Best Rice for Biryani: Achieve Authentic Flavor Perfection Every Time

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Chicken biryani in a bowl with wooden spoon with text "best rice for biryani".

If you want a complete meal in the form of a single dish, you can’t go wrong with cooking biryani.

It has carbs, protein, and vegetables all in one pot.

So, whether it’s nutrition or flavors you’re seeking, biryani will deliver.

But did you know that authentic biryani requires a specific rice to be as delicious as it’s designed to be?

We’ll talk about this magical rice in this post.

As a bonus, I’ll also share my go-to rice alternatives for this South Asian dish (just in case they come in handy!)

Top Rice Variety for Biryani: Basmati Rice

Basmati rice in a wooden bowl closeup.

Slender, aromatic, and perfectly textured— that’s how I often describe Basmati rice.

I first encountered this rice when we dined at an Indian restaurant.

Back then, the Basmati rice served to us was plain yet still delectable.

Little did I know it would truly shine when used for flavorful dishes like biryani!

Reasons to Use Basmati Rice for Biryani

Ideal Texture: Basmati rice has long grains and gets fluffy once cooked. This characteristic makes it ideal for biryani, where the rice must not clump together so the layers of grains, proteins, vegetables, and spices can all be distinct from each other.

Withstands Long Cooking Times: When cooking biryani, rice undergoes multiple cooking processes for relatively long periods. This makes it crucial to use rice like Basmati rice that won’t lose structure and texture when cooked for extended times.

Authenticity: In India and Pakistan, where biryani has long been cherished, Basmati rice is one of the most preferred rice varieties for biryani and other traditional dishes. If you want your biryani to taste just like how it’s made in South Asia, using Basmati rice is the key.

Rice Runner-ups

I get it– though it’s relatively common, Basmati rice isn’t the easiest rice to find. 

I remember trying to hunt down this grain in 2 to 3 different supermarkets before eventually giving up one time. 

Sometimes, it’s more practical to opt for a rice alternative than to gamble more hours and effort finding Basmati rice. 

So, if you really need rice alternatives for biryani, I highly recommend these two options. 

Jasmine Rice

Uncooked jasmine rice in a transparent bowl.

Some of the qualities that make basmati rice the best choice for biryani are its long grains, aroma, and excellent flavor absorption. 

Fortunately, Jasmine rice also shares these characteristics. 

Hence, it’s one of the most suitable rice alternatives for the dish! 

Sure, the aroma of jasmine rice might be slightly different from that of basmati rice.

But that’s not really a con in itself, is it? 

I know some people who prefer floral aroma to nuttiness. 

Moreover, while Jasmine rice is known to be a stickier variety…

I find that by rinsing it well beforehand and avoiding aggressive stirring; its stickiness is not really too noticeable once the biryani has cooked!

Brown Basmati Rice

I don’t just think of brown Basmati rice as an alternative rice for biryani. 

I actually find myself choosing this variety deliberately for the dish. Especially when I want a nutritious option that can help me feel full longer.

Just like its white counterpart…

Brown Basmati rice still has a nutty aroma, can withstand long cooking times, and of course, absorbs biryani flavors beautifully.

Wouldn’t the texture be different?

Well, it would. 

But I personally haven’t found that to be a problem. 

It’s more like a unique variation to the classic dish, which my family also loves.

Biryani With Basmati (And Beyond)

I’ve never heard a chef (or any half-decent home cook) outright recommend a rice variety other than Basmati for biryani. 

And I totally agree. Basmati is the holy grail of biryani. 

It doesn’t just add to the visual appeal of the dish. It also contributes immensely to the signature texture and aroma of traditional biryani!

However, remember– we’re home cooks, not chefs serving at Michelin-starred restaurants. 

So, don’t be too afraid of the alternatives I’ve mentioned above.

Jasmine rice and brown Basmati rice might not yield authentic biryani.

But, at the end of the day, we just want delicious meals ready for the table, and those substitutions will offer exactly that!

Yield: 4

Simple Chicken Biryani (With a Sweet Twist)

Chicken biryani in a bowl with wooden spoon.

Let me introduce my version of a homey chicken biryani– one drenched in classic flavors but topped with crunchy almonds and sweet raisins!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 1 1/3 cups of basmati rice
  • 1 pound of chicken thighs (cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2/3 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1 large onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 large tomato (chopped)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1-inch piece of ginger (grated)
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of ghee
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 2/3 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 2/3 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 2/3 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1/3 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika (for a hint of smoky flavor)
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons of salt
  • A pinch of saffron threads (soaked in 1 tablespoon of warm milk)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup of fried onions (for garnish, optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins (for a touch of sweetness, optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds (for crunch, optional)


  1. In a strainer, rinse the basmati rice a few times until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes.
  2. Over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and ghee in a large pot. 
  3. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaf, and cumin seeds. Let them sizzle until fragrant.
  4. Add the thinly sliced onion to the pot and cook until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Stir in the minced garlic and grated ginger. Cook them for another couple of minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomato, coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, chili powder, smoked paprika, and salt. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and the oil separates from the mixture.
  6. Add the chicken pieces to the pot. Coat them well with the spice mixture. 
  7. Pour in the plain yogurt and cook for 15 minutes (or until the chicken is fully cooked).
  8. In a separate pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. 
  9. Drain the soaked rice and add it to the boiling water. Cook the rice for 5-7 minutes and set it aside (only partially cooked at this point)
  10. Remove half of the chicken mixture from the pot. Set it aside.
  11. Spread half of the partially cooked rice over the remaining chicken in the pot. Layer the reserved chicken over the rice. After that, top it off with the remaining rice (two repeating layers).
  12. Drizzle the saffron-infused milk over the layered rice. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro and mint leaves on top. 
  13. Add the fried onions, raisins, and slivered almonds on top (if you’d like to).
  14. Cover the pot tightly with a lid or aluminum foil, and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
  15. After 20 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Still covered, let it sit for 10 more minutes.
  16. Fluff up the biryani gently with a fork. Mix all the layers together (be very gentle when using rice alternatives).
  17. Serve hot, and enjoy your delicious Chicken Biryani!

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