Mutton Dum Biryani

It’s taken me years to get my Dum-Biryani recipe right! This one is an amalgamation of recipes handed down by two of my favorite ladies in the family, as well as useful tips shared by friends and colleagues over the years!

Making a good Mutton Biryani takes a good bit of time! This recipe begins the night before you actually cook, with a mutton marinade. It’s what makes the meat so tender and well-spiced! As in the title, the recipe uses the ‘Dum’ method of cooking: Cooked meat and partially cooked rice are arranged in delicate layers; the top of the pot is then sealed, and allowed to cook on low heat until the flavour of the mutton, and aromas of all the spices, permeate every grain! I’ve also included my favorite dum-biryani hack (a tip my colleague at the time, Rashida, gave me during one of my early biryani attempts). It’s a great way to enhance the masala by using caramelized onions and tomato for tartness!

Recipe: Mutton Dum Biryani

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6


  • A food processor
  • Ideally a large pressure cooker OR a large pot / degchi with a lid that fits well
  • Aluminum foil / a clean damp dish cloth


For the Mutton Marinade

  • 750 gms Mutton [use a mix of boneless and bone-in pieces]
  • ½ a Lime/Lemon
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Red Chili Powder
  • tsp Dhanya (Coriander Seed) Powder
  • ¼ tsp Jeera (Cumin) Powder
  • ½ tsp Garam Masala Powder
  • 1 tsp Ginger & Garlic Paste
  • 3 tsp Curd / Yogurt

For the Biryani Masala

  • 2 tbps Oil
  • 2 tbps Ghee
  • 2 thinly sliced Onions [to make the fried onions]
  • 1 – 2 Bay Leaves
  • ¾ tsp Shahi Jeera (Black Cumin Seeds)
  • 3 pods Green Cardamom
  • 1 piece Star Anise
  • 5 Cloves
  • 2 inch-long pieces Cinnamon
  • 1 small piece Javitri (Mace)
  • 2 large Onions [either chopped or sliced, doesn’t make much difference]
  • 1 tsp Crushed Ginger [substitute: Ginger & Garlic Paste]
  • 2 tsp Crushed Garlic [substitute: Ginger & Garlic Paste]
  • 4 large Tomatoes [roughly chopped]
  • 10 Green Chilies [slit]
  • ½ cup Mint Leaves
  • ½ a small Lime/ Lemon
  • ½ cup Coriander Leaves
  • ½ tsp Red Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Dhanya (Coriander Seed) Powder
  • ½ tsp Garam Masala Powder
  • 2 cups Water [recently boiled]
  • Salt [to taste]

For the Fried Onion Enhancer

  • ¼ cup Fried Onions
  • 1 Tomato
  • ¼ cup Tender Coriander stems
  • 3 tsp Curd / Yogurt

To cook the Rice

  • 3 cups Long Grained Basmati Rice
  • 6 cups Water
  • 2 pods Green Cardamom
  • 1 inch-long piece Cinnamon
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1 piece Star Anise
  • ½ cup Mint Leaves
  • ½ cup Coriander Leaves
  • 1 Green Chili
  • 4 tsp Milk
  • 6 – 8 Saffron Strands
  • 4 – 5 tsp Ghee

To make the Raita

  • ½ medium sized Onion
  • ½ medium sized Cucumber
  • 1 cup Curd / Yogurt
  • Salt [to taste]


