Easy Indian Chicken Pulao

with cardamom, cloves and basmati rice

Easy-Indian-Chicken-Pulao Caramelised onions, whole spices and moist chicken pieces peeping through fluffy basmati rice that clings to the pieces. The layers of flavours in this comforting dish make it so special.
Indian pulaos are one pot dishes and something cooked as a meal in itself. My mother would also serve pulao at dinner parties after most guests would have finished eating Indian bread with the main curries.

This is our family recipe and one that mum would make so often when we grew up. The smell of onions caramelising, the spices infused with rice in a big handi (steel cooking pot) and the smell of homemade ghee is something I will always remember. Our home was filled with aromas when she cooked pulao and all too often even our neighbours would know that she was making pulao! Mum has always taken pride in her cooking and more than that feeding family and friends some amazing meals.

Every stage of making chicken pulao was carefully done. With onions thinly sliced, spices spluttering in ghee. The laborious task of cooking the onions which is really what yields the colour in the resultant dish, cooking the chicken and adding the long grain rice simmering until it was just done making sure the grains don’t break.
Mum would give the pulao a ‘dum’ and turn heat off to let the dish rest before serving.
Taking the lid off the pot with the steam wafting through when she served it out. Oh my! And just for that it’s worth slaving on the stove to make this recipe.
Indian pulao can be made with meats, paneer or even just simple vegetables. Also the use of spices varies in most. Unlike Biryani there is no layering of the meat with the rice. In Pulaos the rice is cooked together with meat or vegetables. This recipe includes whole spices, chillies and onions mainly. Most of the ingredients in this dish are easy to find. What takes long is cooking the onions; make sure to give that some time as it makes all the difference. Simply served as a one pot meal with some raita and salad or onions it’s a reminder of what home cooking.


  1. In a blender add the garlic and ginger with a splash of water and make a smooth paste. Set aside.
    In a heavy bottom sauce pan heat the oil. Add the whole spices letting them sizzle and infuse their flavours for 30 seconds. Now add the white onions and fry on a low heat for 30-35 mins. They will soften and start to colour. Make sure to stir every few minutes making sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. The quantity of onions for this dish is quite a lot so give it time to fry and retain a light brown colour.

    Easy Indian Chicken Pulao (2)

  2. At this stage increase the heat to medium, add the green chillies and fry for a few seconds followed by the ginger and garlic paste. Fry for 2 minutes until the raw flavours from the paste cook through.

  3. Now add the chicken pieces along with the coriander powder stir well making sure the spices coat the chicken pieces sealing through for 8-10minutes. Add salt and continue to fry the chicken. Add half the water quantity and bring to a boil simmering with a lid on for 10 minutes. Stir half way through the cooking process. The chicken will nearly be done by this time.

    Easy Indian Chicken Pulao (3)

  4. Now add the rice, little fresh coriander and the remaining water. Bring to a boil; simmer for 18-20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the chicken & rice are tender.

  5. Add the remaining coriander at this stage. Cover the pulao and turn the heat off. Leave to rest for 10minutes to let the rice cool slightly before serving. Serve with some lime juice, salad and raita

  • http://rajasbanquet.co.uk Sutinder Behan

    I simply love biryani. I read a recipe yesterday mentioning a biryani spice mix – can you tell me what the ingredients are please?

  • Julita

    I come from Poland and my cuisine has nothing incommon with Indian cuisine,so it is very nice to find a good recipe which deliveres authentic flavours.
    Great blog!!! I’ve already recomended it to my friends:)
    Tried this recipe yesterday ,I added a handfull of golden sultanas it turned out fantstic!

  • http://www.whatsforlunchhoney.net/ Meeta

    Oh Maunika! You have made me miss my dad’s chicken pulao! He makes one mean chicken pulao and every time I visit them in Dubai this is one of the first meals we make together! Your recipe looks very similar to my dad’s – only my dad tells me one of his many amazing stories. Thank you for this!

  • Chandni Maida

    I think the dish needs a little amount of turmeric powder.

    • maunika

      You can add some if you wish although I do prefer the simplicity of the dish without too spices apart from the whole spices included.

  • Zara

    Tried it and loved it! I’m a newbie at cooking and so your instructions and the simplicity of the dish really helped me. I did however make a few changes, regular cardamom instead of the black ones as I’d run out and I increased the quantity of rice. But overall it was great.. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  • Claire

    Made this and loved it! but always have difficulty with the rice. what should I do to stop it breaking down?

    • maunika

      The trick is to ensure the rice is cooked at the right time. Also once cooked fluff the rice up with a fork to separate the grains.

  • Jane Wilkie

    This was just fabulous and I really enjoyed cooking it. It will become a firm favourite. Thank you once again for your delicious recipes. They never fail x

  • Mark Johnson

    It’s not clear whether, once rice is added, the pot should be covered for the 18-20 mins.
    Can’t wait to try it.

  • Aarti

    Hi. thanks for your recipe. I think I must have made a couple of errors- how do you ensure that the chicken stays moist- and does not over cook or become too dry?

    • maunika

      The timings in this recipe are key so if you follow it the chicken will not dry at all. Also please note timings are based on the quantity of chicken listed in the recipe and that the chicken is on the bone. You will need to adjust cooking time if your using boneless chicken and ofcourse if the quantity is different.

  • Aarti

    Could you tell me the quantity of rice in cups?

  • Csoanes

    Hello! For the past 2 weeks I’ve been making recipes from both your cookbook and your website. We’ve loved every dish and are eagerly awaiting your next recipe book :)
    One question: how do I know when to use cassia bark instead of cinnamon sticks? Thanks and keep posting!!

    • maunika

      You can use either! Although I tend to always use cassia based on the availability. So glad you are enjoy the book and all the recipes!