each cook has its own taste,preference and idea as well,so i think that eatit1s is wrong to say that ms.connie is wrong or it cant be done,it is a matter of respect..

    to eatit1s,if you dont prefer coriander leaves as what ms.connie has done,just dont do it and substitute what you prefer,but never said it can’t be..because it is ms.connie’s choice.much better if you say..i cook it with coriander instead of coriander leaves and it tastes much better..”as it must sound personal opinion…and i do believe ms.connie would understand your personal opinion..but it is a big NO NO to insist for something or to correct that it cannot be…

    as what ms.connie told,and as what i observed too,ms.connie always prefer that each cook add,subtract and substitute to suit their own taste…she never insist to use for something nor say it cant be…

    eatit1s,hope you would closed your argument and just respect ms.connie’s preference…just cook the way you want to and never argument what is can and cannot be…just accepting one’s fault will do.

    more power to ms.connie and belated happy bday,

    i learned an exchange of ideas from both of you..thanks anyway…

    ms.connie,as what everything i said,do i sound one-sided?

    • Rose says

      Late again, as usual… but nowhere on this recipe does Connie said that it’s “authentic” or anything, so surely the substitution isn’t a big deal since she’s also put the original ingredient in there.

  7. says

    Thank you, Joan. I hope Banjolina reads your comment and choke on her statement about open-mindedness.

    Hayaan mo na sya, Rose. There will always be people na makapintas na lang o maka-kontra na lang. Purists think they have the ONLY say in everything.

  8. Aubrey says

    I quite agree with your point Ms. Connie. I am not an experienced cook, but when I do get cooking advices from other people who’s not my grandma or my mom ( of course their way of cooking will be different from my grandma’s/mom’s) I try to substitute or add what I was used to. Like with ginisang munggo, some of my friends think I’m weird for putting sampalok mix to add a bit of sour taste but that was how I knew ginisang munggo was cooked. My husband actually told me one that a few of my dishes tasted different from his mom’s but not in a bad way. He said said that the way I cooked some dishes were actually tasted the way he wanted it to be.
    I love your site Ms. Connie. Ignore those who do not understand. PEACE !!!

  9. Rose says

    I wouldn’t substitute the ground coriander with coriander leaves since they taste completely different, even though the leaves makes for a tasty dish the coriander seeds gives that certain depth of flavour. I guess it’s all personal preference at the end of the day. I like to sprinkle the coriander afterwards for a bit of colour, though.

  10. says

    There are recipes that use both the seeds and the leaves, and the leaves are not added as a garnish either but is cooked with the stew. Haven’t tried doing it that way though.

  11. eatit1s says

    I agree with Rose, you can’t substitute coriander seeds with coriander leaves. Substitutions can only be made if they come from the same plant part (leaves, mostly) such as thyme, basil, oregano, etc..

  12. says

    Here we go again. Rules about what CAN and CANNOT be done. Americans substitute yogurt for coconut milk — do they come from the same plant?

    eatit1s, you might prefer not to substitute but to say it CANNOT be done is something else. I don’t buy that because it limits imagination. Rules like that are for cooks who follow 1-2-3 kind of cooking. I never do that. The only thing that counts for me is the end result — how the cooked dish tastes.

  13. Alrenwald says

    Thank you for this recipe (and many other recipes I have enjoyed reading here). I hardly cook any dishes with lamb simply because it is quite expensive (and I live in Arizona)…but this recipe might just “tempt” me to buy some two pounds worth :) Also, I wonder if chicken would be a worthwhile substitute?

    I am glad I found your website. You’re doing an amazing job of deconstructing many of the recipes–they all sound so delicious, and have inspired me to return to my kitchen and cook more Filipino dishes for my family.

  14. Issa says

    Hi Connie! I was about to ask you also if I could use other meat but Alrenwald beat me to it!

    I would like to greet you belated happy birthday! My husband’s birthday is also in October. I would like to thank you because I used all your recipes for the food that we served to our friends and family — Baked Macaroni, Lengua w/ mushroom sauce, embutido and the dipping sauce for your grilled tilapia! They really enjoyed it! Sayang lang, I wasn’t able to take pics. =(

    More power to you!

  15. Rose says

    Seriously, eatit… I only said that I *personally* wouldn’t do it that way. Life’s too short to play by the rules.

  16. says

    Have you tried making chicken tikka masala? Indian dish that originated in England because the English couldn’t take the “real” Indian curries.

    It’s so good the dish is now popular in India and in the US.

    Anyhoo nabanggit lang naman.

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