Chicken Pulao is a delicious one-pot meal made with fragrant Basmati rice, tender chicken pieces, and aromatic spices. It’s a flavorful, satisfying weeknight meal that can be made in just 30 minutes.
Pulao is a favorite in our home. Be it vegetable pulao, matar pulao, chana dal pulao, beet pulao, or spinach pulao, there are so many amazing variations. However, this chicken pulao is close to my heart!
You’ll need bone-in chicken, fragrant rice, and a variety of whole spices to make this delicious chicken pulao. Each ingredient is essential for giving it its rich flavor and smell.
Whether you’ve cooked at home before or this is your first time, this recipe will make a tasty meal that will make you want more. My kids love this mild chicken and rice dish, even in their lunch box!
I have shared my one-pot chicken biryani recipe made in the instant pot before. This recipe is simpler and milder than the biryani recipe but just as flavorful.
I am making the simple chicken pulao here, not the chicken yakhni pulao. Check out the mutton yakhni pulao recipe, and you can make that with chicken if you prefer the yakhni method.
I will share the recipe below to make this pulao on the stovetop and in the instant pot!
Table of Contents
Difference Between Biryani and Pulao
I often get the question what is the difference between biryani and pulao. Now you will find many reasonings, including here on wiki, but here are the main differences for me:
- Layering: Biryani has a layering of meat/vegetables and rice. Often, the two are cooked separately and then layered. Then, it is cooked on low flame (dum/slow cooking) to allow them to develop the flavors together. Now, there are also one-pot ways to do the layering and make biryani. In pulao, there is no layering. Meat/veggies and rice are cooked together.
- Marination: Often, the meat is marinated before adding to a biryani. This helps to get tender cooked meat. For pulao, marination is not typically done.
- Spices & Herbs: In biryani, often more spices, whole and ground are used. Spices are added when marinating and cooking meat/vegetables with rice. Mint and cilantro (coriander) are often added in the layers to enhance biryani flavors. Pulao is simple and light on spices and herbs.
- Fried onions: Fried onions may not be required for authentic biryani, but I love the flavor of fried onions in biryani, which makes it different from simple pulao. You can also brown onions before adding the other ingredients when cooking if you want to skip fried onions.
As you can imagine, making biryani is an elaborate process that can be more time-consuming. Although well worth the effort. Today, let’s make the simpler chicken pulao!
Chicken Pulao Ingredients
- Chicken: For this pulao, I used chicken thighs, but you could also use chicken breasts or legs.
- Basmati Rice: This aromatic rice type gives the pulao a lovely flavor and fluffy texture. For best results, rinse and soak the rice before cooking.
- Oil and Ghee: A combination of oil and ghee adds richness and flavor to the dish. to make it dairy-free, replace ghee with oil.
- Onion: Slice onion to add a subtle sweetness to the pulao.
- Ginger and Garlic: Freshly grated or finely chopped ginger and minced garlic gives aromatic depth. You can also use ginger and garlic paste for convenience.
- Green Chili Pepper: Adds a touch of heat to the pulao.
- Tomato: Chopped tomatoes give a subtle tanginess.
- Salt and Garam Masala: Seasonings that enhance the overall taste.
- Plain yogurt: Adding full-fat plain yogurt to the chicken makes it more tender and creamy. To make it dairy-free, skip the yogurt and add 1/2 cup more diced tomatoes.
- Whole Spices: You’ll need cinnamon, bay leaf, green cardamom, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, and cloves.
- Lemon Juice: Fresh lemon juice adds a zesty kick.
- Garnish: You’ll need cilantro leaves.
How to Make Chicken Pulao?
To make a delicious Chicken Pulao, follow these easy steps:
Heat the oil and ghee in the pan.
Add in the sliced onions. Cook them for about 10-12 minutes until onions caramelize. Stir frequently so they don’t stick to the bottom.
Add the whole spices (cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cumin seeds, and cinnamon). Then, add ginger and garlic and sauté until they release their aroma.
Add in the chicken pieces and cook them until they turn white.
You will notice that I don’t marinate the chicken. I leave that for the more elaborate chicken biryani method. Trust me, this pulao will be delicious.
Add the green chilies, chopped tomato, mint leaves, salt, garam masala, and yogurt and mix them in. Keep cooking until the tomato gets soft and the oil separates.
Add the rice to the pan. Mix things well. Add the water and mix it well.
Next, turn down the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Leave it alone for 10 to 15 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and the water is soaked.
Take the rice off the heat and fluff it up a little. Use a rice paddle to stir in the lime juice gently.
