Lamb Biryani

This image courtesy of Brave New Pictures, Inc.

Biryani is a spiced rice and meat dish that is wildly popular in Pakistan. Muslim travelers and merchants brought it to the Indian subcontinent. Though I didn’t grow up eating this dish, my husband frequently ate it after nights out drinking. The first time I made lamb biryani, I immediately thought of shepherd’s pie and that this is the South Asian version of that dish, with rice replacing the potatoes. The combination of rice, meat, and vegetables in one makes this dish comforting, delicious, and convenient.

NotesSlow cooker size: 4- or 5-quart medium

To make this dish in a 3½-quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. A half recipe makes 4 cups (946 mL).

Can these recipes be made on the stovetop?

Absolutely. Just keep in mind that when cooking on the stove, you’ll use a quarter more water because liquids evaporate. So, if a slow cooker recipe requires 4 cups of water, use 5 cups when making it on the stovetop. Also, though you can keep your pot at a low simmer on the stovetop, you still always want to keep an eye on it to prevent drying and burning. If food-especially beans and other legumes-starts to dry out, just add more water and continue to cook.

The rule in the land of slow cookers is usually never to open the lid while cooking for fear of losing critical heat and slowing down the cooking process. This may be true, but I have a tough time following the rules myself. Also, there are some dishes, such as Curried Spinach with Homemade Cheese (Palak Paneer), that need to be stirred during cooking. Know that the cooking times cited in my recipes reflect my inability to keep the lid shut, so to speak. Just do your best to limit peeking. A good rule-of-thumb is to add about 5 minutes of cooking time for every time you lift the lid.

8 cups (1.89 L)

Cooking Methodslow cooking


Total Timehalf-day

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentcrock pot



Taste and Texturemeaty, savory, spiced


  • 1 (4 inch [10 cm]) piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 4-6 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) red chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 2/3 cup (120 g) chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup (50 g) fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1-inch (3 cm) cubes
  • 1 cup (250 ml) plain yogurt
  • 3 medium yellow or red onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons (59 mL) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) water
  • 2½ cups (526 g) uncooked basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) saffron strands soaked in 2 tablespoons (30 mL) milk (optional)


  1. In a deep bowl, mix together the ginger, garlic, green chiles, garam masala, red chile powder, turmeric, 1 teaspoon of salt, cilantro, and mint. Add the lamb and mix to coat. Marinate at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or, ideally, overnight.

  2. After marinating, add the yogurt to the lamb and mix well.

  3. Turn the slow cooker on low. Add the onions, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the oil, and the marinated lamb to the slow cooker. Cook for 2 hours.

  4. On the stovetop, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and the tablespoon of salt and turn the heat to low. Allow the rice to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, at which point most of the water. Will have evaporated. If it has not, use a slotted spoon to transfer the rice to the slow cooker. Discard any remaining water. Level the rice in the slow cooker with the back of a spoon. Drizzle the rice with the remaining oil and the saffron/milk mixture, if desired.

  5. Cook for 1 hour, occasionally fluffing the rice with a fork. Scoop and serve this amazing one-pot meal.

  6. Try This!

  7. To add another layer of flavor to the dish, brown the onions in oil on the stovetop before adding them to the slow cooker.


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This was a total disaster. The meat was not tender, the rice was not cooked. There were lots of spice but really salty was what came through the most. A waste of good ingredients. It seemed like it needed something sweet to temper it. We ordered out.

We watch a lot of British cooking shows and we're amazed at how lamb is regarded over there. It seems to be almost the equivalent of chicken in how commonly it's used. Over here, it's a bit more of a delicacy since it's on the expensive side. I'm wondering if you could used cuts of beef in place of the lamb. This sounds fabulous and I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

I tried this recipe for my husband who loves his curries. It's the first time I've made a Biryani and he absolutely loved it! Thank you. :-)


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