Pakistani Chicken Pilau

This is a classic Pakistani dish that is often served at dinner parties. It is a delicious meal which uses no chilli, making this a great dish to serve at dinners where you aren't sure of how much spice your guests can take! The lack of chilli also makes it a good option to serve kids. People will just keep coming back for more with this delectable recipe!

I’ve experimented with different spices in this recipe and I’ve finally found the one. This is now officially my go-to Pilau recipe that I will now make with my eyes closed. My husband really enjoyed this one. The game changer in this is the ghee. Legitimately, using ghee will transform your Pilau. Every grain of rice was moist and buttery… just what I like in my rice. If you don’t have ghee, you can use oil but I can’t vouch for the same delicious results the ghee-version will produce. The ghee gives it a rich, melt-in-your-mouth taste and the most enticing aroma. Butter is also another option, but I personally have never used it so I can’t guarantee how it will turn out.

Also, I used this chicken broth recipe as the base for the Pilau instead of water. It definitely adds a deeper dimension of flavour and richness to the Pilau. If you have the time, I highly recommend going through the extra effort of making the broth the day before, especially since the ‘extra effort’ is just letting the broth simmer on the stovetop without as much as a peep.

I’ve included some pictures of the cooking process as I understand this isn’t an easy dish, especially since it isn’t just a matter of dumping everything into one pot and having it magically transform into a meal. Due to the time of day when I cooked, some of the pictures aren’t very clear and some were so bad I couldn’t post them! But if you have any more questions, do ask.

Serve with raita (cucumber and yogurt), salad and shami kebabs!
Enjoy.. !!

  • 750 grams chicken, bone in
  • 2 tbsp cordiander seeds (sabat dhaniya)
  • 2 tbsp black pepper corns (sabat kali mirch)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 bayleaf (tez patta)
  • 1 medium stick cinnamon (dalchini)
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 5 green cardamoms
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 onions
  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 3 cups basmati rice, soaked for half a hour
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (zeera)
  •  water or chicken broth

  1. First, we make the stock. In a pot, add the chicken, coriander seeds, black pepper corns, garlic cloves, bayleaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, star anise, salt and 1 onion (it doens't have to be chopped). Cover with enough broth/water to cover. I strongly recommend using chicken bone broth, but if not then water will do.
  2. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes
  3. Now, we need to strain the stock. Drain out the stock and keep to one side and take out the chicken pieces, keeping them to one side too. Throw away the whole spices. Don't worry if there are some spices sticking to the chicken.
  4. In the same pan, heat the ghee on medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and onions. Saute till they are brown, but do not let them burn. The browner the onions are, the darker the colour of the rice will be
  5. Now, add the chicken, rice and 6 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low till the water dries up and the rice is soft, about 10 minutes (give or take).
  6. Turn the heat off and allow the rice to rest covered for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Your Chicken Pilau is ready! Serve with raita, salad and shami kebabs!