Chicken 65 Biryani: Delicious Layers of Spicy Chicken, Tender Rice & Herbs

If you’re looking for an amazing way to make Chicken 65 into a more substantial meal, a Chicken 65 biryani is it! Spicy crispy chicken layered amongst a rich gravy and perfectly cooked rice.

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What is Chicken 65?

Chicken 65 is India’s version of Southern fried chicken, Korean fried chicken or Japan’s karaage chicken.

Pieces of chicken are marinated in a spicy mixture of Indian flavours and spices, then deep fried until crispy and golden. And some versions then cook it in a spicy gravy as well.

You can learn more about the history of the dish on my ultimate guide to Chicken 65.

CLoseup of a metal bowl full of chicken biryani garnished with fresh mint leaves.

What’s a biryani?

Biryani is an dish consisting of layers of rice, meat, spiced gravy and herbs. It’s cooked in one pot tightly covered so that the flavours all cook together into the rice. And a good biryani is amazing!

There are many different flavours and styles of biryani. The meat can be beef, goat, lamb or even seafood. And a very popular meat for a biryani is chicken.

Before we jump into it though, a word on terminology.

Indian gravy

When you read the word gravy, your mind probably jumped to a traditional brown gravy made from flour, meat drippings or stock, etc. But like so many words, gravy has a slightly different meaning in Indian cuisine.

An Indian gravy is still a sauce, but it’s not poured over meat. Instead, it’s the sauce base of a dish. If you think of a dish like butter chicken, the gravy is the red sauce. Here’s a great overview of Indian gravies if you want to learn more (including the different types – white, red, green and more).

Making biryani

There are two fundamentally different approaches to making any biryani. And they revolve around how the meat and rice are cooked.

The simplest approach is to par-cook the rice and meat before assembling the biryani. The cooking process is then completed as the biryani is cooked. This approach is simpler because of the potentially different cooking times of the meat versus the rice (especially since the rice is not immersed in liquid). The cooking time for the biryani itself is shorter too, because you’re only finishing the rice and meat.

The more challenging approach involves adding the meat and rice raw. The challenge here is ensuring the meat doesn’t overcook before the rice is done. This approach takes longer, but done right creates even more flavour as the ingredients are cooked together for a significantly longer time (usually more than an hour).

Closeup of Chicken 65 biryani, with crispy chicken pieces atop the rice.

Chicken 65 biryani

The flavours of Chicken 65 are a beautiful complement to a biryani, especially when the chicken is made with a rich spicy gravy. But the crispy finish on the chicken is a different story.

I reviewed six recipes for Chicken 65 biryani to understand how different cooks approach this delicious challenge.

Among the recipes there’s a very consistent approach to flavouring the biryani itself. Most authors create a gravy based on:

  • Fresh tomato
  • Onion
  • Green chili peppers, red chili powder, or both
  • Fresh garlic and ginger
  • Garam masala and turmeric
  • Cilantro (fresh coriander) and/or mint

More than half also add some creaminess with plain yogurt, curd or coconut milk.

The main difference amongst the recipes is in how they prepare their Chicken 65 before adding it to the biryani.

Capturing the flavours of Chicken 65 in a biryani

Half of the recipes have you prepare a “dry” Chicken 65, which is chicken marinated and deep-fried without any additional steps.

The other authors take the Chicken 65 further with a thick gravy coating. This involves frying aromatics and spices in oil, and then adding yogurt or water to make a sauce. For Chicken 65 the key flavours here are fresh green chilies, garlic, ginger and curry leaves.

Curry leaves are a unique ingredient that aren’t easily substituted. Belonging to the same family as citrus trees, the flavour of curry leaves is difficult to describe. Words like citrusy, nutty, aniseed and bitter are often used, but the mix is hard to pin down.

Fortunately they’re easier to find for sale than they used to be, especially dried. And if you can find them, they’re worth the effort for an authentic and more flavoursome Chicken 65.

The other addition that many recipes argue is key to an authentic Chicken 65 is a note of sourness, usually with the inclusion of some lemon juice. Two of these authors include this in their marinade or sauce as well.

The sauce is cooked with the fried chicken pieces until the liquid evaporates, leaving the chicken coated in a thick layer of additional flavours.

As you can imagine this coating will release it’s flavours beautifully into the rice as the biryani cooks.

Keeping the Chicken 65 crispy

When you cook crispy chicken in steaming rice in a sealed pot, the crunch on the coating is doomed to softening.

Most of the authors accept this, and have you prepare the biryani in the cooked style:

  1. Marinate and fry the Chicken 65.
  2. Partially cook the rice.
  3. Prepare the biryani gravy.
  4. Add the fried chicken.
  5. Add the par-cooked rice.
  6. Cook the biryani.

This approach melds the flavours of the fried chicken with the biryani gravy and therefore the rice. But even with the reduced cooking time of a “cooked” biryani, the crispy coating on the chicken won’t survive.

One author however decides to tackle the biryani differently to ensure at least some of the chicken retains its trademark crunch.

Aarthi from Yummy Tummy coats the chicken in a typical Chicken 65 marinade. But rather than fry it, she adds half of it raw to the biryani gravy, and adds the par-boiled rice on top. She then fries the rest of the chicken and serves it on top of the finished biryani.

Aarthi’s approach sounds like the best of both worlds. The biryani has the flavours of Chicken 65 cooked into it. And there’s a portion of crispy Chicken 65 as well. I’m definitely going to give this approach a go!

Chicken 65 Biryani recipes

Whichever approach you take, any of these recipes marries the delicious spice of Chicken 65 with a biryani.

You can find the six recipes I reviewed on my Pinterest Chicken 65 Biryani board.

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