Biryani is one of my favorite Indian dishes whenever I hit my local Indian restaurant. It has the most amazing flavor combinations. Unfortunately, I have never been able to really master the art of cooking it while I am out camping. After many different trial and error events, I have finally made something that resembles a classic Biryani. At least for me, it fills the hole I have for something a little different around the picnic table. This campfire chicken biryani is certainly not an easy meal to make and get right but keep practicing using this recipe and tips and you are sure to have a wonderful meal! Not to mention the admiration of your family for your Dutch oven skills.
Don’t stop with this recipe! Become an expert campfire chef with these tips.
Traditional Chicken Biryani
In order to have this recipe work well over the campfire, I had to make some modifications. This may make you traditionalists upset a bit. So I would like to share what a traditional Biryani is before you see the campfire chicken Biryani. Looking for a traditional Biryani recipe? Check out this example from
Traditionally, this dish would be made by layering marinated chicken on the bottom of the pot. Then layered on top would be par-cooked rice, saffron coconut milk, ghee, and spices. The layering allows the flavors to meld and the rice to cook perfectly. For my version of this recipe, I had to swap the layers around. The chicken thighs used in the campfire chicken Biryani would end up sticking to the bottom of the Dutch oven making for not a very good meal! However, by flipping the traditional the rice cooked perfectly and the chicken was crisp.
What You Need for a Great Campfire Chicken Biryani
You obviously always want to use the best ingredients when you are cooking. Though it is likely that you will also want to save money! Choosing your Basmati rice and spices correctly will all impact the flavor and structure of your dish. You don’t have to break the bank though.
For the rice, you will want to choose one that is labeled as aged. This kind of Basmati rice is generally more firm and will fluff up with the chicken as it cooks. It will prevent the rice from turning to mush in the Dutch oven.
For the spices, you will also want to go with good quality spices. However, to be fair I often use the store brand spices for everything while I am camping. They tend to be of good quality and they are easier to stack and store in the RV. I have found that the more expensive jars tend to rattle around more and take up more space.
Finally, for the chicken, make sure that you are using bone-in thighs. Using bone-in will yield tender, juicy, and succulent pieces of chicken. Plus the darker meat will help to impart additional flavor to the dish.
Marinating your Campfire Chicken Biryani
Marination is the key to this dish. I prefer to mix everything together at home and allow the marinade to work while I am en route to the campsite. I will also have this on the second day of my trip normally so that the flavors have even more time to meld.
Marinating is the first and most important step of this meal. The yogurt will tenderize the chicken as the spices boost the flavor. Place everything together in the zip-top bag and allow the flavors to have a little party!
I have some non-heat lovers in my family so this recipe controls the spicy heat. However, you can always adjust the spice in the marinade to make it as spicy as you like! Just like with any spice the longer you allow it to marinate the spicier the dish will become.
Campfire Chicken Biryani Substitutions
If you follow my camping recipes you have likely seen that I love to provide substitutions. There is one main thing that you can change on this recipe. That is a mixture of whole spices to help infuse the oil you cook the onions in with additional flavors. Using these spices is completely optional and for me it is just an added step that doesn’t pay off when camping. These follow a more traditional cooking style for the Biryani though.
Simply saute the below list of whole spices in the oil prior to adding and caramelizing your onions. It will add additional flavor. However, I prefer to simply ensure my marinade is as flavorful as possible.
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 4 Green Cardamoms
- 6 Cloves
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Star Anise
- 3/4 tsp Caraway Seeds
- 1 Strand Mace
Other than this small change I have not had an opportunity to try adding anything additional. Getting a functional Biryani was my first step! If you have any additions that you love to include in your Biryani please share with us in the comments below, on our Facebook, or on Reddit!
As I mentioned before this recipe took me a significant amount of time to master. It will likely take you a few times to get it right as well. Especially if you choose to modify the spice level. The tools are things that we are used to using around a campfire. So at least in that sense, the recipe isn’t made any more difficult. We will use a Dutch oven with a lid and a campfire. You may also want to consider these Dutch oven tools to prevent campfire cooking disasters. The Dutch oven makes this a delicious one-pot meal.
Campfire Chicken Biryani
- Dutch Oven
- Zip top Bag
Marinade and Chicken
- 1 lb Chicken thighs About 4 -6 thighs
- 3 Tbsp Plain yogurt I like to use Greek Yogurt
- 1-1/4 Tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Tumeric
- 1 tsp Red chili powder Feel free to adjust to taste
- 1 Tbsp Garam Masala
- 1 Tbsp Lemon juice
Main Dish Ingredients
- 2 Cups Basmati Rice Prep according to package but do not cook.
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 Lg Onion Sliced thinly
- 1/4 Cup Mint leaves Chopped fine
- 1 Green chili Chopped
- 3 Cups Coconut Milk
Marinade Prep – Before Camp
- Combine yogurt, ginger garlic paste, 1/2 tsp of salt, garam masala, Tumeric, lemon juice, and red chili powder in a gallon Zip-top bag. Seal and mix by squeezing the bag until combined.3 Tbsp Plain yogurt, 1-1/4 Tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste, 1/2 tsp Salt, 1/4 tsp Tumeric, 1 tsp Red chili powder, 1 Tbsp Garam Masala, 1 Tbsp Lemon juice
- Taste test and add more salt and spice to taste.
- Make slits in the chicken thighs diagonally across the top.1 lb Chicken thighs
- Add the chicken to the marinade and allow to rest in the fridge or cooler for at least an hour but the longer the more flavor will be infused.
Campfire Chicken Briyani – At the Campsite
- Prepare campfire for medium-high heat.
- Heat oil in your Dutch oven.2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- Once oil is hot, add onions and cook them till they are light brown and not burnt. Stir often.1 Lg Onion
- Add marinated chicken to the Dutch oven and saute over medium heat until pale or about 5 mins.
- Cover the chicken and cook until the chicken is tender and nearly cooked through. This may take time depending on the heat of your campfire.
- Remove the lid. If there is excess moisture allow it to cook off.
- Remove chicken thighs from the pot and add Basmati rice, mint leaves, green chili, and coconut milk. Stir to combine.2 Cups Basmati Rice, 1/4 Cup Mint leaves, 1 Green chili, 3 Cups Coconut Milk
- Place chicken thighs back on top and cook covered until rice is tender. Watch moisture level as it cooks as you may need to add a bit of water.
- Marinade your chicken and prep the rice ahead of time. If you plan to use pre-cooked rice or minute rice instead of Basmati then you will need to adjust your cooking times.
- There is a mix of spices that you can use to help bolster the flavor before adding in the onion. For camping, I skip these and I don’t lose much flavor.
- Great served with Naan Bread!