A tehri is a fragrant rice pilaf with chunky vegetables that’s a specialty in parts of north India. This one pot recipe is extremely low in fat, easy to make, and delicious to boot. It’s also vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and nut-free, so it works for practically everyone.
When I am short on time and need a delicious weeknight meal everyone will love, I stir up a pot of veg tehri, a healthy, fragrant one-pot dish of rice and veggies from north India.
Think of tehri (also spelled tahari or tahri) as a cross between a pulao and a biryani. It’s sparer than a biryani, but more indulgent than a pulao. It’s also a really easy recipe to pull together because it requires little prep other than the chopping of a few veggies and the blending of a couple of tomatoes into a puree — although you could definitely cut that one short by using pureed tomatoes out of a can.
You don’t need to mix up any special masalas to make a veg tehri, although you will need a few whole spices that go straight from the jar into the saucepan. You’ll need cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom, bay leaf, peppercorns, cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Fennel seeds rarely make an appearance in rice dishes such as these, and I really love the flavor they add here.
You can use almost any veggie of your choice in a tehri, although the ones most used traditionally are cauliflower, potatoes, green peas, green beans and carrots. But bell peppers would be nice here, as would sweet potatoes or even a winter or summer squash.
Tips for making a great vegetable tehri:
- In a pulao, the rice is king. So start out by using a fragrant, long-grain rice, like basmati — one that’s aromatic and will hold its shape after cooking. Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes and then rinse under running water until the water runs clear. This will ensure your rice doesn’t clump together and the grains remain separate.
- You can use any veggies of your choice, like I said, but make sure that you don’t just throw them all in the pot at the same time. Veggies that take longer to cook, like potatoes and carrots, should go in first. Those that will not need as long, like cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers or summer squashes, can go in later.
- Make your veggies fairly chunky. Since they’re going to cook quite a bit, you don’t want them to fall apart at the end. They should be tender by the end of cooking, but should also hold their shape.
- Unlike many pulao recipes, where the rice is cooked separately, then added to the veggies or spices, the rice for tehri gets cooked in the pot along with the spices and veggies. So be careful with how much moisture you add to the recipe. You want enough water to cook the rice, but you don’t want so much that your rice will get soft and soggy. Follow instructions.
- Indian vegetarian cooking rarely uses vegetable stock — water is the liquid medium of choice. But I like adding stock to recipes for an extra layer of flavor, as I do in this tehri. That said, you don’t have to use vegetable stock, water works just fine.
- A rule of thumb when you cook any rice dish is to make sure that the water or vegetable stock, before you add the rice to it, is well-salted — or salted to your preference. The water needs to taste a little saltier than how salty you’d like your dish to be, since the rice will absorb the salt. Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to add salt to a cooked rice dish and mix it in without mushing the rice grains up.
- Some tehri recipes use tomatoes, others don’t. I use tomatoes in mine, but I puree them to help the rice absorb their flavors better. If you want to skip a step, you can add your tomatoes, finely chopped, to the pot rice after you’ve sauteed the onions and the garlic.
Ingredients for tehri:
- Basmati rice
- Vegetable oil
- Cumin seeds
- Green cardamom
- Cinnamon sticks
- Bay leaf
- Fennel seeds (saunf)
- Ginger-garlic paste
- Green chili peppers, like japeno or serrano
- Green peas
- Vegetable stock (optional)
What to serve with the tehri?
You don’t need to gild this lily — at least not too much. A good raita, like this classic and vegan cucumber raita, and some Indian pickle are perfect accompaniments to the tehri.
If you want a curry to go with it, I’d recommend a spicy, full-bodied curry, like My Dad’s Not Mutton Mushroom Curry.
Looking for more Indian vegan rice recipes?
- Jeera Rice (cumin rice), 15 minute recipe, no soak
- Coconut Rice
- Vegan Indo-Chinese “Egg” Fried Rice
- Cauliflower Rice Biryani, gluten-free
- Vegetable Biryani in 30 minutes
- Masala Khichdi
- Ven Pongal, a south Indian rice and lentil khichdi
Veg Tehri Recipe
Vegan | Gluten-Free | Soy-Free | Nut-Free
Veg Tehri, an aromatic rice and vegetable pilaf
- Large saucepan with tight-fitting lid
- 1 1/2 cups basmati rice (covered in water and soaked for at least 30 minutes. Drain before using)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 cloves
- 4 green cardamom pods (whole)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-inch stick cinnamon
- 2 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 large onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 green chili pepper (like japeno or serrano. Leave whole with just a slit down the middle, or, for less heat, split into half, deseed, and then use. You can fish out the peppers before serving)
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 medium tomatoes (pureed. Or use 1 cup canned tomato puree)
- 3 medium potatoes (cut in a 1-inch dice)
- 1 large carrot (cut into chunky 1 1/2 inch slivers)
- 1/2 head cauliflower (separated into chunky but bite-sized florets)
- 1 cup green peas (I used frozen, but fresh work too)
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
- Salt to taste
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot. Add the cumin first, then the cloves, cardamom, bay leaf and cinnamon. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add in the fennel seeds and stir quickly.
- Add the onions and saute until they are soft but not brown. You can add a little salt to help this process go faster. Stir in the ginger garlic paste, green chili peppers and turmeric and saute another minute over low heat so the ginger and garlic don't stick to the bottom.
- Add the potatoes to the pot along with the carrots. Add a cup of the water or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and let the potatoes and carrots cook about five minutes or until fairly tender but not quite done.
- Add the cauliflower and tomato puree and continue cooking the veggies for a couple more minutes. Add the green peas and stir them in.
- Add the remaining water or stock, followed by the drained rice, mix everything well and bring it all back to a boil. Once it looks like the rice has absorbed most of the water, give it all a good stir, cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn the heat to low, and set the timer for 15 minutes.
- Avoid peeking while the rice is cooking, and let it stand, undisturbed, for 10 minutes after cooking. After 10 minutes, open the lid and fluff the grains of rice with a fork before serving.