Skip To Content
  • Ramadan badge

How To Make Lamb Biryani

There are some steps involved.

This recipe is a part of a complete Pakistani-style Eid lunch, traditionally eaten at the end of Ramadan, to close out the holy month of fasting. Find the entire menu here.

Zainab Shah

Heat some oil in a medium-sized pan.

Zainab Shah

You can find a how-to below, and the complete recipe and instructions at the bottom of this post.

Add chopped onions, and sauté until they caramelize and brown.

Zainab Shah

Cool them, then reserve 1/3 of the onions.

Add the remaining 3/4 of the onions to a bowl with the rest of the marinade ingredients — and mix well.

Zainab Shah

Then cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.

Zainab Shah

Brown the meat for 7 to10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Zainab Shah

Add 1/2 cup water.

Zainab Shah

Then lower the heat.

Cover and cook on really low heat — so the mixture is barely simmering — for 1½ to 2 hours.

Zainab Shah

In the meantime, soak the rice for 30 minutes, then drain.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the rice.

Zainab Shah

Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and drain. Set this aside.

Back to the meat. Here's what it looked like for me 1½ hours into simmering.

Zainab Shah

Remove half the lamb and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Zainab Shah


Zainab Shah

Your assembly station doesn't need to be perfect, just functional.

The meat should be divided into two pots. One should be large enough to hold the finished biryani. You should also have fresh cilantro, fresh mint, garam masala, 1/2 cup milk, the fried onions you had reserved, and the rice you boiled earlier at your assembly station.

Layer one: half the lamb (which is already in the pot it was cooked in), half the rice, chopped mint, chopped cilantro, fried onions, milk, and a few pinches of garam masala.

Zainab Shah

In the large pot with half the meat mixture, add a layer of rice, a handful of chopped cilantro, chopped mint, half of the fried onions, half the milk, and a pinch of garam masala. Add another layer of meat and repeat the process.

Finish it off in the oven...

Zainab Shah


Zainab Shah

After opening the lid, fluff up the rice and mess up some of the layers so the masala and meat are more evenly distributed.

Zainab Shah

It should look like this:

Zainab Shah

Before serving, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with raita.

Zainab Shah

Lamb Biryani

Serves 6–8


For the lamb marinade:

1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon garlic paste

1 tablespoon ginger paste

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

3/4 cup chopped mint

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 to 3 Thai chiles, minced

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

For the rice:

2 cups basmati rice

5 black peppercorns, whole

2 cloves, whole

2 green cardamom pods

1 two-inch cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon salt

For the assembly:

3 tablespoons mint, chopped

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


Wash and soak the rice.

Marinate the lamb:

Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large non-stick frying pan (or similar) and fry the onions on medium heat until golden brown. Don't worry about burning the onions, the biryani will still taste pretty good (some would say better) with slightly burnt onions. Cool the onions. Add three quarters to a large bowl. Reserve a third for assembly. Add the rest of the ingredients for the marinade to the onions in the large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.

Cook off the lamb:

In a large pot heat a couple of tablespoons of oil. Add the lamb and cook on moderate to high heat stirring occasionally until the meat is brown on all sides, likely in 10 to 15 minutes. Add half a cup of water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and let the lamb cook on low heat for 1½to 2 hours.

Parboil the rice:

If you remembered to soak the rice, drain it now. In a large saucepan, boil 4 cups of water. Add the rice*, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, stir occasionally until the rice is cooked three-quarters of the way. Drain the rice.

*I normally leave whole spices in my rice but if they bother you, bundle the spices up in a piece of muslin, tie it with a string, and remove the bundle after the rice is done.

Assemble the biryani:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Reserve roughly half of the cooked lamb. In the pot you cooked the meat in that now has half the lamb mix, add half the rice. Top with some of the reserved onions, 1½ tablespoons of chopped cilantro, 1½ tablespoons of chopped mint, and a quarter cup of milk. This is your first layer. Add the rest of the lamb and make your second layer with the same ingredients. Cover and cook the rest of the biryani in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the biryani rest for 10 minutes.