Turmeric Coconut Biriyani

Traditional biriyani (an Indian meat and rice dish) is an all day affair, and the process often starts with ghee, butter, or oil. This California twist on biriyani is both time-sensitive and doesn't use any ghee, butter, or oil, refusing to sacrifice any flavor or depth. Ginger, garlic, coconut milk, turmeric, green chili peppers, paprika, cumin, coriander, and fennel seed all come together to create a creamy and succulent dish. 

As you may have noticed, my recipes usually serve 2-4. But Biriyani is a celebratory dish. This recipe serves 8-10. At my house, biriyani made its grand appearance at Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, and occasionally on the lucky Saturday (or if I begged for it). You'll fill a giant serving bowl to the brim with this rice & chicken magic, and let the eating and drinking commence.  When eating this rice dish, people will undoubtedly think it took all day (and many biriyanis do, like my auntie's traditional recipe), but here I'm offering you a 2.5-hour version that is mostly hands off. Once you get the chicken simmering on the stove, you're free to do whatever else you need to do for the celebration - make cocktails, create a side dish, and most importantly, get a glass of wine in before the party starts. 


10 bone-in chicken thighs (remove skin)

3 cups white basmati rice

3 cans (12 cups) coconut milk

8 cups light (blond) chicken broth

5 tsp minced fresh turmeric, or dried ground turmeric

2 tbsp ginger grated on microplane

8 cloves of garlic

2 green serrano peppers, chopped into 6 pieces each

5 heads of bok choy, coarsley chopped

2 tbsp hungarian paprika

1 tbsp whole cumin seeds

2 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp coriander seed

2 tbsp tamarind concentrate

In a large 12 qt dutch oven or stock pot, combine coconut milk, chicken broth, turmeric, ginger, garlic, serrano peppers, paprika, cumin, fennel seed, coriander seed, and tamarind concentrate. Stir well until you get a creamy orange mixture. Add chicken (bone-in) and marinate between 1-8 hours in the fridge. (I did 4 hours). Boneless skinless thighs work fine too, but you get an added flavor from the bones of the chicken. Remove pot from the fridge, and place on stove. Heat the mixture until you get barely a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 60 minutes, until chicken is all the way cooked through. Remove a piece of chicken and check to make sure it is cooked through to the bone without pink. When chicken is cooked, remove all the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Let coconut milk broth cool for about 20 minutes, and then pour through a strainer into a large bowl to remove fat, peppers, garlic cloves, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. May need to do this in batches since it is a large amount of liquid! Strain two times to get rid of excess fat. 

Heat 7 cups of the strained broth to boiling for 1 minute. Add 3 cups of white basmati rice and immediately reduce heat to a light simmer, cover the pot. Set timer to 20 minutes. 

While rice is cooking, separate cooked chicken from bones, tear into pieces with your hands. Discard bones. Check rice and stir after 20 minutes. Taste the rice - it should be creamy, tender, firm, and not mushy. Cook for a few minutes longer if the rice remains hard. When the rice is cooked through and the liquid is mostly absorbed, remove from heat. Stir in torn chicken and chopped bok choy. 

Serves 8-10. If you don't have a large stock pot and want to make this recipe for less folks, simply cut every ingredient in half to serve 4-5.