Biryani is a rice-based dish, which is made by steam-cooking rice with marinated meat (or vegetables), with yogurt and warm spices. The process of cooking the meat and rice in steam is called Dum, where the cooking vessel is sealed with wet dough and an airtight environment is created for cooking. Biryani is typically made with long grain Basmati Rice and has many variations all over India. It is traditionally made with chicken or lamb. 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 that it originated in Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals. As per this this theory, 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 Pakki (meaning ‘cooked’) Biryani, where a meat curry if prepared first and then the rinsed 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 Pilaf recipe uses a non-traditional ingredient, Smoked Paprika. Paprika adds a smoky peppery taste and color, which infuses in the meat when the biryani is steam-cooked. You could use Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder instead of Paprika if that’s what you have on hand.
Entertaining with this Recipe: 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 yogurt 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. Place a flat skillet(frying pan) on the stove and place the pressure cooker on top of that. This will ensure that your chicken doesn’t burn at the bottom of your pressure cooker.Continue cooking on medium-high heat for 6 minutes.
Homemade Garam Masala: In this recipe, garam masala is used in flavoring the chicken, as well as the rice. I like to make my own garam masala blend. It takes under 15 minutes to make enough to last me a month, and the end results are so worth the little effort. If you have the time to make yours at home too, try this easy recipe for Homemade Garam Masala.
Fried Onions: This recipe uses fried onions. They are a big contributor of flavor in any Biryani. Many times, I use store-bought fried onions from Trader Joe’s, and those work great for Biryani. But, when I am preparing them at home, I use one of these two ways:
- Slice 2 medium onions thinly. Heat the Instant pot on SAUTE (high), or a griddle on medium high heat, and add 2-3 tablespoons ghee or oil and add the onions. Keep stirring every 3-4 minutes till the onions are golden brown, takes around 12-14 minutes, depending on the vessel you’re using.
- Toss thinly sliced onions with melted ghee or oil. Pre-heat the oven to 425F and cook the onions for about 20 minutes, till they are golden brown. This is a nice hands-free way of making fried onions. I typically make mine using this method, and while the onions are cooking, I do the prep-work for Biryani.
Here are some more Biryani/Pilaf recipes that you may enjoy:
Chicken Biryani in Instant PotPrint Recipe
- MARINADE for CHICKEN:
- 1.5 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 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
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to your spice level)
- 2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 1.5 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- Juice of 1 lime
- FOR PARTIALLY COOKING RICE
- 2 cups Basmati Rice or long grain rice
- 4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt (we're adding more salt than normal, since we will strain the rice before using)
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon melted ghee or oil
- 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 cup chopped cilantro & mint
- 1/4 cup fried onion (store bought)
- CUCUMBER-MINT RAITA (Yogurt Dip- mix everything together and refrigerate till serving):
- 1 english cucumber, chopped fine
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional, but highly recommended)
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- FRIED ONIONS(If making your own)
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons ghee, oil for sautéing
Fried onions If making fried onions yourself, use one of the two methods described above for 'Fried Onions'. Skip this step if using store-bought.
Marinating Chicken Prepare marinade by mixing together yogurt, 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 partially boil the rice.
Partially cooking rice Rinse basmati rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have time, soak them for 15 minutes in warm water. Strain rice. You can partially cook the rice in a microwave or stove-top. Microwave: Place rice, water, salt, ghee and garam masala in an oven safe bowl, and cook for 10 minutes. Strain the rice and keep aside. If using the stove-top method, boil 4 cups of water in a sauce pan, add rice, salt, garam masala and ghee/oil. Bring back to a boil and cook rice on high-heat for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and strain the rice.
Turn on the Instant Pot on sauté mode. If the yogurt you used for marinating the chicken was thick, start by adding 1/4 cup water in the inner pot followed by chicken along with it's marinade. This will prevent the chicken from burning. Layer chicken evenly. Top with the remaining marinade. Layer the partially 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.
Close the lid. Turn off sauté. Press Manual (High pressure) for 6 minutes, while the vent is set to sealing position. You can let the pressure release naturally for 5-10 minutes (NPR 5-10) and open the lid, or, manually release the pressure (QR) right after. Both work fine. Open the lid and carefully fluff up the biryani with a fork, without breaking the rice. Remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot base, to stop the cooking process. Enjoy with a cucumber-yogurt dip!