A Flour & Spice family favourite, this aromatic and flavorful Pakistani Chicken Pulao or Chicken Pilau is made in one pot and comes together in under 45 minutes with only 15 minutes of active cooking/prep. Weeknight friendly and also great for guests
You know what’s almost magical about this Chicken Pulao? It’s that once you make this Chicken Pilau every time you think of it, it’s beautiful aroma automatically floods your senses.
A quick thank you to Bajias Cooking on YouTube from whom I adapted this recipe!
Table of contents
- Why I make this pulao the MOST
- Ingredients in Chicken Pulao or Chicken Pilau
- How to make this EASY Chicken Pulao
- Make ahead tips
- Can I use boneless chicken for this Pulao?
- Why does my rice come out … (insert adjective)
- What do I serve with Chicken Pulao?
- Pakistani Chicken Pulao Video
Why I make this pulao the MOST
- It is a ONE POT meal.
- It’s ready in under 45 minutes
- The robust flavour
- It is SO SIMPLE (more on that below).
Ingredients in Chicken Pulao or Chicken Pilau
Okay let’s do a little ingredient walk through - shall we?
Basmati Rice: VERY important. Please don’t use any other kind.
Onions: White or Red, upto you. I prefer white because they tend to cook and cook down faster.
Chicken: Please note I haven’t tried this with any other protein
Spices: Coriander, Whole pepper, Cumin Seeds, Salt. Pretty straightforward
Chilies: fresh green and dried whole red - trust me, it works! You get the flavour without overwhelming heat!
Ginger and Garlic: I highly recommend homemade Ginger Paste and Garlic Paste. You can also grate equivalent amounts of fresh.
Nutmeg: I crack one big piece but you can put in ¼ tsp of the powder, less is more here!
Mace: 2 small pieces or ¼ tsp powder, if you put too much the pulao gets an acrid taste
Bay leaves: 1 big dried or two smaller ones.
How to make this EASY Chicken Pulao
Step One: Wash your rice until the water runs clear, and soak it in room temperature water.
Step Two: Heat oil in a pot and add your diced onions. The darker the onions the richer the pulao taste will be, but with these aromatics you don’t need to go as dark as I do in the video. However, please, dear friend, do not go darker than that! A warm amber works well here 🙂
Step Three: Add the chicken you are using for your pilau, saute till it changes colour
Step Four: In go the rest of the spices and aromatics, mix them in well and cook the chicken covered on low till tender.
Step Five: Add in the rice, water, remaining salt and green chilies and bring the rice to a boil.
Step Six: Turn the heat down and cook partially covered for 7-8 minutes or until the water drops below the surface of the rice. Cover and cook on low for another few minutes until fully absorbed.
Make ahead tips
I get asked often if you can make this chicken pulao (or chicken pilau) ahead for dawats/ dinner parties. Yes folks, it is dinner party good. And yes, you absolutely can make it a day in advance. Here are two ways to do that:
- Cook the chicken all the way through then put aside to cool and refrigerate overnight. Warm the chicken through the next day and cook the rice fresh. Ain’t nothing like that fresh fluffy rice.
- Make the whole pulao and then gently heat in a covered dish in a preheated oven (325 degrees) until it’s warmed through.
Can I use boneless chicken for this Pulao?
This is where I am supposed to wax eloquent about the rich flavours of bone in meat, but friends let me tell you - if there was ever a pulao you would relish even with white meat it is this one. I make it often enough with white meat chicken and you could certainly use dark meat as well.
Does the flavor change? Of course. Bone in chicken results in a pulao with more richness and depth, but trust me the boneless version is quite tasty!
Boneless thigh is forgiving, but boneless breast requires a little doing because it can dry out.
Why does my rice come out … (insert adjective)
Why does my rice come out mushy?
In a nutshell it is overcooked which is because there was either too much water or too long a cooking time. Once your rice is overcooked it is hard to ‘fix’. However here are two simple tips for avoiding overcooked rice. Desi totka alert ok?
1) Make sure the water in the pot is only so much that when you put your index finger in it only reaches the first of the lines inside your fingers. This is a tip my SIL whose an incredible cook passed on to me and I swear by it. From there on boil it till your water level falls below the rice and steam and cook the rest of the way.
2)If you feel that the water is still more than you’d like then you have two choices, crank the heat HIGH to evaporate it faster without sacrificing any of the flavour in the water or simply skim some off the top. I won’t tell if you wont. If you decide to crank the water up just watch the pot carefully ok?
Why does my rice come out hard?
This is where I tell you that the age old practice of how much to cook rice has failed me. I would always hear that we should cook rice until you can see a white dot in the middle.
Preosaked rice btw is also less likely to be hard. More soaking info below
Why does my rice not look fluffy?
9 times out of 10 it is because you did not presoak your rice. The 30 minute lazing in a water bath really helps the rice tenderize and cook better. If you skip it the texture of the grain will not be the safe.
You didn’t fluff it. Strange but true. If you don’t open your pot and gently fluff the rice after the chicken pilau is done you run the risk of it (pardon the unattractive word) congealing.
What do I serve with Chicken Pulao?
Well since you asked (or I imagined that you did) if you served this chicken pulao with a simple green raita or even this sabzi one (be still my beating heart), a garlic chutney or achari michein, and shami kabab or kachay keemay ke kabab we would be besties for life. Let’s be besties ok?
Pakistani Chicken Pulao Video
Easy & Flavorful One-Pot Chicken Pulao (Pakistani)
- 2.5 cups Basmati Rice, washed and soaked.
- 1.5-2 lb chicken (bone in, mixed pieces, see notes)
- 3 onions diced
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1.5 tbsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp whole black pepper
- ½ tbsp cumin seeds
- 1-inch piece cinnamon
- 3 black cardamoms
- 5-6 whole red chillies
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 piece of nutmeg, break/chop into a rough quarters (optional)
- 2 pieces javetri/mace (optional)
- 4-5 whole green chillies
- Wash your rice in a few changes of water until it runs clear then soak while you start your pulao.
- Heat a very generous lug of oil in a pot big enough to cook your pulao in
- Add the onions and cook on medium heat till amber
- Now add the chicken and saute until the pieces are all white
- Add all the remaining pulao masala ingredients except the green chillies
- Mix well, saute on medium high heat for two minutes
- Let the masala come to a boil, then simmer on low until the chicken is done. The chicken releases it's own liquid so you shouldn't need to add any unless the masala seems like it will stick/burn.
- When the masala is ready the oil will have risen to the top and the chicken will be tender. This can take anywhere between 25-30 minutes depending on your chicken.
- Once the chicken is done add the rice, green chillies, and 3.5 cups of water to the pot along with 1.5 tsp salt
- Mix well and taste, it should be just a little salty.
- Bring the pulao to a boil and cook partially covered until almost all the water has evaporated then close the lid completely for 5-8 minutes until the remaining moisture has absorbed and the rice is done.
- Gently fluff the rice from the sides and serve with your chutney/raita/achar of choice
- mace and nutmeg are entirely optional, but I do love the rich notes they add. If you don't have them handy don't worry. If you only have the powders then ¼ tsp of each is good. Taste the masala and add more if you wish before adding the rice
- There is a total of 3.5 tsp of salt in this recipe. I use table salt and in Canada it is far less salty than that in other parts of the world. Please start with less and adjust according to your tastebuds!
- Instructions for cooking boneless chicken in post
Update: this post was updated in October of 2022 to better explain the steps and add a video. If you are wondering if this is the same Hyderabadi Chicken Pulao recipe you've made before that looked as below then you're in the right place!