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Dum Biryani

Dum Biryani is a celebrated speciality offering that employs the use of ‘dum’ or pressure or steam cooking to create a desirable biryani rice preparation that may also include meat, poultry, eggs or vegetables spiced and flavoured with special ingredients. This is a very slow-cooking method that can be traced back to the early 16th century when “dum cooking” was popularised in the Indian subcontinent by the Chefs of the Royal Mughal kitchens. ‘Dumpukht’ is Persian for air pressure cooked or baked. Special cookware called the Handi is used in the preparation of Dum Biryani.

The dish is a meal by itself and is often made during celebrations or festivals. There are 2 styles of making a dum biryani; with cooked meat or raw meat. The raw meat style known as the 'Kacchi Biryani' calls for alternate layers of marinated meat and semi-cooked rice in a huge pot which is sealed with dough which prevents loss of steam that helps in cooking the dish. This style of cooking is known as dum and thus the dish gets its name. The cooked or 'Pakki Biryani' method is quicker, as it calls for cooking the marinated meat and rice separately and then finally layering it in a pot before serving. Dum Biryani was originally made with mutton but the chicken version is popular worldwide, some also add seafood or make a biryani with a combination of meats. Biryani made for weddings has good amounts of dry fruits and nuts added to it for richness, the rice is also colored to create a visual appeal.


Ingredients that go into making a dum biryani are long grain rice, especially basmati, meat, yoghurt, whole spices, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and fresh coriander.


The preparation of traditional dum biryani follows an elaborate cooking process using the highest quality ingredients like properly aged Basmati rice, quality meat or chicken and some of the best saffron and spices. The recipe basically consists of a ‘kachha’ or raw style of cooking biryani wherein the marinated raw meat/chicken/fish/eggs or vegetables and the partially cooked basmati rice are layered alternately and cooked over a slow fire or even hot coals, in keeping with the dum style of cooking, which involves cooking for long hours over low heat. The Handi is used for this purpose and once layering is done, the lid is placed on top and sealed tight using wheat flour dough so that the steam pressure trapped inside allows the meat to cook fully in its own juices. Simultaneously, the semi-cooked grains imbibe the steam along with flavours and spices and reach completion. Once the biryani is completely cooked by dum, and the lid is opened, the entire kitchen is filled with a rich and fragrant, aroma of pure ghee and delightful saffron and other spice flavours; with the meat cooked to perfection - simply juicy and tender.

Nutritional Analysis

Each serving of Chicken Dum Biryani (with potatoes added) provides-

• ~ 824 calories of which 314 calories come from fat sources.

• Total fat is 34.9 g of which saturated fat makes up 8 g. Cholesterol content is ~131 mg

• Sodium content is 973 mg and potassium is 1021

• Total carbohydrates is 78.3 g of which dietary fibre is 5.1 g and sugar is 4.7 g

• Vitamin A 11%, Vitamin C 49 % of daily value and Calcium is 9 % and Iron 36 %. Magnesium is 29 % and Folate is 23 %.

Recipe Variations

Being a calorie dense food, dum biryani is best consumed only occasionally as it could otherwise result in weight gain, elevation in cholesterol levels and blood sugar spikes if consumed in significant amounts.

• Smaller amounts of pomace olive oil may be used in place of large quantities of clarified butter or fat. In this way the saturated fat content can be reduced and can be replaced by healthy unsaturated fats.

• Sodium content of the dish is very high. Instead of adding salt in the marination, lime juice may be used and likewise vinegar can be used while preparing the dish instead of salt to make it suitable for blood pressure candidates.

• In place of rice, the use of couscous or brown rice or even dalia (broken wheat) can significantly increase the dietary fibre value while providing a feeling of satiety more rapidly, thereby making portion control easy.

• Variations using plenty of leafy veggies like Palak Chicken Dum Biryani or Methi and Vegetable Dum biryani would immensely build the nutritional profile of the dish.

Suggested Accompaniments

1. A raw vegetable salad or raita in beaten fresh yoghurt is the ideal supplement to the biryani.

2. A microwave or griddle roasted papad would add crunch.

3. Instead of oily pickles, a mint-coriander chutney and small onions preserved in vinegar would make good choices.

4. A glass of warm lemon tea could act as an ideal cleanse for the fat that has made its way through the digestive tract.