  • We start the night before! Wash and drain the mutton to make sure its completely dry. Douse with the juice of half a small lemon and then season with all the dry spices listed under ‘For the Mutton Marinade’ as well as the ginger & garlic paste. Let this marinate for about 15 mins before adding 3 tsps of thick curd/ yogurt to the mix1. Stir well to ensure that all pieces of mutton are well coated; cover and refrigerate overnight (or for a minimum of 8 hours).
  • Wash and soak 3 cups of long grained Basmati rice.
  • Add 2 tbsps each of oil and ghee to a large pot / dekshi; add the thinly sliced onions and fry on a medium heat until golden. Strain the fried onions from the oil with a slotted spoon or flat spatula, and transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen paper; allow them to cool and crisp.
  • Add the aromatics listed under ‘For the Biryani Masala’ to the same pot, stir fry for about 20 seconds.
  • Next, add 2 chopped/ sliced onions and cook until brown. Add the crushed ginger and garlic and stir fry for about a minute and a half, or until its raw odour dissipates.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and green chilies2, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Once the tomatoes have softened a bit, add the marinated mutton, followed by the chili, coriander and garam masala powders. Stir well and fry for about 2 minutes.
  • Next, squeeze in the juice of half a lime and add half a cup each of roughly chopped mint and coriander leaves. Stir well again. Cover and simmer for 5 – 7 mins until the mutton release a good bit of moisture, like you see below:
  • If using a pressure cooker, add 2 cups of warm water to the mutton, put the lid on and pressure cook on high heat for 15 – 20 mins3. If using a regular pot/ degchi, add twice the indicated quantity of water, bring to the boil, and then simmer with the lid on for about 40 mins.
  • Pierce a piece of meat with a fork to see that it is tender. If not cook a little longer. Also taste- check at this point and adjust the salt. Turn the heat off.
  • Grind the ingredients listed under ‘Fried Onion Enhancer’ to a smooth paste; add this to the cooked mutton and stir well. It should thicken the gravy instantly4.
  • Pour 4 tsps of milk into a small bowl and heat in the microwave for 10 – 20 seconds (or just use 4 tsps of recently boiled milk). Add the strands of saffron to the milk and allow it to rest until required.
  • Add the aromatics listed under ‘For the rice’ and 6 cups of water to a large pot. Salt it well (roughly 1.5 tsps) and bring to the boil. Drain and add the rice to the boiling water along with half a cup each of mint and coriander leaves,plus one slit green chili.
  • Simmer until the grains feel about 75% cooked. Here’s a picture of what they should look like; they should have lengthened, should have begun turning a whiter opaque, but still have a few translucent bits. Drain the rice into a sieve immediately to stop it from cooking any further
  • Now comes the Layering the Biryani! Spoon two-thirds of the mutton masala out of the cooker / pot into a separate bowl. Spread the remaining one third evenly across the bottom of the cooker / pot to make sure its completely coated. Gently add a layer of rice over the masala using a soft silicone spatula or a flat metal serving spoon. Follow the rice with 1 – 1½ tsps each of saffron milk and desi ghee. Next, sprinkle with fried onions. This is layer-1, add half of the remaining mutton masala on top of layer-1 and repeat the steps to form layers 2 & 3.
  • Now for The Dum! Once you’ve completed the layering, seal the top of the dish with aluminum foil, and pop a simple lid on. Place the cooker / pot on gentle heat for about 10 – 12 mins. You can also place a tava /a flat pan beneath the pot to ensure that heat from the stove top is evenly distributed and not too high!
  • Turn the heat off and allow the Biryani to rest, without opening for another 15 mins.This step is important! The residual heat cooks the grains to their full 100% and they absorb all the flavors of the masala well.
  • Unwrap the foil and stir the biryani gently to combine the meat, masala and rice5.
  • Serve hot with a simple cucumber-onion raita. To make the raita: whip the curd with salt; add the chopped onion and cucumber and stir well. Chill in the fridge until required.
Keyword Biryani, Indian Delicay, Mutton Biryani, Mutton Dum Biryani, Soul Food, Spicy Biryani

1You don’t really need much curd or wet marinade. Use just enough to coat all the pieces of mutton evenly. If you don’t have thick curd, strain it in a cheesecloth (or sieve) for a bit, to get some of the moisture out. The main job of the curd here is to tenderize the meat overnight!

2De-seed or use fewer chilies if you prefer. 10 chilies will give you a moderately spicy biryani.

3Different pressure cookers have different cooking times! If uncertain about how long yours takes to cook mutton, start with 15 mins, check the texture after, and cook again if necessary.

4This step changed the way I make Dum Biryani forever! A colleague told me to grind a few tsps of fried onions (which are otherwise only used for layering & garnishing) with a tomato + a little curd and add it to the masala. I’ve begun including tender stems of coriander as well. This ground mix, not only enhances the flavor of the masala, but also gives it the perfect consistency to work in the ‘Dum’ method.  If the masala is too liquidy, the biryani can turn out soggy, as you risk over cooking the rice in an effort to get all the moisture out.

5Mixing the layers – You might want to carefully spoon the rice out into another dish, mixing only a couple of layers at a time. Stirring too many layers all together can lead to the rice-grains breaking!

I hope this recipe gives you enough detail to help you make a stellar biryani! Let me know if you need any added instructions in the comments below.🖖

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