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Chicken pulao on a platter with a golden spoon and raita on the side.

Pakistani Chicken Pulao (Yakhni Pulao)

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Here's a classic Yakhni Chicken Pulao recipe that's truly hard to mess up. This recipe promises deep flavor, tender chicken, and fluffy rice. It's also easy to double so you can serve it to guests with confidence. Tested to perfection!
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Diet Gluten Free, Halal
Keyword Chicken Pulao, Pulao, Yakhni Chicken Pulao, Yakhni Pulao
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Resting time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Servings 4 servings
Calories 636


  • Non-stick Dutch Oven (5.5 qt)


Broth (Yakhni)

  • 2 3/4 cups water See Note 1
  • 1 1/4 lb bone-in, cut up, skinless chicken cleaned and excess skin removed
  • 1/2 small yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick both Cassia & Ceylon are fine
  • 1 medium dried bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp kosher salt

For the Pulao

  • 1 1/2 cups aged, long-grain basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp ghee or sub butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 1 medium dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds roughly crushed using a mortar & pestle
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick optional
  • 1 black cardamom optional
  • 4-5 garlic cloves crushed or very finely chopped
  • 3/4 inch fresh ginger crushed or very finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 small green chili peppers such as Thai (bird’s eye) or Serrano, finely chopped
  • 1 small tomato (I use Roma) finely chopped or roughly pureed in food processor (optional) - See Note 2
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yogurt whisked

Garnish - After Steaming ('Dum')

  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tbsp cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves finely chopped


Make the Broth (Yakhni) - See Notes for Instant Pot Method

  • Place a stock pot or lightweight Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add all of the ingredients listed under ‘Broth (Yakhni)’ and stir to mix. The water should cover most of the meat. Cover to bring to a boil. If needed, use a slotted spoon to remove any large scum that rises to the surface.
  • Reduce the heat to low so that it simmers gently. Cover and allow to cook for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through but not falling off the bone. Turn off the heat. (See Note 3 for resting the broth.)
  • Use a tong or slotted spoon to separate the chicken from the broth. Cover and set it aside. Place a bowl under a strainer and strain the onion & spices from the broth (yakhni). Discard excess onion and whole spices. Measure out the liquid; it should come to 2 3/4 cups. If not, add water to make it 2 3/4 cups.

Prepare Chicken Pulao

  • Wash rice: When ready to prepare the pulao, thoroughly wash the rice until the water runs clear. Then soak it in water. Set aside.
  • Heat oil and ghee in a nonstick Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring often, until golden brown (~10-12 minutes). The onions will determine the color of the pulao so you want them deeply and evenly golden-brown. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup water. Once the water dries up, add all the whole spices, garlic, and ginger and sauté for a minute or two, until aromatic.
  • Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the chicken and allow to lightly sear, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the salt, green chili peppers, tomatoes (if using), and yogurt and gently sauté until oil starts to separate, about 3 minutes.
  • Add broth. Taste. It should taste saltier than you prefer because it’ll mellow out once rice is added. Bring to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, drain the rice thoroughly. Once the broth comes to a boil, add the drained rice and stir gently to mix. Bring to a boil again.
  • Once the rice comes to a boil again, reduce the heat to medium. Cover partially with the lid. Allow to simmer, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. The water level will reduce and the rice will rise to the surface (see video).

Steaming ('Dum')

  • Layer the lid with a kitchen cloth or tea towel and seal tightly. Allow the pulao to develop steam for a few seconds. You’ll be able to feel the steam escaping from the sides of the pan.
  • Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to rest for another 10-15 minutes. (Do not peek or stir throughout this process.)
  • Sprinkle in garam masala, black pepper, cilantro, and mint. Keep covered until ready to serve. Use a rice paddle to transfer the rice onto a serving tray (or your plate!). If needed, stir gently to prevent any clumps. Serve with cucumber raita, mint raita, or plain yogurt.



Note 1 - This water will make the broth that'll be used to cook your rice. Exactly how much you need depends on your rice:
  • The general ratio is 1.5-2 cups water for every cup of basmati rice, depending on how new, aged, or long-grain it is. 1.5 cups of my rice (Royal Chef's Secret extra long) needs 3 cups to cook on the stovetop, but for this recipe I accomodate for the extra moisture from the other ingredients.
  • If you cook rice often, go with your usual ratio. For example, if you normally use 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of rice, use 2 1/4 cup water for 1.5 cups of rice.
Note 2 - Tomatoes: About 70% of survey respondents said they don't prefer tomatoes in pulao, so I kept the tomato optional. (Though I personally love the vibrance they add.)
Note 3 - If you have time, allow the broth to rest to develop the flavors. May be stored up to 48 hours in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature before using.
Instant Pot Method: Here's how to prepare the broth/cook the chicken in the Instant Pot - Add all of the ingredients listed under 'Broth (Yakhni)' to the Instant Pot (no change in water quantity). Pressure cook on High Pressure for 8 minutes. Allow to naturally pressure release for at least 5 minutes, then proceed with the recipe.
Double: I've made the recipe easy to double for 2.5 lbs, or a whole, cut-up small-sized chicken. Here's how to do it:
  • Double all the ingredients, including whole spices and water.
  • Use a larger pot (8-10.5 qt).
  • Increase the sauté and simmer times by 2-3 minutes.


Serving: 4g | Calories: 636kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 1527mg | Potassium: 398mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 252IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 111mg | Iron: 4mg