Kashmiri Chicken, Cardamom and Saffron Pilau: Spiced Indian Rice

Total Time
1hr 30mins
Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr

A wonderfully fragrant and spiced Indian chicken dish, with saffron and cardamom studded rice. This has become a popular and much loved family recipe; an Indian friend who was studying Art with me many years ago, used to make this for all of us Art students every Saturday night; she finally shared the recipe with us before we all graduated! I have been making this for over 30 years now, and I have never changed a thing! Serve this with cool cucumber raita, sambals and naan bread, for a delectable "one Pot" Indian feast. NB: As one reviewer found out, if you use brown rice in this recipe, this adds considerably to the cooking time and you will need more liquid; brown rice takes longer to cook and takes about a third more liquid!

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Rinse the basmati rice several times in cold water and drain in a colander - leave to dry.
  2. Heat half of the oil (1 tablespoon) in a large pan and add half of the onion (1 onion), the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds. Fry them over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken pieces and brown them - turning them regularly to achieve a good colour all over.
  4. Add the saffron, boiling water, cardamom pods, mint, garam masala and cinnamon stick. Bring it all to the boil and then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
  5. Transfer all the contents to a bowl and rinse out the pan.
  6. Add the remaining oil and onion to the pan and fry until the onion is lightly coloured. Add the rice and stir it well, cook for about 2 to 3 minutes until the rice is opaque.
  7. Add the chicken mixture, tomatoes and sultanas - then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir gently, then shake the pan to level the ingredients.
  8. Add sufficient boiling water to come about 3/4" above the rice mixture. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook gently over a low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid has all been absorbed.
  9. Discard the cinnamon stick and transfer to a warm serving dish, sprinkle with the toasted almonds and serve immediately.
Most Helpful

I really enjoyed this dish! The saffron and cardamom flavors really are wonderful, and the way my kitchen smelled as this cooked was to die for. I used chicken thighs, as they are my preferred piece for this type of dish, and they came out very tender and juicy. Thanks for posting this wonderful dish!

IngridH February 18, 2011

this was fantastic, a perfect one dish meal. The saffron was just enough, i cut the recipe in half, the only sub i made was for craisins instead of sultana's

MarraMamba May 30, 2010

Loved the exotic fragrances as I was preparing this! I wasn't sure what it means to "bruise the cardamom pods" so I opted for using cardamom seeds and crushing them in mortar & pestle. Used bone-in chicken thighs instead of cutting up boneless chicken. Drained off the fat after browning them, then deglazed the pan with a bit of red wine before going to the next step. This is a dish worthy of using your little bit of expensive saffron! I really think using real ginger root makes a big difference since it bears little resemblance to ground ginger.

jozalerie September 01, 2011