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The Best Pakistani Beef Biryani

Course Main Course
Cuisine Pakistani
Keyword Beef, Biryani, Main Course, Main Entree, Pakistani, Rice
Servings 4 Servings


  • 1¼ - 1½ pounds bone-in beef pieces
  • 1 cup neutral flavored oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced or diced
  • ½ cup full-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • teaspoons red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 2 1-inch pieces cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1 green chili, halved (jalapeno or serrano)
  • 3 cups parboiled/sela basmati rice
  • Pinch of powdered yellow or orange food color, optional


  1. Rinse rice in cold water, and soak in cold water for at least 2 hours (can soak for up to 4 hours).

Prepare Biryani Masala

  1. Heat oil in a large vessel over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and sauté until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer half of the browned onions to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. These will be used when the biryani is being layered.
  3. Returning to the cooking onions, add ginger garlic paste and beef, and sauté until the beef has a good sear on it, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat and add tomatoes, cover, and cook until the beef is tender and the onions and tomatoes have cooked down into a thick paste, about 1½ to 2 hours. Add splashes of water and stir as necessary to help tenderize the meat and to prevent burning at the bottom of the pot.
  4. While the beef is cooking, mix the following together in a bowl: yogurt, coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric, paprika, black pepper, nutmeg, mace, salt, green cardamoms, cloves, black cardamoms, cinnamon, bay leaf, and star anise.

  5. Once the beef is ready, add the prepared yogurt and spice mixture. Cook until the oil begins to separate from the gravy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until they are semi-cooked through (they will continue cooking while steaming with the rice), about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in cilantro, mint, lemon (or lime) juice, and green chili. Set aside.

Prepare Rice

  1. Heat water (enough to boil rice in) and salt in a large vessel over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add soaked rice (drain before adding), and cook until about 75% cooked through. Drain and set aside.


  1. In a large vessel, spread out half of the boiled rice, followed by the beef and potato mixture (masala). Cover with remaining rice. Sprinkle a pinch of food color, if desired. Sprinkle prepared fried onions. Cover and seal the vessel with a cotton tea towel or aluminum foil, followed by the lid. Cook over low heat until the rice has finished cooking, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Measurements are in actual measuring spoons/cups and not eating utensils.
The chillies I use are very spicy. Feel free to increase the red chili powder or green chilies if your chilies are more mild.
Instructions for steaming the biryani in the oven: Layer the rice and beef mixture in a large oven-safe pan as instructed above. Seal the pan well with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.