Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani


This fragrant spiced lamb-and-rice dish from Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan is just one of the many biryanis she features quarterly at her Nashville restaurant, Chauhan Ale and Masala House. The flour-and-water dough that covers the biryani while it cooks is not meant to be eaten. Instead, crack off the dough lid and discard before serving, then scoop out the saffron-laced rice and lamb beneath.

Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani
Photo: © David Malosh
Active Time:
2 hrs
Total Time:
7 hrs


Garam Masala

  • 10 black peppercorns

  • 2 whole cloves

  • One 4-inch cinnamon stick

  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Small piece of mace

  • 4 green cardamom pods


  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  • 2 onions (1 pound), thinly sliced

  • 3/4 cup finely chopped mint

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

  • 1/4 cup yogurt

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 2 to 3 Thai chiles, minced

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated garlic

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons cayenne

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter


  • 4 whole black peppercorns

  • 2 whole cloves 

  • 2 green cardamom pods

  • 1 black cardamom pod

  • One 2-inch cinnamon stick

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Small piece of mace

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • 2 cups basmati rice

  • Pinch of saffron threads

  • 1/2 cup whole milk


  • 3 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, plus more for brushing

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint

  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water

Dough Lid

  • 1 1/2  cups whole-wheat flour

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

Tomato-Onion Raita

  • 1 cup yogurt

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped tomato

  • 1 small Thai chile, minced

  • 1 tablespoon minced red onion

  • 2 teaspoons chopped mint, plus small leaves for garnish

  • 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

  • Pinch of sugar

  • Kosher salt


Make the garam masala

  1. In a small skillet, toast all of the spices over moderate heat until fragrant. Transfer the spices to a plate to cool completely, then grind to a powder.

Prepare the Lamb

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Reserve one-third of the onions in a small bowl. Scrape the remaining onions into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the next 12 ingredients and 1 teaspoon of the garam masala and mix well. Stir in the lamb until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

  2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the ghee. Add the lamb mixture and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook over moderately low heat until the lamb is tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice

  1. In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Wrap the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, nutmeg and mace in a piece of cheesecloth and tie into a secure bundle. Add to the saucepan along with the oil, salt and caraway; stir in the rice. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked three-quarters of the way, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Discard the spice bundle.

  2. In a small saucepan, toast the saffron over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk.

Assemble the Biryani

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Spoon half of the lamb mixture into the casserole in an even layer. Spread half of the rice over the lamb. Top with half each of the remaining cooked onions, saffron milk, ghee, cilantro, mint, rose water and garam masala and 2 tablespoons of the reserved rice cooking water. Repeat the layering once more.

Make the dough lid

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the flour and water until a rough dough forms. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until it is smooth and pliable, about 5 minutes. Gather into a ball and roll out to a 1/8-inch-thick round that’s a few inches larger than your casserole.

  2. Drape the dough over the top of the casserole, pressing to seal it around the edge. Bake the biryani for 20 to 25 minutes, until the dough is golden and the rice is hot. Brush the crust with ghee and let stand for 5 minutes.

Make the tomato-onion raita

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and garnish with mint leaves.

  2. Crack off and discard the dough lid and serve the lamb biryani hot, with the cooling raita.

Make Ahead

The cooked lamb and cooked onions can be refrigerated separately overnight. Bring to room temperature before assembling the biryani.

Suggested Pairing

Juicy, herby Cabernet Franc.

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