A tasty lamb biryani recipe with lamb and a rich sauce that can also be made with chicken, beef or prawns. This is my perfected version. A true labour of love! 

If you are looking for a takeaway style lamb biryani then I suggest you look no further! Ok, I know you’re thinking that this is quite a big claim. I get it,  there are millions of lamb biryani recipes out there, so what makes me think that this one is the one that tastes exactly like it’s from an authentic Indian restaurant? 

I have tried many lamb biryani recipes over the years. And for the past 5 years, I’ve been trying to perfect this dish. When we lived in the UK, this is one of my favourite dishes to order at the takeaway. However, since we moved to Spain, finding a good local Indian takeaway can be tricky. Our ‘nearest’ one is about 25 minutes drive to the city so, in time, I have learned to make my own that’s as good as the one they have in our favourite restaurant, plus it keeps for days which my husband loves, as he doesn’t have a problem to eat this 3 days in a row!

The problem is making biryani is time-consuming. There had a few times when I wanted to give up. But since this pandemic have put a hold on our plans, and we spend most of our days at home, I thought, why not give it another try? So this weekend, I gathered all my ingredients and dedicated a few hours to perfect my biryani recipe.  

Perfect lamb biryani recipe
Perfect lamb biryani recipe
Lamb Biryani Sauce
Lamb Biryani Sauce

There are many types of biryani dishes, many originate from different parts of India, all of them are cooked differently depending on the area. One of the most popular ones is the Hyderabadi style where the meat and rice are layered and cooked in a clay pot over a fire. This type is the one I’m sharing with you today.

What Is The Secret to a Good Biryani? 

As with many great dishes, the secret is in the detail; allowing the meat to marinate; frying the onions until they’re caramelised; frying the spices so they release those beautiful flavours; knowing how to cook the rice to perfection are just some of the things that you need to do to make sure that you make a dish that everyone will love. 

You might have tried making biryani before but put off with the amount of cooking time it requires. Don’t worry, I was the same when I first tried it. But really, you cannot make a short-cut on a dish like this. If you are thinking of making this, then I would suggest to gather all the ingredients listed in this recipe and marinate the meat ahead of time. I promise you that it’s totally worth the effort! 

How To Make The Perfect Lamb Biryani

The time required to cook this recipe is quite a long one, but that’s because this lamb biryani consists of two dishes – lovely aromatic rice and rich lamb curry. Both delicious in their own way and when mixed it creates an explosion of flavour! 

When it comes to choosing the type of meat, I always prefer lamb, though you can always substitute this with chicken, beef or even prawns. Just keep in mind that the cooking time will differ depending on what meat you use. 

You can ask your butcher to cut your lamb in cubes like you would if you were to make a stew dish.  For this recipe, I used 1kg of lamb meat which I deboned from a whole leg of lamb. I prefer using this part of the lamb as it has equal parts of meat and fat. Also deboning your own meat gives you a lot more, plus I also add the bones to the curry sauce to add more flavour.

Marinading The Lamb 

The lamb is marinated in a mixture of spices for a few hours, though I would recommend to leave it for at least 24 hours to really enhance the flavour. This step can be made 24 hours in advance, however, if you don’t have the time, it’s OK to leave the lamb marinating for at least 1-4 hours. Believe me, it really makes a difference. 

For the meat marinade, you will need, mince garlic, grated ginger, salt, black peppercorns, lemon juice, chilli powder and turmeric. Coat the meat evenly, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. For better flavour and tenderness, I recommend marinating for at least 4 hours to 24 hours. 

Spices for marinading the meat for lamb biryani
Spices for marinating the meat – garlic, ginger, pepper, salt
Biryani meat marinade
Turmeric, chilli powder and lemon juice
Lamb meat marinading in spices
Marinade lamb for at least 1 hour

Making The Lamb Biryani Sauce

Step 1: Caramelising the onions

To cook the biryani sauce, you will first need to cook the onions separately. Do this by thinly slicing the onions and frying them in 4tbsp of olive oil or ghee. If you like the rich buttery flavour but do not have ghee, then you can combine 2tbsp of olive oil and 2tbsp of butter. Ensuring that the heat is low or medium so that the butter does not burn. 

