Chicken Pulao
Chicken Pulao
4.99 from 73 votes
A delicious weeknight dinner made with mild Indian spices. This is comfort food at its best. Rice and chicken combined in a delicious dish and packed with flavour.
Chicken Pulao

Chicken Pulao! Just saying the name makes my taste buds dance with excitement. Rooted deeply in the culinary history of South Asia, this dish has graced dinner tables for centuries.

The origin of Chicken Pulao can be traced back to the ancient kitchens of the Mughal Empire, where it was a staple among the royals. A dish so versatile, yet its essence remains simple and pure.

The beauty of Chicken Pulao lies in its perfect balance of flavours. Every grain of rice soaks up the rich aromas of spices, presenting an orchestra of flavours with the juicy chicken playing the lead.

As for its difficulty? I’d place it somewhere between “beginner’s luck” and “seasoned chef”. With just a bit of patience and love, anyone can master this delightful recipe.

Throughout the years, various regions have added their own twists to the classic Chicken Pulao. Some might toss in a handful of dried fruits for a sweet surprise, while others may sprinkle a little saffron for an added touch of luxury. There’s no one way to make Chicken Pulao, and that’s the beauty of it!

If we delve into its variations, there’s a myriad to explore. From the spicy Hyderabadi version, enriched with tangy tomatoes and mint, to the creamy Kashmiri rendition with yogurt and almonds, there’s a Chicken Pulao for every palate out there.

Don’t even get me started on the countless vegetarian versions substituting chicken with paneer, tofu, or even mushrooms.

Using the right ingredients is the key to unlocking the true potential of this dish. For instance, the use of olive oil not only makes it healthier but also imparts a subtle richness that perfectly complements the spices.

And, the addition of garam masala? It’s the unsung hero, adding warmth and depth to the pulao.

All said and done, if there’s one dish that stands the test of time, adapting and evolving, yet always remaining true to its essence, it’s the Chicken Pulao. From family dinners to festive feasts, this dish never fails to impress.

What Ingredients to Use & Why

Before we embark on our Chicken Pulao journey, let’s understand our key players.

Rice: The foundation of our pulao. When cooked, each grain remains separate, absorbing all the flavours and aromas of the spices. For an alternative, you might consider using brown rice or even quinoa for a health-conscious twist. Remember, it’s the rice that helps in lending that grainy texture everyone craves.

Olive Oil: Our heart-healthy oil choice. Olive oil not only provides a silky texture but also adds a distinct richness. If you’re out of olive oil, canola or sunflower oil can be good substitutes. The oil’s role? Enhancing the overall taste and giving that glossy finish.

Onions: The unsung hero. They caramelize to give that sweet undertone, contrasting beautifully with the spicy notes. Shallots can serve as a milder alternative.

Ginger & Garlic Paste: These two are the dynamic duo, infusing the pulao with their aromatic essence. The depth they provide is irreplaceable, but in a pinch? Ground ginger and minced garlic will do.

Spices: Garam Masala, Crushed Chillies, Peppercorn, Bay Leaf, Cumin Seeds, and Green Chillies. These are what elevate our pulao from good to extraordinary.

They create a symphony of flavours, each with its unique note. While most are irreplaceable, feel free to adjust the heat level to your liking. Maybe swap green chillies with red bell pepper for a milder version.

Chicken: The star of the show. Its tender, juicy nature perfectly complements the aromatic rice. If chicken isn’t your thing, tofu or paneer can be wonderful alternatives. But remember, it’s the chicken that imparts that savoury punch.

Choosing the right ingredients and understanding their significance is crucial. It’s like a puzzle; each piece contributes to the bigger picture. So, next time you lay out your ingredients, remember their role, and watch your Chicken Pulao come alive!

Unravelling the Magic Behind the Perfect Chicken Pulao

When I dive into a plate of Chicken Pulao, it’s not just about the flavours that explode on my tongue. It’s about the entire experience.

Each time I make this dish, I aim to perfect it a little more, tweaking the ingredients and adjusting the heat. But through all my culinary adventures, I’ve realized that the real magic lies in understanding the balance.

Balance is crucial. Too much spice and you’ll drown out the delicate notes of the rice.

Too little, and you’re left with a bland plate that screams of missed potential. Personally, I’ve found that the ratio of spices to rice to chicken is the real game-changer.

