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Thalassery Chicken Biriyani

Of all the biryanis I have tried and tasted, Thalassery Biriyani is my favourite! This recipe is my tribute to this traditional favourite that I can never get enough of!

I can never say no to a biriyani. It doesn’t matter if it’s called a biriyani, biryani, or biriani, I have pledged my allegiance to this fragrant rice and meat delicacy! I don’t remember when I fell in love with this flavourful one-dish meal.

Thalassery Chicken Biriyani
Thalassery Chicken Biriyani

We have many varieties of biriyanis in IndiaMughalai, Awadhi, Sindh, Hyderabadi, Chettinad, Ambur, Malabar, Bengali, Kashmiri, the list will go on. And I love them all! The basic premise is the same. You have rice, meat (red, white, or even seafood), and spices, and they are all brought together in one pot making it a deeply satisfying meal in itself.

When I tuck into a biriyani, it’s not just food, but also a celebration of life, love, and all things good on this Earth! It’s my comfort food. When I feel low, a good biriyani will lift my spirits up; and when I am happy, a good biriyani will make the rest of my day even more joyful!

Thalassery Biriyani is served
Thalassery Biriyani is served

All biriyanis are equal, but one maybe a little more equal!

Thalassery, a small commercial town in the North Kerala district of Kannur, is famous for the celebrated Malabar cuisine. Their world famous Thalassery biriyani is a culinary treat. Fragrant meat in a soulful gravy, and rice cooked with spices are married together by slow cooking again in layers, all absorbing each other’s flavours. Topped up with fried onions, sultana raisins and cashew nuts, a true Thalassery biriyani is the thing to live for!

The soul of Thalassery biriyani lies in the masala. Onions are slow cooked with green chillies, ginger, and garlic. Tomatoes are added to the mix and cooked till they disappear into the mix. Now goes in coriander and mint leaves, and the marinated chicken pieces. This is slow cooked until the chicken is soft and juicy. Fresh garam masala is added before cooking for a few more minutes. That chicken masala is half work done. Now we move on to the rice. Thalassery biriyani is traditionally cooked with Kaima rice. If you can’t source Kaima, basmati rice is a decent alternative. Whole spices and rice are fried in ghee and oil, and cooked in boiling water. Cooked rice and the chicken masala are placed in layers, topped with fried cashew nuts, sultanas, and onions, and “dum” cooked.

In traditional “Dum” cooking the lid is secured to the pan with a dough so that no steam can escape. Hot coal is placed on the lid, and slow cooked with a low flame from below the pan.

Story of this recipe

This recipe is inspired from a weekend cooking session with my cousin and her friend, who is from Thalassery. She had her mom’s recipe, and we had all the ingredients. She led the cooking, while we helped with prepping the ingredients. The results were amazing. That was one of the best home cooked biriyanis that I have ever come across!

This recipe is a slightly altered version I have been working on. I am planning to revisit this soon. I hope this rendition has done justice to the original!

Thalassery Chicken Biriyani served with Raita
Thalassery Chicken Biriyani served with Raita

Thalassery Biriyani – Before you get cooking

Biriyani requires a lot of tender loving care. The process is elaborate, and spending some time in the kitchen is required, but the results are worth waiting for. I have used Basmati rice in this recipe. I have also cheated on the dum cooking – without compromising much on the flavours. Go ahead, plan and prep your ingredients, and start cooking. The aromas of spices getting fried will get you going!

P.S: If you want to think beyond biriyani, try this meat rice – “erachi choru” recipe here.

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5 from 6 votes

Thalassery Chicken Biriyani

Thalassery Biriyani is a delicious mix of fragrant rice, spices, and chicken in a soulful gravy, married together by slow cooking to absorb the flavours.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: Kerala
Servings: 8 people


For chicken masala

  • 1.2 kg chicken full chicken cut to medium pieces
  • 8 medium onions
  • 20 green chillies moderately hot
  • 15 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 7 medium tomatoes ripe
  • 1 cup mint leaves chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup cilantro coriander leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 cardamom
  • 4 inch cinnamon pieces
  • 1/4 nutmeg one small piece
  • 4 tablespoon yogurt
  • salt to taste

For rice

  • 800 gram basmati rice 4 cups
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cardamom
  • 2 inch cinnamon piece
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 mace
  • 10 black peppercorn
  • 1 lime small
  • salt to taste

For garnish

  • 2 onions thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sultana raisins
  • 1 cup Cashew nuts
  • salt to taste


  • Add one teaspoon turmeric powder, one tablespoon Kashmiri chili powder, two tablespoons yogurt, and salt to the chicken.
  • Mix well until the chicken pieces are coated well with this marinade. Keep it aside.
    Chicken kept to marinate
  • Wash and soak 4 cups of rice in water. The rice should be soaked for at least 1 hour.

Chicken masala

  • Let's prep the ingredients for biriyani masala. Thinly slice the onions.
  • Heat a cup of oil in a large pan. Once the oil is hot, lower the flame, and add the sliced onions to fry. Stir occasionally.
    Onions fried on a low flame
  • Give the green chilies, ginger, and garlic a quick blitz to make a coarse paste.
  • Slow-cook the onions till they turn brown, and add the ginger-garlic-chili paste.
    Garlic, ginger, green chilli paste added to the cooked onions
  • Combine well, and cook for a few minutes. Now add the chopped tomatoes, and continue cooking.
    Chopped tomatoes are added
  • Cook the tomatoes until they disappear into the mix.
    Cooked till tomatoes get mixed well in the masala
  • Now add chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves. Mix well, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Now add the marinated chicken pieces, two tablespoons yogurt, and salt to the pan. Mix gently to get chicken pieces evenly coated with the onion masala in the pan.
    Chicken pieces added to the cooked masala
  • Close with a lid, and cook covered till the chicken is cooked to soft.
  • Powder cinnamon, cardamom, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and nutmeg to a coarse powder. This is our garam masala powder.
  • Open the lid, add the garam masala to the cooked chicken, mix well, and cook for another 3 minutes.
    Garam masala is added
  • Switch off the flame. That completes the first part of our biriyani - the chicken masala. Make sure that the chicken masala is moist enough so that biriyani won't go dry when we add rice later.

