This is how you make breyani

As South Africans, we are passionate about our food and we cling to traditional recipes.

One of these is breyani, which has become a talking point on social media.

One local foodie website learnt this the hard way, and fans of the popular dish had much to say about it.

The general consensus was: “It’s all wrong.”

Like everything else, there’s a huge debate about the correct way to prepare this traditional Cape Malay or Indian rice-based dish.

So, how does one make breyani? We’ve gone in search three recipes that should tick all the boxes.

Lamb Breyani


2kg lamb, cubed

3 cups rice, parboiled

2 cups black lentils, boiled

2 cups yoghurt

2 tsp salt

4 tsp curry powder

2 tsp ginger and garlic

3 green chillies

½ cup fresh coriander

½ cup fresh mint

fresh thyme

2 onions, sliced into rings

4 potatoes, cubed

125g ghee or butter

dry whole spice

4 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp jeera (cumin)

1 tsp somph (fennel)

2 bay leaves

3 cinnamon sticks (roast in a pan and grind).

Liquidise all green herbs, ginger, garlic, chillies and yoghurt and marinate lamb for an hour.

Fry potatoes in ghee and remove.

Fry onions then add ground spice and chilli. Add marinated meat and salt to taste. Cook until tender. Add potatoes then boiled lentils and top with rice. Garnish with fried onions and saffron. Put in oven. Steam at 180°C for an hour.

Easy Chicken Breyani


6 cups cooked basmati rice

1kg boneless chicken pieces

1 cup plain yoghurt

60g special Bombay breyani masala mix

½ cup ghee

2 medium onions, sliced

1 tbs crushed garlic

1 tbs crushed ginger

1 medium tomato, chopped

A few curry leaves

Chopped fresh mint and coriander

½ tsp yellow food colouring

½ cup milk


Trim the chicken and remove skin and excess fat.

In a bowl, mix the chicken with the yoghurt and masala.

Heat the ghee and fry the onions until golden.

Remove the onions with a draining spoon and keep aside.

Add the garlic, ginger, tomato and chicken mixture to the remaining ghee in the pan.

Mix well and cook covered until tender.

In another pan, place 2 cups of the rice, spreading evenly. Transfer all the cooked chicken and sprinkle with curry leaves, mint and coriander.

Add the remaining 4 cups of rice to the above mixture.

Combine food colouring and milk and pour over rice.

Cover tightly and cook on simmer until the steam comes through, about 15 minutes.

Serve with sambals.

Quick and Easy Vegetable Breyani

Par-cook 2½ cups of rice of your choice

2 large onions

¼ cup oil

½ tsp hing

1 tsp jeera seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

3 cinnamon sticks

5 elachi pods

2 bay leaves

2 star anise

½ cup maas (sour milk)

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbs wet leaf masala or Bombay masala

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp dhania jeera powder

½ tsp saffron

1 kg frozen Asian stir-fry mix

1 small bunch mint

1 can breyani lentils

1 can butter beans

1 punnet mushrooms

½ tsp powdered food colouring

Fry onions in oil. Remove half of the fried onion and keep aside. Add hing, whole or lightly roasted and ground, jeera seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, elachi pods, bay leaves and star anise, and fry for a few minutes.

Add masala and cook on low heat for a few minutes. Add maas, turmeric, garam masala, dhania jeera powder and saffron.

Leave to cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes until the flavours are infused. Add rinsed and drained stir-fry vegetables and cook for 5 minutes.

Add cleaned and washed mint, breyani lentils, butter beans (washed and drained) and cleaned mushrooms. Cook for another 5 minutes. Season to taste.

Spread rice over vegetables, sprinkle powdered food colouring over the top and spread the fried onions over. Pour half a cup of cold water over the breyani.

Cook on high until you see steam coming out of the pot.

Reduce to lowest heat and cook, covered, for about half an hour or until the rice is cooked through.

Feel free to add roasted potatoes or boiled eggs to the breyani.

Serve with dhal and salad or pickles.