For every 300g of rice, a teaspoon of the stronger spices and two of the milder ones does the trick. This ensures that every bite is a harmonious blend of spicy, savoury, and fragrant.

But let’s not forget the chicken. The type of cut matters. While boneless pieces might seem convenient, I’ve found that bone-in chicken pieces make a world of difference. Why? Because the bone releases its juices into the pulao, elevating its flavour profile.

Now, let’s talk technique. The way I brown my onions, or the exact moment I add my spices, plays a massive role in the final dish.

Over the years, I’ve found that browning onions to a golden caramel hue (and not a second more!) gives the pulao its signature colour and slight sweetness. Also, a pro-tip I’ve picked up: adding a splash of water right after browning the onions ensures they release their sweetness more effectively.

The Chicken Pulao journey is never-ending. Each time I think I’ve perfected it, I stumble upon a new trick or ingredient that takes it to the next level. And isn’t that the beauty of cooking?

Olive Oil in Chicken Pulao: An Unconventional Choice with A Twist

If there’s one thing I’ve loved experimenting with in my kitchen, it’s substituting traditional ingredients with unconventional ones. And my latest obsession?

Using olive oil in Chicken Pulao. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Olive oil is for salads and pastas, right? But trust me on this; once you’ve tried Chicken Pulao with olive oil, there’s no turning back.

Traditional Chicken Pulao recipes often call for ghee or vegetable oil. And while they undoubtedly add their own flavours and aromas, olive oil brings a distinct Mediterranean touch. The first time I swapped in olive oil, I was sceptical. But the result? A lighter, fragrant pulao that had a unique depth of flavour.

But why does olive oil work? First and foremost, its health benefits are a huge plus.

Rich in antioxidants and known for its heart-healthy fats, it’s an excellent choice for those looking to make their meals healthier.

But beyond that, the subtle fruity notes of olive oil beautifully complement the spices of the pulao. It lends a slight earthiness, which contrasts perfectly with the fiery heat of the chillies and the warmth of the garam masala.

When I first made the switch, I started with extra virgin olive oil due to its robust flavour profile. But over time, I’ve also experimented with lighter varieties. Each brings its unique touch, and the fun lies in figuring out your favourite.

For those eager to try this twist, remember to monitor your heat. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than many other oils, so keeping the flame medium ensures it doesn’t burn. But a little vigilance is a small price to pay for the extraordinary flavour that awaits.

While tradition has its place, a little experimentation can lead to delightful surprises. And for me, olive oil in Chicken Pulao was one such delightful culinary discovery. If you haven’t tried it yet, I’d say, give it a shot. You might just find your new favourite twist on a classic!

The Sensational Symphony of Spices in Chicken Pulao

Whenever I take that first bite of Chicken Pulao, it’s not just a meal I’m diving into, it’s a story.

A story that’s narrated by a medley of spices, each with its distinct voice. I’ve often been asked about the key to my Chicken Pulao’s distinctive flavour, and my answer? It’s all about understanding and respecting each spice.

Take cumin seeds for instance. Whenever I toss them into the hot olive oil, I’m always mesmerized by the sizzle and the aroma that wafts through.

But it’s not just about the aroma; cumin seeds bring warmth to the dish. When they pop and release their oils into the olive oil, they lay down the foundational flavour profile upon which the rest of the spices build.

Bay leaf and peppercorn are my silent heroes. They may not shout for attention, but I know my Chicken Pulao would be amiss without them.

The bay leaves bring a subtle earthiness while the peppercorns add a playful kick. They make sure that with every spoonful, there’s a hint of mystery, a whisper of something more.

Then there’s the fiery duo: crushed chillies and green chillies. I remember the first time I was audacious enough to add that extra chilli. My guests were pleasantly surprised by the heat that was beautifully balanced by the ginger and garlic paste.

These pastes don’t just contribute flavour; they also help in tenderizing the chicken, ensuring each piece is succulent and oozing with taste.

Lastly, the unsung hero: garam masala. Whenever I sprinkle it into the dish, I’m reminded of the magic of Indian spices. This blend, with its cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and more, is like the conductor of my spice orchestra, ensuring each spice plays its part to perfection.

