Hyderabadi Biryani vs Lucknawi Biryani - What’s The Difference?
Image Credit: Biryani is one of the most popular dishes in India | Unsplash

Biryani is the Queen of all Indian dishes. Its delicious taste, aroma, and the romance of ‘Dum Cooking’ make India's biryanis loved across the country's length and breadth. Although most Indian states and cuisines have versions of Biryanis or similar dishes, two of the most popular biryanis from India hail from Lucknow and Hyderabad. Both erstwhile princely states have a rich culinary heritage with varied influences of intercultural interactions. Lucknow was ruled by Nawabs, while the rulers of Hyderabad were called Nizams. The Royal influence on the respective cuisines has given them grandeur and worldwide recognition, with biryanis being their most proud representation.

My interest in the regional cuisines of India grew many folds in college; being a hotel management student at IHM Hyderabad, my second-year kitchen education was focused on the cuisines of different states of India, and that’s where I learnt the first lessons on the great cuisines of Lucknow and Hyderabad. Some key learnings were the similarities and differences between these two cuisines. Although we learnt a fair bit about the cuisines back in college, the quest to unearth the secrets of these royal cuisines has continued to date and is one of my favourite culinary topics to discuss.


Biryani is believed to be of Persian origin and was first brought to India by the Mughals. The rulers of the state of Awadh came from Iran, and the Persian subtlety of flavours in lucknawi biryani is experienced to date. The other region where biryani is believed to have been introduced to India is the Malabar region of Kerala with the advent of the Arab traders. Malabar, the northern part of Kerala, is rich in spices; thus, various spices were inevitably added to the biryani. Hyderabad, which falls in the region of Deccan (Dakkhan), have influences of Arabs and the Persians. The Nizam of Hyderabad was an ardent food lover and focused on creating exquisite dishes as part of the royal kitchen of Hyderabad. The local palate of the region commanded a spicier and hotter version; thus, Hyderabadi biryani, as we eat it today, was created.

Yakhni vs Dakkhni

In Lucknow, the nawabs believed in the concept of ‘Nazakat and Nafasat’, which guided the food of Awadh to be sophisticated and delicate, with beautiful and neat flavours created with a careful selection of spices ensuring one flavour compliments another and does not hinder the overall delicacy. The Biryani of Lucknow is thus prepared in a Yakhani (Meat stock). The flavourful long-grained basmati rice is cooked with an array of spices tied in a muslin cloth called Potli, which is removed once it has imparted the required flavour to the biryani. Hence the lucknawi biryani will have the flavours of the spices, yet would be a smoother experience on the palate. Chillies are used sparingly, and the focus is on imparting the flavour of subtle aromatic spices and meat stock in every grain of rice.

In the Dakkhni (Hyderabadi) style of biryani, ‘Kacche Gosht ki Biryani’ is a preferred choice. Raw meat is marinated with spices, yoghurt, chillies, ginger garlic paste, fried onions, mint leaves, desi ghee etc. and is left to tender. Marinated meat is layered between aromatic and spiced parboiled rice (Partially cooked rice) and is cooked on dum. This style of preparing biryani is unique to the region of Hyderabad and results in a spicy, juicy, and flavourful biryani, where meat is tender. Each grain of rice carries the full aroma and flavour of spices and meat. Hyderabadi ‘Kachhe Gosht ki Biryani’ is one of the finest Indian dishes and has gained immense fame worldwide.

The style of cooking is different but the taste of both Biryani dishes remains impeccable | Unsplash

Hyderabadi biryani, a spicier version, is ably supported by an exquisite side dish called ‘Mirchi ka Salan’. Long green chilli peppers are cooked in a tempered nutty gravy named ‘Salan’, an unmissable companion to the Hyderabadi biryani, and a runny onion raita to balance the flavour. Lucknawi biryani is often accompanied by a raita too. Certain biryani joints may offer a Tari (Runny gravy or korma); however, the purist recommends not adding different accompaniments to the experience of enjoying a flavourful lucknawi biryani.


Fried onions and mint leaves are traditional garnishes of Hyderabadi Biryani. A chicken biryani may have a piece of boiled egg to accompany it. However, the Lucknawi biryani, in the true sense, does not require garnishes for additional flavour. Using zaffraan or saffron for flavour and colour is common in both Hyderabadi and Lucknawi biryani.

Dum cooking

Both Lucknawi and Hyderabadi biryani are cooked by the process of ‘dum’, where the cooking vessel is enclosed and sealed with a dough, not to let any steam escape, as it cooks on low flame for the best result and flavour. In Lucknawi biryani, meat is cooked separately and layered between the rice, whereas in Hyderabadi ‘kacche gosht ki biryani’, the marinated meat is cooked along with rice on the dum.


The proof of the pudding is in eating, and the real debate on which biryani is better, Hyderabadi or Lucknawi, boils down to its taste. It is a mighty tough question to answer, as each of these biryanis is fantastic in its own right. Lucknow’s biryani carries a delicate flavour, where each grain of rice is carefully dressed with flavour, aroma, and an exquisite taste. The meat in a Lucknawi biryani is the softest and most tender I have eaten. The Awadhi mutton biryani I enjoyed at ‘Lalla biryani’ is one of the finest biryanis; the meat can be broken with a touch of a finger, and the fragrance of the delectable biryani remains in your hand long after you have eaten. In terms of aroma, tender meat, and sophisticated and subtle flavours of spices, Lucknawi biryani hold an edge over Hyderabadi biryani.

Biryani in the city of Nizams is by far the most famous biryani of India. Hyderabadi biryani finds its place on the menus of most Indian restaurants worldwide because of its mass appeal. The spices are robust, and the chillies of southern states (Guntur chilli) carry a good amount of heat, and that gives biryani the required hotness, which, when mingled with the yoghurt marination, the aromatic spices, the fresh and zingy flavour of the mint leaves, and the richness of the fried onions make Hyderabadi biryani a wholesome meal with balanced and profound taste. The accompaniment of ‘Mirchi ka Salan’ is the icing on the cake, making the Hyderabadi biryani one of the most sought-after and preferred Indian meals.

Lucknawi biryani, on the other hand, is light on the stomach and is said to have therapeutic value. Farzana Ji (Awadhi cuisine home chef in Lucknow) once told me, “One can eat an Awadhi biryani even on an upset stomach, and its flavour and lightness will make one feel better”. Hyderabadi biryani is not for the faint-hearted, and a full-fledged meal of Hyderabadi mutton or chicken biryani will leave one satiated for long hours, and the spicy flavour of the Hyderabadi biryani commands that a ‘Qubani ka Meetha must follow it; or a ‘double ka Meetha’, the exquisite desserts of Hyderabad to cool down the palate. When in Lucknow, one can pair the biryani with a portion of ‘Galauti kebab’; or a ‘Shami kebab’; and may end the meal with a portion of Lucknow’s special kulfi and Paan.

It is hard and somewhat unfair to answer which biryani is better. It is always hard to answer whether a particular cuisine is better than the other. For some people, Hyderabadi biryani is better; for some, Lucknawi is better. For food lovers like myself, I enjoy each of these biryanis to the hilt. When in Lucknow, I enjoy the delicate Lucknawi biryani, and when in Hyderabad, I enjoy the Hyderabadi biryani. And I make sure I visit these legendary culinary cities often. You should visit too and enjoy both the biryanis, and let us know, which is better. Hyderabadi Biryani or Lucknawi.

Sidharth Bhan Gupta, is a food writer travelling across India on a Cultural and Culinary Exploration.