A delicious, easy to make one-pot rice and chicken dish mildly spiced with Indian flavors, the chicken pulao makes for an enticing complete meal on its own.
I absolutely love the concept of one-pot meal recipes. Why wouldn’t anyone? For starters, it means less cleanup and that’s a relief for the cook! There are any number of one-pot chicken and rice recipes from around the world. The most famous is definitely the Indian biryani, though technically, biryani is not a one-pot dish. Most often, the rice and chicken are cooked separately, layered and cooked further to lock in all the flavor.
But what if you do not want to go to all that trouble? You make chicken pulao, of course. The lesser known cousin of the ubiquitous chicken biryani, chicken pulao or Indian chicken pilaf is an equally loved and well-cherished recipe. The biggest draw is that pulao is so easy to make, which makes it a quick alternative when you have unexpected guests drop by or when you just need something special and quick.
Chicken pulao is usually a Friday evening affair at our home, especially on those Fridays when we are not inclined at all to order in or go out. This quick chicken pulao recipe helps me put a special meal together in no time and all we need is a good movie to enjoy with it. Yeah, welcome to life in the thirties when a night-in with a Netflix movie and a hot plate of homemade food is all we crave!
Chicken pulao is quite similar in flavor to chicken biryani. It begins by flavoring the cooking oil (or ghee, if you are feeling indulgent) with whole aromatic spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, star anise and mace. No worries if you don’t have all of these on hand, just choose whichever ones you want to use. Then we caramelize some onions, add ginger and garlic and some spice powders. You can make it as spicy or mild as you like depending on your taste. I usually go the milder route because a mild chicken pulao is such a hit with the young ones.
Next the yogurt-marinated chicken pieces go in. I do not use tomatoes in my pulao recipe and the yogurt adds a subtle tang to the dish. If you are using bone-in chicken, you can cook it till it’s half-done before adding the rice and water. Sometimes I use coconut milk instead of water to cook the rice and chicken. This adds a nice flavor to the pulao. Speaking of flavor, a pinch of crushed saffron can be added to flavor the pulao and give it a nice golden color. It’s okay if you don’t have it too. See, this is such a versatile and easy recipe!
Once done, garnish the pulao with fresh cilantro leaves, fried cashew nuts, raisins and crispy fried onion slices called birista.
Chicken pulao is usually served with onion raita (yogurt), pickles and fried poppadoms. If you are serving chicken pulao at a dinner party, you can serve other curries and sides to enjoy along with it.
Read on for my quick and easy chicken pulao recipe.
- Yogurt - ¼ cup
- Red chili powder - ½ tsp
- Garam masala powder - ½ tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Rice - 1½ cups
- Chicken - 1½ lb, marinated
- Ghee or oil - 3 tbsp
- Bay leaves - 2, dried
- Cinnamon - 1" piece
- Cloves - 3
- Green cardamom - 2
- Star anise - 1
- Mace - 1 piece
- Onion - 1 large, finely chopped
- Ginger-garlic paste - 2 tsp, heaped
- Green chilies - 2, finely chopped (optional)
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Red chili powder - 1 tsp
- Coriander powder - 1½ tsp
- Cilantro leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped
- Water - 2¼ cups (see Notes)
- Lemon juice - 1 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Saffron - a pinch, crushed (optional)
- Ghee or oil - 2-3 tbsp
- Cashew nuts - 6, broken
- Golden raisins - 8-10
- Onion - ½ cup, thinly sliced into half moons
- Salt - a pinch (see Notes)
- Sugar - a pinch (see Notes)
- Cilantro leaves - a few
- Marination: Cut chicken into medium-sized pieces. In a bowl, coat chicken pieces with yogurt, red chili powder, garam masala powder and salt. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients.
- Pulao: Wash and drain rice in cold water a couple of time. Soak rice in water till needed.
- Heat 3 tbsp of ghee or oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan or pressure cooker. Add whole spices and allow them to sputter and become fragrant.
- Add onions and saute them till they are lightly caramelized. a light golden brown color. Add ginger-garlic paste and chopped green chilies and saute for a couple of minutes until the raw smell goes away.
- Add turmeric powder, red chili powder and coriander powder and mix well to combine.
- Now add the chicken pieces along with all the marinade juices and chopped cilantro. Stir to coat the chicken well in the masala and cook to seal the juices, 5-6 minutes. The chicken and yogurt will let out water, cook the chicken on low heat until its mostly but not fully done. If you think it needs some water, sprinkle some of the water called for in the recipe. In 8-10 minutes, the chicken will be coated in a thick gravy.
- At this point, drain the rice and add to the pan. Stir to coat in the gravy and fry for a few seconds.
- Add water, lemon juice and saffron. Bring to a boil, add salt to taste and simmer covered for 18-20 minutes or until the rice is done. Once done, fluff the pulao lightly with a fork.
- If you are using a pressure cooker, cover with the lid, put the weight on and cook on medium-high heat for one whistle. Allow pressure to release naturally before opening the lid and fluffing the pulao.
- Garnish: While the rice is cooking, you can get the garnishes ready. Heat 2-3 tbsp ghee or oil in a skillet. Add cashew nuts and raisins and fry till raisins are plumped and nuts are golden. Drain, remove and set aside.
- Add the sliced onions, sprinkle salt and sugar and fry on medium-low heat until they are crisp and golden brown. Keep stirring to avoid burning. Drain well and remove to a paper towel lined plate. Spread it out on the plate and it will crisp up more as it cools. This is the birista.
- Garnish chicken pulao with a few cilantro leaves, fried cashew nuts, raisins and onions (birista). Keep pulao closed until serving time.
- Serve pulao with onion yogurt, pickles and poppadoms.
2. This recipe does not use tomatoes, the yogurt imparts a subtle tang to the pulao.
3. While making the fried onions for garnish, sprinkle a bit of salt and sugar to quickly and evenly caramelize the onion slices. Make sure the slices are uniform so that they are fried evenly.
Enjoy this delicious, easy and fragrant chicken pulao with your loved ones.
Don’t forget to PIN & SAVE this recipe for later.
Do you like chicken pulao? Do you have a go-to pulao recipe? What are some of your favorite one-pot meal recipes? Do share.
Here’s my almost one-pot biryani recipe if you are curious about it. It is our family’s favorite spicy mutton biryani recipe.
If you like this post, please follow this blog via Email to get post updates (find subscription box on the right side of this page, or scroll down in mobile version).
Stay connected on social media, PIN and SHARE this post.