Sofiana Biryani, The Hidden One-Pot Gem Of Hyderabadi Cuisine
Image Credit: Freepik

Hyderabad is world-famous for its aromatic and flavourful biryani dishes that have been perfected over centuries. While the city offers a dazzling array of biryanis, from the saffron-infused Zafrani to the succulent chicken tikka, there is one lesser-known variety that is a hidden gem - the creamy, velvety Sofiana biryani.  

Sofiana biryani is not as easily found as other Hyderabadi biryanis, but it's worth seeking out. Treat your taste buds to this soft, milky biryani on your next visit to Hyderabad. It's the perfect change of pace from the chili-loaded biryanis you're accustomed to. Your stomach will thank you for this soothing, creamy rendition of Hyderabad's most famous dish. 

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Origin of Sofiana Biryani 

Unlike the fiery, spicy biryanis, Sofiana biryani is mild, creamy and subtle in flavour. It gets its white colour and rich taste from khoya, malai, and whole spices like cardamom and cloves. This gentle biryani was perfect for the delicate palates of certain visitors and the elderly members of Hyderabad's Nizam royalty.  

The legend goes that one Nizam worked with his Afghan generals to create a biryani he could enjoy despite his sensitive stomach. The generals used their recipe knowledge to make a biryani without overpowering saffron or chili. It became known as safeda (white) biryani and was served at the royal court for special occasions. The recipe made its way back to the Northwestern regions, which is why Sofiana biryani is still made and sold in parts of modern Pakistan. 

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These days, Sofiana biryani is rare on Hyderabad menus. Most locals and tourists prefer the punchy, aromatic biryanis at iconic restaurants. But some Hyderabadis still request Sofiana's milder flavours, often with cashews and almonds added to enrich the creamy sauce. 

While the royal Sofiana biryani may not be as popular today, it's still a treasure of Hyderabad's culinary heritage. The refined flavours and creamy textures made this biryani fit for a Nizam. For those who enjoy subtle spices, Sofiana biryani is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. 



  1. 500 gms Chicken/mutton 
  2. 2 large Onion 
  3. 2 tbsp Ginger garlic paste 
  4. 1 tsp White pepper powder 
  5. 1 Nutmeg 
  6. 1 nos Mace 
  7. 2 tbsp Lime juice 
  8. 1/2 cup Hung Curd 
  9. 1 tbsp Almond Paste 
  10. 2 tbsp Cream 
  11. 2 tsp Jeera 
  12. 1 and half tbsp Khoya 
  13. 2-3 Green chilies 
  14. 1 inch Cinnamon stick 
  15. 2 Green Cardamom 
  16. 2 Black Cardamom 
  17. 4 tbsp Vegetable oil 
  18. 2 tbsp Ghee 
  19. Salt 

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For Rice

  1. 250 gram Basmati rice 
  2. 1 inch Cinnamon stick 
  3. 2 Green Cardamom 
  4. 1 Black Cardamom 

For Garnish 

  1. A pinch of Saffron 
  2. 4 tsp Warm Milk 
  3. 2 tsp Sliced Almonds 
  4. 2-3 Mint leaves
  5. 2 Boiled eggs

For Marination: 

  1. First, wash the chicken well in a big bowl.  
  2. Then, add some creamy curd, along with some spicy ginger garlic paste.  
  3. Now, cover the bowl and let that chicken chill out in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, or even overnight.  

For Rice: 

  1. Get some basmati rice and rinse it well under water. Let it soak in water for 15 minutes.   
  2. Get a heavy pot. Pour in 4-5 cups of water. Add the rice, whole spices, and salt. Cook it until it's halfway done.  
  3. Drain all the water out. Dump the rice onto a plate or tray. Let it sit for a bit. 
  4. While waiting, put some saffron threads in warm milk. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes. This makes the milk yellow and flavourful.

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For Biryani Mixture: 

  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add sliced onions and fry until crispy and brown. Take out crispy onions and keep aside.  
  2. Heat oil and ghee in another pan. Add bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and black cardamom. Let them splutter and become fragrant.  
  3. Add finely chopped onions. Sauté over medium heat until translucent. Don't let them brown.  
  4. Add ginger garlic paste. Sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat.  
  5. Add chicken and salt. Stir well. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Open lid and stir again.  
  6. Soak almonds in water. Remove skins and blend into a paste.  
  7. Blend heavy cream, khoya and almond paste into a thick paste.  
  8. Keep stirring chicken over medium heat with lid on so it cooks in its own juices.  
  9. Add nutmeg and mace paste. Set it aside. 

Also read: Check These 10 Spots For Best Hyderabadi Biriyani In Hyderabad

For Assembling: 

  1. Put the rice on top of the chicken gravy. Add 2 tablespoons of ghee.
  2. Add fried onions, mint leaves, sliced almonds, green chilies, saffron milk, and 1 teaspoon of rose water if you want.  
  3. Put the lid back on the pot. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes more. This helps the flavours come together. 
  4. Add the boiled eggs on top. Serve with raita, mint chutney, onion rings, or spicy mutton gravy. Enjoy your tasty biryani!