Cooking rice

  • In another pan heat 3 tablespoons oil and 3 tablespoons ghee on a medium flame. Fry 2 sliced onions, raisins, and cashew nuts until the onions turn brown.
    Onions, raisins, and cashew nuts fried in oil and ghee
  • Lower the flame. Scoop them out, and leave them on a paper towel to soak up the extra oil.
  • Add the whole spices to the same pan and give them a quick fry.
    Whole spices are fried
  • Drain off the water from the rice, and add it to the pan. Stir gently, and fry to get the rice to a crispy texture.
  • Add boiling water to the pan to cook the rice your are using. Squeeze one lime, add salt, and mix well.
    Rice is fried with the spices, boiling water is added
  • Switch off the flame once the rice is cooked just enough.
    Cooked rice is ready

Layering the biriyani

  • Now we'll bring together all these elements to complete our biriyani.
  • From the pan, transfer half of the cooked rice to a bowl.
  • Evenly spread the cooked chicken masala on top of the remaining rice in the pan.
  • Now spread the remaining rice on the chicken masala. Now we a layer of rice, a layer of chicken masala, and another layer of rice.
    Rice and chicken masala are cooked again in layers
  • Garnish with the fried onions, sultanas, and cashew nuts that we had kept aside.
  • Close the lid. Cover tightly along the edges with aluminium foil. You can place something heavy on the lid to make it airtight.
  • On a low flame, cook again for 10 minutes.
  • Switch off the flame, open the lid, and serve the biriyani hot. accompanied with raita, papad, and green chilly chutney.
    Thalassery chicken biryani is served


  1. Dear Arun Velekkat,
    Perfect way of explanation and I love cooking for my wife , children and friends.
    Neatly explained with simple words and the steps are crystal clear.
    Thanks a lot!

  2. 5 stars
    Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.

  3. Can this recipe be halved?

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Hi Malini,
      Thank you for visiting my blog.
      To be honest, I haven’t tried this recipe with a reduced volume.
      I am sure it’ll work, but I am afraid I don’t have a tested recipe to share. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe and clear directions w pictures!

  5. Joseph John

    I stopped reading at basmati rice. Requesting the author to look up kyma rice.

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Fair comment. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I did mention that I modified the true recipe by using Basmati rice.
      I have used Kaima or Jeerakasala rice in many recipes.
      Unfortunately, that day when I prepared this biriyani, I didn’t have Kaima and went with Basmati.
      I promise to do justice to this preparation by using the real Jeerakasala rice soon.

  6. Meryn Aricatt

    5 stars
    My search for the perfect biriyani recipe ends here.Glad i came across this site.๐Ÿ’œ

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Hi Meryn,
      That’s such a generous feedback. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I am chuffed to hear that! Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I had used Jeera rice for the recipe. The traditional recipe is with that rice

  8. 5 stars
    Superb Biryani recipe

  9. Dagny Fernandes

    5 stars
    This is the first time I tried biriyani and it tasted so delicious everyone got impressed thanks for the recipe loved it.

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Thank you very much, Dagny ๐Ÿ™‚
      I am delighted reading your comment.
      I am honoured that you picked my recipe for your first time cooking biriyani ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Thalassery Biriyani is not make with this Rice… It is made with JeeraShala or GhandhaShala or kyma rice…. That is one thing that makes Thalassey Biriyani different from other biriyani’s… and its a main thing too….

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      You are right Sweth. I have mentioned that in the recipe as well. I have also mentioned the deviations that I have made from the traditional preparation to keep it simple. I totally agree with you – the highlight in the real one is indeed the kaima rice.

  11. This was so good. Tried it today. ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for the recipe!

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Thank you very much Richa! It’s great to hear that you tried my recipe and it came out well!! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    • And we tried it again today! Soooooo good. Never fails.
      In between we tried it once more but only chicken dish without rice. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • The Take It Easy Chef

        Hi Richa,
        Thank you for revisiting the blog and the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚
        Delighted to read your feedback.
        The consistency you mentioned is what I have always work towards while finalising a recipe. I am glad it is working! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Hi chef ! Your all recepies are awesome……….
    Chef I wanna be a favor…….please! Tell me a spice,thick,rich and delicious curry for chicken and paneer both of them.
    Thank you chef….

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Hey Subham, Thank you very much! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Check out my paneer butter masala recipe. That base is good for chicken as well! And grind in some green chillies if you want the curry hot!

  13. Oh wow….just liked the page n I landed in Disney Land directly “Thalassery biryani”. Loved the pics

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      That’s a great feedback Ragesh! Thank you very much ๐Ÿ™‚

      And great to meet another biryani lover!

  14. This looks SO good, the crispy onions especially. I’ve seen the lids sealed with dough as you said but I have never tried it!

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Thank you very much!
      Yes, that’s the “dum” part of it – sealing with the dough. You should try this one a weekend, and share it with your friends! Biriyani is meant for sharing!

  15. I’m not a huge chicken person unless it’s super flavorful and tender, and this recipe certainly seems to fit the bill! Love the additions to the rice too!

  16. This looks absolutely delicious! I had to give it a pin for future reference! ๐Ÿ™‚

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