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Simple & Healthy Chicken Biryani (No Marinating or Overnight Prep Required!)

Happy Monday everyone! Today, I’ve got a great recipe I’m super excited to share with you.

I’ll admit for the last few months weeks I was definitely in a food rut. When you follow a restrictive diet (and by restrictive, I don’t mean hungry or anything, but rather something that’s limited in terms of the foods you can choose from), it can get boring after a while. That’s why I decided to switch things up and use an ingredient I usually don’t eat: white rice.

What’s the Deal with White Rice?

Before you start freaking out, hear me out. Is white rice not a good idea for a lot of people? Absolutely. But do certain people/demographics thrive on rice? You bet. Look at Chinese, Japanese, and many East Asian civilizations. If it hadn’t been for rice, I don’t think they’d be making iPhones in China if you catch my drift.

I know refined carbohydrates get a bad rap, and this is for good reason. They generally do create a spike in insulin that only leaves you fat and hungry. But if you really like your carbs and want to have them every now and then, I’d prefer you to eat rice over bread or pasta.

Compared to bread, pasta, and other refined carbs that tend to trigger allergies, intolerances, etc, rice is one of the safest refined carbs. This doesn’t mean you should indulge liberally every time you order Chinese food, but it also goes to say that for most people, rice won’t kill you. I try to follow as a strict of a diet as I can in terms of grains and dairy. But every once in a while, I DO want some carbs. And when I do, I go for rice.

I know this might sound confusing, but if it’s one thing you get out of today’s post it’s this:

Try not to eat refined carbohydrates at all if possible. But, if you MUST eat a refined carb, white rice is your best bet. It is less inflammatory than other refined carbs. For some people who follow a Paleo diet and are actually trying to gain weight, or intense athletes training multiple hours a day, white rice can actually be part of your healthy diet. 

The jury is still out about white rice, but I think out of all the refined carbs out there, there’s a little hope for white rice.

Okay, now about today’s biryani!

Easy and Healthy Chicken Biryani

I scavenged the internet (i.e. Pinterest) in attempt to find a simple Biryani recipe that could get me started. Most of the recipes were kind of complicated, requiring a bunch of different spices or marinating meat overnight. I honestly didn’t have time for that (and you probably don’t either). But after reading a few recipes, I got the feeling for what exactly a biryani is and how you make them. Basically, it’s a mixed rice dish that can use meat, veggies, eggs, or a combination of all three. The secret to making the rice (instead of a traditional pilaf) is the rice actually cooks in the broth of the chicken. The rice does get kind of mushy to be honest with you, so don’t expect perfectly cooked grains of rice. But the color and flavor is delicious!

Chicken Biryani 3 retouched

Most recipes called for some kind of meat with a bone. I used drumsticks because that’s what my mom had bought at the grocery store this weekend, but you can really make it with any meat. There are even recipes for a vegetarian biryani if that’s your thing.

Another note about my version of chicken biryani. Most of these rice dishes are Indian or Pakistani, meaning they’re pretty spicy. I love spicy food and will until the end of time (which in the case of global warming could be very soon). But in this case, I wanted to let the ingredients shine on their own, and making a food with too much spice/heat can often overpower more delicate flavors like saffron, cardamom, or coriander.

With that said, check out this simple and healthy chicken biryani recipe. Compared to traditional biryani recipes that take much longer to prepare, play your cards right and you’ll have a piping hot plate of chicken biryani in no time.

Chicken Biryani 5 retouched

Print Recipe
Chicken Biryani
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 120 mins
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 120 mins
  1. Sautee onion and garlic in oil until fragrant (5 minutes). Add spices and continue to stir until well combined. If the pan gets dry add 1/4 cup of water at a time (note: this is NOT included in the recipe, the 4 cups of water is used later in the rice portion of the dish). Use the water to keep the spices and onion from sticking to the pan.
  2. Add chicken legs and let brown for 10 minutes. Add more water (again, not included in recipe) and tomato puree, and bring to a boil. Let boil for 20 minutes, then bring down to a simmer and add saffron. If you notice the juices get low, periodically add 1 cup of water to the chicken. You don't want the chicken swimming in the mixture, but you also don't want the chicken sticking to the bottom of the pain.
  3. Let the chicken simmer for at least one hour. Meanwhile, wash your basmati rice in cold water to remove excess starch.
  4. When the chicken is fully cooked and tender, remove it to another pan and put on low heat to keep it warm. Add a little water again to keep the chicken from sticking to the pan. Add your rice mixture along with the 4 cups of water and bring to a boil, then again let simmer. Let the rice simmer until it's fully cooked. You might have to periodically taste the rice to see if it's cooked and also add water in case it's not. Do this until the rice is cooked (it will be on the mushy side).
  5. Plate the rice on a platter, then top with the chicken legs. Garnish with slice almonds, cranberries, and cilantro. Serve immediately.
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