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The charm of the South African breyani recipe

By September 1, 2023October 11th, 2023FinGlobal

The charm of the South African breyani recipe

September 1, 2023


If you’re a South African breyani enthusiast, chances are you’ve encountered the mouthwatering array of delicious breyani dishes. But what exactly is breyani? Simply put, it is a fragrant spiced dish that usually consists of lentils, rice and meat. With its roots in the Indian subcontinent, this popular dish has been adapted and enjoyed in many countries around the world. In South Africa, two of the most well-known variations are Cape Malay Chicken Biryani and Durban Style Biryani.

Cape Malay breyani vs biryani: What’s the difference?

Breyani is a South African comfort food originating from Cape Malay cuisine. It is a fragrant and flavour-packed rice dish that typically includes spices like turmeric, cardamom, cloves, cumin, bay leaves, garlic and ginger. Breyani can also include various meats such as chicken or beef and often features vegetables like carrots or potatoes. Compared to biryani, breyani is spicier and more flavourful. Breyani is also cooked differently from biryani, using a layering method of cooking the rice and meats together in a pot. While both dishes are based off similar flavours, breyani stands out with its unique spices and South African twist. So if you’re looking for an exotic and delicious dish to try, breyani is a perfect choice.

Biryani is an Indian-inspired rice dish that includes a variety of spices like saffron, cardamom, cumin, bay leaves, cloves and ginger. It is cooked in the same way as breyani but without the distinctive South African twist. Biryani is generally milder in flavour than breyani but can be spiced up with some chilli peppers or other spices. Biryani typically features some sort of meat, as well as vegetables such as potatoes, onions and peas. Biryani is a flavorful and wholesome dish that can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a larger Indian-inspired meal.

Which South African breyani recipe should you make?

Choose between Cape Malay chicken breyani and Durban style breyani based on your preferences. If you like milder flavours, go for the former; for a more intense kick, choose Durban breyani. Regardless of the outcome, it is guaranteed to be a delightful indulgence!

A simple South African chicken breyani recipe:

Making South African chicken breyani is a simple process that involves marinating the chicken in spices, then slowly cooking it with rice until both are thoroughly cooked. For added flavour and texture, you can also add nuts or dried fruits such as sultanas. The dish is typically served with a crunchy salad or chutney for an extra boost of flavour.

What you need:

  • 1 kg bone-in free-range chicken, cut into 8 pieces


  • 3 tbsp red ginger and garlic masala
  • 1 tsp crushed red chillies
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp biryani masala
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 grated tomato
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint (reserve some for garnish)
  • 3 grated onions, fried in oil (reserve some for garnish)


  • 590 g basmati rice
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • 1/2 cup canned masoor or frozen peas (as a substitute)
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and halved

Oil, for frying

  • 1 tbsp saffron water, with the frond
  • 3 boiled and peeled eggs (optional)
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander, for garnish

What to do:

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients and let the chicken marinate overnight.
  2. Par-boil and fry the potatoes.
  3. Boil the rice with cumin, salt, and cinnamon until cooked but still firm.
  4. Heat ghee and add cumin.
  5. Set aside. Layer rice, lentils, fried onions, marinated chicken, fried potatoes, remaining rice, and leftover marinade mixed with rice.
  6. Sprinkle with saffron water.
  7. Optionally, add boiled eggs.
  8. Top with fried onions and peas.
  9. Steam for about an hour.
  10. Serve garnished with coriander and mint.

Delighting in the richness of South African breyani

No matter which South African Chicken breyani recipe you choose, it’s sure to make an impressive meal for family and friends. With its unique blend of spices, this dish is sure to tantalise your taste buds and be the star of any gathering.

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