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Lamb Biryani

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This lamb biryani recipe from Sheba is now a family favourite.

If you want to achieve restaurant quality lamb biryani, you are going to get just that with this recipe. I learned this lamb biryani recipe while researching for my first cookbook ‘The Curry Guy’ at Sheba Brick Lane. The restaurant is famous for their Lamb biryani which is only served on Monday evening to those who know to ask for it!

You are going to love this recipe and if biryanis are your thing, be sure to try my chicken biryani and Pakistani chickpea biryani recipes too! Serve your lamb biryani with a good spoonful or more of mint and coriander chutney, spicy coriander chutney or mint sauce and you will be in biryani heaven!

Lamb biryani

About this lamb biryani recipe

You are in for a treat with this one. Curry house style biryanis can often be a bit dry as they are just stir fried rice with a bit of protein thrown in. With this lamb biryani recipe, the meat is first marinated and then stewed in a sealed pot under the rices. As the liquid and stem rise, they also flavour the rice and make it deliciously moist.

This style of lamb biryani is called dum biryani. It is truly the best way to cook a biryani.

What cut of lamb should you use?

You will see in the photos below that I used leg of lamb cut into small pieces through the bone.

Leg of lamb is much more tender and cooks faster than shoulder. You could use shoulder but you will want to first simmer it until almost tender enough to eat before adding the rice.

Leg of lamb will cook through and become tender in about 40 minutes so it is a lot faster.

Do you have to use bone-in lamb?

I know that many people don’t like lamb on the bone. You will get more flavour in your lamb biryani by cooking the lamb on the bone but that is not essential.

If you would prefer to enjoy your lamb biryani without having to fuss with the bones, go for it!

How important is the Basmati rice you use?

Biryanis are of course rice dishes so it is important to find the best quality, aged basmati rice you can get your hands on. I use VeeTee Extra Long Premium Rice.

How do you prepare the rice?

You always prepare Basmati rice in the same way just as you do in my perfect Basmati rice recipe.

First you need to rinse the rice in several changes of fresh water. Place it in a bowl and add water. Swirl it around with your hand and you will see that the water becomes milky. That is the starch from the rice that needs to be removed.

So repeat this process several times until the water runs almost clear. Then cover the rice again with fresh water and let it soak for about 30 minutes. 

Can you work ahead?

Yes. You can wash and soak the rice for up to a day.

The meat can also marinate for up to three days. In fact the flavour will be better if you do that.

Step by step photos

Frying onions.

Fry the sliced onions for about 12 to 15 minutes or until crispy brown. Then transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Lamb meat in a pot.

Place you meat in a bowl. As you can see, I used lamb leg cut through the bone in small pieces.

Lamb in dry marinate.

Cover the meat with the spices, half of the fried onions and herbs along with the oil. Stir well to combine and work everything into the meat pieces.

Adding yoghurt to the pot to finish off the marinade.

Then stir in the yogurt and again rub this right into the meat.

Adding water to the biryani pot.

After the meat has marinated, add about 250ml (1 cup) water or stock. Just enough to cover the meat.

Cooking the rice.

Cook the rice for 6 minutes and transfer half to a plate. Allow the remaining rice to cook for another minute and then transfer it to another plate.

Adding rice, saffron and herbs to the biryani pot.

Add the first batch of par-cooked rice to the meat and cover with some of the fried onions, herbs and half the ghee and saffron milk.

Topping the biryani with the second batch of par-cooked rice.

Then add the remaining par-cooked rice and add melted ghee. If you have any herbs and onions leftover, add those to this layer too.

Cooking the biryani in a sealed pot.

Cover the pot. Bring to a boil for about two minutes and then cook over a low to medium heat for 40 minutes.

Lamb biryani

Serve with your sauce of choice. I included links to some of my favourites at the top of this post.


  1. Allow the meat to marinate for at least 24 hours or up to 72 hours if you have the time to do so.
  2. Be sure to wash your rice thoroughly in several changes of water.
  3. Ensure that your lid is really tight when you go to cook the lamb biryani. Covering the pot tightly with foil before placing the lid on top will help cook the biryani to perfection.
lamb biryani

Dig in!


If you like this lamb biryani recipe, you might like to try some of these recipes too…

Railway lamb curry
Keralan lamb curry
Goan lamb curry

Yield: 6-8

Lamb Biryani

Lamb biryani
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes


  • 3 onions, finely sliced and fried (see photos above for doing this) plus about 250ml (1 cup) of the reserved cooking oil
  • 1 leg of lamb, cut through the bone into 12 or more pieces*
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 5cm/2in piece of cinnamon stick
  • 10 peppercorns,
  • 1 bay leaf,
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) good-quality basmati rice
  • 60g (2oz) coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
  • 20g (3⁄4 oz) mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 tbsp melted ghee
  • Pinch of saffron threads infused in 300ml (11⁄4 cups) hot milk
  • 1 tsp rose water (optional)
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
  • Dried rose petals (optional)
  • Raita of your choice, to serve
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 500g (2 cups) plain yoghurt
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 fresh green chillies, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 tsp ground mace
  • 1⁄2 tsp chilli powder
  • 30g (1oz) coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
  • 10g (1⁄3oz) mint leaves, finely chopped


