Celebratory Lamb Biryani Recipe

Indian cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious. With its broad variety of ingredients, rich history, and absolute mastery of spices, Indian cuisine is guaranteed to never fall short on flavor, and this lamb biryani is no exception. Although biryani is known these days as an Indian dish (with different varieties celebrated throughout different regions of the country), it is thought to have originated in Iran before evolving into the biryani we know and love today, comprising primarily of a succulent curried meat base that is layered with rice, and then topped with fried onions, nuts, herbs, and dried fruits.

Cooking biryani is truly a labor of love, with lots of different steps needed to build this beautiful dish. The effort is absolutely worth it though. The result is a vibrantly spiced and well balanced meal, with succulent meat and perfectly cooked rice. And although there are many stages to this dish, they are not complex once they are broken down step by step, as done here by recipe developer Jennine Rye. So, read on to find out how you can make this celebratory lamb biryani in your kitchen.

Gather the ingredients for this lamb biryani

To make this celebratory lamb biryani recipe, first you will need to gather the ingredients. You will need onions, garlic, ginger, almonds, ghee, chopped lamb shoulder, lamb stock or broth (you can follow our lead and use a bouillion cube), rice, milk, yogurt, dried cranberries, and salt and pepper. From your spice rack you will additionally require garam masala, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cloves, bay leaves, and saffron.

For this recipe it is vital to use the right kind of rice; not just any rice will do. To create the perfect biryani, basmati rice is a must; not only is it perfectly fluffy, but it is also highly aromatic. Both qualities that make it ideal for this kind of dish.

Fry the onions and almonds

It may seem counterintuitive, but to start this lamb biryani recipe you will want to begin by preparing the finishing toppings. To do this, melt some ghee in a pan and add sliced onions, along with a little salt. Fry the onions on a medium-high heat for 5 minutes until the onions are browning and going crispy, then remove them from the ghee with a slotted spoon. To fry the slivered almonds, similarly add them to the pan and allow them to fry for a few minutes in the ghee, until they are beautiful golden hue. Set both aside.

Create the lamb curry

Next you will want to create the lamb curry layer, as this will need time to stew. To do this, add a little more ghee to the pan, and then add seasoned, chopped lamb to the pan and sear it until it is browned. Remove the lamb and fry a paste of onion, garlic, and ginger for a few minutes until it is beginning to color. Then add the spices and fry them until fragrant, before adding the lamb back to the pan. Mix everything together, pour in the lamb stock, and then leave the pan to simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. This time to simmer will soften the lamb, which can be tough if not stewed for long enough, and will allow the rich and complex flavors of the curry to develop.

Prepare the rice and the saffron milk

While the lamb is simmering, there is time to prepare the rice and the saffron milk. To make the saffron milk, you will want to bloom the saffron to enhance its flavor as much as possible. Saffron is a delicate and highly expensive spice, so you'll want to be careful with this next step! Gently heat up the milk until it is warm but not boiling. Meanwhile, heat up a small frying pan to a very low heat. When ready, add the saffron threads to the dry frying pan for 10 to 15 seconds, before removing them and crumbling them into the warm milk. Stir them in and set the saffron milk to one side for half an hour to infuse. The milk will quickly turn a gorgeous bright yellow color. 

To prepare the rice, first soak it in water for 20 minutes before adding it to a pan of boiling, salted water. You do not want to completely cook the rice, as it will finish off by being steamed in the oven. So, boil the rice for around 6 minutes until it is roughly 60% cooked, and then strain it and set it to one side.

Prepare the biryani

Once the lamb has been simmering for an hour, add the yogurt and stir it in to complete the lamb curry. Gather all the components of the biryani and get ready to assemble it. In a large casserole dish with a lid, add the lamb curry, and then layer the rice on top. Using a spoon, gently drizzle the saffron infused milk over the top of the rice in streaks, and then drizzle some melted ghee over the top as well. Add half of the fried onions to the casserole dish, and then place the lid on top. Seal the casserole dish with tin foil to make sure the steam doesn't escape, and then place the biryani in the oven for an hour.

Once your biryani comes out of the oven it is ready to serve. Sprinkle the dish with the remaining fried onions, the golden almonds, and some cranberries. Serve with chopped cilantro and an extra spoonful of yogurt. This celebratory lamb biryani can be stored in the fridge, and should be consumed within three days. It also freezes well, so if you don't think you'll be able to consume the leftovers in time, you can easily place them in an airtight container and pop them in the freezer to eat at a later date.

Celebratory Lamb Biryani Recipe
4.9 from 33 ratings
Biryani is a labor of love, so consider making it when you have something worth celebrating. You'll be rewarded with a rich array of flavors and textures!
Prep Time
Cook Time
Serving of lamb biryani
Total time: 3 hours
  • 2 large onions, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons slivered almonds, divided
  • 5 tablespoons ghee, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 cups lamb stock, hot
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • ⅓ cup whole milk, warmed
  • 1 pound basmati rice
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons dried cranberries, to serve
Optional Ingredients
  • Extra yogurt, for serving
  • Fresh cilantro, for serving
  1. Add half an onion, chopped, to a food processor along with the garlic cloves, fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds, and 3 tablespoons of water. Blend everything together to form a paste. Set this to one side.
  2. Slice the reminding one and a half onions into thin crescents. Heat up 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large pan over medium-high heat, then add the onions to the pan. Season with salt. Fry the onions for 5 minutes or until they are golden brown and becoming crispy. Remove them from the pan and sit them in a bowl lined with kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil.
  3. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of slivered almonds to the hot ghee still in the pan and fry them until they are a deep golden color. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan, and similarly place them in a kitchen towel-lined bowl to absorb any excess oil.
  4. Add another tablespoon of ghee to the hot pan, liberally season the chopped lamb with salt and pepper, and then add it to the pan to brown all over. Once the lamb is browned, remove it from the pan and set aside side.
  5. Add the blended onion, garlic, and ginger mixture to the hot pan and fry everything for a few minutes until the mixture is beginning to color.
  6. Add the garam masala, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, cloves, bay leaves, and ground coriander to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spices become fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the lamb back to the pot, along with the lamb stock. Set the pan to simmer and let the lamb slowly cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. If the pan runs low on liquid, add a little more water or stock. At the end of the hour, there should be roughly 1 cup of liquid in the pan along with the lamb.
  8. While the lamb cooks, heat up a small pan over low heat. Add the threads of saffron to the pan for a few seconds, and then remove them and add them to the warmed milk. Stir the saffron into the milk and then set it aside to infuse for 30 minutes.
  9. Place the basmati rice into water and let it soak for 20 minutes. Then, drain the rice and add it to a large pot of salted, boiling water. Allow the rice to cook for 6 minutes, so that it is just more than half cooked. Drain the rice and set it aside
  10. Once the lamb has been stewing gently for an hour, preheat the oven to 325 F. Stir the yogurt into the lamb.
  11. In a large, ovenproof casserole dish, layer up the lamb mixture and then the rice on top. Drizzle the saffron-infused milk over the top of the rice in streaks, and similarly, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add roughly half the fried onions on top, and then place the lid on the casserole dish and seal the edges with tin foil.
  12. Place the biryani in the oven for an hour. When an hour is up, remove the biryani from the oven, remove the tin foil and the lid, and serve the dish topped with the remaining onions, the fried almonds, and dried cranberries. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with extra yogurt if desired.
Calories per Serving 905
Total Fat 49.2 g
Saturated Fat 22.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 141.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 78.1 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Total Sugars 8.7 g
Sodium 1,098.2 mg
Protein 37.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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