Aromatic Jewels from Baghdad: Iraqi Biryani


Indulge in a flavor-filled journey to the heart of Iraqi cuisine with this exquisite Biryani dish. A harmonious blend of fragrant spices, tender meat, and fluffy rice, each bite transports you to the bustling markets and ancient traditions of Baghdad.

Aromatic Jewels from Baghdad: Iraqi Biryani

Preparation Details

  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours

Number of Servings and Serving Size

  • Servings: 6
  • Serving Size: 1 cup

Nutritional Information (per serving)

  • Calories: 450
  • Total Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 5g
  • Cholesterol: 80mg
  • Sodium: 780mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 48g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 24g


  • 2 lbs (900g) boneless chicken or lamb, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup (200g) basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) oil or ghee
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) water or broth
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) rose water or kewra water (optional)
  • Sliced almonds and fried onions for garnish

Detailed Method of Preparation

  1. Marinate the meat: In a large bowl, combine the meat, yogurt, ginger, garlic, and half of the spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cayenne). Cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Cook the rice: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and cook for 5-7 minutes until partially cooked. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil or ghee in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and fry until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove half of the fried onions and set aside for garnish.
  4. Add the marinated meat and remaining spices to the pot with the onions. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Layer the Biryani: Add the partially cooked rice on top of the meat mixture, creating an even layer. Pour in the water or broth and rose water (if using). Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to low.
  6. Steam the Biryani: Cook for 30-40 minutes, without lifting the lid, until the rice is fully cooked and the flavors have melded.
  7. Finish and serve: Remove the lid and gently fluff the Biryani with a fork. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the reserved fried onions and sliced almonds.

Tips for Culinary Success

  • Use high-quality spices for maximum flavor.
  • Marinate the meat for at least 30 minutes to allow the spices to infuse.
  • Be careful not to overcook the rice during the initial boiling stage.
  • Resist the temptation to lift the lid while steaming, as this will release the precious steam and aroma.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I use vegetable oil instead of ghee?

A: While ghee (clarified butter) adds a rich, nutty flavor, you can substitute with vegetable oil for a lighter option.

Q: Can I make this dish vegetarian?

A: Absolutely! Substitute the meat with vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, or chickpeas for a delicious vegetarian version.

Q: How can I adjust the spice level?

A: Increase or decrease the amount of cayenne pepper to your desired spice level. You can also add more or less of the other spices to suit your taste preferences.

As you savor each bite of this aromatic Iraqi Biryani, allow the rich flavors to transport you to the vibrant markets and ancient culinary traditions of Baghdad, where every dish is a celebration of spices, history, and cultural heritage.