Pakistani Lamb Biryani Recipe | SAVEUR

Pakistani Lamb Biryani

Pakistani Lamb Biryani

A variety of spices flavor this traditional Pakistani rice dish.

Todd Coleman

This recipe comes from SAVEUR kitchen assistant Ambreen Hasan, a native of Karachi, Pakistan. We featured it as part of our "Queen of Spices" article (April 2010), an ode to the many ways in which cardamom is used.

Pakistani Lamb Biryani
This recipe comes from SAVEUR kitchen assistant Ambreen Hasan, a native of Karachi, Pakistan.
serves 6


1 cup canola oil
3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
12 tsp. turmeric
18 black peppercorns
9 pods green cardamom
3 pods black cardamom
2 sticks (2") cinnamon
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 tomatoes, cored and minced
5 serrano chiles, stemmed and minced
1 (1 12") piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 lb. trimmed lamb shoulder, cut into 2–3" pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
12 cup plain yogurt
34 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
14 cup roughly chopped cilantro
40 threads saffron, crushed (heaping 12 tsp.)
2 12 cups white basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, drained
12 tsp. cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
2 dried bay leaves
Rose water or kewra essence (optional)
Red/orange food color (optional)


Heat ¼ cup oil in a 5-qt. skillet over high heat. Add onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until dark brown, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
Heat remaining oil in a 5-qt. pot over high heat. Add garam masala, chile flakes, turmeric, 10 peppercorns, 5 green cardamom pods, 2 black cardamom pods, and 1 cinnamon stick; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic, tomatoes, chiles, and ginger; cook, stirring, 2–3 minutes. Add lamb, season with salt, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium; cook until lamb is tender, about 1 hour. Add fried onions, yogurt, ½ cup mint, and 2 tbsp. cilantro; cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes more. Set aside.
Put saffron into a bowl and cover with ½ cup hot water; set aside. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a 5-qt. saucepan. Add remaining peppercorns, green and black cardamom, and cinnamon, along with the rice, cumin, cloves, and bay leaves, and season with salt. Cook rice until al dente, 5–10 minutes; drain rice and set aside.
Transfer half the lamb curry to a 5-qt. pot. Top lamb with half the rice. Pour half the saffron mixture onto rice along with a few drops of rose water and food coloring (if using); mix into rice with your fingers. Top with remaining lamb curry and remaining rice; drizzle with remaining saffron; mix. Steam, covered, on low heat until rice is tender, about 10 minutes. Garnish with remaining mint and cilantro.