Every time I cook Chicken Pulao, it’s like composing a new tune. Sometimes I amp up the heat, sometimes I let the subtler spices take the lead. But no matter what, the song remains a favourite.

Rediscovering Rice: The Backbone of Chicken Pulao

I’ve always been fascinated by the transformative power of rice. What starts as humble, individual grains metamorphosizes into a flavourful and aromatic accompaniment, especially in a dish like Chicken Pulao.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the rice in Chicken Pulao is not just a side character; it’s the star.

The type of rice I choose for my Chicken Pulao makes a tremendous difference. Over the years, I’ve experimented with various types, but always circle back to long-grain rice.

Its ability to stay distinct yet soak up all the flavours is unparalleled. When each grain carries the flavour of spices, the chicken, and the caramelized onions, you know you’re in for a treat.

Preparation is crucial. The simple act of washing the rice to remove excess starch and soaking it ensures that the grains cook evenly. This way, they expand beautifully without becoming sticky or mushy. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

The first time I skipped the soaking step, my Pulao wasn’t the same. The grains were unevenly cooked and lacked the fluffy texture that I love.

Also, the water-to-rice ratio is something I pay meticulous attention to. With 600 ml of water for 300g of rice, I’ve found my sweet spot. This ensures the rice is perfectly cooked and carries a slight bite – the hallmark of a well-made pulao.

For those of you who love to experiment as much as I do, try using chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. It amplifies the taste, making every bite even more flavourful.

While the chicken and spices in Chicken Pulao are undoubtedly crucial, it’s the rice that ties everything together. It’s a silent performer, absorbing, complementing, and shining alongside its co-stars.

Olive Oil: A Mediterranean Twist to Chicken Pulao

When most people think of Chicken Pulao, the image that often springs to mind is that of a traditional Indian dish simmering away in ghee or regular cooking oil. But, when I whip up my rendition, I love using olive oil. It might raise a few eyebrows, but there’s a method to my culinary madness.

Olive oil, renowned for its golden hue and signature aroma, isn’t a typical choice for most Indian recipes, but in my Chicken Pulao, it plays a pivotal role.

The oil is the canvas upon which all other flavours paint, and its fruity undertones lend a delightful twist. When it mingles with the spices and the caramelized onions, a hint of the Mediterranean kisses the traditional Indian palate.

One might wonder, why of all oils did I choose olive oil? Well, it’s not just for the flavour. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, making it a healthier choice. Every time I cook, it feels great knowing that I’m giving my guests not just a flavourful meal but a nutritious one as well.

The key, however, is to not let the olive oil overheat. Its smoke point is relatively low, so a medium flame is what I always go for.

It’s all about ensuring that the oil retains its character while embracing the rich flavours of the spices and chicken. By the end, what emerges is a Chicken Pulao that’s a delightful dance of the traditional and the unexpected.

Onions in Chicken Pulao: More Than Just a Base

I’ve often come across an unsaid rule: a good dish often starts with sautéed onions. This golden-brown ingredient is what I like to call the “heart” of my Chicken Pulao. Yes, the chicken is essential and so are the spices, but it’s the onions that elevate the dish from delicious to delectable.

When I slice the onions for my Chicken Pulao, it’s not just about chopping them up. It’s about creating thin, even slices that will brown beautifully in olive oil. The transformation of this bulbous vegetable as it cooks is a sight to behold.

From translucent slices, they morph into golden-brown strands, carrying a sweetness that’s derived from caramelization.

It’s vital, however, to strike a balance. The colour of the sautéed onions dictates the final hue of the Chicken Pulao. I’ve discovered that the deeper the caramelization, the richer the colour of the pulao. But, it’s a fine line between perfectly caramelized and burnt. Precision is the game.

Beyond colour and sweetness, onions bring a depth to the dish. Their rich, savoury taste complements the heat from the chillies and the warmth from the spices. Plus, there’s a slight bite in the texture, ensuring that every spoonful of Chicken Pulao has a layered mouthfeel.

I also introduce a dash of water after browning the onions, allowing them to soak in their essence, making sure they integrate perfectly with the rice and chicken.

To me, onions aren’t just an ingredient; they’re a storyteller. They carry the narrative of the Chicken Pulao, ensuring that the tale is rich, deep, and unforgettable. So the next time you’re enjoying a plateful, pay homage to the humble onion. After all, it’s the unsung hero of the dish!

