Try this recipe to make the best veg biryani at home! I’ve included my top tips and tricks to make this just as delicious as the meat version, and how to incorporate that delectable restaurant style taste!
Okayyyyy, I can hear some of you all the way till here – “There’s no such thing as veg biryani Richa!” Hahaha.. I thought so too because we’re big fans of our Homemade Chicken Biryani. And there’s never been a question of making Veg Biryani… Like, pfftt. You mean pulao? Yeah yeah that’s what I thought! But then this recipe is not pulao. It qualifies as a legit biryani.
Biryani and Pulao are quite different from each other. Pulao qualifies as any dish where the rice and other ingredients are all cooked together. Biryanis on the other hand are made by cooking rice and meat or veggies separately and then layering them – which is why this requires more skill than pulao.
I tried this simple vegetarian biryani recipe multiple times to get the measurements just right (measurements can vary depending on the brand of rice you use and veggies. I’ve tried to be as precise as possible). The end result is a steamy pot full of aromatic biryani packed with masala and your favourite veggies. For all you vegetarians, I now have the best veg biryani for you! I’m gonna break this down, here we go.
Pick the Right Rice for Biryani
I think you can excuse people for using any kind of rice for pulao, but biryani demands basmati rice. Good quality basmati has long grains of rice, is aged and so aromatic and it’s those qualities that make it perfect for biryani. You might see many brands of rice labeled ‘long grain rice’, but make sure to look for basmati. Basmati has long grains but every rice with long grains is not basmati.
Cooking Rice for Biryani
Rice for biryani is always cooked in two parts. It is boiled till it’s partially cooked and then layered with veggies (or meat) and then steamed till it’s fully cooked. This helps infuse the rice with flavour and aroma from the vegetables (or meat).
- Soak the rice half an hour before cooking. The grains soak up water and this helps speed up the cooking process
- Add the rice grains to a pot of boiling water with salt and a dash of oil; drain off this water when the rice is about 85% cooked (see timings in the recipe card below)
- It’s important not to stir the rice too much to prevent the grains from breaking. The mark of a good biryani is when the grains of rice are fully cooked, intact (not mushy) and separate (not sticky).
- In the last part of the cooking process, layer the rice on top of the cooked veggies and cover it with a lid until the rice is fully cooked
These steps ensure that the rice is cooked without getting mushy, and also takes on the flavours of the masala and veggies.
Also check out: How To Cook Basmati Rice
Veggies in the Biryani & How To Prep Them
True to its name, my vegetable biryani has mixed vegetables that we love like onions, cauliflower, peas, carrots, potatoes and french beans. These are standard biryani/pulao veggies and taste really good. You could also add:
- Cubes of paneer (add along with veggies)
- Soya chunks (soak beforehand separately for about 15 mins, squeeze out the water, and add them along with veggies)
- Boiled eggs (place these on top of the biryani when serving)
Using the freshest veggies will give an additional boost of flavour to this biryani, since the veggies are the star of the show.
Here’s how to prep your veggies – Make sure you cut the veggies approximately in the same size and shape. This is because each veggie has its own cooking time and will cook unevenly if not cut in similar shapes and sizes.
Also see: How To Wash Veggies – A Quick Guide
Layering the Biryani
Once the veggies are cooked, layering the biryani is extremely simple. You can chose to create 4 layers, alternating between cooked veggies and rice or like I do – just one layer with rice on top of the veggies. This is finished with ghee and saffron for both flavour and aroma.
Top Tips to make the Best Veg Biryani
Guys, I’ve jotted down some important pointers for you; make sure you look these up as and when you’re making the biryani – THESE MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
- Using a heavy bottomed pan distributes heat evenly (vis-a-vis the thin bottomed cooking pans). Therefore, it cooks evenly and prevents the biryani from sticking to the bottom.
- The list of spices is given in the recipe card below. You can lightly crush the spices and herbs just to cajole the aroma out of them.
