Biryani is a South Asian rice dish of spiced aromatic rice layered with meat, vegetables, and herbs. Beloved in Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian cuisine, biryani has hundreds of regional varieties. It typically involves marinating meat in spices and yogurt, parboiling rice with whole spices, and combining the saucy meet with the fragrant rice in distinct layers. \n\nAlthough seasoned rice dishes have been eaten in India for a long time, what we think of as biryani today likely comes from the Mughals. It’s believed that they were the first to combine Indian spiced rice dishes and Persian pilaf to make biryani. \n\nAlthough the Mughals ruled in the north of India, biryani is more popular in the south (it’s especially associated with the city of Hyderabad), likely because more rice and meat are eaten in the south than in the north. The word *biryani* is Urdu, and comes from the Persian word *biriyan*, which means fried.\n1. __[Rice](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/all-about-rice-how-to-cook-with-9-common-rice-varieties)__: The best rice to use for biryani is long-grain, aromatic [basmati](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-cook-the-perfect-basmati-rice). Traditionally, local rice varieties were used, such as the aromatic, short-grain seeraga samba, jeerakasala (aka kaima), and golden sella rice.\n2. __Meat__: [Marinated chicken](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/all-the-different-cuts-of-chicken-learn-how-to-use-each-part-of-the-chicken), goat, buffalo, lamb, mutton, and kofta (meatballs) are all common biryani meats. Seafood can also make its way into a biryani.\n3. __Vegetables__: Fried onions are a typical feature of biryani, while tomatoes, chillies, [fresh ginger](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-ginger-learn-all-about-ginger-and-ginger-cooking-tips), and [garlic](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/all-about-garlic-benefits-and-uses-plus-easy-roasted-garlic-recipe) (often ground into garlic paste or garlic-ginger paste) are used to marinate meat.\n4. __Spices__: Biryani features both whole and ground [spices](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/a-list-of-the-27-essential-cooking-spices-you-need-to-know) including [nutmeg](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-nutmeg-learn-how-to-cook-with-nutmeg), mace, peppercorns, [cloves](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-are-cloves-culinary-uses-of-cloves), green [cardamom](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-cardamom-benefits-and-uses-of-cardamom-spice), [cinnamon](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-cinnamon-how-to-cook-with-cinnamon-spice), [bay leaf](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-cook-with-bay-leaves-17-recipe-ideas-using-bay-leaves), [coriander](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-coriander-cilantro-how-to-cook-with-coriander-seeds-and-cilantro-leaves), [saffron](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-saffron-learn-about-the-culinary-uses-and-benefits-of-saffron), rosewater, screwpine water, [garam masala](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-garam-masala-homemade-garam-masala-spice-blend-recipe-and-how-to-cook-with-garam-masala), and red [chili powder](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/whats-the-difference-between-cayenne-pepper-paprika-red-chili-pepper-and-ground-red-pepper-plus-15-red-pepper-varieties-and-culinary-uses).\n5. __Herbs__: [Mint](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/learn-how-to-cook-with-mint-plus-20-mint-recipes), [cilantro](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-cook-with-cilantro-plus-12-recipes-featuring-cilantro), and [curry leaves](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-are-curry-leaves-how-to-use-curry-leaves-in-cooking) can all be added to the marinade.\n6. __[Ghee](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-ghee-plus-how-to-make-easy-homemade-ghee)__: Often drizzled over the rice.\n7. __Yogurt__: Yogurt and other [fermented](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-fermentation-learn-about-the-3-different-types-of-fermentation-and-6-tips-for-homemade-fermentation) dairy products (such as dahi and doi) are used in the marinade to tenderize the meat.\n8. __Toppings__: Fruit; nuts such as cashews or almonds; dried rose petals; and halved [hard-boiled eggs](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/all-about-soft-boiled-eggs-how-long-to-boil-eggs-and-easy-recipe) are all common biryani toppings.\n\nBiryani can be categorized according to both cooking method and ingredients, the combination of which yields hundreds of regional versions. There are two basic ways to make biryani, and they both involve dum, a northern Indian slow-cooking method that involves cooking food in a heavy-bottomed pot over a low fire. The pot is sealed tightly with a lid, aluminum foil, and/or a wheat-based roti dough that can be eaten with the finished dish. The two main ways to cook biryani are called:\n\n1. __Kacchi biryani__: Raw marinated meat is layered with parboiled rice and cooked dum-style. \n2. __Pukka biryani__: The rice and meat are cooked separately, then brought together for the final steaming.\n\n1. __Hyderabadi biryani__: Maybe the most well known type of biryani. Rich and spicy, it’s traditionally made with goat meat, but can be made with chicken as well. The meat and rice are cooked together, kacchi style. Seasoned with saffron.\n2. __Calcutta biryani__: Involves less spices than other biryanis, but the meat is still marinated in nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, and dahi. The meat is cooked separately from the saffron- and rosewater-seasoned rice, pukka style. Garnished with hard-boiled eggs. \n3. __Malabar biryani__: Traditionally made with kaima rice drizzled with ghee. It features meat or seafood marinated in cilantro, mint, coconut, and curry leaves.\n4. __Indonesian nasi kebuli__: Features rice cooked in goat broth, milk, and ghee. It’s typically spicy.\n5. Navratan biryani: Garnished with cashews, grapes, apple, and pineapple.\n6. __Tehari biryani__: A vegetable biryani made with potatoes instead of meat.\n7. __Kalyani biryani__: A buffalo biryani from Hyderabad. Cubed buffalo meat is marinated with ginger, garlic, turmeric, red chili, cumin, coriander, onion, and tomatoes. \n8. __Chevon biryani__: From Dhaka, Bangladesh, this version features goat meat, mustard oil, black pepper, saffron, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, lemon, doi, peanuts, raisins, and cheese.\n9. __Thalassery biryani__: From Kerala, this variation is made with kaima rice mixed with ghee, chicken pieces, mace, cashews, raisins, fennel seeds, cumin, tomato, cloves, and cinnamon.\n10. __Ambur biryani__: From Vellore in northern Tamil Nadu, this version is made with seeraga samba rice and mutton marinated in mint and yogurt. Cooked pukka style.\n11. __Sindhi biryani__: From Sindh, Pakistan, it features chicken, mutton, or seafood marinated in tomatoes, yogurt, cilantro, and mint. Garnished with prunes.\n\n1. When sourcing rice, the older the better: Look for long-grain aromatic basmati rice that is two years old. \n2. For grains that are separate, and smooth, not sticky, rinse rice in three or four changes of water to remove excess starch and soak rice for at least 20 minutes before cooking. \n3. You can infuse flavor into your rice by parboiling with whole spices such as cumin seeds, whole cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and cardamom pods. Make sure your rice cooking water is well seasoned with salt, too. If you don’t want to find whole spices in your finished dish, tie them up in a cheesecloth sachet.\n4. To parboil rice, boil rice in water 2 to 3 minutes, then remove a couple grains. They should still be firm, but break into two pieces when pressed. If the grains break into three or more pieces, your rice is overcooked. Adjust cook times or start over.\n5. Use a heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, for dum biryani. Since you’re steaming food for long periods of time, thin cookware can cause scorched rice.\n6. The type of meat and vegetables used in the briyani will determine how long it needs to steam. Chicken breast, for example, can dry out if cooked too long.\n7. Serve biryani very hot, by spooning it from the sides, and leaving the layers intact, with raita on the side.\n\nLayers of rice, meat, spices, and herbs, biryani rounds out South Asian meals from India and Pakistan to Indonesia.