Chicken biryani- a flavour-bomb fakeaway

chicken biryani

When compiling a list of my favourite Indian curries that I wanted to try as a ‘fakeaway’, Chicken Biryani didn’t immediately spring to mind. But I’m so glad I decided to make this reduced-calorie version from the Hairy Dieters as it’s literally bursting with flavours which made for a fabulous surprise.

Some healthy eating books regularly throw in the claim ‘this is better than a takeaway’ almost to the point of it becoming a cliché, however this was exactly the conclusion I came to after demolishing this chicken biryani meal. There a lot of ingredients, but as long as you follow the method to the letter it will turn out brilliantly.

A lot of ‘fakeaway’ recipes give you the calorie count for the meal WITHOUT rice, so if you’re not careful what seems like an ultra healthy dish on paper can be potentially misleading. This chicken biryani meal INCLUDES rice and comes in at just under 400 calories (based on serving 5 people) so you don’t need to worry whether this is a healthy choice for your diet!

Recipe: Chicken biryani

Calories: 380 calories per portion (if serving 5); 317 calories per portion (if serving 6)

Serves: 5-6

Book: Hairy Dieters – Eat for Life

Prep time: Approx 30 mins

Cooking time: Approx 50 mins


  • 100ml semi-skimmed milk
  • Pinch of saffron strands
  • 200g basmati rice
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 medium onions (finely sliced)
  • 2 red peppers (deseeded and cut into 2.5cm chunks)
  • 4 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
  • 25g fresh root ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 1 plump fresh red chilli (finely chopped) or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 6 cloves
  • 10 cardamom pods (lightly crushed)
  • 80-100g bag of young spinach leaves
  • 400ml chicken stock (made with 1 stock cube)
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Ground black pepper.

Cost per portion: Approx *£2.59 *cost based on Tesco prices – December 2022

Method: Pour the milk into a small saucepan, add the saffron strands and heat gently for 2-3 minutes without boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C / Fan 170 degrees / Gas 5. Half fill a large pan with water and bring it to the boil. Put the rice in a sieve and rinse under plenty of cold water, then stir it into the hot water and bring it back to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain well in the sieve and set aside.

Remove any visible fat from the chicken thighs and cut each thigh into 4 pieces. Season well with salt and ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large, wide-based, non-stick saucepan or saute pan.

Fry the chicken over a medium-high heat for 3 minutes, turning it regularly. Transfer the chicken to a plate using a slotted spoon and put the pan back on the heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until lightly browned and beginning to crisp, stirring often. Reduce the heat slightly, add the peppers, garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for 2 minutes more, while stirring. Sprinkle over the garam masala, cloves and cardamom and cook for 1 minute, continuing to stir.

Tip the chicken back into the pan and toss with the vegetables and spices. Stir in the baby spinach, stock and rice and remove from the heat. Stir in the saffron milk.

Carefully transfer the chicken, vegetables and rice into a large heatproof dish that will hold at least 2 litres. A lasagne dish is perfect, but a roasting tin will do. Heap it up a little in the middle.

Cover the dish with a layer of tight fitting foil. Bake for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the foil, fluff up the rice with a fork and take to the table! Warn everyone not to eat the cloves or cardamom pods!


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