Chicken pulao recipe – One pot flavored chicken pilaf cooked with mild Indian spices. Pulao is a delicious dish made of basmati rice, meat or veggies, spices & herbs. This chicken pulao is super easy to make for a weeknight dinner. It is mildly spiced and not heavy like the Chicken biryani.
Traditionally a Biryani is made by layering marinated meat and partially cooked rice. The pot is then sealed and dum cooked to trap the flavors. Making a good chicken biryani takes a considerable amount of time to plan & cook.
This chicken pulao comes to my rescue most often when we crave for a flavorful chicken & rice dish. It is not only super quick to make but very flavorful and tastes delicious.
There are so many ways of making a chicken pulao. Some people use stock to cook the dish while in the south many people use coconut milk. But most times I make it with water alone.
This is a kids’ friendly recipe too as it requires only a few spices. Chicken pulao is best served with a yogurt Raita or a simple salan.
How to make chicken pulao
1. Wash and soak rice for about 20 minutes, if using normal rice soak for 30 minutes. Drain off the water and set aside.
2. Marinate chicken with turmeric, chili powder, salt, ginger garlic paste, 1 tsp oil and then yogurt. You can also add a tsp of good garam masala powder. This is optional. Yogurt makes the chicken tender. If using coconut milk for the recipe, skip using yogurt for marination.
3. Set this aside till we need.
4. Pour oil to a pressure cooker or pot. When it turns hot, add dry spices including fennel powder. Saute till the spices begin to sizzle.
5. Add onions and fry until lightly golden. You can lightly brown them as well.
6. Saute chicken on a medium flame.
7. Chicken should turn white in color and partially soft cooked for about 3 to 4 minutes. Otherwise chicken may turn hard after adding tomatoes.
8. Next add chopped tomatoes. Fry till the tomatoes turn mushy, soft and completely cooked.
9. Add chopped coriander and mint leaves. Stir and fry until the mixture begins to smell good.
10. Continue to cook till the moisture from tomatoes evaporate.
Water, stock or coconut milk to make chicken pulao
11. Add stock or water or thin coconut milk. Also add salt. We have already added salt to marinate, take care not to add too much.
12. When it comes to a boil, add drained rice.
13. Stir well. If cooking in a pot, then cover and cook on a low heat until the rice is done.
14. If cooking in a pressure cooker, cover the lid and cook for 1 whistle on a medium heat.
15. When the pressure releases, remove the lid and leave it for about 5 minutes. Fluff up gently.
Serve chicken pulao with onion raita.
Tips to make the best chicken pulao
1. Always wash rice at least thrice. This prevents the rice grains in the chicken pulao from turning mushy & sticky.
2. Next soak basmati rice for at least 20 mins. This helps the rice grains to expand well while cooking. So you can soak the rice and set aside until you are done with the other preparations.
3. Using whole spices is the key to this chicken pulao. However if you do not have then just replace them with any store bought chicken masala powder or garam masala. Follow the instructions on the pack for the quantity to use.
4. I prefer to use 1 to 2 tbsps of yogurt to marinate the chicken. This enhances the dish a lot and the chicken comes out very juicy & succulent without drying out. However you can skip this.
5. Mint leaves are a not to miss herb while making a chicken pulao as it takes the entire dish to a new level. if you do not have it then replace with cilantro or coriander leaves.
Methods of making chicken pulao
Chicken pulao can be made in a regular pot, traditional pressure cooker or instant pot. You can find all the 3 methods in this post.
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
To Marinate (for tenderizing)
Whole spices (skip whatever you don’t have)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise
- ½ teaspoon cumin (or shahi jeera)
- 6 cloves or laung
- 2 inch cinnamon or dalchini
- 4 green cardamoms or choti elaichi
- ¾ teaspoon saunf powder (fennel powder) optional
- 1 black cardamom (optional)
- 1 strand mace optional
other ingredients for chicken rice
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion ( thinly sliced)
- 1 medium tomato (optional, chopped )
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
- 2 tablespoons mint or pudina (chopped finely)
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves or cilantro (chopped finely)
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice (I use lalquilla old malai)
- 2 ½ cups water (1¾ cups for instant pot) or stock or coconut milk
How to make the recipe
Preparation to make chicken pulao
- Wash basmati rice a few times to get rid of starch.
- Then soak it for 20 minutes. This helps to cook the rice grains fluffy. Drain and set aside.
- Marinate the chicken with ginger garlic paste, salt, turmeric, red chilli powder, garam masala, & yogurt. This helps to tenderize. Set this aside till we use it.
How to make chicken pulao (stovetop)
- Heat a pot or cooker with oil. Add whole spices – bay leaf, star anise, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamoms and fennel powder.
- Saute till the spices begin to smell nice.
- Add onions & green chili. Fry stirring often until the onions turn lightly golden.
- Transfer marinated chicken and fry until it turns pale and white.
- This takes around 3 to 4 minutes. Next add tomatoes.
- Fry until the tomatoes turn mushy, pulp and looks completely cooked through.
- Add mint and coriander leaves and fry until it smells good for a minute or two.
- Make sure tomatoes are cooked, blended well with the mixture, then pour stock or water or thin coconut milk.
- If your coconut milk is creamy or thick, dilute it with water and measure.
- When it comes to a boil, add salt and drained rice. Mix well
- If cooking in a normal pot, cover and cook on a low heat until the chicken rice is done completely.
- If cooking in a whistling pressure cooker, cover & cook for 1 whistle on a medium heat.
- When the pressure releases, fluff up the chicken pulao & serve with raita or plain yogurt.
Instant pot Chicken pulao
- Press SAUTE button. Pour oil to the inner pot of the Instant pot.
- Add all the whole spices & saute for 30 to 60 seconds. Then add the onions and chilli. Saute until transparent or golden.
- Next add then chicken and saute for 3 to 4 mins until chicken turns pale.
- Add tomatoes, mint, coriander leaves and saute the tomatoes turn mushy. Ensure the moisture dries up at this stage.
- Then drain the water from the rice completely and add it to the pot.
- Also pour 1¾ cups water and add in little more salt. Mix everything well.
- Press CANCEL button. Scrape off the bottom of the pot with a spatula to release any bits of spices stuck in there.
- Secure the Instant pot with the lid. Position the steam release handle to sealing.
- Press the PRESSURE COOK button (high pressure) for 5 mins.
- When the IP finishes, it will beep. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 2 to 3 mins.
- Then release the rest of the pressure manually with the help of a spoon by moving the steam vent from sealing to venting.
- Gently fluff up with a fork. Do not stir the chicken pulao a lot when it is too hot. Just allow to cool down a bit.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.