Easy Spiced Chicken Pulao

with cardamom, cloves and basmati rice

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

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

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

  7. Turn the heat off. Leave to rest for 20 minutes to let the rice cool slightly before opening the lid and serving. Serve with remaining coriander, 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?

    • boses

      8.8 oz or 1 cup. Just Google this conversion and it will tell you.

  • 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!

  • Rayane R Mithun

    Hi if I want to make this in a pressure cooker.. What would be the procedure be and how many whistles will I need to keep it for?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes typically the similar steps. Timing depends on the pressure cooker you have so vary based on that.

  • Connie Liu

    whats the difference between pulao and biryani? Thanks:-)

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Different techniques, ingredients, cooking method and ofcourse flavour for each:)

  • Nidhi Varma

    Hi Maunika, can I cook the chicken the day before when pressed for time? That way the next day I will just have to add more water to the chicken, simmer it, then add rice and cook till done. Thank you. Nidhi

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Hi Nidhi, A kg of chicken would take around 25-30 minutes to cook and the rice around 20 minutes. If you cook the chicken in advance and then keep cooking it along with the rice it might get chewy and overcooked. You could for ease use boneless chicken bite size pieces in this recipe which dont take as long to cook so make sure to adjust cooking times. Enjoy:)

      • Nidhi Varma

        Thank you Maunika.

  • Kanchan

    Hi Maunika, can I reduce the amount of water and add cooked rice instead? Thanks and cheers

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes absolutely! Cook the chicken all the way through and add the cooked rice at the end. Mix well and just warm through so the rice still has separated grains and soaks in all the flavours of the spices.

  • Sue

    Made this today and it was absolutely delicious! I used crushed green chilli instead of whole since I didn’t have whole and a ready made ginger garlic paste. I also added some cubed potato because my kids love potato in rice. So so flavoursome! Thanks for the recipe M.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      YUM!!! Love adding potato makes such a hearty one pot meal. Wonderful to hear the kids loved it too:)

  • Sanz

    Hi Maunika! In step 4, after bringing the vessel to a boil – should I simmer for 18-20 mins with lid on or without lid?

    In step 3, if I am using boneless chicken cut into bite size pieces, should I still cook them for 8-10 minutes or lesser?

    Many thanks.

  • Meghana Pratik Nayak

    Must say you offer some delicious recipes, had cooked this Pulao during the weekend and my folks loved it….thank you so much!x

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yay! Happy to hear this x

  • Naviah Soo

    your recipes always come out just like it does in the pictures. thank you!

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank YOU for trying the recipe!:)

  • Nathaniel Stockley

    Cooked the dish over the weekend & thought it tasted fabulous. I followed the recipe to the letter, but felt that it needed more rice to balance against a whole kilogram of bone-in chicken? Reluctant to add more rice and ruin the result.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Feel free to add more rice as per preference or increase the quantity of spices too. Although do bear in mind increased cooking times for the additional portion of rice.

  • Rob Wales Langley

    Drop the two tablespoons of cooking oil and it’s the perfect slimming world recipe just tried it now

  • Adam bogucki

    Hi I cooked the recipe and the taste was great but had a problem with the rice it became stodgy,I used broken basmati rice is this why?,this is my first time cooking rice other than that the dish was not far off.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes long grain basmati will give you a fluffy pulao with separated grains. So that would be the variety to try!

  • Tanvi

    Hi Maunika,

    After waiting since eternity to find a chicken pulao recipe and following your mouth watering Instagram posts for sometime now, I dared to try this today. It is exactly what I was looking for. I did tweak some of the spices to make it more suited to our palates but stayed mostly true to yours. It’s the perfect comfort meal on a cold winter night.

    Thanks a lot. Your site is my new treasure trove of delights. 🙂


    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you! This is so kind:) Always amazing to see how much everyone enjoys cooking the recipes x

  • Peter Baldwin

    Hi Maunika,
    Fantastic seeing you on Saturday Kitchen last week! Inspired yet again I tried this chicken pulao recipe and wow, absolutely superb! The rice was a little on the stodgy side but that was likely my fault for using a cheap variety. Will try more quality basmati next time.
    Thanks again.

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thank you so much! Wonderful to hear this. Long grain basmati rice will ensures separated grains. Hope you try it again.

  • AW

    Made this a few months ago and wow! me and my husband are both hooked! Perfect weekday meal – quick and easy and so so yummy – with some yogurt raita and pickle – it’s perfect for cold winter night comfort meal. I always make it with chicken stock as the flavours are so much better than just using water.
    Thanks Maunika!

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      So lovely to hear this. Thank you!

  • Craig Reid

    Hi Maunika, thanks for hosting such a great website! I’ve tried several of your curry recipes (keema pac – heavenly!!) and intend to try this pulao tonight. Do you wash or soak your rice at all? This isn’t mentioned in the recipe but I usually would wash any rice before cooking with it. Thanks, Craig

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      No need for soaking. Hope you enjoyed it!

  • Nupur

    Hi Maunika, just wanted to thank you for this recipe. It’s simple yet superb! My question about how to prevent the rice from overcooking has been answered in the comments below ? thanks again!

    • Maunika Gowardhan


  • Best Compilation

    It’s a very lovely recipe! Made it today for my wife and she loved it ??
    One question though, can we replace the chicken with mutton or beef with the remaining stuffs remaining the same in quantity?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Yes absolutely! Just adjust cooking times as you would need longer for lamb/ mutton. Wonderful to hear you’ve enjoyed it:)

  • Soumya Gupta

    Hi Maunika, I am planning to make this recipe and I am so keen!! I already have a ginger garlic paste ready so how many spoons of it can I use for this recipe?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      As the recipe mentions 5 garlic cloves and 1″ ginger!

  • BergamotandVetiver

    Hi Maunika – would this work with brown rice? The cook time for brown rice is around 40 minutes.

  • Craig Reid

    An excellent recipe, ideal to convince less confident cooks that Indian food is easy to prepare and delicious! I have to say, I think the pictures used previously to illustrate the final dish – made it look more appealing. But that’s a small issue, the recipe is sound! 🙂


Maunika's Indian Recipes App

Maunika’s Indian Recipe’s App is a guide to cooking delicious Indian curries, filled with over 400 recipes. From quick mid week meals, weekend brunch ideas, curries for family & friends. Get access to lots of recipes that have been developed exclusively for the App, along with top restaurants, places to visit including my favourite markets, resorts and street food stalls, and upcoming cookery events.