Add some chopped cilantro leaves as a garnish.
Serve chicken pulao with raita.
Instant Pot Chicken Pulao
For this method, use boneless chicken cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Or if using bone-in chicken, make sure the pieces are cut small. For larger pieces, first pressure cook the chicken for 4 minutes, then add the rice and cook it along.
Follow the same steps as the stovetop to make this pulao in the instant pot until the step of adding the rice and water to the pot is complete.
Pressure cook for 4 minutes on high pressure. Then, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, and then release the pressure manually.
Then, add the lime juice and fluff the rice gently. Serve and garnish with cilantro leaves. Enjoy with riata.
Yakhni Variation: For a delightful twist, you can try making Yakhni Pulao, a traditional Kashmiri dish. You can vary the Mutton Yakhni Pulao recipe to make it with chicken too. Cook chicken in the broth for about 20 minutes on the lowest heat. This helps to make sure that the chicken is not cooked completely and will get cooked completely with the rice.
Using boneless chicken: You can also use boneless chicken in this recipe if you prefer. Cut the chicken into 1 1/2 inch pieces and follow the recipe as is.
Stovetop Pressure Cooker Chicken Pulao: Follow the same steps until adding the rice and water. Then pressure cook for 2 whistles on medium-high heat. Then, let the pressure release naturally.
Add potato to chicken pulao: Peel and cut a potato into 3/4 inch cubes, and add it along with the rice and water when cooking the pulao.
Pro-Tips For Perfect Chicken Pulao
To make your Chicken Pulao taste even better, follow these tips:
Use good quality aged long-grain basmati rice: I highly recommend using long-grain basmati rice for the best results in this pulao.
Perfectly cooked rice in pulao: Make sure to rinse the rice well before you use it for Chicken Pulao so all the starches are removed and it is perfectly cooked and not sticky. A 20-minute soak in water before cooking helps the grains stay separate and fluffy.
Double the recipe: Double the amount if you’re cooking for more people or want leftovers for another meal.
Eat around the whole spices: I get this question often about what to do with the whole spices in the final dish. We South Asians are used to eating around the whole spices in a curry or rice dish. If you prefer, you can always add them to a spice bag, so you get all the flavors but don’t have to pick them out later.
What to Serve with Chicken Pulao?
As always with South Asian recipes, pick out and discard the whole spices while you eat. If you don’t want to bite into the whole spices at all, place them in a spice bag or cheesecloth bundle. I don’t recommend grinding them because they may become overpowering.
How to Store Leftovers?
If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop for a quick and tasty meal the next day.
- 1 lb Chicken, bone-in, cut into pieces
- 1 cup Basmati Rice, washed and soaked for 20 minutes
- 2 tablespoon Oil
- 1 tablespoon Ghee
- 1 Onion, thinly sliced, about 170 grams
- 1/2 tablespoon Ginger, freshly grated or finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon Garlic, minced
- 1-2 Green chili pepper
- 1 Tomato, small, chopped
- 2 tablespoon Mint leaves, chopped, optional
- 1 teaspoon Salt, adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 2 tablespoon Plain Yogurt, I used full-fat
- 1 1/4 cup Water, use 1 cup for Instant Pot method
- 1 tablespoon Lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon Cilantro leaves, chopped
- Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add in the sliced onions. Cook them for about 10-12 minutes until onions caramelize. Stir frequently so they don't stick to the bottom.
- Add the whole spices, ginger and garlic. Saute for a minute until the raw smell is gone.
- Add the chicken. Mix well and saute for about 3-4 minutes minutes until the chicken changes color.
- Add the green chili, tomato, mint leaves, salt, garam masala, and yogurt. Sauté until the oil starts to separate in about 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring continuously until the yogurt is incorporated.
- Add the water to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Drain the rice and add it to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Now reduce the heat to low, and cover with a lid for 10-15 minutes until all the water is soaked and the rice is cooked.
- Turn off the heat and gently fluff the rice. Add the lime juice, and gently stir with a rice paddle.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves. Serve chicken pulao with raita.
Instant Pot Method
- For this method, use boneless chicken cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Or if using bone-in chicken, make sure the pieces are cut small. For larger pieces, first pressure cook the chicken for 4 minutes, then add the rice and cook it along.
- Follow the same steps as the stovetop to make this pulao in the instant pot until the step of adding the rice and water to the pot. Pressure cook for 4 minutes on high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then release the pressure manually.
- Then, add the lime juice and fluff the rice gently. Serve and garnish with cilantro leaves. Enjoy with riata.