Ginger and Garlic Pastes: The Dynamic Duo of Chicken Pulao

In the intricate symphony of Chicken Pulao, the notes of ginger and garlic play in perfect harmony. When I dive into the process of creating this masterpiece, these two ingredients are like my trusty sidekicks, ensuring that every bite bursts with flavour.

Ginger and garlic aren’t just mere add-ons; they are the soulful balladeers that serenade the chicken and rice into a beautiful dance.

As I begin sautéing them in that shimmering olive oil, a scent fills the air – a scent that’s reminiscent of traditional Indian kitchens. It’s an aroma that promises warmth, comfort, and a culinary experience that’s about to delight the senses.

I’ve always been amazed by how ginger, with its slightly spicy, peppery taste, complements the pungent sharpness of garlic. When they come together in my Chicken Pulao, they create a base flavour so robust that it ties together the diverse spices, the tenderness of the chicken, and the simplicity of the rice.

While the combination of ginger and garlic is age-old in Indian cuisine, I ensure that their presence in my Chicken Pulao isn’t overpowering.

It’s a delicate balance, maintaining their essence while ensuring they don’t overshadow the other ingredients. Every spoonful should evoke a sense of harmony, where no single element steals the limelight.

The Fiery Passion of Chillies in My Chicken Pulao

Spice is the lifeblood of Indian cuisine, and in my Chicken Pulao, it’s the chillies that bring the heat, the zing, and that fiery passion. From crushed chillies to green chillies, I ensure that my dish carries the warmth that’s synonymous with an authentic Indian plate.

When I start by adding crushed chillies to that bubbling mixture of onions, ginger, and garlic, I’m doing more than just raising the temperature. I’m adding depth, a beautiful hue, and a character to the pulao that’s unmistakably bold.

The crushed chillies offer a sort of background heat, a warmth that slowly creeps up and makes its presence known with every bite.

But I don’t stop there. Enter the green chillies. These slender green dynamos are not just about heat; they come with a fresh, almost herb-like flavour. When I introduce them into the Chicken Pulao, they act like exclamation points, punctuating the dish with sharp bursts of intensity.

Yet, spice isn’t just about setting tongues on fire. In my rendition of Chicken Pulao, it’s about creating a warmth that comforts the soul. It’s about that perfect bite where the heat from the chillies is mellowed down by the creamy raita on the side.

It’s about striking a balance where the warmth of the chillies complements the medley of spices rather than overpowering them.

I often see eyes widen with that first hit of spice, only to be followed by a contented sigh as the flavours meld and create a harmonious culinary experience. To me, that’s the magic of chillies – they challenge, they excite, and above all, they make every bite memorable.

The Art of Soaking Rice for Chicken Pulao

Before diving into the aromatic concoction that’s my Chicken Pulao, there’s a little ritual I indulge in — the soaking of rice. To the uninitiated, it may seem like a mundane step, but in reality, it sets the stage for the grand culinary show.

When I prepare my Chicken Pulao, the rice isn’t just another ingredient; it’s the canvas. Every grain needs to stand out, reflecting the perfect balance of spices, chicken, and love. The secret to achieving that? Soaking.

Soaking rice does a plethora of wonders. Firstly, it helps in reducing the cooking time. The grains absorb water, becoming softer and ensuring they cook uniformly.

I’ve found that 30 minutes is the sweet spot. It’s enough time to ensure the grains expand and are primed for the flavours they’ll soon embrace.

Moreover, as the rice soaks, it sheds some of its surface starch. This means fewer chances of ending up with a gloopy pulao. Instead, I get those fluffy, separate grains that make every spoonful a treat.

And it’s not just about texture. Soaked rice imbibes flavours more effectively. When it dives into that simmering pot of spiced chicken and aromatic olive oil, it’s ready. Ready to absorb, to transform, and to shine.

The Mystical Garam Masala in Chicken Pulao

In my Chicken Pulao culinary tale, while various spices play their part, there’s one that wraps them all together — the garam masala. A blend that’s both warm and inviting, it’s like the comforting embrace of an old friend in the midst of a lively gathering.

Garam masala is more than just a spice mix to me. It’s a melody of flavours, each spice singing its note, yet coming together in a harmonious tune. When I sprinkle this blend into my Chicken Pulao, I’m adding a touch of warmth, a hint of mystery, and an essence that’s unmistakably Indian.

