This recipe is a one-pot Chicken Pulao recipe using a method I’ve begun to use a lot more ever since I’ve become a Mother. In other words, ever since I don’t have the time and bother to always make Pulao using the traditional Yakhni method.
I’d like to give a thankful nod to my Yakhni Chicken Pulao recipe, one of my most popular recipes – it has served me well. But I will have to say: alas, old friend – I just don’t always have the time for you.
This method is quicker, easier, uses just one pot, takes less energy, makes less mess and is the method I opt for 95% of the time. It’s the same method I use for my Lamb Pulao and Mutton Pulao recipes.
What makes a Chicken Pulao so special?
A Chicken Pulao is essentially rice that is cooked with chicken and broth. It’s a delicious, deeply and aromatically flavoured dish that is a favourite of many across Pakistan and India. It is characterised by fried onions and the fragrance and flavours of a variety of whole spices.
Every recipe will have their own combination of spices, but this recipe uses coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, bay leaves, star aniseed, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. It sounds like a long list indeed, but it is all these delicate flavours that come together to create the characteristic aroma that will be so familiar to many Asians who grew up eating this rice.
So how do you make Chicken Pulao in one pot?
In the traditional Yakhni method, you cook the chicken and spices like a soup in one pot, then separately fry the onions and then add in the chicken from the soup, followed by the water from the broth and finally then the basmati rice.
In this method, we start by frying the onions, then adding in the chicken, spices and water. We cook this mixture together (this essentially becomes the broth) and then add in the basmati rice. This method doesn’t skimp on flavour, but greatly reduces the time, mess and hassle. Everything cooks in one pot and no one will ever question your method!
Why a spice cloth has the potential to be your culinary BFF
So this recipe will not work properly without a spice cloth, also known as a potli in Urdu.
The spice cloth is really important because it is what will contain allllllll those pesky little spices. No one likes having 20 balls of whole black pepper on their plate. The spice cloth makes containing all the spices a breeze and honestly, I love using it in any recipe that calls for any of the really small whole spices like coriander and black pepper seeds.
You can use any permeable cloth for the spice cloth. I often use a clean, unused dishcloth I’ve gotten from Poundland and they work absolutely fine. You can also use empty teabags if you have those.
Tips on making the BEST Chicken Pulao
Here are some tips to really make your chicken pulao POP:
- Always use extra long grain basmati rice. Treat the rice properly – so ensure you wash it thoroughly, soak it in water for at least 30 minutes, and then ensure you do not stir it too vigorously as this will break the rice grain. Instead, use a slotted spoon to gently swish the rice around if needed.
- If you have trouble with basmati rice becoming mushy, you can use sella rice. It’s very hard to break or mush up sella rice.
- The quality of the chicken really matters. I always recommend using organic bone-in chicken for the best tasting pulao. Regular chicken is fine too, boneless chicken is my least favourite to use. It just cannot possibly give the same flavour as bone-in chicken.
- Take time to fry the onions – this is a very important step and one could say it is a labour of love. Fry gently over a medium heat, stirring regularly to ensure the onions brown evenly. A good frying of the onions ensures that the pulao will have a good colour and it makes sure the pulao doesn’t become bitter (burnt onions will cause that)
- Ghee is the best medium to fry your onions and chicken in. I definitely recommend ghee over oil
- I have a WHOLE POST on how to make the BEST pulao here! Definitely give that post a read!
Is Chicken Pulao spicy?
I have a personal preference, which is that Chicken Pulao be absolutely void of hot spice. So I do not use green chillis or any chilli powders in my recipe.
If you want your Chicken Pulao to be spicy, I would advise you to add a few cut-up green chillis at the same time you add the water. You can use 1 green chilli for a very mild spice, going up to as many as your prefer.
I do not advise using any chilli powder in Chicken Pulao as that will absolutely mess up the colour of the Pulao and the texture of powders in Pulao has a tendency to become gritty and unpleasant. Definitely stick with using whole chillis here if you need the spice.
Whats the best way to serve Chicken Pulao?
Chicken Pulao is always best served with salad, raita and fried onions if you’re feeling fancy. Additional sides that complement Chicken Pulao include Aloo Ki Tikkis, Shami Kababs, fried fish and Seekh Kabobs. If you’d like to serve a curry alongside this, I would highly recommend a soupy curry such as Aloo Gosht or Matar Gosht. I’m going to be cheeky here and also mention a tall glass of ice-cold Coke would also be very welcome 😉
Enjoy, with love x
- 4 tbsp oil or ghee
- 3 onions, sliced
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1.5 tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 750 grams chicken, bone in (about one medium sized chicken)
- 2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
- 4 tsp salt, or to taste
Whole spices to be wrapped up in a cloth
- 1 finger-sized piece whole cinnamon
- 2.5 tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 2.5 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaf
- 10 green cardamoms
- 3 black cardamoms
- 5 whole cloves
- 0.5 star anise
- 2.5 cups white basmati rice, soaked for a minimum of 30 minutes
- Heat oil/ghee in a pot or pan and add the onions. Fry these until the onions become gold. Towards the end of this fry-time, add the garlic and ginger.
- Add the chicken and cumin seeds. Fry the chicken well until it no longer remains pink and becomes to turn gold, stirring to ensure it doesn't catch at the bottm of the pot.
- Once the chicken is golden, add a half a cup of water and salt. Make a ball using the whole spices and the spice cloth and add this too. Cover with a lid and cook this for 20 minutes.
- Uncover and add 3.5 cups of hot water. Bring this to a boil and then add the basmati rice. Give everything a good stir, being careful not to be to harsh.
- Cook this on high until most of the water has dried out (this may take about 10 minutes)
- Turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Cover with a tight lid, and allow the Pulao to steam-cook for 15-20 minutes
- Fluff up with a fork and serve while hot