  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl with a quarter of the fried onions and 200ml (generous 3⁄4 cup) of cooled reserved cooking oil. Add the lamb and rub the marinade into it. Cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.
  2. When ready to cook, add about 250ml (1 cup) water or stock to the meat mixture.
  3. Bring 1.5 litres (6 cups) water to a boil in a large pan. Add the salt, whole garam masala and rice, and simmer for 6 minutes. After the 6 minutes, remove half the rice from the water with a strainer and place in a small bowl. Cook the remaining rice for another minute and remove to a second bowl.
  4. Now spoon about 3 tablespoons of the reserved onion oil into a large, heavy-based saucepan and tip in the marinated meat along with all of the marinade. Spread the first batch of rice, including any whole spices, over the lamb.
  5. Cover with half the remaining fried onions and half the chopped coriander (cilantro) and mint.
  6. Add the second bowl of rice on top and then the remaining fried onions and herbs. Spoon the melted ghee over the top layer, followed by the saffron-infused milk, the rose water and a sprinkle of ground cumin. Scatter some dried rose petals on top (if using).
  7. Place a lid over the top. It is important that no or very little steam escapes during cooking so it is a good idea to first cover the pot tightly with foil and then place the lid on top.
  8. Heat the biryani over a high heat for about 2 minutes. When you hear it simmering, reduce the heat to very low and cook for about 40 minutes. Don’t be tempted to lift the lid.
  9. After 40 minutes, your kitchen will smell amazing. Take your biryani to the table. Lift the lid and the steam will fill the room with the amazing aroma of the biryani. Stir the meat from the bottom into the rice about three or four times and serve with your favourite raita.


The way the lamb is cut is pretty much standard at Indian grocers. If you don't have one nearby, just ask your butcher to cut the leg through the bone for you. That or just use boneless leg of lamb pieces but the bone does add a lot to the flavour.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 345Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 2501mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 3gSugar: 12gProtein: 8g

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 I served the lamb biryani with my coriander and mint raita.

I hope you enjoy this lamb biryani recipe. If you do try it or if you have a recipe question, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you and I’m happy to help.


Wednesday 6th of September 2023

Dan, I bought your curry Bible. I live in the US but we don't have the awesome curry houses of the UK, which are much different than the more traditional Indian I have learned to cook here.

Regarding this recipe specifically, I'm curious the weight of the lamb. I can buy a leg of lamb that's over 2 kilos, bone removed, but I imagine this recipe is calling for something more like 1k meat with bone? Is that about right?

I foolishly tried making this with a whole leg of lamb and had so much meat that produced too much oil for the amount of rice.

I was able to recover the dish somewhat by making an extra 400g of rice, but would still like to know what you recommend.

Thanks, Nate

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 6th of September 2023

Hi Nate I would recommend a leg of lamb with the bone in as the bone has a lot of flavour. If you can possibly cut the bone into sections that would be even better. I am American and know that the lamb over there can often have a lot of fat on it as people like to roast the fat. For a biryani you want to cut off as much of the top fat off as you can and then you won't have the problem of too much oil. Hope this helps. Thanks very much. Dan


Friday 28th of January 2022

Hi Dan, I'm new to your recipes was wondering what cut of lamb (UK) would you recommend and hung yoghurt?? Is there a substitute in the UK or is it something I need to make.

Really looking forward to start cooking!

Dan Toombs

Friday 28th of January 2022

Hung yoghurt is what they use in India so use whisked Greek yoghurt. I use leg of lamb but you could use shoulder, it would just need cooking longer. Thanks Dan

Steve Ashdown

Thursday 26th of October 2017

Hi Dan. Do you have to de-starch the rice, or just add straight from the packet?? Cheers again. Steve.

Dan Toombs

Friday 27th of October 2017

Hi Steve

Looks like I left that part out. Sorry. For best results, wash the rice several times with cold water. Then let it sit in clean water for about 30 minutes. Some will say not to de-starch Basmati but I find it turns out better.

Thanks, Dan


Saturday 24th of October 2015

The flavors here were all great, but I found that in a clay dutch oven on an electric stove, having it on high for 15 minutes was too long and the meat got pretty burnt on the bottom layer. I will do it again and maybe add a bit more liquid to the marinade after letting it sit over night. Plus I will reduce the time on high to around 8 minutes.

Dan Toombs

Sunday 25th of October 2015

Thank for the info Clair. I hope you are able to perfect the recipe on your stove. You'll get there.

Thanks Dan

Simon Murphy

Friday 9th of October 2015

Thanks Dan, another great recipe! Biriani is a hard one to nail and this one really does just that, my family loved it. I have had your BIR book now for about a year and I am hooked, myself and my family love a good curry and I've used it for three out of four Saturday curry nights of early every month ( much to the disappointment of my local takeaway) . How is the Indian / Bangladeshi curry scene in the states? R they into it in the same way u r?

Dan Toombs

Saturday 10th of October 2015

Hi Simon

Great to hear. Thanks for purchasing my ebook and I'm glad you like the recipes. There is no real Bangladeshi curry scene in the US that I know of. There are a lot of new Indian restaurants but they serve more authentic Indian food that is quite different to the curry house food here.

Thanks for stopping by.


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