Hyderabadi Mutton (Lamb) Biryani is a festive dish made with layers of succulent lamb curry, luscious spices and fragrant & aromatic saffron rice. This delicious rice and meat dish is very easy to prepare and is perfect for family celebrations or dinner parties. It is best to serve it with some cooling Onion Raita on the side.
What is Biryani?
Biryani is a classic South Asian rice & meat dish made with perfectly cooked, fluffy grains of fragrant basmati rice, caramelised onions and tender chunks of spiced lamb, chicken or mixed vegetables. There are two different techniques to make this celebrational Hyderabadi Biryani dish: Pakki Biryani and Kacchi Biryani.
In a Pakki (Cooked) Biryani, the basmati rice, marinated meat, and fried onions are partially cooked separately, before being layered in a heavy-based pan (or a Dutch oven). After the layering, the dish is baked to complete the cooking and allow the flavours to combine. Alternatively, you can fully cook the components and combine them by layering before serving. I explain in this recipe how to make Hyderabadi Pakki Mutton (lamb) Biryani in four simple steps.
In a Kacchi (Raw) Biryani, layers of raw marinated meat are alternated with layers of soaked basmati rice and steamed slowly together on low heat, typically for a minimum of an hour. This method is called the "dum method" in which the biryani is cooked only with the steam that is produced inside the cooking pot sealed with dough.
Regardless of the method, the result is a highly aromatic, colourful and extremely delicious celebrational dish made of meat and rice.
Pilau vs Biryani
- Biryani is served as the main dish in a meal, while the Pilau (or pulao) is usually served as an accompaniment to the main dish.
- To make the Biryani, meat, onions and rice are cooked separately before being layered and cooked together for the curry to absorb into the rice. Pilau is a one-pot dish in which the rice and meat are cooked together and then simmered until the liquid is absorbed.
- Biryanis have more complex and stronger spices compared to Pilau dishes.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Although it seems complicated to make this delicious lamb biryani (or gosht biryani) as it involves many different techniques, my recipe is very easy to follow with step-by-step pictures and instructions.
- You can weigh your spices for the curry and set them aside together to save time on the day of cooking the mutton biryani.
- You can keep the leftover biryani refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months.
- Prepare the lamb curry a few days in advance to save time on the day. It tastes even better a day or two after!
Ingredients and Substitutes
- Mutton - I prefer the shoulder for this lamb biryani dish as it has some fat, and remains tender through the cooking process. I cut the meat into 3 to 4 cm ( 1 to 1.5") pieces. If using frozen meat, thaw it overnight before using. You can use either goat or lamb meat for this recipe.
- Garlic and ginger paste - This is a great ingredient for Asian based recipes. It adds an incredible spicy flavour and amazing colour to the marinade. Alternatively, you can use grated garlic and ginger and add another teaspoon of turmeric.
- Yoghurt - The best option is plain natural yoghurt which is neither too thick nor too runny.
- Spices - I use garam masala, turmeric powder and flaked chilli (or chilli powder) for the marinade. Adjust the amount of the chilli to your taste.
Ingredients For the Mutton Curry
- Onions - White or pink onions are great for caramelising. Thinly slice them for an even caramelisation.
- Ghee - I prefer using ghee or clarified butter as they elevate the flavour of the dish. You can substitute it with butter or olive oil.
- Chilli - I use fresh green or red chillies for extra heat. You can adjust the amount to your taste or omit it.
- Stock - Lamb stock or Basic Homemade Vegetable Stock adds extra flavour to the curry.
- Spices - Whole spices like cinnamon, green cardamoms and bay leaves add a lovely flavour to this dish. You will also need ground spices like garam masala, turmeric, chilli and mace (optional).
- Coriander leaves - I use a handful of chopped coriander for extra flavour.
- Basmati rice - Choose the highest quality aged long grain basmati rice from a well-known brand for the best results. You can buy it from large supermarkets or Indian shops as well as online from Amazon.
- Lemon or lime juice - Adding some lemon or lime juice to your cooking water helps prevent the rice from sticking together.
- Milk and Saffron - Milk is used to infuse the saffron but I prefer not to use saffron as a personal choice. I sprinkle on the milk as the last layer for the basmati before cooking. If you want to use saffron for your biryani dish, warm the milk and then add the saffron to infuse for about 10 minutes before adding it to the rice.
Making biryani from scratch at home can be daunting because of the many technicalities/steps involved. There are many different ways to make a good mutton biryani (also known as gosht biryani) and I tried to simplify it as much as possible without losing its authenticity and taste. It wouldn't get any easier than this with my step-by-step instructions and pictures.
Marinating the Lamb
Marinating the meat is not only great for the taste but also reduces the cooking time. It’s best to marinate the mutton or lamb overnight or for a minimum of 5 hours. To prepare the marinade, simply combine all the ingredients apart in a large bowl. You can also add grated raw papaya to the marinade to tenderise your mutton.
Add the lamb in and mix well until nicely covered with the marinade. Keep it in the fridge covered until you need it.
Cooking the Lamb Curry
Place a heavy-bottomed pan with a lid or a Dutch oven on medium heat and melt the ghee. Add the sliced onions and caramelise them until they are dark brown but not burnt. Stir often to avoid them burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. This will take up to 20 minutes. Spare half of the browned onions in a bowl and keep them aside to use later for garnishing the biryani.
Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cardamoms, turmeric, chilli, garam masala and mace (optional) to the pan and sauté for 45 seconds.
Keep stirring to prevent them from burning then add the lamb along with the marinade. Add the liquid, chopped coriander, and chilli flakes and bring it to a boil.
Put the lid on and cook on low heat for about an hour and a half or until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Pre-Cooking the Rice
Prepare and pre-cook the rice while the lamb curry is cooking. Wash the rice in a fine sieve under running cold water until the water from the rice is clear. Washing the rice will prevent them from sticking together and make them fluffy and flakey.
Soak the saffron(optional) in warm milk and let it infuse for at least 10 minutes.
When the lamb curry is almost cooked, soak the rice in cold water for 20 minutes then drain the water. Place the rice along with the lime or lemon juice, ghee, salt, cardamoms and water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil on medium heat and let it cook for 2 minutes. Strain the rice and discard the cooking liquid.
Layering The Biryani
Preheat the oven to 180°C and start building the lamb biryani when the lamb is tender enough. Check the seasoning and add some salt if needed. Spread the precooked rice on top of the curry with the back of a spoon making sure it's all nicely covered. Garnish the top with browned onions and sprinkle on the saffron-infused milk. Use plain milk if not using saffron.
Cover tightly with thick tin foil and place the lid on top of the tin foil. This will help to lock the heat inside the pan and steam the rice. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 20 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
For more delicious Asian inspired recipes why not try:
The simplest way to serve this biryani dish is to bring the pan or dutch oven to the table. Simply remove the lid and the foil and then spoon it onto your plate accompanied by some Onion Raita on the side. However, you can serve biryani on a large platter. Avoid overmixing the rice before serving to preserve the variety of colours the rice acquires during the cooking process.
I prefer to leave the whole spices in the cooked biryani, but if you like you can discard them before serving.
Lambs are typically weaned to a diet of grass from 1-3 months old and have more tender and delicately-flavoured meat.
Muttons are older animals which have had a good couple of years grazing on pasture (and preferably wild herbs and mixed grasses) are full of flavour and taste wonderful after a long, gentle cook. It can take strong spices for more exotic dishes such as mutton biryani but also tastes wonderful roasted with Mediterranean herbs. If you want a fall-off-the-bone slow roast, mutton is for you.
You can find more information about it here.
Leftover Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani would keep in an airtight container for up to five days when refrigerated. You can freeze them if you want to keep them longer, and enjoy them for up to three months!
Top Tip From The Chef
Marinating the lamb a day ahead would save you some time. The cooking time of the meat will vary depending on the cut and size of the meat you use as well as the marinating time.
I hope you enjoy the process of making this succulent homemade Mutton/Lamb Biryani (Gosht Biryani) as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet Olsun!
Did you make this recipe?
Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani
For the Marinade
- 1 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder or flaked chilli
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 200 g natural yogurt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 500 g diced lamb
For the Curry Sauce
- 20 g ghee
- 3 large onions (sliced)
- 3 green cardamoms (slightly crushed)
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder or flaked chilli (adjust to your taste)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon mace (optional)
- ½ bunch coriander (chopped)
- 1 chilli (chopped)
- 250 ml chicken stock or lamb stock
- salt to taste
For the Rice
- 300 g basmati rice
- 50 ml fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 green cardamoms (slightly crushed)
- 750 ml cold water (3 cups)
- 50 ml milk
- pinch of saffron (optional)
Marinating the Lamb
- Mix garlic and ginger paste, chilli powder or flaked chilli, ground turmeric, salt, garam masala and natural yoghurt in a large bowl.
- Mix until combined and add the diced lamb. Make sure all the lamb pieces are covered with marinade.
- Cover the bowl with cling film or a lid and let it marinate in the fridge preferably overnight or for a minimum of 5 hours.
Cooking the Lamb Curry
- Put a heavy-based pan or a Dutch oven on medium heat and melt the ghee.
- Add sliced onions and sauté them until caramelised and get really dark brown but not burnt. This would take around 20 to 30 minutes.
- Spare half of the caramelised onions on a plate and set them aside to use later for garnishing the biryani.
- Add cardamoms, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, flaked chilli, garam masala, mace (optional) and turmeric to the pan, and sauté for 40 seconds. Stir continuously to make sure they don’t get burnt.
- Add the mutton along with the marinade, the chicken stock or the lamb stock, coriander, and the chilli.
- Mix well and turn the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil.
- When it boils, lower the heat, close the lid and let it simmer for one hour or until the mutton is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir occasionally to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Cooking the Rice
- While the mutton is cooking, prepare the rice.
- Wash the rice in a sieve under running cold water until the water from the rice is no longer cloudy.
- Soak the rice in room temperature water for 20 minutes.
- Drain the water and place the rice along with the lime or lemon juice, salt, cardamoms and water in a large saucepan.
- Bring it to a boil over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes. Strain the rice and discard the cooking liquid.
Layering the Mutton Biryani
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Warm the milk, add the saffron (if using) to infuse for about 10 minutes and set it aside to garnish the biryani.
- When the meat is tender enough, check the seasoning and add some salt if needed.
- Remove from the heat and spread the precooked rice on the top of the curry with the back of a spoon, making sure the rice totally covers the curry.
- Garnish the top of the rice with the reserved caramelized onions and sprinkle on the milk infused with saffron.
- Tightly cover the pan or the Dutch oven with tin foil then place the lid over the foil.
- Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
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