Over the years I've shared with you countless recipes for veg biryani (vegetable biryani or vegetarian biryani), that delicious rice dish so beloved by Indians and lovers of Indian food. While making one may seem daunting to anyone who hasn't made a biryani before, I am here today to tell you that it's really not that hard. In fact, you can make this authentic and delicious, one-pot, restaurant-style Vegetable Biryani recipe I am about to share with you in just over 30 minutes.
And it tastes so good, you will wish you had made more.
This is a true and traditional layered vegetable biryani, and once you've made it and eaten it, I know you'll be back to tell me it's the best veg biryani you've ever eaten. Just because it doesn't take half a day to make, or because you get some help from the microwave, does not make it any less authentic. The flavors are exactly the same, you have all the fun, and nobody's the wiser. Now who's the smart one?
I came up with this easy recipe because at our home biryani's a favorite with both Jay and Desi. Jay, in fact, can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and in between. So over the years I've tweaked this procedure and that to ensure that I can get this vegetable biryani ready for the dinner table or for the lunchbox in no time flat.
How to make the best vegetable biryani
- Let's first get rid of some misconceptions about biryani -- and some ingredients. A true biryani doesn't contain the usual Indian staples like tomatoes and turmeric. While some Indian cooks will use turmeric to marinate non-veg ingredients like chicken for chicken biryani, you don't need to do that here. If you want to add color to your biryani, use saffron. Just a few strands soaked in some milk and sprinkled over the rice before you put on the lid are enough. And tomatoes...they just don't taste right in a biryani, so stay away from them.
- Staying on that note, coconut milk is a no no. Although Hyderabad, famous for its biryanis, is in the south, and south Indian recipes often include coconut, it is never used in a biryani and it'll just mess up the flavors.
- Just because this recipe includes shortened cooking times, it does not mean you can compromise on the ingredients you do need to use. For an amazing tasting biryani, which is what you want, make sure you use the correct ingredients. They are all easily available online or at an Indian grocery store.
- Use vegetables that cook fast. I used carrots and potatoes. Cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, green beans and most kinds of squashes are great and will work just as well. But try to veer away from veggies that would not cook as fast or just be weird in here, like broccoli or Brussels sprouts or cabbage or eggplant. I love them just as much as you do, but they won't work here.
- I use baked tofu or super firm tofu in my biryani for more protein. I want to say you can use chickpeas, if you'd prefer a bean instead, but honestly, I'd rather not. Beans in a biryani are just...strange.
- The vegan yogurt is really important for the moisture and flavor in this recipe, so don't substitute it. I use my own homemade vegan cultured cashew yogurt, and I can guarantee that it makes a fabulous biryani, but a storebought one would work as well.
- You can take an hour to make this biryani, but if you want to make it in 30 minutes, you will have to follow my exact directions. If you're a novice cook, you probably will need more time, unless you can chop and prep real fast.
- If you want to make this recipe nut-free, use another yogurt, not cashew. If you want to make it soy-free, leave out the tofu -- you can double up on the nuts instead.
- Basmati rice
- Bay leaves
- Green cardamom pods
- Black cardamom pods
- Cinnamon sticks
- Caraway seeds (shah jeera)
- Vegetable oil
- Ginger garlic paste
- Dill (optional)
- Vegan yogurt
- Biryani Masala
- Raw cashews
- Super firm or extra firm tofu
- Fried onions
Using biryani masala or garam masala for the veg biryani
That's an easy one--you should use biryani masala for the best biryani, although garam masala will do at a pinch.
A biryani masala is much more complex, with different flavors added to it and even some dry fruit. It needs a number of ingredients, so unless you have the time, I recommend buying it at an Indian grocery store or online. You can get the one labeled "chicken biryani masala" or "mutton biryani masala," doesn't really matter, because the masala itself is vegan.
If you really want to make your own, here's my recipe for an amazing biryani masala.
So let's get started on that amazing veg biryani. Is your mouth watering already? I know mine is, and I just ate some!
What do I serve with the biryani?
- This biryani can be eaten by itself, but serve it with some cucumber raita for one of the best vegan meals you ever ate.
More Indian restaurant style recipes
- Vegan Malai Kofta
- Vegan Dal Makhani
- Navratan Pulao
- Jeera Rice
- Vegan Garlic Naan
- Learn how to marinate and bake tofu to add even more flavor to your Indian rice dishes.
Vegetable Biryani Recipe
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice (washed in running water)
- 2 dry bay leaves
- 6 cloves
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 1-inch piece cinnamon
- 2 black cardamom pods
- 2 tsp caraway seeds (shahjeera). You can sub this with cumin seeds but try to use it if possible. It adds great flavor to biryanis.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 medium carrots (finely diced -- you want the pieces to be fairly small, about ½-inch square, to cook fast)
- 2 medium potatoes (finely diced)
- 2 heaping tsp ginger garlic paste
- 2 tbsp cilantro or coriander leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh mint leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh dill leaves (optional, but nice)
- 1 ½ cups vegan yogurt
- 2 heaping tbsp biryani masala
- ½ cup raw cashew pieces (optional)
- 12-14 oz baked tofu or super firm tofu (cut into small cubes)
- 1 cup fried onions (use storebought kind like French's, or the kind you get at the Indian store, or make yourself. Use this, no matter how "healthy" you're feeling. It is important for a true biryani)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Place 2 cups of water in a microwave safe bowl along with three green cardamom pods, three cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and half the caraway seeds. Add salt to your taste. Add the rice to the bowl and microwave for eight minutes. Let the rice stand in the microwave until ready to use.
- After putting the rice in the microwave, chop your veggies, and simultaneously heat the oil in a large saucepan with an airtight lid. When the oil is hot, add the remaining green cardamom pods and cloves, brown cardamom pods and the remaining caraway seeds.
- Let the spices cook in the oil for a minute, then add the chopped carrots and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and then cover and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until the veggies are almost tender. If the veggies are sticking to the pan at this time, add ¼ cup of water or vegetable stock and scrape up any bits.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste, cilantro, mint and dill and stir to mix. Add the biryani masala, cashews if using, half the fried onions, tofu cubes and yogurt and stir well. Check if there's enough salt and add more if needed. Bring the masala to a boil.
- Lower the heat and bring the rice out of the microwave. Run a fork through it to loosen the grains. The rice should be almost done when you take it out, but not quite. Spread it evenly on top of the veggies and masala in the pot.
- Sprinkle the remaining fried onions on top of the rice. Cover with the airtight lid and let the biryani cook over low heat for 10 minutes, undisturbed. Let the biryani stand 10 minutes after cooking is done before opening to serve.
- If you don't have a microwave, or would rather not use it, you can make the rice on the stove top. Bring the water to a boil with the spices and salt, add the washed rice, cover and cook for eight minutes or until about 80 percent done.