Caramelised onions for biryani sauce
Caramelised onions for biryani sauce

Fry the onions for about 15 minutes on low heat, I use 5 settings on my induction hob. Be patient, you want the onions to be soft and caramelised, adding a pinch of salt and pepper midway through cooking. Once the onions are slightly browned and soft, transfer them to a plate and set aside to use for later. 

Step 2: Cooking The Biryani Sauce

In the same pan you cooked the onions, add another 3tbsp of oil. Again, if you want a richer taste you can substitute the oil with some butter. When the pan is hot add the bay leaves, cumin seeds, star anise, and cinnamon stick.

Lamb biryani sauce spices
Lamb biryani sauce spices

Be careful not to let the spices burn, you want them sizzling but not smoking. Cooking them gently for around 30 seconds will release all the flavours making your lamb biryani so much tastier! Believe me, patience is the key! Once the dry spices are toasted, add the garam masala and turmeric, stir for another 10 or more seconds. 

Still keeping on low heat, return the caramelised onions to the pan and toss to mix with the spices for a few more seconds. At this stage, you want to coat the onions with the spices, once they’re evenly coated, transfer them to a plate again and set them aside

In the same pan add another 3 tbsp of oil. When the oil is hot enough, fry the lamb in batches to ensure even browning. Allow sitting for a couple of minutes before turning over to get a good seal. Once the first batch of meat is browned, transfer them on a plate, and continue this until all the meat is done. 

When the last batch of meat is nearly done, add the caramelised onion and spice mixture into the pan. Add the rest of the lamb you set aside. Stir well for a few seconds and add in 800g of tomato sauce, making sure to scrape the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add 200ml of water and chopped mint, cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes or until the meat is tender. Do not forget to stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning. 

Step 3: Preparing the rice

While your sauce is cooking measure 420 of basmati rice. Place in a pan and fill with cold water. At this stage, it’s important to clean the rice by stirring it with your hand and pour out the cloudy water. Do this repeatedly until the water in the rice is clear. Removing the starch from the rice results in fluffy and soft rice. Once the rice is clean, add more water into the pan, allow to stand and soften for an hour before using. 

biryani rice soaking
Soak the rice for 1 hour to soften it

Step 4: Cooking the rice

Mix the water and milk together in a jug and set aside.

Drain the rice using a metal strainer and set it aside while you heat up a large pain with 30g of butter. When using butter it’s important to ensure that it’s on a lower heat so it doesn’t burn. 

Biryani rice spices
Cinnamon sticks, cardamoms, turmeric, cumin seeds and red onions
Biryani rice spices in butter
Fry biryani rice spices in butter

When the butter is melted, add the cumin, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Stir for a minute or so to release the flavours. 

Fry biryani spices with onions
Fry biryani spices with onions

Add the red onions to the spices, stirring continuously until it’s soft and slightly brown on the edges. You want to coat the onions with the flavours, similar to how you did it on Step 2.

Fry biryani spices, onions and add turmeric
Fry biryani spices, onions and add turmeric

When nearly done, add the turmeric and stir for a few seconds. Get the drained rice and pour it into the pan. 

Biryani rice
Stir in rice in the onion and spices
Pour in water and milk mixture into the rice
Pour in water and milk mixture into the rice

Pour in the water and milk mixture, bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and allow to simmer down (uncovered) for around 5-6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat.

Simmer biryani rice in the water and milk
Simmer biryani rice in the water and milk

Step 5: Layering the biryani

Preheat the oven at 170°c for 15 minutes.

Now you should have a pot of semi-cooked rice and a pot of biryani sauce. Take out a casserole pan,  I used a 33cm round clay pot. Start to layer your biryani starting with the sauce first.

Spread the sauce at the bottom and then add the rice. Just think of it as a ‘lasagna’ you want to layer the dish evenly with rice, sauce and meat. This recipe allows you to have some spare sauce and meat left, so once your rice is done, save the rest of the sauce for later.

Cover the casserole with a double layer of tin foil or a lid. Bake for 45-50 minutes. You can check after 45 minutes to see if the rice is done, by making a small opening and get a bit of rice on a fork to see if it’s done. 

Once the biryani is done, take it out of the oven and leave to stand for about 10-15 minutes covered in foil before serving. Served with the leftover sauce and cucumber raita. Enjoy!

