YAKHNI PULAO / यखनी पुलाव

The cuisine and food habits of the Indians, especially in the north of India, were vastly influenced by the Mughal (read Muslim) invaders. The origins of Yakhni Pulao lie apparently in Persia and it was introduced to us Indians by the Mughal rulers.
Yakhni basically is a yogurt saffron based mutton broth. The broth/ stock is made using mutton and aromatics aka whole garam masala which is tied in a bouquet garni. Aromatic spices are the essence of this pulao or pilaf. Primarily these include fennel seeds, dry ginger powder, cinnamon, cloves, black and green cardamom. Yogurt is another ingredients which is the key to bringing all these flavours together and giving this pulao its unique flavour. For the Yakhni Pulao, rice is cooked in the mutton broth along with the par cooked mutton. 
However, one does find variations of it such as mutton kofta yakhni, vegetable kofta yakhni, chicken yakhni and even paneer yakhni i.e. Indian cottage cheese. To balance out the heat of the spices used in the pulao, it is often served with a cooling raita. Yakhni is an integral part of the Kashmiri cuisine in India though Pakistanis and Afghanis also stake a claim on it which is fair enough since Pakistan was a part of India before partition and Afghanistan was the gateway for the Mughal invaders to reach India and an outpost for the Mughal empire. 

This pulao is not to be confused with the biryani. Biryanis are technically meat or vegetables and rice cooked separately, then layered and cooked on dum. For dum cooking the pot in which the rice and meat are layered is covered with a lid and the rim of the lid and pot are sealed with dough to keep all the steam and flavours of the meat inside the pot. The result is an aromatic biryani. Also, biryani has more intensely flavored meat and rice. 
Here is the list of ingredients that go into this delicate & aromatic pulao. Do not be intimidated by their number and amount. Most of them are going to go into the bouquet garni i.e. we will put all the ingredients inside a cheesecloth and tie the top into a knot and simply pop it into the cooking pot. Simple as that! 

500 gm Lamb meat (cut into 1 – 1½ inch pieces)
1 glass Basmati Rice (225 gm approx)
2 glasses Water (if pressure cooking, else 3-4 glasses)
2 tbsp Yogurt
1 generous pinch Saffron
1 tbsp Ghee
5-6 Cardamom
2 Black Cardamom
1 tsp Cumin
1½ – 2 tsp Black Pepper Corn
2 small Bay Leaf
10-12 Cloves
2 X 2″ cinnamon
1½ tsp Fennel Powder
2 tsp Dry Ginger Powder (if you don’t have this, use 1 inch whole root ginger and pop it in the pot along with bouquet garni)
5 – 6 cloves Garlic (whole)
1 generous pinch cardamom powder
1 medium onion (whole) + 1 medium onion (sliced)
2 – 3 tbsp oil 
Salt to taste

Wash the rice well and let it soak for at least half an hour. 
Make a dry rub for the meat with a little salt, 2 tsp of oil, dry ginger powder, fennel powder, cardamom powder and marinate the meat with it. Keep in it the refrigerator for an hour. 

For the bouquet garni take a cheese cloth of ample size (i used 10 inches) and put cardamom, black cardamom, cumin seeds, black pepper corns, bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon into it. Tie the top of the cheese cloth into a knot. The garni is ready. Keep it aside. 

Heat a heavy bottom pan and add 2-3 tsp oil. Swirl it around to coat the base. Add the marinated meat and sear on high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add yogurt and stir it so that it does not curdle. Let it cook on a medium so that it forms a nice gravy with the meat. (1-2 minutes)

Add water, whole onion, garlic, bouquet garni, salt, and cook the mutton till nearly done but ensure it is not falling off the bones since it will be cooking further along with rice. (I pressure cooked it as i don’t have the patience to watch over the meat cook for an hour and a half!)

Once the mutton is done, remove the bouquet garni, onion, root ginger (if using). Mash the garlic into the mutton broth. Measure the broth. At this stage the amount of broth should be two glasses.

In a heavy bottom pan, pour the rest of the oil and fry the sliced onions till they become brown in color. Add the drained rice along with the mutton and broth and cook on high heat till the rice starts to bubble. 

Lower the heat to its minimum and add saffron and drizzle ghee. Cover the pot with a kitchen paper towel or a tea cloth and cover with lid. Let it simmer for approx 15-20 minutes resisting the temptation to open the lid. 

Switch off the heat and let the pulao rest for 15-20 minutes. Pop open the lid, fluff up the rice and serve hot with raita or plain curd, chutney or a curry dish of your choice. Dig in!

Serves 3-4

Note: Measure the broth. It should be 2 glasses. If not, add more water to bring it up to 2 glasses.
Note: Making bouquet garni is optional. It helps avoid picking out all the whole garam masala spices from the broth. 