Every household, every chef has their version of garam masala. While the components might be similar, the proportions differ, giving each blend a unique character.

In my Chicken Pulao, it acts as the final layer, bringing together the individual elements, creating a bridge between the spiciness of the chillies, the earthiness of the cumin, and the tender succulence of the chicken.

But the magic of garam masala isn’t just in its taste. The warmth it exudes is almost therapeutic. It’s like a gentle hug for the soul, making the Chicken Pulao not just a dish but an experience.

Every time I bring out my jar of garam masala, it’s with a sense of reverence. Reverence for the traditions it embodies, the flavours it encapsulates, and the memories it evokes. In the world of Chicken Pulao, garam masala isn’t just a spice; it’s poetry.

Check Out These Other Recipes:

After you’ve dived into the fragrant world of Chicken Pulao, my kitchen journey has a few more flavourful adventures for you! Trust me, there’s nothing like savouring the spicy tenderness of Chicken Tikka Masala, with its velvety sauce singing of roasted spices.

And oh! If you’ve got a soft spot for pulao, you’ll swoon over the Mutton Pulao – it’s like Chicken Pulao’s exotic, richer cousin.

For days when you’re yearning for something smoky, the allure of Tandoori Chicken is irresistible; it’s a dance of charred perfection and tantalizing marinades. Now, if a creamy comfort is what your heart desires, the Butter Chicken, with its lush tomato gravy, is an affair to remember.

And let’s not overlook the Chicken Biryani, a layered masterpiece that promises a symphony of spices with every bite. Trust me; it’s culinary poetry in a pot.

Feel inspired? Do give these recipes a try and let the aroma of Indian spices waft through your home. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below; I’d love to hear about your delicious ventures!

Chicken Pulao

Chicken Pulao

by Nabeela Kauser
A delicious weeknight dinner made with mild Indian spices. This is comfort food at its best. Rice and chicken combined in a delicious dish and packed with flavour.
4.99 from 73 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 6
Calories 399 kcal


  • 750 g Chicken
  • 300 g Rice
  • 50 ml Olive Oil
  • 1 Onions
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ginger Paste
  • 1 tsp Garlic Paste
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp Crushed Chillies
  • 1 tsp Peppercorn
  • 2 Bay Leaf
  • 2 tsp Cumin Seeds Jeera
  • 2 Green Chillies
  • 600 ml Water


  • In a small bowl wash the rice then soak for at least 30 minutes
  • Whilst the rice is soaking heat the oil in a pan on medium heat until hot
  • Add the whole black pepper, cumin seeds and bay leaves then sauté for 1-2 minutes
  • Add the finely sliced onions then cook on medium heat for 6-8 minutes until browned
  • Add 2 tablespoons of water then cook for 1-2 minutes – the colour of the onions at this point will determine the end colour of the rice
  • Add the ginger paste, garlic paste, and crushed chillies then sauté for a further 1-2 minutes
  • Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes
  • Add the salt, garam masala and green chilli then cook for 6-8 minutes on medium heat
  • Add the water and cook on medium heat for a further 6-8 minutes
  • Add the rice and cook for 6-8 minutes on high heat until the majority of the water is absorbed
  • Cover and cook on low heat for another 15 minutes
  • Serve alongside some homemade raita and enjoy!



Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 399kcalCarbohydrates: 44gProtein: 15gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 495mgPotassium: 230mgFibre: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 198IUVitamin C: 4mgVitamin D: 0.1µgCalcium: 40mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Chicken, Cooking, Food, Fried Rice, Pilau, Recipe, Rice
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!

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7 months ago

5 stars
This recipe was really simple but so tasty. My family enjoyed it and so this is my go to when Im in the mood to eat light

7 months ago

5 stars
Such a super simple, quick yet flavourful recipe 🙂 Thank you!

4 months ago

5 stars
Thank you for posting a delicious and easy recipe! I was craving good Pakistani pulao and I finally have a recipe that reminds me of home 😊

1 month ago

5 stars
The best meal I’ve had in a long time! Packed with warmth and flavour and super moist! 6 empty plates and a huge thumbs up from the whole family. Thank you so much for sharing!!


Hi, I’m Nabeela and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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