Kala’s Vaankozhi (Turkey) Biriyani

Turkey meat is only used at Christmastime in Tamil Nadu – we don’t have Thanksgiving here, we prefer to complain all the time 🙂 We can’t just walk into a store and buy it either, we have to place an order in advance. Despite these difficulties, it is increasingly popular in Christmas biriyani, in place of the usual mutton or chicken. The flavour of turkey is so very different that the usual combination of spices and cooking method does not work. I have created this recipe keeping the spices to a minimum compared to the usual biriyanis and also used the bones to prepare stock to add richness. The turkey meat resembles mutton closely in texture, and therefore I have pressure cooked the meat to give a tender product.

Vaankozhi Biriyani

Kala’s Vaankozhi (Turkey) Biriyani

Turkey is a most difficult bird to joint at home. My first experience was back in 2003, when my cousin very generously gifted me turkey for Christmas. I naively took on the challenge, not realising just how much effort would be required to cut, cook, and eat it 🙂 My kitchen knives were not up to the task of sawing through the sinews. I had to resurrect an old, rusted cleaver and also use my husband’s pliers to hold on to the bone! After all the hard work I put in, my son complained that it was like trying to peel fibre from a stone 😀 We all had a good laugh then, but I’m older and wiser now. I ask for the turkey to be deboned by the seller before I collect it.

Nutritive Value

Skinless turkey meat provides 21g of protein and 140 Calories per 100g. I have used very little fat for this preparation, and therefore this biriyani is rich in protein and gives a moderate amount of energy.

I use skinless turkey because the skin has a very strong flavour, and it also contributes to the fat content.


  • 1 ¼ kg Turkey (without skin, deboned with the bones reserved)
  • 4 C Basmati Rice
  • 3 Onions, sliced
  • 3 Tomatoes, diced
  • 1/3 C Ginger-Garlic paste
  • 14 Cardamoms
  • 8 Cloves
  • 6 Cinnamon pieces
  • 2 T Ghee (Clarified Butter)
  • ½ C Vegetable Oil
  • 1 C chopped Coriander Leaves
  • 4 tsp Salt
  • Water as required

For the marinade

  • 3 T Ginger-Garlic paste
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 2-3 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 2 tsp Salt

For the stock

  • 10 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • ½ tsp Pepper Corns
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 ½ L Water


  1. Cut the turkey meat into large cubes.
  2. Mix with the marinade.
  3. Place in a vessel with a tight-fitting lid, or cover with cling film.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Boil the bones with the ingredients listed under ‘For the stock’ for an hour.
  6. Cool, remove the bones, and strain. Reserve stock.
  7. Heat ¼ cup of oil in a pressure cooker.
  8. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
  9. When the cloves swell, add the onion and fry till translucent.
  10. Add the ginger-garlic paste and 2 tablespoons of water, and fry on low heat till a tantalising aroma arises.
  11. Add the turkey pieces, and fry till all the pieces change colour.
  12. Add the coriander leaves, tomatoes, and salt. Stir till the turkey gives off water.
  13. Add half a cup of water and stir.
  14. Close the cooker and pressure cook for 5 minutes.
  15. Meanwhile, wash the basmati rice and drain in a colander.
  16. When the cooker has cooled, measure the gravy. Measure the stock also. The amount of water to be added depends on the volume of gravy and stock.
  17. Eight cups of liquid are required to cook 4 cups of basmati rice. Add sufficient water so that the gravy, stock, and water come to 8 cups.
  18. Heat the ghee and the rest of the oil in a large, heavy-based pan which has a tight-fitting lid (but don’t cover the pan now).
  19. When it is mildly hot, add the cooked turkey with the gravy, stock, and water. Add 4 teaspoons of salt and stir.
  20. When the mixture begins to boil vigorously, add the basmati rice and stir.
  21. When this mixture begins to boil, lower heat, close with the tight-fitting lid, and cook for 10 minutes.
  22. When the grains are swollen, and there is no liquid left, turn off heat.
  23. Do not open till it is time to serve.
  24. Serve with Thayir Pachadi and Khatte Baingan.


  1. If you’re not confident of deboning the turkey by yourself, buy 1 ¼ kg and ask the seller to remove the meat from the bones and collect both the meat and the bones. We use the bones for the stock.
  2. You can make the stock the previous day and store in the refrigerator. Do not keep it for more than 24 hours, the flavour will change.
  3. Pressure cooking the turkey saves a lot of time and fuel, and gives a tender product.
  4. Always keep homemade ginger-garlic paste in your refrigerator. Equal amounts of ginger and garlic ground in a mixie or blender without adding water will keep in the refrigerator for almost 10 days.
  5. When you’re frying the ginger-garlic paste, add 2 tablespoons of water to prevent scorching and altering the flavour.
  6. If you wish to avoid saturated fat, you can substitute the ghee with the same quantity of oil.
  7. I prefer to use Kashmiri chilli powder for its beautiful red colour and mild flavour.
  8. The flavour in my recipe is quite mild. If you prefer a spicier biriyani, increase the red chilli powder in the marinade, and the ginger-garlic paste in the biriyani.
  9. I have found that washing and draining the basmati rice in a colander for 30 minutes or a little more makes the rice swell to the maximum. Therefore wash the rice only after you have loaded the turkey in the pressure cooker.


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