Biryani is a rice-based dish, which is made by cooking rice with marinated meat (or vegetables), with yoghurt and warm spices. It’s typically made with Basmati or any long grain rice and has many variations all over India. It can be made with chicken, lamb or beef. The vegetarian biryani is typically made with paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and fresh vegetables.
There are many theories about the origin of ‘Biryani’. The popular one is the it originated in Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals. This theory believes that Biryani is an Indian adaptation of the Persian Pilaf.
There are two basic ways of cooking a Biryani- Kachhi (meaning ‘raw’) Biryani, where marinated meat is cooked with partially cooked rice. Since the rice is 50% cooked before adding to the biryani pot, no additional water is added and the juices released by the meat and marinade are enough to finish the cooking process. The result is a harmony of flavors where the rice is often multi-colored, depending on what is was closest to in the pot- the meat, the fried onions or the saffron. The other way of making biryani is where a meat curry if prepared first and then the rinsed and soaked rice is cooked in the curry. Between the two, the Kacchi Biryani seems to be the more popular one and is served in restaurants, world over. Traditionally, this is a slow-cooked recipe that takes a couple of hours to make. I’ve made a 30 minute version of it using my electric pressure cooker- the Instant Pot.
This Chicken and Rice recipe uses a few non-traditional ingredients like Chaat masala and Smoked Paprika, the flavor boost that these two ingredients bring to the marinated meat is amazing. Chaat masala is actually a blend of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, caraway seeds (ajwain), mango powder, garam masala, black rock salt and black peppercorns. It is often used as a seasoning for salads, fruits, grilled meats and vegetables and yoghurt dips (Raita). Just a little bit of Chaat masala adds a lot of depth to the meat during the marination process in this recipe. Paprika on the other hand, adds a smoky peppery taste and color, which infuses in the meat when the biryani is steam-cooked. These two ingredients are optional, but highly recommended. I have been using this recipe for years now and whenever I entertain with it, it ends up being a crowd pleaser.
Multiplying this recipe is easy. To double up this recipe, create alternate layers of chicken and rice, basically repeating step 3 in the order mentioned. Enjoy it with a chunky Cucumber-Mint Raita (cucumber yoghurt dip- recipe in ingredients section), or a Garden salad with a squeeze of lime.
Before I got my Instant Pot, I used to cook it in my stove-top pressure cooker. Here’s how:
- Follow all instructions and assemble the biryani in the pressure cooker. Close the cooker and place it on medium-hi heat.
- As soon as the first whistle goes, reduce heat to medium and cook for 6 minutes.
- Alternatively, after the first whistle, remove the pressure cooker, place a flat skillet(frying pan) on the stove and place the pressure cooker in that. Continue cooking on medium-high heat. This will ensure that your chicken doesn’t burn at the bottom of your pressure cooker.
Chicken Biryani in Instant PotPrint Recipe
- MARINADE for CHICKEN:
- 1-1.5 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 3/4 cup plain yoghurt or buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (1 inch ginger + 6 cloves garlic)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro & mint
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to your spice level)
- 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 teaspoon chaat masala (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon melted butter for toping
- 8-10 whole cashews
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm milk
- 1 teaspoon garam masala for topping
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala for cooking rice
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro & mint
- 1/4 cup fried onion (store bought)
- 2 cups basmati or long grain rice
- CUCUMBER-MINT RAITA (Yoghurt Dip- mix everything together and refrigerate till serving):
- 1 english cucumber, chopped fine
- 2 cups plain yoghurt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional, but highly recommended)
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
Rinse and soak rice in warm water. Prepare marinade by mixing together yoghurt, olive oil, lime juice, ginger-garlic paste, salt, spices, 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro & mint. Mix well. Add the chicken thighs and coat well with marinade. Keep aside while you par-boil the rice.
Rinse and strain rice. In boiling water add the rice along with 1/2 teaspoon garam masala and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Cook rice on high-heat for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and strain the rice. This step can also be done in the microwave for the same time.
Turn on the Instant Pot on sauté mode. Layer chicken evenly. Top with the remaining marinade. Layer the par-boiled rice evenly all over the chicken. Sprinkle fried onions on top followed by chopped cilantro-mint. Add cashews and sprinkle 1 teaspoon garam masala. Pour the saffron-milk evenly followed by melted butter. (if you used a thick yoghurt for marinade, start by adding 1/4 cup water in the inner pot followed by chicken)
Close the lid. Turn off sauté. Press Manual (High pressure) for 6 minutes, while the vent is in sealing position. Allow for pressure to release naturally. Open the lid and carefully fluff up the biryani without breaking the rice. Enjoy as-is or with a cucumber-yoghurt dip!