- Make sure the spices are toasted but don’t burn, because that’ll leave a bitter taste
- Stir and cook the ginger garlic paste till it doesn’t smell raw anymore
- Don’t underestimate the power of the common mint and coriander leaf, they’re the magicians in this recipe for that restaurant style taste and key to this recipe
- The veggies will lap up the flavours of the spices if they are roasted well
- Adding 85% cooked rice just at the end will allow the rice to soak up all the flavours in the biryani pot
- The final touches of saffron milk and LOADS of ghee amp up the flavours of this veg biryani! Don’t skimp on the oil and ghee – Fat is essential in making sure the biryani is cooked well and tastes great
(See the detailed instructions below in the recipe card)
Be very generous with the ghee guys, it’s an age-old trick to making amazing food. And if you’re up to it someday, try making ghee at home with this recipe!
If you are vegan, here are some substitutes so that you can turn this into vegan biryani. It tastes just as good:
- Substitute ghee with vegan butter
- Replace the raita with a non-dairy yoghurt made of almond milk
- Soak the saffron in a non-dairy milk substitute
Serve this vegetable biryani with:
This recipe has precise cook times and instructions as to when to add what. Trust me, I’m a huge meat lover but this veg biryani is slowly growing on me, and that’s saying A LOT!
Restaurant Style Veg Biryani
- 3/4 cup Oil canola or any other neutral flavoured vegetable oil
- 2- ½ inch piece Cinnamon
- 5-6 Cardamoms
- 6-8 Cloves
- 2 Bayleaves
- 2 tablespoons Ginger Garlic Paste
- 2 large Onions thinly sliced
- ½ kg Vegetables, cut into 1/2 inch dices I used cauliflower, peas, carrots, potatoes, french beans
- 1.5 cups Coriander and Mint leaves half and half
- 4 medium Tomatoes finely chopped
- 4 teaspoons Coriander powder
- 4 teaspoons Chilli powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 cup plain Yogurt or Curds
Parboiled Basmati (85% cooked)
- 1 kg long grained Basmati rice (see note 1)
- 2 tablespoon Salt
- 1 tablespoons Oil
- 10-12 strands Saffron
- 2 tablespoons Hot Milk
- 3-5 Green Chillies slit lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons Ghee
- Wash basmati rice well and soak in enough water to cover it completely for 30-45 minutes.
- Soak saffron strands in hot milk for 10 minutes.
Cooking the Vegetable Base
- Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pot. Add cinnamon, clove, cardamom and bay leaves and cook till aromatic.
- Add sliced onions and cook until the onions are browned, 4-5 minutes while stirring frequently to prevent them from burning. Add ginger and garlic paste and saute lightly.
- Add the prepared vegetables, mint and coriander and roast for 2-3 minutes on high heat. Add coriander powder, chilli powder, salt and stir fry again. Add tomatoes and mix and cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are fully cooked (stir occasionally). You should see the oil separating around the edges. Add a little water if you feel like the masala is sticking. While the vegetables are cooking, follow instructions below to cook the rice. This will ensure the rice is still hot when it’s time to layer the biryani.
- Add yogurt and garam masala to the cooked veggies and keep stir frying for 2-3 minutes till the yogurt completely disappears.
- Once the vegetable mixture is completely ready, add all the parboiled rice on top, gently making an even layer. Drizzle saffron milk and ghee on top and cover and cook for 15 minutes on a low flame. If you don’t have a heavy bottomed pot, keep your pot on a tava or skillet with the flame on. This prevents the bottom from burning.
- Once cooked, sprinkle fried onions on top, lightly mix and serve hot.
- Bring water to a roaring boil in a large stockpot with 2 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon oil. Once the water starts to boil, add the drained rice. Cook for 8 minutes or until the rice is 85% cooked. Drain the water once done.
- While buying basmati rice, make sure you buy rice that’s labelled basmati and not just long grain rice. Basmati Rice is fragrant and has slightly thinner grains than long grain rice. Real basmati rice is what gives biryani its distinct flavor and taste.
- In the last step of layering and cooking the biryani, all the ingredients are par cooked. Cooking the biryani on a low flame for 15 minutes, steams and cooks everything to doneness. If you don’t have a heavy bottomed pot, and are using a regular pot, you can place it on a tava (or flat griddle) and then place it on the stove on a medium flame to avoid burning the chicken. The tava or griddle creates a degree of separation between the flame and the pot and provides the perfect heat source.