Perfect lamb biryani sauce and rice
The ultimate lamb biryani!
If you do not fancy spending a long time cooking, then you can skip the rice, and only cook the lamb sauce. You can serve this with boiled rice or naan bread instead.
Perfect lamb biryani recipe

Lamb Biryani

Yield: 6-8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

This classic biryani recipe is a perfect blend of spices, colour, and flavour. The fluffy rice, tender chunks of marinated lamb that just melts in the mouth...Yumm!


Meat Marinade

  • 1 kilo lamb cubed
  • 30g minced garlic
  • 20g grated ginger
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp ground black peppercorns
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tsp chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric 

Biryiani Sauce

  • 4tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 800g tomato sauce
  • 200ml water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin whole
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 9 cloves 
  • 8 grams of chopped mint
  • 20 grams of cilantro
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp sugar

Biriyiani Rice

  • 30g butter
  • 420g of basmati rice
  • 1 red onion
  • 2tsp cumin seeds
  • 5 cardamon pods slightly bruised and open
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cinammon sticks
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 200ml water
  • 200ml milk


Marinading the lamb

  1. Place the cubed lamb in a large bowl. Add the garlic, ginger, lemon, chilli powder, turmeric salt and pepper. Mix well until all the spices coat the meat. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for over 1 hour or overnight for better flavour.

Cook the onions

  1. In a large pan add 4 tbsp of oil or ghee.
  2. Cook the sliced onions on low heat for about 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and slightly caramelised. Adding a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper midway through cooking. Make sure to stir the onions to avoid burning, add extra oil if needed.
  3. Remove the onions from the pan and transfer them to a plate.

Cooking The Biriyani Sauce

  1. In the same pan, you cooked the onions, add 3tbsp of oil. Fry bay leaves, cumin seeds, star anise, and cinnamon stick. Stir to release the flavour for about 30 seconds, add the garam masala and turmeric. Stir for another 10 seconds, taking care not to burn the spices.
  2. Return the onions into the pan and mix with the spices for a few seconds. Remove the onion and spices mixture from the pan and set it aside.
  3. In the same pan add 3 tbsp of oil and heat for a few seconds. When the oil is hot enough, brown 1/3 of the marinated lamb. Once the lamb is brown remove it from the pan and add it to the plate with onions. Fry another batch and so on.
  4. When all the meat is brown, add the onions back to the pan. Stir for a few seconds, then add in the 800g of tomato sauce and 200ml of water.
  5. Stir the mixture and scrape any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped mint, half of the coriander, salt and sugar to the pan, stir and then add in the meat.
  6. Cover the pan and allow to cook slowly for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the meat is tender. Don't forget to stir it occasionally.

Prepare the rice

  1. Measure 420grams of rice.
  2. Place in a deep bowl and fill with cold water.
  3. Clean the rice by stirring it with your hand and then pour out the water. Do this repeatedly until the water is clear.
  4. Once the water is clear, fill the bowl again with water so it covers the rice. Allow standing for at least 1 hour to soften the rice.

Cooking The Biriyani Rice

  1. Drain the rice using a metal strainer.
  2. Mix the water and milk together in a jug. Set aside.
  3. Place a pan on low heat and slowly melt 30g of butter.
  4. When melted and sizzling, add the cumin, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Cook them for about 30 seconds to release the flavour.
  5. Add the onions, stirring until they go soft and brown. Add the turmeric and cook for a further 30 seconds.
  6. Add the rice and toss to coat with the onions and spices.
  7. Pour in the water and milk mixture, bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and allow to simmer down (uncovered) for around 5-6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat.

Arrange The BIryiani Ready For Baking!

  1. Preheat oven at 170°c
  2. In a large round casserole dish spread the lamb curry and then layer it with rice. Repeat this method.
  3. Cover the casserole with a double layer of tin foil or a lid. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 609Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 148mgSodium: 1200mgCarbohydrates: 30gNet Carbohydrates: 0gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gSugar Alcohols: 0gProtein: 35g

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British/Filipina now living in Valencia, Spain. Mum, wife, designer and illustrator. I am also the author of Ohla Living where I share my lifestyle, travel, recipes and creative ideas.

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