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Chicken Yakhni Pulao (Chicken Pilaf)

Chicken Yakhni Pulao (Chicken Pilaf)


Pakistani cuisine is so rich in every sense of the word. There is a huge variety in each and every course of the meal, such diversity of ingredients, combinations of cooking techniques, shape of pots and pans (and what they are made of) I mean one can just keep on writing and writing but this “certain one” ain’t that talented or well informed and it would be better to stick to the stuff “one” knows. After posting about Chicken Biryani I made up my mind to do few traditional dishes to share the most common and most famous recipes of my country. Pulao and biryani can easily be our trademark dishes .. everyone makes them at home, all desi restaurants and hotels have them, some renowned franchises in the country are famous solely for either Pulao or Biryani plus they are served at big occasions like weddings.

There was a time when all grand family dinners (dawat) had this set menu.. Pulao, Aalo gosht (mutton and ptato curry), shami kebab, raita, salad and kheer (rice pudding). As a kid, me and my brothers weren’t very fond of pulao and we always asked mom to make biryani instead of pulao and mom used to say that we weren’t aware of what we were missing out on. True, to some extent. Now, after spending so many hours in the kitchen, knowing a thing or two about cooking methods and how different ingredients act while cooking I understand fully what my mom meant. Don’t get me wrong Nihari and  Biryani are still my favorite desi foods but Pulao has also made a dramatic inclusion in the top 5 list.

While Biryani is about bold, robust flavor and bright color Pulao is all about richness and aroma. There is no comparison between these two brilliant dishes as they are different in every possible way. The dish is basically called “Yakhni Pulao” or just Pulao. Yakhni is Urdu word for broth. Mutton, beef or chicken pieces are boiled with onion, ginger, garlic and whole garam masala till meat is tender and this duration of cooking and water medium extract maximum flavor and aroma out of meat and spices. If the broth isn’t rich and aromatic, Pulao would be only salted rice then. Meat is taken out of the broth and then slightly fried/pan roasted with golden brown onion. How much you brown the onion would dominate the color of Pulao. Some like it being white in appearance in which case onion is only sautéed. The broth is strained and measured and then added to roasted meat with some more spices to enhance the flavor and aroma. Bring it to a boil and add soaked rice and cook till done.

There you have it. This process of making Yakhni and then straining applies when desi chicken or beef or mutton is being used because they require longer duration of time to get tender. I am using broiler chicken which doesn’t take much time to get cooked so the following recipe is created to have a balanced cooking time otherwise chicken would practically get dissolved if cooked to make yahni and then cooked again with rice. If you wish to make Pulao with mutton or beef, you would have to adjust the cooking time, spice proportion and ratio of ghee/oil to fry onion, depending on the fat content of the meat. Some don’t even add oil at all. There are different ways. Serve it with Piyaz Gosht (Onion and Mutton Curry) (or replace onion with potatoes for Aalo Gosht) or Qorma or  Karachi Highway Style Wok Chicken (Chicken Karahi) if you wish. It tastes great on its own too but you can add kebab, raita and salad Firni (Rice Pudding) : A Gluten Free Eid/Festive DessertGajrayla / Carrot Kheer / Carrot Pudding to the menu.

Chicken Yakhni Pulao (Chicken Pilaf)

A rich rice dish which is known for its trademark aroma and subtle flavors. Perfect for every occasion, anytime.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Pakistani
Keyword Chicken Pilaf, Chicken Pulao, Chicken Yakhni Pulao, Gluten free
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Author Heenie


  • 6 cups basmati rice, washed and soaked
  • ¾-1 cup desi ghee or ghee or cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1.25 kg chicken with bones, cut into 12 or 16 pieces
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste or use freshly chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste or use freshly chopped
  • 6 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder (optional)
  • tbsp white cumin seeds, divided
  • tbsp coriander seeds, divided
  • 11 cups water
  • 3 whole black cardamoms
  • 7 whole green cardamoms
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 8-10 whole black pepper corns
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2-3 inch long cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 big green chillies


  1. In a big pot heat desi ghee/ghee (clarified butter) or cooking oil and add onion slices. Fry till golden brown.

  2. Add chicken to the pot and roast well over medium high flame.

  3. Keep stirring to get even color on chicken pieces, about 3-5 minutes depending on the size of chicken pieces.

  4. Add ginger and garlic paste.

  5. Roast well till all water is evaporated, chicken is fragrant with ginger garlic and evenly browned.

  6. Add salt, red chilli powder (if using) and 1½ tbsp of white cumin and 1½ tbsp of coriander seeds. (Crush coriander seeds slightly to bring out more aroma)

  7. Pour in water. Keep flame at medium high.

  8. Put remaining white cumin seeds, coriander seeds along with black cardamoms, green cardamoms, cloves, black pepper corns, star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick in a infuser or tie in muslin cloth. You can add them to the pot as-is too if you wish to.

  9. Add infuser with spices to the pot along with green chillies. Cover the pot.

  10. Bring to a rapid oil, drain soaking water as much as possible from rice and add to the pot.

  11. Cook over medium high flame till almost all water has evaporated, stirring carefully 2-3 times during cooking.

  12. Bring the flame down to lowest, cover the pot and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

  13. Switch off the flame but do not take the lid off for at least five minutes.

  14. Give a good stir to pulao, dish out and serve with kebab, salad, raita and gravy.

Recipe Notes

Meat and rice for pulao are taken as 1:1. I kg rice for 1 kg meat.

Adding red chilli and green chilli aren't very conventional but personally I love the aroma and flavor they bring.

Adjust ghee quantity as you like but remember, richness is the key feature of Pulao.

You can add whole spices directly to the pot too. My family prefers less visible garam masala.

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