Note: Traditionally the lamb/mutton is not seared in Yakhni Pulao. However, I like to marinate and sear it coz it traps all those wonderful flavors inside the meat and what you get is a aromatic bite each time you dig into a succulent piece. 

Thanks for visiting and hoping to seeing you soon again! 

Post linked to Melissa’s Linky Party


75 thoughts on “YAKHNI PULAO / यखनी पुलाव

  1. Beautiful presentation EFS!!! Love the authentic copper utensils,raita mimicking the napkin and the route traveled by pulao. This is honestly tempting me to dig in!!

  2. I don’t think I have ever eaten yakhani pulao but I have eaten and made biryani with mutton many times. This equally looks beautiful and flavorful, a must try for me. Finally I received your first post after 12 hours.

  3. i love pulao.. but this looks more like biryani, even better. i love the influence of muglai food in North India.

  4. One of the best things about blogging is finding foodie friends that share their love of different international cuisines … and the fusion of different cuisines that come from cross-cultural movement! I have found that I love the spiced richness of Indian cuisine … it’s places like you website that inspire me to try ever more recipes from the different regions of India. Thanks for this recipe! I will be making it in the next week …

    1. Thanks Susan. I am sure you will love this delicately spiced pulao. Nothing about it is over powering. Would love to hear from you how you liked this pulao.

  5. Beautiful and you’ve got me craving for this Yakhni Pulao. Definitely love all the spices and ingredients in here.

  6. What a beautiful meal! Your presentation is really wonderful, and you’re descriptions and directions are so detailed. I feel like I could attempt to make this myself.

    1. Yes Von, the ingredients list does make it look like there is a lot of effort involved but most ingredients go into the bouquet garni or cooked whole along with the meat. Try it for yourself and you would know what I mean 🙂

  7. Yakhni Pulao sounds familiar! I read your lines and rememberd where I had heard this before and I realized it was from the book “Empire of the Moghul”. Such a great timing. =) I appreciate all the details and I learned a bunch.

  8. I am not sure about yakhni pulao but the strong influences of Indian spices are obvious. There’s many varieties pulao and beriyani, all because we have mixed and matched ingredients to come up with a different style and variety.

    The main is of course rice which is now becoming popular because its easily available anywhere we are. Its a beautifully created and I adore the outcome simply because of the combo of spices. Anything to do with rice and spices is my fav. Btw, I am your latest follower and if you can do the same, it will be great.

  9. Look at those long grains of rice! Perfectly cooked 🙂 Being Hyderabadi, biryani is the popular rice dish in my house but I really like a good Yakhni Pullao. I have to say that yours is gorgeous!

  10. That pulao looks marvelous! We adore lamb in my family and it’s a strong flavor, but this dish will hold up to it beautifully.

  11. i make a vegetarian version of yakhni pulao. from where you got your props. they are beautiful and so are all the pics.

  12. The flavors in this dish sound incredible. Is it recommended to use a Tagine or something similar while cooking this? I look forward to trying it soon, sounds fantastic!!!

  13. I thought I had posted something but it must not have taken. This is such a unique recipe and the ingredients are fantastic. Would this work well in a tagine? I can’t wait to try it.

    1. I don’t think tagine would work (although i have personally never used one) Vicki coz all the heat and moisture needs to remain sealed inside the pot and that happens with the old trick of simply keeping the cloth and lid.

  14. Looks tasty and kick’in spice rice dish….
    Gosh, i’m gonna ove this very much since i’m a lamb person,
    btw, the photograph is awesome too,
    you’ve got the talent my friend!

  15. It is with blogging that I’ve learned so many things about foreign kitchens and especially Indian. You have a huge variety of dishes that vary considerably according to the area. This pulao looks delicious and your photos only emphasize this!

    1. Ditto Katerina. It is wonderful learning from foreign kitchens and at times incorporating or adapting the ingredients/techniques with the indigenous recipes. Indian, with its diversity, has a huge variety of cuisines and dishes.
      Thanks 🙂

  16. Oh my!You’ve made one of most favorite delicacies!!!I love Yakhni Pulao and your pics are absolutely gorgeous!!Cannot wait to try 🙂

  17. Although unintentional/inadvertent, your reference to ‘Mughal (muslim) invadors’ was in bad taste. Thankfully, the pulao was toothsome.

    1. Too bad your petty little mind can’t accept history the way it is.

      The readers of this blog cut across boundaries and cultures. Not many would know about who the Mughals were, hence the reference ‘muslims’ was give in the brackets for their understanding.

  18. The pulao looks so good. I once saw a biryani recipe where the spices were tied up in a cheese clothe instead of adding them directly to the rice. Always wanted to try it out.

    I guess cooking the rice in the broth will make it very flavorful. Want to try this one.

    Love the pics, especially the one of the rice and spices.

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